Max Verstappen maintained his relentless pursuit of a third world championship with a fifth straight victory at the Austrian Grand Prix in a race dominated by Red Bull and F1 regulations.
Having also claimed the bonus point for fastest lap, the reigning drivers’ champion now leads the world championship standings by 81 points from team mate Sergio Perez going into this weekend’s .
While the race winner was never in doubt, the final result of the grand prix wasn’t confirmed until five hours after the chequered flag had dropped after a deluge of track infringements confirmed the phrase of the weekend as 'lap time deleted'.
|What||2023 British Grand Prix|
|When||Friday 7th July - Sunday 9th July|
|How to watch||Sky Sports F1 & Channel 4|
|Race odds||Max Verstappen 3/10, Sergio Perez 13/2, Lewis Hamilton 11/1, Charles Leclerc 14/1, Fernando Alonso 16/1, George Russell 22/1|
Drivers had been struggling to stay within the specified track limits all weekend, especially at turns nine and 10, and those issues were prevalent in Sunday’s race.
F1’s governing body, the FIA, reported over 1,200 incidents of exceeding track limits, a massive backlog as officials analysed each infringement.
Over 80 lap times were deleted and seven drivers received time penalties during the race, but Aston Martin didn’t think that went far enough and lodged an appeal against the final result.
The order of the podium wasn’t affected by time penalties, meaning runner-up Charles Leclerc kept hold of ’s second top-three finish of the season.
Although Sainz’s sixth-place finish was a disappointment, the weekend, on the whole, was a strong one for the Italian team as they once more showed impressive pace in both qualifying and race scenarios.
Leclerc became the first driver other than to lead a race for the first time in nearly two months on Sunday, and although he wasn’t able to hang on to that position, the Monegasque driver believes the team are now on the right path.
Ferrari had endured a rough start to the season but have been far more competitive in the last two races after a series of upgrades, with Leclerc only 0.048 seconds off Verstappen’s pole-clinching time in qualifying.
Aston and Mercedes couldn’t quite get to grips with the Red Bull Ring, although all four of their drivers were comfortably in the top-10.
Also entrenched in the points positions was Lando Norris, who enjoyed an excellent weekend driving his upgraded McLaren, claiming a season-best finish of fourth. Norris has been driving well all year but hasn’t previously had the machine to match his talents.
But with McLaren planning to introduce further upgrades at Silverstone, Norris looks set to add to an already congested field of drivers fighting for the podium and top-six.
Amongst those podium contenders are Perez and Lance Stroll, with the former having badly underperformed in his all-conquering Red Bull in recent weeks.
Although the Mexican once again failed to make Q3 in qualifying, finishing runner-up in the sprint and taking third - his first podium in four races - in the grand prix was a decent showing from a driver who had considered himself a world title challenger not so long ago.
Stroll has also found it tough to step out of his team mate’s shadow this season with Alonso besting his Aston team mate in all but one race.
While the Canadian did come home behind Alonso once more in ninth on Sunday, it was a far more solid weekend from Stroll in general as he out-qualified his team mate for only the second time this year.
Max Verstappen has plenty of supporters in attendance for Red Bull’s home race this weekend and they’re unlikely to go home unhappy as the world champion chases a fifth straight victory.
The Dutchman is 1/5 to win the Austrian Grand Prix for a fourth time having so far dominated the weekend at the Red Bull Ring, taking pole position for Sunday’s race in qualifying on Friday before winning Saturday’s sprint race from the front of the grid.
The Red Bull racer looks untouchable right now and having won the 24-lap sprint race in the wet by a mammoth 21 seconds, it would take something unforeseen to stop Verstappen from taking maximum points in Spielberg.
But the battle behind him is far less clear cut with Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes and Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez all aiming to be in the podium mix.
|What||2023 Austrian Grand Prix|
|Where||Red Bull Ring, Spielberg|
|When||14:00, Sunday, July 2nd|
|How to watch||Sky Sports F1|
|Odds||Max Verstappen 1/5, Charles Leclerc 12/1, Lewis Hamilton 12/1, Carlos Sainz 18/1, Sergio Perez 20/1, Fernando Alonso 25/1|
Charles Leclerc will start from the front row alongside Verstappen on Sunday after an excellent lap in qualifying and the Ferrari driver knows what it takes to win here having stormed to victory 12 months ago.
However, the Monegasque’s form has been a little erratic this season, as demonstrated in Saturday’s sprint when he struggled in qualifying before finishing a disappointing 12th.
In contrast, his team-mate Carlos Sainz finished third in the sprint after qualifying in third on Friday, continuing his good record at this circuit.
The Spaniard is the lap record holder at the Red Bull Ring and would have been second here last year had his engine not failed late on.
Red Bull’s Perez is a 6/4 shot to claim a first podium finish in four races, despite having qualified in 15th.
For the fourth race running, the Mexican missed out on Q3 but was getting far more out of his RB19 in the sprint on Saturday, qualifying in second and finishing runner-up to Verstappen.
Perez even passed the world champion with an aggressive move at the first corner before forcing him onto the grass later in the first lap of the sprint, and that kind of fighting spirit will be needed on Sunday.
Given how quick Red Bull are at their home track, the expectation for Perez will be to work his way through the field and into the top three.
Perez will need to get past both Mercedes and Aston Martin if he’s to make the podium, but that may not be as tough as had been anticipated before the weekend started.
Aston haven’t been as quick as they were in Canada last week, qualifying in sixth and seventh respectively, and Fernando Alonso will need a superb drive if he’s to score his seventh podium of the season.
Mercedes have underperformed too, albeit the biggest disappointments have come in qualifying with George Russell qualifying in 11th on Friday, while Lewis Hamilton went out in Q1 of the sprint shootout.
The Silver Arrows expected to be quick in Spielberg and while they tend to improve in race conditions, performances suggest the heavily modified W14 might not be as competitive as usual.
The simple nature of this track, which features three long straights and just seven corners, has played into the hands of Haas and Williams, two cars that boast good straightline speed.
Haas’ Nico Huleknberg has already scored points for the team by finishing sixth in the sprint and will hope to add to his haul when starting from eighth on Sunday.
Haas have made a nasty habit of qualifying well this season before falling away in the race, but Hulkenberg’s showing in the sprint suggests the German can hang around the top-10 battle and is a 7/4 chance to score points.
Williams face more of an uphill climb to score points for the second race running with their car not at its best through high speed corners.
But Alexander Albon showed how well he can defend in Canada when claiming seventh and has an opportunity to do something similar in Austria after qualifying in 10th.
Alpine haven’t looked at their best this weekend, while McLaren have produced a mixed bag so the opportunities could be there for Albon and Hulkenberg.
Max Verstappen and Red Bull have made themselves comfortable at the top of the F1 tree, but may be made to squirm in Friday’s qualifying session for the Austrian Grand Prix.
For the second race in a row, qualifying looks set to be run in the wet with the forecast calling for rain throughout the afternoon in Spielberg.
Red Bull managed to master the conditions in Canada as Verstappen danced through the rain to claim pole for the third race running and the Dutchman is the 4/9 favourite to keep his qualifying streak alive.
But with the weather making track conditions treacherous, Verstappen’s previous issues on a sprint weekend and the chasing pack seemingly making inroads into the world champion’s advantage, qualifying could be more competitive than recent sessions.
|What||2023 Austrian Grand Prix - qualifying|
|Where||Red Bull Ring, Spielberg|
|When||16:00, Friday June 30th|
|How to watch||Sky Sports F1|
|Odds||Max Verstappen 4/9, Charles Leclerc 4/1, Fernando Alonso 10/1, Lewis Hamilton 14/1, Carlos Sainz 16/1, Sergio Perez 16/1|
The Red Bull Ring will stage the second sprint weekend of the season, meaning a change to the usual format.
There’s only one practice session on Friday at lunchtime (12:30 BST) for the teams to get their set-up right before qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix in the afternoon (16:00 BST).
Saturday is turned over to the sprint, with a sprint qualifying session in the morning before the race itself in the afternoon - with extra points available via the sprint.
The first sprint weekend of the season in Baku saw Charles Leclerc claim pole for both the Grand Prix and sprint race, while Kevin Magnussen beat Verstappen to pole in Brazil in the final sprint weekend of 2022.
It might be clutching at straws to suggest Verstappen is prone to struggling to get to grips with the format and this is a track where Red Bull’s superior straight-line speed should make them tough to beat on a circuit where they’ve had plenty of success previously.
But Ferrari managed to deny Red Bull the win last year as Leclerc took the chequered flag and the Scuderia are confident of another strong showing in Austria.
The Italians believe they are moving in the right direction after recent upgrades, although the high speeds corners of the Red Bull Ring may still prove to be a problem.
Their overall package, which has retained their excellent one-lap pace, makes them a qualifying contender though and Leclerc is 4/1 second favourite for his second pole of the year, while the more consistent Carlos Sainz is 16/1.
Also in a confident mood are Mercedes after exceeding expectations in Canada and they believe their upgraded W14 will go well in Austria, where they’ve had a driver on pole five times previously.
However, the Silver Arrows have tended to save their best for race day, with the team struggling to get their tyres warmed up quickly and they are yet to get a car on the front row of the grid in qualifying this season.
Mercedes will expect to be in the podium mix all the same, but will face strong competition from Aston Martin and Fernando Alonso, who could claim the early advantage via qualifying.
Alonso has started from the front of the grid in three of the last four races, having been promoted to second in Canada, where he looked to be on a pole-clinching lap, only for the session to be red-flagged due to Oscar Piastri’s accident.
Alonso is 10/1 to spring a surprise by claiming his first pole in 11 years and the wet weather could help shake up the grid, as it did in Canada.
Nico Hulkenberg timed his run right to take second in Montreal before his demotion, while both the McLarens and Alexander Albon made it through to Q3, as Leclerc and Sergio Perez crashed out in Q2.
Albon’s upgraded Williams should enjoy the abundance of straights in Austria and has proved it goes well in the wet.
The same goes for Lando Norris and his McLaren, which is sporting a package of upgrades this weekend. Only one practice session isn’t ideal to get the car working well with the upgrades, but the team are hopeful of a smooth transition.
Norris has proven himself to be an excellent wet-weather driver and enjoys this track, finishing on the podium twice, so expectations are high for what could be a thrilling qualifying session.