Austrian GP: Red Bull and McLaren expect a close fight at the Red Bull Ring on sprint weekend | F1 news

Max Verstappen admits his team cannot afford “messy” weekends to keep winning in Formula 1, such is the narrow margin between Red Bull and McLaren ahead of this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen and Lando Norris have battled for victory in four of the last five events and the field has closed since the latter won the Miami Grand Prix in early May.

Ferrari and Mercedes were a little behind the pace last time out in Barcelona, ​​but the short lap time at the Red Bull Ring, which is the shortest of the year, should make things extremely competitive.

However, McLaren is the team that has the momentum and it was 12 months ago when they made their first major upgrade to the car, marking the start of their move to the front of the pecking order.

“I think McLaren, at the moment, is very solid. They are good everywhere, on every track,” said Verstappen, who leads the championship by 69 points over Norris.

“You could see in Barcelona that they were very good with their tyres. They were just able to push harder compared to, I think, everyone else on the grid without degrading as much at the end of the stints.”

“Even the last stint, my last few laps were quite hard, where Lando was definitely getting me back, so those are things we need to do better. Plus of course our well-known problems with the kerbs and the potholes, basically the low speed.”

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Max Verstappen has dismissed rumours he could leave Red Bull at any time and said he is focused on next year.

It is important to get out of the blocks quickly.

Austria is a Sprint weekend, so there is only one practice session at 11:30am on Friday before going straight into Sprint qualifying at 3:30pm, live on Sky Sports F1.

At Imola and Canada, Red Bull was at a disadvantage, but spent hours in the simulator overnight to find the sweet spot and Verstappen was able to make it to the front row.

“I would say we had a normal weekend in Barcelona, ​​we were just too slow,” Verstappen said of Red Bull’s inconsistent Fridays recently.

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Take a look back at some of the most dramatic moments over the years at the Austrian Grand Prix.

“Then you try to keep making adjustments and fortunately I think in qualifying everything felt a bit better. But it was probably just a normal progression that you have throughout the weekend.

“Before that, of course, we had some difficult weekends. So we can’t afford that kind of thing anymore. Of course, I just hope for a clean weekend, basically like the one in Barcelona, ​​but with a little more of rhythm too”.

As for McLaren, it seems to have a more complete car that is easier to access the optimal working window.

Oscar Piastri has struggled in the last two events, but believes the McLaren car can be quick straight away on a race weekend.

“Apart from Barcelona, ​​I’ve felt comfortable with the car since the first lap in practice,” he said.

“I think we should be pretty confident that we can get off to a good start. Last weekend was a reminder that it’s not always easy to do that, but we should be confident that we can be strong from the start.”

Traffic will be a problem

The short lap time means traffic will be a major issue in Sprint Qualifying and Qualifying, especially in the first segment of each session.

Ideally drivers would want to be three seconds behind another car that is also on a fast lap to get a small benefit from the slipstream without being hampered by dirty air in the corners.

However, drivers will also drop back before beginning their lap in the final two corners, which now feature gravel near the edge of the circuit.

It’s an area Norris knows well and believes certain drivers tend to block more than others.

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George Russell says it’s good to see Lando Norris at the top fighting for wins, but joked that he hopes it “doesn’t last long.”

“It’s always crazy, especially on shorter courses. There are common denominators of people getting in the way and stuff like that. It’s usually pretty clear who’s doing it,” Norris said.

“For us, getting out of people’s way is the top priority of our communication and it doesn’t seem like that’s the case for other people. There’s nothing we can do about it.

“It’s always chaotic because sometimes you use it to try to get slipstreams, but with the last two blind corners it’s sometimes difficult to tell because the speed difference between a slow lap and a fast lap is quite big. That’s the challenge of the circuit.”

“It depends on the pilots, if they do not want to receive a penalty they should notify their engineer so that he can give them more information about where the people are.”

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Take a look at Lando Norris’ rollercoaster ride in Spain as the McLaren driver came so close to his second Formula 1 win.

A close fight is expected for the rest of the season

Red Bull has a 60-point lead over Ferrari and is 93 points ahead of McLaren in the constructors’ championship.

Sergio Perez has scored just four points in the last three races, and Christian Horner admitted the Mexican needs to improve to help the team in the title race.

Whether Perez can consistently perform close to Verstappen will determine McLaren and Ferrari’s chances of catching Red Bull.

“We are working hard as a team to make every weekend better and easier. I know there will be good weekends and bad weekends,” said Perez.

“Last weekend the margins were extremely tight and if you can get a couple of tenths out of the race it’s going to make a massive difference. It’s important to stay calm about that.”

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Sergio Pérez says he is aiming to have a positive weekend in Austria after suffering several “nightmare” races this season.

Perez has not beaten Verstappen as both drivers have seen the checkered flag for over a year and the close fight at the front has seen other teams come between the Red Bull pair.

The 34-year-old says “it’s important to maximize form” and hopes the tight competition will continue until the end of the season in Abu Dhabi.

“I think it will be like this for the rest of the year unless someone finds a magic solution. But I don’t expect it.

“It’s becoming more and more difficult for people to find performance. There will be tracks where a team is very good and vice versa.

“It will depend on the level of detail, the level of precision and maximizing the weekends when you have the opportunity to win.”

Sky Sports F1 Austrian GP live schedule

The Austrian Grand Prix will be held this weekend at the Red Bull Ring - live on Sky Sports F1

Thursday, June 27
12:30 p.m.: Drivers’ press conference

Friday, June 28
7.50 am: F3 Practice
9 am: F2 Practice
11:00: First practice session for the Austrian GP (session starts at 11:30)
12.55 h: F3 classification
13.50 h: F2 classification
3:00 p.m.: Austrian GP Sprint Qualifying (session starts at 3:30 p.m.)*

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Let’s remember some of the most dramatic moments over the years at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Saturday June 29
8:25 a.m.: Sprint F3
10:00 a.m.: Austrian GP Sprint (race starts at 11:00 a.m.)*
12:25 p.m.: Sprint F2
2:00 p.m.: preparation for the Austrian GP classification
15:00: Austrian GP Qualifying
17:00 hours: Ted’s classification notebook

Sunday June 30
7.25am: F3 Featured Race
08:55: F2 main race
12:30 pm: Sunday Grand Prix: preparation for the Austrian GP*
16:00: Chequered flag: reaction from the Austrian GP*
5:00 p.m.: Ted’s Notebook

*Also live on Sky Sports Main Event

The F1 tripleheader continues at the Austrian Grand Prix next week, with the Sprint format returning to the Red Bull Ring. Watch every session live on Sky Sports F1, with Sunday’s big race at 2pm Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month membership – no contract, cancel anytime

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