RIGHT NOW: A feisty race involving gripes, bumps, a couple of safety cars and an early retirement is heating up in Austria. But Max Verstappen is missing it: He got cleanly away at the start and is running far ahead of the two Ferraris chasing him.
Max Verstappen wants you to know this is all harder than it looks.
Verstappen will start from pole position in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix. This is not surprising. Verstappen, the two-time Formula 1 champion, has started on pole in six of the season’s nine races. He has won six of them. Going faster than everyone else is what Max Verstappen does.
But Verstappen does not like anything, or anyone, holding him back. So he was grumbling on Friday after race officials deleted dozens of the quickest laps in qualifying because drivers had slipped outside the strictly defined racing surface. And he was grumbling again on Saturday after poor visibility saw his teammate, Sergio Pérez, briefly nudge him onto the grass during a rainy sprint race.
“I think today looked very silly,” Verstappen said of the qualifying problems on Friday. “It almost looked like we were amateurs out there, the amount of laps that were being deleted.”
“People will say, ‘You should have kept the car in the white lines,’” he added. “If it was that easy, you can take my car and try it.”
How to Watch
Time: The Austrian Grand Prix starts at 9 a.m. Eastern time. (Global start times are here.)
TV: The race will air on ESPN in the United States. Streaming is available on ESPN+. Prerace coverage starts at 7:30 p.m. Not in the United States? A full list of Formula 1 broadcasters can be found here.
Sunday’s Starting Grid
Verstappen, the plucky Dutch underdog, starts on pole position for the fourth straight race. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will be thrilled about starting at positions 2 and 3, but not nearly as much as Lando Norris and McLaren will be about starting fourth.
Sergio Pérez’s struggles continued, however: He will start 15th after having some of his best qualifying lap times erased for failing to stay on the grid. Kevin Magnussen of Haas and Nyck de Vries of AlphaTauri will start from pit lane after making changes to their cars overnight.
This Week’s Story Lines
Sour grapes? When Lewis Hamilton suggested in an interview with Sky Sports this week that the sport’s leaders should change the rules to allow other teams to close the design and performance gap on Red Bull, or at the very least keep Red Bull from getting a head start on a new (and potentially even faster) car for next season, he drew a quick rebuke from Verstappen. “A lot of things in life are unfair,” Verstappen said curtly. He later noted, in his response to Sky, that Hamilton was less concerned about competitive imbalance when his Mercedes team was winning seven straight drivers’ championships.
The track. Red Bull Ring has a reputation as a fast track, with long sections built to reward straight-line speed — an area where Red Bull’s cars have had a significant advantage all year. But it also has some of the biggest elevation changes in Formula 1, and those rises and falls can affect a car’s hold on the track. Want a real-world comparison? Think about that split second when you’re riding in a car and it goes over an unexpected rise at speed. Now think about doing that at 200 miles an hour, and with a corner ahead. In the rain.
The weather Rain nearly made a mess of Saturday’s sprint race, especially at the start, and there is a chance of more in the forecast for Sunday. That will affect tire choices and pit strategies — one stop? or two? — and perhaps even the outcome.
What They’re Saying
“We didn’t talk about that when he was winning everything.” — Verstappen, responding to Hamilton’s suggestion that Formula 1 enact rules changes to limit Red Bull’s dominance.
“It feels good to finally have a clean qualifying again and be back on the front row. The feeling has been a bit better in the last few races.” — Leclerc, in position to change Ferrari’s luck.
“Two Red Bulls out of the way would be a good way to achieve that.” — Fernando Alonso, on what it takes to win in Formula 1 these days.
“I haven’t lost it, you know. You don’t go from winning races to all of a sudden being a very bad driver.” — Pérez, after he had what was for him a rarity lately — a great day — by finishing second in the sprint race on Saturday.
Last Time Out: Canadian Grand Prix
If someone stops you on the street and asks who won the Formula 1 race, your safest answer remains, “Max Verstappen.”