Lewis Hamilton has backed Max Verstappen to ease towards another Formula One world championship after the Red Bull driver extended his advantage with victory in France.

The defending champion came in ahead of Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate George Russell, capitalising on Charles Leclerc's error that saw him crash out while holding the lead in the race.

That marked the third time in 2022 that Leclerc's Ferrari has retired from the lead and leaves the Monegasque driver 63 points adrift with just one race remaining before F1's mid-season break.

Leclerc took responsibility for his latest setback and Hamilton offered his condolences to the 24-year-old by admitting he was "gutted" by his departure at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

Though he's urging Ferrari to keep up the fight, he admitted that he does not see any alternative outcome to Verstappen successfully defending his crown.

"It's been great to see the pace of Ferrari this year. I'm gutted for Charles, who's been doing a great job, as has Carlos [Sainz]," he told reporters.

"It's not easy though, having that pace and that performance and maintaining it.

"It's a tough job and I feel for the whole team because I know what that can feel like. But they're a great team, and they'll continue to keep their heads down.

"[There's] massive gaps, obviously pretty huge so that's pretty smooth sailing in that space [for Verstappen] generally.

"But a lot can still go wrong up ahead so I would just advise them to just continue to push."

Staying cool and overcoming the challenge of tyre wear in the searing heat of the French Grand Prix were the keys for Max Verstappen as he took advantage of Charles Leclerc's crash to prevail. 

The defending Formula One world champion extended his lead at the top of the standings to 63 points with victory in France for the second year in a row, capitalising after Leclerc spun into the barriers while leading in the opening quarter of the race.

That allowed Verstappen to take the lead under the safety car, and he remained there throughout even though the high temperatures put the tyres under pressure and another pit stop was not possible due to the long length of the pit lane at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

"I think we had really good pace at the start, I was putting pressure on Charles but following around here with this heat, the tyres were overheating a lot, I could never really go for a move," he said on the grid after the race.

"We just tried to stay calm, tried to stay close, we pitted a bit earlier. From there onwards, you never know how the race is going to go.

"The car was quick today and it was unlucky for Charles, I hope he's ok. From there onwards, I just did my race and looked after my tyres.

"With the pit lane being so long, you couldn't do another stop but the tyres were wearing a lot. It was all about looking after the tyres until the end."

Asked whether the win felt different as Leclerc wasn't there to battle with on the track, Verstappen added: "I was just trying to get the most points possible.

"Of course, sometimes you see moves are on and then you need to back out, wait maybe for the end of the race. 

"That is what we did, there are plenty more races to come where we have to score points and, in that aspect, I think today was a great day."

Hungary is up next before F1's summer break, with the Hungaroring a track many consider to be favourable to Ferrari and Verstappen admitted improvements need to be made.

Verstappen said: "We still have a lot of work to do, over a single lap especially, so we will just keep working."

Max Verstappen extended his advantage at the top of the championship to 63 points with victory at the French Grand Prix after Charles Leclerc crashed while leading.

Leclerc's latest retirement may prove to be the final dent in his 2022 title ambitions, with Verstappen looking to be heading into clean air as he bids to win back-to-back F1 championships.

The Dutchman finished over 10 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton in what turned into a routine win, while George Russell took third to secure Mercedes' first double-podium of the season.

A strong start from Hamilton saw him leapfrog Sergio Perez on the opening lap and put Verstappen under pressure, though the reigning champion defended well to remain ahead of his pursuer.

The Red Bull's advantage in straight-line speed saw Verstappen stick right on the gearbox of Leclerc in the opening 10 laps, but he was unable to make a move, with the aggressive approach potentially harming the longevity of his tyres and altering the team's plans.

Verstappen was the first of the leading pack to pit at the end of lap 16, taking hard tyres, with Leclerc staying out and appearing to be on a one-stop strategy, but there was misery for the title hopeful just two laps later.

For the third time this season, Leclerc retired while leading a grand prix, smashing into the tyre wall. A safety car was deployed as Verstappen took the lead – with Ferrari's woes increasing as Carlos Sainz was issued a five-second penalty for an unsafe release after he pitted under the safety car.

Ferrari's instability continued to be evident towards the end of lap 41 when Sainz made an overtaking move on Perez to claim third place while his team called for him to pit, which then came at the end of the following lap – serving his penalty and coming out ninth.

Russell, having collided with Perez, was unhappy he was not given the third-place position back after the stewards decided no investigation was necessary, but the Mercedes man took advantage of a slow reaction from Perez after a virtual safety car restart to snatch the final podium spot.

Au revoir Paul Ricard

Though yet to be confirmed, it is widely expected that the French Grand Prix will be removed from the calendar next year, with the 2022 race bringing the end of Formula One's contract with the Circuit Paul Ricard.

F1 owners Liberty Media have made a clear push to grow the motorsport in the United States, with the introduction of Miami and Las Vegas, while there is a continued desire to add more modern street circuits to the schedule.

That has seen the likes of the Circuit Paul Ricard, Monza, Spa and even Monaco shrouded in speculation, though there may still be an avenue for each to feature moving forward with a rotation of venues.

Perfect plan falls apart

Ahead of this weekend, Leclerc was adamant he was still in the title battle, but he admitted the team would need a 'perfect' finish to the season – which came apart at the first hurdle with another retirement.

Now well adrift of Verstappen in the championship, Leclerc's title ambitions look to be dead in the water with 10 races remaining this season, and he took full responsibility for the incident in what was far from the weekend that Ferrari wanted.

IN THE POINTS

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +10.587
3. George Russell (Mercedes) +16.495
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +17.310
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +28.872
6. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +42.879
7. Lando Norris (McLaren) +52.026
8. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +56.959
9. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +60.372
10. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +62.549

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 233
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 170
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 163
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 144
5. George Russell (Mercedes) 143

Constructors

1. Red Bull 396
2. Ferrari 314
3. Mercedes 270
4. Alpine 93
5. McLaren 89

Lewis Hamilton says Red Bull and Ferrari "are in a league of their own" as Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen prepare to battle it out once again at the French Grand Prix.

Leclerc came out on top at the Austrian Grand Prix two weeks ago and will start Sunday's race at Circuit Paul Ricard in pole position for the seventh time this season.

The Ferrari driver has momentum on his side, but he still trails Red Bull rival Verstappen by 38 points heading into the 12th race of 2022.

Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez finished third in qualifying after recovering from some flat practice showings, while Mercedes driver Hamilton was a distant fourth.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton is still seeking his first win of the campaign, but that seems unlikely to arrive in his 300th grand prix on the basis of Saturday's qualifying.

"It's not that it is disheartening, but you do a lap and you are told it is 1.7 seconds off and you are like 'what?'" Hamilton said.

"And then you do a really good lap and you are 1.1 seconds off and you are like 'wow'. There is nothing I can do in my power to change that.

"Everyone is working as hard as they can. Each weekend we come with little bits to try and improve, but sometimes that doesn't make a difference and that is difficult.

"The top two teams are in their own league. I came here this weekend hoping we would be within three tenths of them, and we are a second back. 

"If it is anything like this it is going to be a while before we win, but it's not impossible."

 

The driver starting on pole has won the past three French GPs – Hamilton in 2018 and 2019 and Verstappen last year – though not since 1960 has it happened four times in a row.

Leclerc's 16th career pole was achieved in large thanks to a tow from team-mate Carlos Sainz, who will start at the back of the grid after a fourth engine change of the season.

Sainz provided a tow down the straights to help Leclerc edge Verstappen, but the latter does not believe the same tactic would have worked for Red Bull.

"No, because Ferrari gained only two to two-and-a-half tenths with the slipstream, Charles told me," Verstappen said. "It was also very logical that they did it.

"Obviously both me and Sergio Perez want to be in the best position possible. That's why I don't think we're doing that sort of thing. Neither of us had a grid penalty, either.

"It also seems logical to me. We are both still fighting for the title, so it is difficult to explain. It is up to Ferrari if they want to do that, but within our team we haven't talked about it."

Should Verstappen and Perez earn at least 12 points on Sunday, Red Bull will join Ferrari (9,015) and Mercedes (6,535.50) as the third team ever to reach the 6,000 points mark.

Perez has placed in the top two in six of the past seven finished races, two times more than his previous 186, and the Mexican is delighted with his starting position.

"It's been a good recovery. I've been nowhere the whole weekend. To be honest, I've been struggling a lot," he said.

"I think it's probably been my worst weekend up to qualifying, really, and finally we managed to recover well. Now we will try to beat those red cars. They were very strong today."

Charles Leclerc was full of praise for Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz after he provided a tow down the straights to help Leclerc edge Max Verstappen for pole position in the French Grand Prix.

Sainz, who starts at the back of the grid following a fourth engine change of the season, looked to be the quickest throughout qualifying before switching his approach in Q3 to help Leclerc finish ahead of his title rival.

It secures Leclerc's seventh pole of the season and the 16th of his career as he looks to rejuvenate his title bid following difficulties in recent races, and he was clear it would have been a harder task without Sainz.

"I struggled all weekend to put a lap together, but I managed to do it. I have to say, I also had the help of Carlos and that was amazing teamwork," he said on the grid.

"Without Carlos it would have been much more close so a huge thank you to Carlos and I hope that he can join us in the fight for the win tomorrow. 

"The car feels good but it's difficult to understand what the Red Bull guys have done yesterday, as there was loads of difference in terms of lap times, so let's see how it goes tomorrow."

Verstappen looked to be in fine form with the Red Bull ace showing great pace throughout the free practice sessions, but he couldn't quite put it together in qualifying and sits behind Leclerc at the start – the sixth time in 2022 the pair have been on the front row together.

 

"Overall, I think we were lacking a bit in qualifying, just with general grip. It was a bit more tricky than I would have hoped but we still have a decent race car," Verstappen said.

"Hopefully, tomorrow will come to our favour. We're quick on the straights, so hopefully we can use that tomorrow. It's going to be a bit warmer. Clearly, Ferrari have been very quick again."

Sergio Perez will start third, bouncing back after struggling to find pace in the practice sessions, and admitted it had been a difficult few days.

"It's been a good recovery over the whole weekend, I have been struggling a lot, I think it has been my worst weekend up to qualifying really but we managed to recover well," he said.

Perez sits ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who will start fourth, which means Mercedes' wait for a top-three start on the grid continues, with it already being their longest stint into a F1 season without one.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:30:872
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.304
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.463
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.893
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1.160
6. George Russell (Mercedes) +1.259
7. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1.680
8. Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri) +1.908
9. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) No Time
10. Kevin Magnusson (Haas) No Time

Red Bull boss Christian Horner says the team are not taking any comfort from Ferrari's reliability issues, as he insisted the title race remains wide open despite Max Verstappen's lead.

Ferrari are 56 points behind Red Bull in the constructors' standings despite Charles Leclerc claiming his first victory in eight races at the Austrian Grand Prix last time out, while Verstappen continues to lead the Monegasque star in the drivers' championship.

With Carlos Sainz triumphing at Silverstone, Ferrari have posted back-to-back wins for the first time this season but have been hampered in their bid to compete with Red Bull by issues with their car.

Sainz looked set to make it a Ferrari one-two in Austria before a dramatic engine failure left his car immersed in flames.

Meanwhile, Leclerc struggled with throttle problems as he held off Verstappen for the win in Spielberg, admitting it was cause for "concern" after the race.

But Horner says Red Bull cannot rely on Ferrari's problems in their bid for a first constructors' title since 2013. 

"We are not too focused on them [Ferrari]," he said, looking ahead to Sunday's French Grand Prix.

"We can't control or contribute to that in any way. I think that we've got to focus on ourselves and just getting the best out of our own package.

"They had a very strong car [in Austria], and they could have finished first and second."

Meanwhile, despite Verstappen having a 38-point lead over Leclerc in the drivers' standings, Horner thinks the title race remains wide open, as he praised the team's "damage limitation" efforts last time out.

"We are just at the halfway point of the championship and things swing around quite a lot," he added.

"There is still an awfully long way to go. I would say Austria was sort of damage limitation, as we managed to get the pole, get the sprint victory and see the second place [in the race]. 

"I think Max has only lost five points to the Charles in the drivers' championship and obviously damage has been relatively contained in the constructors."

Formula One's former race director Michael Masi has left motorsport's world governing body, the FIA.

The Australian was stood down by the organisation from his position in February following his controversial actions during the 2021 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Masi incorrectly applied safety car rules during the closing stages, effectively helping to hand the race win – and with it, the drivers' championship – to Max Verstappen over rival Lewis Hamilton.

The FIA, which put the mistake down to "human error", initially said it would offer Masi an alternative position after the rotating duo of Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich took his place for the 2022 season.

But now it has been announced by the FIA that Masi, who took the race director position following Charlie Whiting's death on the eve of the 2019 season, will move on from the organisation.

"The FIA confirms that Michael Masi has decided to leave the FIA and relocate to Australia to be closer to his family and take on new challenges," read an official statement.

"He oversaw a three-year period as FIA Formula One race director and safety delegate following the sudden passing of Charlie Whiting in 2019, carrying out the numerous functions he was tasked with in a professional and dedicated manner.

"The FIA thanks him for his commitment and wishes him the best for the future."

Max Verstappen and Lando Norris have hit out at the "stupid" track limits penalties dished out at the Austrian Grand Prix last weekend, while George Russell has suggested F1 should revert to a single race director.

The sport has strict rules this season regarding exceeding the borders of the circuit, with 43 offences notched for crossing the white line during Sunday's race, won by Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.

Red Bull racer and incumbent world champion Verstappen came home second while Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was third, but the former admitted that events felt somewhat overshadowed by the stringent enforcement.

"I think the track limits debate this weekend has been a bit of a joke," Verstappen told Sky Sports F1.

"I don't think we should have this value on one millimetre over, that's a penalty or whatever. Then just add a wall or put some gravel back. I think that's great because there is gravel, you punish yourself if you go wide.

"These kind of things, I think it just doesn't look good for the sport."

McLaren's Norris, who was hit with a five-second penalty for repeat abuse, was also frustrated by the rules, adding: "You can't see the white lines. It's just guessing and I'm obviously not good enough at guessing.

"But I got a warning from Turn 1, and it was just a complete mistake. I lost time, so when you look at it that way, I can say it's a bit stupid. This was just me making mistakes. So I don't feel like I should be punished for it."

Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Russell meanwhile questioned whether the application of the rules was down to F1's revolving cast of race directors this season.

The sport has utilised multiple directors after Michael Masi's infamous handling of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the end of last season, which ultimately helped hand Verstappen the world title at Hamilton's expense.

"We don't want to be dishing out penalties left, right and centre but there needs to be an element of consistency somewhere and I think we need to look at the root cause of the issues," Russell added.

"I do agree that we need to stick to one race director. We need to have a bit more consistency with the stewarding.

"We come to the following event and often the steward in the previous event is not there. There's no accountability, no explanations of decisions. It is tricky. Everybody's got their own interpretations."

Lewis Hamilton has condemned reports of racist abuse towards attendees at the Austrian Grand Prix, leading a host of other leading Formula One figures in affirming such behaviour has no place.

A packed crowd was in attendance at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, with over 300,000 fans on site over the three days, which culminated in Charles Leclerc's season-reviving victory ahead of world champion Max Verstappen.

Hamilton drove to a surprise third to round out the podium after Ferrari's Carlos Sainz suffered an engine fire, further underscoring Mercedes' improvements after a strong finish at the British Grand Prix a week prior.

But the Briton, who has been the target of frequent racist remarks and attacks throughout his career, has called out allegations that some attendees were verbally abused as a product of "ignorance".

The 37-year-old had described reports of racist and homophobic abuse as "disgusting" earlier in the race weekend and doubled down in his subsequent statements.

"It just highlights that it's still an issue all over," the seven-time world champion said.

"It comes down to education and, of course, ignorance. People should come, should feel safe, should feel included and should be able to follow whoever it is you want to follow.

"[It] shouldn't matter [about] your gender, your sexuality, the colour of your skin. It should just be everyone here to have a good time."

Verstappen – whose partner's father, former Brazilian driver Nelson Piquet, was involved in a racism storm concerning remarks about Hamilton last month – also condemned the claimed abuse.

"I read a few things, a few shocking things, so that's clearly not okay," the Dutchman added.

Meanwhile, Leclerc called for bans to be issued to those responsible, adding: "If we manage to find these people, we need to take hard action. They shouldn't be allowed to be anywhere close to our sport."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner further added: "This is completely unacceptable, and we hope that security and the authorities deal with this swiftly as there is no place for it in racing or society."

Max Verstappen was pleased to have minimised the damage from a difficult Austrian Grand Prix despite seeing Charles Leclerc claim victory at the Red Bull Ring.

Verstappen, who had won three of the previous four Austrian Grands Prix at the circuit and prevailed at last year's Styrian Grand Prix at Red Bull's home track, looked set to continue his dominance having claimed pole position in qualifying and eased to first place in Saturday's sprint.

Despite a clean getaway helping him stay in the lead exiting turn one, Verstappen's Red Bull lacked the pace of the Ferraris of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz as he struggled with tyre degradation.

Sergio Perez's collision with George Russell and subsequent retirement left Verstappen without a team-mate on track and at the mercy of the two Scuderia drivers, and Ferrari executed their strategy superbly to put themselves in position for a one-two.

However, Sainz's engine failed on lap 58 as he was preparing an overtake of Verstappen for second place, meaning the Dutchman was able to keep his championship lead at 38 points as he came home behind Leclerc, who managed a throttle problem in the closing laps to end a seven-race winless run.

Asked about the end result given his struggles compared to Ferrari, Verstappen replied to Sky Sports:

"It was better than expected. If you look at the whole race, we were lacking pace. There was a lot of deg and I don't really understand why it was that bad. 

"It looked like Carlos was also going to overtake me, but unfortunately he encountered engine trouble. At the end, to only lose five points over a weekend is not too bad on a bad day.

"It's been a bit more tricky than I expected it to be today, but sometimes these things can happen."

Pressed on the exact issue with the tyres, Verstappen said: "There was no grip and I could not manage my tyres like I wanted to because they were degrading a lot.

"It seemed like we had a bit of an off day and they [Ferrari] had a very strong day."

Verstappen's commanding lead at the halfway stage of the season makes him the clear favourite to retain the drivers' championship.

However, Ferrari's obvious advantage on Sunday suggested the race is far from run with 11 races still to go.

Verstappen said when asked if the battle will go the wire: "It's a bit difficult to say after today; if you look at today, it looks not that great for us, but things can turn really quickly, so it's a bit difficult to tell."

Charles Leclerc reignited his Formula One world championship ambitions with victory in the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring.

Throughout qualifying and Saturday's sprint, all signs pointed to defending world champion Max Verstappen continuing his run of dominance in Spielberg and extending his lead in the drivers' standings.

However, in cooler conditions on Sunday, the Ferraris of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz had a clear edge over the Red Bull of Verstappen, who had a clean getaway to stay in the lead into the first corner.

The Scuderia also made the perfect strategy calls to get themselves in position for a one-two, only for Sainz to be denied by an engine failure on lap 58.

Despite a worried Leclerc experiencing problems with his throttle, he held on to clinch a third victory of the season, although Verstappen's advantage in the standings remains 38 points.

Sainz had to go off the track at turn one to protect against a fast-starting George Russell, who was soon given a five-second time penalty for causing a collision after he made contact with Sergio Perez at turn four, with the Mexican sent into the gravel and eventually forced to retire because of the damage.

Leclerc got past Verstappen with a brilliant overtake down the inside of turn four on lap 12, and Perez's exit from the equation put Ferrari in full control of the race and in the rare position of seeing their strategy working to a tee.

Following his second stop, Leclerc got ahead of Verstappen for good on lap 53 at turn three, and Sainz appeared set to repeat the feat five laps later on turn four, only for smoke to begin billowing from the back of his car.

Sainz's fiery exit, which led to a virtual safety car under which Leclerc and Verstappen both pitted, understandably caused nerves for his team-mate.

Leclerc, who saw victories in Barcelona and Baku taken away from him by an engine failure, was soon reporting issues with the throttle, and Verstappen began to loom in his mirrors.

But his car held together to allow him to weave across the finish line in delight, with Lewis Hamilton profiting from Sainz's misfortune to take third behind Verstappen and ahead of Mercedes team-mate Russell. Esteban Ocon was fifth for Alpine.

Lewis Hamilton is "disgusted and disappointed" amid reports of racist, homophobic and abusive behaviour by spectators at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull Ring plays host to Formula One this weekend, but the behaviour of supporters has already been repeatedly in the spotlight.

Mercedes driver Hamilton questioned the crowd after many cheered a crash involving the seven-time world champion on Friday.

The 37-year-old labelled the reaction of supporters as "mind-blowing", with many supporting home favourite Max Verstappen, who was jeered by sections of the crowd at the British Grand Prix last weekend.

The race weekend at Spielberg has also seen reports of sexist and homophobic abuse, and the F1 released a statement saying they were investigating the matters on Sunday.

Hamilton has since taken to Instagram to condemn the behaviour in Austria, where the abuse, as well as harassment, has clouded the 11th race of the season.

"Disgusted and disappointed to hear that some fans are facing racist, homophobic and generally abusive behaviour at the circuit this weekend," Hamilton posted. 

"Attending the Austrian Grand Prix or any GP should never be a source of anxiety and pain for fans and something must be done to ensure that races are safe spaces for all.

"Please, if you see this happening, report it to circuit security and to @f1, we cannot sit back and allow this to continue."

Hamilton, seeking his first victory of the 2022 campaign, will start the race in eighth, with Verstappen in pole after triumphing in the sprint on Saturday.

Formula One chiefs are investigating "unacceptable" behaviour from spectators at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The conduct of fans at the Red Bull Ring this weekend has been in the spotlight after Lewis Hamilton was cheered following a crash in qualifying on Friday.

Mercedes driver Hamilton hit out at the "mind-blowing" reaction of supporters, which are mainly made up of Max Verstappen followers at Red Bull's home race.

It comes a week after Verstappen was jeered by a section of the grandstands at the British Grand Prix, where Hamilton is a home favourite.

The race weekend at Spielberg has also seen reports of sexist and homophobic abuse, as well as other forms of harassment.

F1 addressed those allegations in a statement released ahead of the main event on Sunday.

"We have been made aware of reports that some fans have been subject to completely unacceptable comments by others at the Austrian Grand Prix," the statement read.

"We take these matters very seriously, have raised them with the promoter and event security, and will be speaking to those who reported the incidents.

"This kind of behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated."

Verstappen will start Sunday's race on pole after winning Saturday's sprint, while Hamilton – still seeking his first victory of the 2022 campaign – is down in eighth.

Lewis Hamilton has criticised spectators for their "mind-blowing" decision to cheer when he crashed in Austrian Grand Prix qualifying.

The Mercedes driver lost control into Turn 7 and skid into the barriers close to the Red Bull Ring grandstands, which are largely packed with Max Verstappen fans this weekend.

Hamilton was on course to challenge Verstappen for pole prior to Friday's crash, but he instead finished in 10th before being bumped up a place after Sergio Perez was penalised.

Speaking after making up one position to finish eighth in Saturday's sprint race, which establishes the grid for Sunday's main grand prix, Hamilton hit out at those who cheered.

"I don't agree or condone any of that, no matter what," he said. "A driver could have been in hospital and you are going to cheer that?

"It is mind-blowing that people would do that, knowing how dangerous our sport is. I am grateful I wasn't in hospital and wasn't injured.

"You should never cheer someone's downfall, someone's injury or crash."

 

Hamilton escaped unhurt, with the incident coming less than a week on from Zhou Guanyu's horror crash at the British Grand Prix when he somehow avoided any serious injuries.

Red Bull's Verstappen was booed by a section of supporters at Hamilton's home race at Silverstone, but the Briton is not a fan of drivers being jeered.

"It shouldn't have happened at Silverstone, and it shouldn't have happened here," he said.

Verstappen won the sprint to claim eight points and start on pole for the Austrian Grand Prix, while Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are second and third respectively.

Charles Leclerc does not want a repeat of the tussle he experienced with team-mate Carlos Sainz in the sprint race as he targets victory in the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The Ferrari drivers saw Max Verstappen race away from them in the sprint, the championship leader benefiting from the duel between Leclerc and Sainz to take the maximum eight points.

Verstappen eventually claimed triumph by 1.6 seconds from Leclerc, who insisted the Scuderia drivers must not risk losing time and wearing down their tyres by fighting with each other again at the Red Bull Ring.

He said: "I think tomorrow is going to be a long race and tyre management will be quite a bit more important compared to today, so probably tomorrow we cannot afford to do what we did today.

"We lost a little bit of time, but again when Max had the gap he also managed his pace, so we'll never know… but I felt like we were strong towards the end – probably stronger than at the beginning. Whether it [would have been] enough I really don't know."

Verstappen now leads the drivers' championship by 38 points, with Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, who climbed from 13th to fifth in the sprint, his closest challenger. Leclerc is a further six points back.

The Dutchman has won five of the last seven races and has an outstanding record at his team's home circuit.

He has won three of the last four Austrian Grands Prix and also prevailed at the Red Bull Ring in last season's Styrian Grand Prix.

However, Verstappen labelled his tyres "tricky" and is not anticipating a routine success across the 71-lap feature race.

"We had good pace at the beginning and after that we were very closely matched, it was as a sprint should go, it was quite flat out," said Verstappen.

"I do expect tomorrow is going to be a very interesting battle again."

George Russell will start fourth in a Mercedes that appears to lack the straight-line speed to mount a serious challenge for victory in Spielberg.

His team-mate Lewis Hamilton will start eighth having claimed the final points place in the sprint.

The seven-time world champion has experienced an eventful weekend, crashing in qualifying on Friday and being involved in a first-lap collision with Pierre Gasly before fighting back from 11th to eventually get past Mick Schuamcher's Haas for eighth spot.

"I'm grateful I managed to survive out there today," Hamilton said. "The team did such a great job to get the car back together last night and this morning. A big thank you to them, and I'm glad I brought it back mostly in one piece.

"We are slower on the straights, so I had to wait until I was out of the DRS train to overtake the cars in front. That's why it took a few laps to get ahead of Mick. Hopefully we can race stronger tomorrow – fingers crossed!"

There are six world titles split between the two drivers starting 18th and 19th. Sebastian Vettel, who was handed a suspended €25,000 fine for walking out of Friday's drivers' briefing, finished 19th in the sprint following a collision with Alex Albon that sent Vettel's Aston Martin into the gravel.

Fernando Alonso's Alpine failed to start the sprint due to an electrical issue. Valtteri Bottas, a two-time winner of this race, is the only man behind Alonso on the grid after the Alfa Romeo driver incurred a penalty because of his latest engine change.

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