Verstappen: Austrian GP result 'better than expected' after Red Bull struggles at home race

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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."

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