Max Verstappen holds off McLaren challenge to win Austrian GP sprint race

Max Verstappen produced an impressive defensive display to hold off Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris and win Saturday’s sprint race at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Norris briefly wrested the lead off Verstappen on the fifth of 23 laps at a sun-cooked Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.

But Verstappen swatted Norris aside at the next corner before crossing the line 4.6 seconds clear of Piastri with Norris having to settle for third.

George Russell finished fourth for Mercedes, one place ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. Lewis Hamilton started sixth and finished in the same position.

Verstappen’s win sees him extend his lead in the world championship standings from 69 points to 71 ahead of qualifying later on Saturday to determine the grid for Sunday’s main event.

“That was spicy, but a good result,” said Verstappen on the radio.

Verstappen beat Norris to pole by just 0.093 seconds before keeping the McLaren man behind him on the short blast to the opening corner.

Rather than taking on Verstappen, Norris had his mirrors occupied by team-mate Piastri with the Briton forced to go defensive at Turns 3 and 4.

Further back and Russell slipped one place to fifth after Sainz muscled ahead of the Mercedes man. Russell would get his man back on lap eight.

By the end of the opening lap, Verstappen held a nine-tenths advantage over Norris but the 24-year-old from Glastonbury was able to keep in DRS range.

On lap three, Norris was crawling all over the back of Verstappen’s Red Bull and the triple world champion had to place his machine on the apexes of the third and fourth bends to keep his rival at bay.

Norris had another look around the outside of Verstappen at Turn 4 on the next tour, only for his rival to deliver another impressive rearguard showing.

On to lap five and Norris launched his McLaren down the inside of Verstappen at the third bend to take the lead. But Norris carried too much speed into the corner, allowing Verstappen to carry the momentum into Turn 4 and fight his way back ahead. Piastri was also able to scramble past Norris as the Englishman suddenly dropped from first to third.

Piastri was unable to match Verstappen’s speed and, as the Dutchman extended his lead, the spotlight turned to the battle for second between the two McLaren team-mates.

Norris kept Piastri honest until the chequered flag but could not find a way past, finishing seven tenths adrift.

“It was a good first lap but once the DRS opens it is difficult to get out of it,” said Verstappen. “We had a few exciting battles but once I cleared the DRS I could focus on my own race.

“We had to work to win that race, and tomorrow there will be things to work on. It will be interesting to see how that evolves.”

Norris said: “There were things I should have done better in my battle with Max. I had to make the most of the opportunity (on lap five) and then I messed it up and the left the door open (to Verstappen) like an amateur.

“I needed to do a better job today and I did something a bit silly which was stupid of me.

“But the pace of the car was strong. I am not sure we had the pace to go with Max but tomorrow is another day and we will try again.”

Qualifying for Sunday’s 71-lap Grand Prix takes place at 16:00 local time (15:00 BST).