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F1 Austrian GP: Verstappen dominates sprint after early Norris battle

Max Verstappen won the 2024 Austrian Grand Prix sprint race after fending off an intense early attack from McLaren Formula 1 team-mates Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris.

After the contest had been shortened to 23 laps as an extra formation lap was required due to photographers standing behind the barriers at the first corner posing a safety risk, Verstappen easily led away from pole ahead of Norris.

For the rest of the opening tour, Norris defended against Piastri, who had started third, while behind Carlos Sainz battled by George Russell’s Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton chased on in sixth.

With Verstappen unable to escape DRS threat from Norris in the early laps, the Red Bull driver was even moved to defend the inside lines at Turns 3 and 4, before Norris attacked hard at the former on lap five.

Having braked very late for the uphill right-hander, Norris and Verstappen went deep, which allowed Piastri to get amongst the action through the following DRS zone heading back down the hill to Turn 4.

There, Norris left enough space on the inside for Verstappen to hit back immediately and retake the lead despite locking up his right front, which sent Norris slightly wide and created a gap that Piastri surged into to take second from his team-mate.

The battle at the front allowed the chasing pack to close in, with Russell fighting his way past Sainz to retake fourth with a DRS-assisted run around the outside at Turn 4 on lap eight – just as Verstappen was starting to pull away from the McLarens.

The Dutchman finally snapped DRS to Piastri on lap 10 and from there he simply eased away to take his second third sprint win of the 2024 season.

Norris, having fallen to nearly two seconds behind Piastri while Verstappen was steadily adding chunks to his lead, closed back in on the lead McLaren and regularly got close using DRS.

But Piastri held on to finish second 4.6s behind Verstappen and 0.7s in front of Norris.

Russell dropped back from the McLaren pair over the race’s second half to finish three seconds behind Norris in fourth, with other gaps spreading out between the rest of the leading pack too.

Sainz was a chunk back from Russell by the end and had to fend off the close attentions of Hamilton, while Charles Leclerc was 2.2s behind the Mercedes in seventh and 3.9s behind Sergio Perez, who completed the points positions in the other Red Bull, 17.4s adrift of the winning one.

Leclerc’s sprint race was transformed with a brilliant opening lap when he climbed from his starting spot in 10th to run seventh almost immediately, while behind there was interest as Esteban Ocon held off Pierre Gasly to win an intra-Alpine scrap over 11th.

Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg faced a post-race investigation for appearing to force Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso off the track at Turn 3 with a late, locked-up dive.

The pair ended up 14th and 16th, split by RB driver Daniel Ricciardo.

Hulkenberg was later handed a 10s penalty for his move on Alonso, which dropped him 19th in the final classification, only ahead of Sauber’s Zhou Guanyu.

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