Sainz escorts the Red Bull on an impressive Saturday

It was because of the rain or the hectic nature of the sprint, but Saturday at the Austrian GP closed in a colossal way with a thrilling victory for Verstappen, plus Pérez (2nd) and Sainz (3rd) on the podium; and a solid joint performance from the two Aston Martins crowned with the final battle of Stroll (4th) and Alonso (5th). Everything happened very quickly, the track got soaked before the start and gradually dried up for some brave ones to try the dry tyres, but the correct strategy, at least for the top-5, was to stay on the intermediate tires until completing 24 laps of the short but intense race.

The big thing happened at the start: Pérez passed Verstappen at the start and both got into a fight after turn one, Max came to touch the grass. Then the Dutchman threw the car very long at three, so he passed him. But he also forced a few, like Alonso, to draw through the escape to avoid an incident with two Red Bulls on. “It has not been good, we will have to talk about it,” said the champion on the radio to his engineers instead of celebrating. High tension in the Red Bull garage, although luckily for them it only lasted four corners.

Sainz fished in a troubled river, started well and settled behind the riders who were fighting for the podium. When Hulkenberg started to lose pace (he came to be running second during the first third of the race), Checo and the man from Madrid overtook him without much difficulty. From there, consistent cruising speed for Carlos that led him to the first podium of the year. He doesn’t count as such in the statistics, because it’s not a grand prix but a sprint; but Sainz seconded an unbeatable car in difficult conditions and combined this performance with his spectacular qualifying in the morning, which the Ferrari leaders saw very well. On the other side of the garage, Leclerc was 12th after fighting the entire race with Ocon (7th, did not stop) and Norris (9th). Six more points for the Spanish take out.

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After the first Ferrari, the two AMR23 with much more race pace than qualifying. Fernando was harmed by the movements of the first round, Stroll slipped in and then, almost at the end of the race, there was no way to pass him. The Canadian is firm when he defends himself, although somewhat less dangerous than other teammates the Asturian has had. Also, Lance doesn’t have as many strong points, but he comes off very well. At least the Aston Martin shows that it has the pace to do something important this Sunday. Saturday was for Red Bull and Sainz. But the main course is not served yet.

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