Verstappen wins in the first sprint

Verstappen wins in the first sprint

Max Verstappen won the first sprint race of the year and, with another demonstration of power, prevented record champion Lewis Hamilton’s first victory in Formula 1 since the end of 2021.

Three-time title holder Verstappen relegated the seven-time world champion Mercedes to second place by over 13 seconds after 19 laps at the Shanghai International Circuit on Saturday. Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez came third ahead of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz (both Ferrari) and pole man Lando Norris from McLaren.

“The first laps were hectic,” said the Dutchman Verstappen, who started from fourth place, after his eighth victory in the 13th sprint race in the premier motorsport class. “But with the laps we got stronger.” For Verstappen, it was also the perfect introduction to the qualification for the Chinese Grand Prix (Sunday, 0900), which is also scheduled for Saturday (09:00 CEST in the FAZ live ticker for Formula 1 and on Sky). CEST in the FAZ live ticker for Formula 1 and on Sky). But Hamilton was also happy: “This is the best result I’ve had in a long time.”

Two old masters in the lead after the start

For Norris, the hope of his first victory in Formula 1 quickly disappeared. Hamilton got off to a great start and moved in next to his fellow Brit. They entered the first corner side by side, but Norris slipped his car, went off the track and had to fall back into seventh place. Hamilton led the field. “The battle in turn one reminded me why I love what I do,” he said afterwards.

Also great when the red lights went out: Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin, third in the rain qualifying from the day before. The two old champions promptly led the race, with Verstappen staying behind in third place.

Hamilton has not yet been able to win any of the sprints, which have only been in Formula 1 since 2021. His last Grand Prix victory was an unusually long time ago for the 103-time winner: he won in Saudi Arabia on December 5, 2021.

After around half the sprint distance of 100 kilometers, Hamilton’s hopes of a victory were also gone, destroyed by Verstappen. After the World Cup leader had already grabbed Alonso, it was also Hamilton’s turn. The Brit won the last edition of the Chinese Grand Prix in 2019 before the corona pandemic caused a longer break.

Things got turbulent again in the fight for third place in the sprint. Alonso got a flat tire after contact with Sainz’s racing car, and Pérez benefited from the duel between the two Spaniards. For Nico Hülkenberg in the Haas, the sprint ended in second-to-last place.

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