Max Verstappen has won the Sprint Race at COTA!
The Dutch driver has taken his third sprint victory of the season after qualifying on pole in the Sprint Shootout.
It was a fierce battle into turn one between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, but it was the former who held the lead. Lewis Hamilton then got past Leclerc into second place but there was suspicion of an off-track pass. The two Aston Martin’s got too close for comfort into turn 12 and nearly collided. The two Ferraris say third and fourth at the end of lap one, with both McLarens behind them. As the only driver with soft tyres on, Carlos Sainz was trying to make up places on the start, and someone keener was Sérgio Perez who was fighting a bitter battle with Oscar Piastri for a couple of laps. The Mexican driver eventually made the pass on lap three along with George Russell.
After five laps, Hamilton was still holding onto the DRS of Verstappen in front of him, in a Mercedes that looked good on race pace. After receiving a three-place penalty in this race due to a misdemeanour in the shootout, Russell was once again under the eyes of the stewards following his potentially illegal pass on Pierre Gasly. He was handed a five second penalty a lap later. Lando Norris, who was playing golf with Sainz just days before the race weekend, was aggressively battling with the Spaniard every lap. On lap seven, His teammate Piastri seemed to be really struggling with race pace and was rapidly dropping down the order. Alex Albon was only one place out of the points as he sat ninth behind Gasly; the Williams showing good race pace as opposed to its McLaren counterpart.
With 10 laps remaining of the 19, Verstappen held just over a two second lead on Hamilton, whose tyres started to fall off. Norris eventually made it past Sainz as the Ferrari rapidly used up its soft tyres. Before long, Perez was in his rear-view mirrors, then alongside, and then ahead. Track limits were becoming one of the main issues for the whole grid, as third strike warnings kept popping up on the radio waves. Further back, Zhou Guanyu and Kevin Magnussen were battling for 17th place; Alfa Romeo and Haas not having the strongest of weekends thus far.
As the Sprint approached the chequered flag, Russell was trying to put his penalty wrongdoings right by overtaking Sainz, but the Briton was being frustrated behind the Ferrari. Verstappen was sitting comfortably out front, five seconds clear of Hamilton who had to settle for second place. Leclerc had all but confirmed a third-placed finish with two laps remaining. To round off a disappointing race, Zhou received a five second penalty on the final lap.
As every driver crossed the line, Verstappen took the win ahead of points scorers Hamilton, Leclerc, Norris, Perez, Sainz, Gasly, and Russell.