Max Verstappen seizes victory in F1 Sprint at Austrian GP, but Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris made him earn it

For the opening laps of Saturday’s F1 Sprint Race at the Austrian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen’s rear-view mirrors matched the color that filled the grandstands at the Red Bull Ring.

A whole lot of orange.

That orange in Verstappen’s rear-view mirrors, of course, was the color of both Oscar Piastri’s MCL38 and that of Piastri’s teammate, Lando Norris. Over the first few laps of the race Norris was right on Verstappen’s rear wing, and the British driver managed to overtake Verstappen for the lead.

But only for a moment, because Verstappen took the lead back, and the battle between the two friends opened the door for Piastri to execute his attack, and when the dust settled it was Verstappen up in P1, with Piastri in second ahead of his teammate Norris:

And that is how the field finished, with Verstappen pulling away from the two McLarens at the end to capture victory in the F1 Sprint at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen once again handled the challenges that the field offered up to him, specifically the dual MCL38s of Piastri and Norris, fending them off as he has done so many times before throughout his already legendary Formula 1 career. His effort on Saturday showed that Verstappen remains in control when it comes to the Drivers’ Championship, as he gained two more points on Norris, his closest challenger.

But when it comes to the Constructors’ Championship, as we will discuss in a moment this was a solid session for McLaren. Verstappen and Red Bull remain the favorites in that fight as well, but the Woking-based team is coming, and coming fast. As Norris noted when speaking trackside with Alex Wurz, they could have even more for Red Bull on Sunday. “We’re there, and we can definitely give them a fight tomorrow,” said Norris after the F1 Sprint Race.

Whether Verstappen and Red Bull can fend them off in that Constructors’ fight is a much more open question.

Here are some quick winners and losers, as well as the full results, from Saturday’s F1 Sprint Race at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Winners: McLaren

Lando Norris led Saturday’s F1 Sprint Race for a brief moment, but the big points are handed out on Sunday.

And given where McLaren finished today — with Piastri in second and Norris behind him in third — the team is primed for an even bigger Grand Prix after what Norris called a “good load of points” in the F1 Sprint Race.

Norris’ late lunge by Verstappen will give his friend and budding rival a lot to think about in the overnight hours, which could create even more opportunities should the two lock horns again in the Grand Prix. But perhaps more importantly for McLaren is the fact that both Norris and Piastri demonstrated impressive race pace throughout the F1 Sprint on Saturday. Getting both Piastri and Norris on the podium saw McLaren add another 13 points to their account, inching them closer to both Ferrari and Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship.

Piastri noted that haul when speaking with Alex Wurz trackside after the sprint. “Yeah, some things to look out for this afternoon and for tomorrow’s race, but we’ll definitely take the points,” described Piastri. “A really good haul compared to the other teams around us.”

All told, the 13 points for McLaren moved them four points closer to Red Bull in the Constructors’ standings, and seven points closer to second-place Ferrari. Those might not seem like massive numbers — and again the big points are handed on on Sunday — but in an F1 season that is looking tighter than ever, every single point counts.

Losers: Alpine

Both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly advanced to SQ3, and after a failure for Charles Leclerc in the closing minutes of that segment of F1 Sprint Qualifying, both Alpine drivers qualified ahead of Leclerc, putting Alpine in a position for points on Saturday.

They saw the session end without anything to show for their effort.

Both Alpines were shuffled back in the order, with Ocon coming across the line 11th and Gasly behind him in 12th. That might signal that when it comes to longer runs and race pace, Alpine still has some questions to answer.

In addition, there were a few close calls between the teammates as they wound around Red Bull Ring, moments that probably saw Team Principal Bruno Famin’s heart rate spike a bit, given what happened at the start of the Monaco Grand Prix just a few short weeks ago.

Those moments also led to the producers on F1TV cutting to Famin watching on … with Jack Doohan alongside him.

Make of that what you will.

Winner: Charles Leclerc

Starting tenth was not the way Charles Leclerc wanted to begin his F1 Sprint Race.

But given where he began, finishing seventh — and inside the points — was an impressive performance.

During the third segment of qualifying for the F1 Sprint Race on Friday, Leclerc’s SF-24 went into anti-stall along pit lane, costing him precious moments as the seconds ticked down. Leclerc was able to get his car rolling and onto the circuit, but he could not post a lap in time, and as a result, started outside the points on Saturday.

Despite that, Leclerc rocketed off the line after the lights went out, picking up multiple spots to work inside the top eight. Among those he was able to overtake? Sergio Pérez in the RB20.

That might speak volumes about what we see on Sunday.

As for what we might see this afternoon, however, a seemingly frustrated Leclerc hinted at some more aggression regarding the upcoming qualifying session:

h boy …

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