Round 11 of the 2022 F1 World Championship sees the return to Austria and the Red Bull Ring circuit, it’s also the 2nd Sprint Race weekend of the season. Less than a week since the British GP and one of the best F1 races in years the short Red Bull Ring has a lot to live up to.
After practice and Qualifying the local Orange Army were happy cheering on their beloved World Champion Max Verstappen, who put his RedBull onto pole position for today’s sprint race which would decide the grid for the all-important GP on Sunday. This season the top eight finishers in the sprint race receive points so the sprint race itself has become even more critical in terms of the championship fight.
Alongside Verstappen on the front row is Charles Leclerc in his Ferrari, after a disappointing string of results he could get his championship challenge back on track in front of the excited Orange Army. The Mercedes again looked to have returned to competitiveness but both drivers had offs in qualifying so would be starting 4th and 9th. With the short nature of the track the sprint race should be a close battle through the field.
Before lights out Alonso’s car still has the tyre warming blankets on as the rest of the field drive away, The Spaniard will now have to start from the pitlane. At the end of the formation lap Zhou in the Alfa Romeo stopped before the grid, the cars were sent on another formation lap and Zhou would also be made to start from the pitlane once he got the car started again.
Lights out and Verstappen leads the two Ferraris away, Sainz and Leclerc battling away for most of the first lap after the Spaniard led his teammate into turn two. Gasly went out at turn one after contact with Hamilton after trying to squeeze the Mercedes driver into the first corner.
After 3 laps Verstappen already had a 2 second lead over Leclerc, who led his teammate by half a second, they were followed by Russell, Ocon, Magnussen, Schumacher, Perez, Bottas, and Hamilton rounding out the top ten.
Leclerc set the fastest lap at the end of lap 4 trying to get within DRS of the leading RedBull. The two Ferraris were running so close together that they were letting the leading RedBull getaway. A great battle between them lap after lap but they had now fallen 3 seconds behind Verstappen, once again Ferrari seemed to be handing a win to the RedBull driver.
As lap 8 began Hamilton moved ahead of Bottas into P9, can the 7-time World Champion make up more places to get a better grid slot for tomorrow’s race?
Perez in the second RedBull was now making a move up the field, easily taking P7 from Schumacher as the young German concentrated on trying to overtake his teammate. On the following lap, he makes it passed Magnussen and up to P6.
Lap 11 and Vettel in the Aston Martin was sent into the gravel by Alex Albon in the Williams, the German manages to escape the gravel trap and return to the race.
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At half distance Verstappen leads by 3 seconds from Leclerc, his RedBull teammate makes another paced and is up to P5 after taking Ocon Alpine. Hamilton has now made it onto the back of the two Haas cars, unfortunately for him, Schumacher had DRS so he couldn’t catch him enough on the straights.
As ever with a sprint race the field settles and laps pass with nothing much happening, if they are to keep this format they have to change something as it just doesn’t seem to work.
With 5 laps to go Hamilton is still stuck behind the Haas of Schumacher, back up front Verstappen leads by just over two and half seconds cruising to an easy win. The Ferraris have settled a few seconds apart with seemingly no pace to make any impression on the leader.
Lap 21 and finally Hamilton makes it passed the German, can he catch the next Haas in the remaining 2 laps.
At the chequered flag Verstappen wins again from Leclerc and Sainz, they are followed by Russell, Perez, Ocon, Magnussen, Hamilton, Schumacher, and Bottas.
Following them is Norris and Ricciardo in the disappointing Mclarens, Stroll, Zhou, Gasly, Albon, Tsunoda, and Latifi. Vettel and Alonso, who never made the start of the race.
Will Ferrari regret letting their drivers battle so much and let the RedBull driver getaway, once he had the lead he never looked troubled?
Tomorrow’s race should be a bit more exciting as strategy comes into play.