Verstappen wins the Shanghai sprint and takes the goal

Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen won the first sprint race of the season ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday.

The Dutch Red Bull driver, who started from fourth, won the Shanghai 19-lap race clear of Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes and Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull. Not long after, Verstappen took pole position in qualifying for the Grand Prix on Sunday (9am/SERVTV, Sky).

Verstappen could not only look forward to a perfect day, but also his fifth pole position in the fifth race of the season. It is the 37th time the 26-year-old has never won a Grand Prix and the first in China. Austrian-British racing team Red Bull celebrated a anniversary with its 100th pole, two weeks ago in Japan, taking the front row of the grid with Perez in second place (+0.322). Fernando Alonso (+0.488) finished a strong third in the Aston Martin ahead of the McLaren duo of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastre and the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

“The first round was very exciting”

Back at the weekend in China, where a grand prix is ​​being held for the first time in five years, Verstappen earlier showed another power in the 100km sprint and celebrated his eighth sprint victory. “The first rounds were very exciting. We got stronger every lap, the car was good and the tires were performing well,” said the three-time season winner with satisfaction.

Before the fifth race of the season, Mercedes could look forward to a break after a weak start to the season. “It's the best result in a long time and I'm really happy about it,” said Hamilton, who was happy about the leading laps. “I forgot what I felt at the front. I was grateful for that moment and it felt good. However, in qualifying, the record world champion broke on his fastest lap. Teammate George Russell also couldn't get past eighth on the grid.

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World Cup standings: Verstappen takes lead

For the first time since the 13th sprint race, qualifying for the Grand Prix took place hours after the short clash. Melbourne winner Sines made a mistake in the final corner in the second qualifying session, spinning out on the start-finish straight and prompting a red flag. But the Spaniard was lucky to be able to fix his car.

In the sprint, pole-sitter Norris had to settle for sixth after a poor start. The Ferrari pair of Leclerc and Sainz finished fourth and fifth. In the World Cup standings, Verstappen extended his lead over Perez (70) to 15 points with 85 points. This is followed by Leclerc (64) and Sainz (59).

Weather, battery, tire damage

Unlike Friday's sprint qualifying, rain played no role the following day at the Shanghai International Circuit. Norris fell far behind in the sprint after a failed start and the Brit slipped off the outside of the track at the first corner. Hamilton, who has already won the Chinese GP title five times, performed very well and was ahead of Alonso and Verstappen early on. The world champion, who started from fourth, first complained of battery problems before overtaking Alonso on the seventh lap.

Hamilton, who last celebrated a GP win in Saudi Arabia in 2021, was 1.6 seconds ahead of the dominant Red Bull at this stage. Two revolutions later, Verstappen crossed the Silver Arrow. “I didn't fight because he was too fast,” Hamilton said. Although the triple world champion eventually took the lead by 13.043 seconds, Alonso looked to defend his third place with all his might against Sainz. However, the 42-year-old Spaniard suffered a puncture during a difficult maneuver and Perez thanked him on the podium. (APA)

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