Bottas wins Austria epic as Norris excels and Hamilton stumbles

Valtteri Bottas has taken victory for Mercedes in the opening race of the season, with Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris rounding off the podium in an action packed Austrian Grand Prix. Alasdair Russell reports.

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Valtteri Bottas continued Mercedes’ strong start to the season and put himself straight to the top of the drivers’ standings with a win in Austria.

The drama started before the race, as reigning champion Lewis Hamilton was handed a three-place grid penalty for ignoring the yellow flags in qualifying – something that the stewards had cleared him of last night. The new investigation was triggered by Red Bull handing onboard footage from Hamilton’s car that had not previously been available.  

Once the race started, it quickly became one of attrition, with only eleven cars making it to the chequered flag.  The first sign of trouble came from the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, who was struck down with electrical troubles. Mercedes also had troubles, as both cars came close to having gearbox failures – frantic radio messages came from the pit wall urging both Bottas and Hamilton to stay off the kerbs. 

The race took a further change when Kevin Magnussen’s brakes failed, necessitating an appearance from the safety car. All of the remaining field chose to pit. On the restart, Sebastian Vettel went for an incredibly optimistic lunge on Carlos Sainz Jr, who will replace Vettel at Ferrari next season. The current Ferrari man bounced off the rear tyre of the McLaren, dropping well down the standings as a result. 

Romain Grosjean also encountered brake issues, which forced him to retire and then moments later, the Williams of George Russell parked up at the side of the track, with a loss of fuel pressure forcing him out of the race. The need to recover the Williams meant another appearance from the safety car. Several cars pitted, including Alex Albon, who dropped from 3rd to 4th in the process. Albon had bolted on the softer compound tyre in a bid to go for the win on the restart, as neither of the Mercedes pitted and stayed out on their hard compound tyres.

On the restart, Albon made a move to regain third place from Perez – who had taken third place when Albon pitted – with the Red Bull getting ahead of the Racing Point before the Mexican pulled back ahead, just as another safety car was called out. The stewards later instructed Perez to give the place back. This safety car was caused by the front right tyre of Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo deciding it didn’t much fancy being attached to the Iceman’s car anymore, with Raikkonen pulling in to retire at the side of the pit straight. 

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Charles Leclerc made some smart moves in an underperforming Ferrari to claim a podium place, while Lando Norris blitzed lap 72 with the fastest lap of the race to pip Lewis Hamilton to third, following his penalty.

On the restart, Alex Albon rapidly closed the gap on Lewis Hamilton, going for an audacious move around the outside of the six-time world champion. Unfortunately, the pair tangled in and Albon went spinning into the gravel. Hamilton was judged to be at fault for the incident and was handed a five second penalty. This was the second time in the last three races that Albon and Hamilton have tangled with the Red Bull driver coming off worst. In all of this, there was a spectacular series of moves from Charles Leclerc to drag his underperforming Ferrari up to finish second once Hamilton’s penalty was applied.

Ferrari were not the only ones to benefit, as Lando Norris put in a stunning final lap which not only gave him fastest lap of the race, but put him within five seconds of Hamilton, handing the 20-year-old his first podium in F1.  

The opening race of the season was a true epic and demonstrated Formula 1 at its absolute best. Fans will be hoping for more of the same as the paddock remains at the Red Bull Ring for the Styrian Grand Prix. It will also mark the first time in F1 history that back to back races will be held on the same track.

Constructor’s Standings

  1. Mercedes (37)
  2. McLaren (26)
  3. Ferrari (19)
  4. Racing Point (8)
  5. Alpha Tauri (6)
  6. Renault (4)
  7. Alfa Romeo (2)
  8. Williams (0)
  9. Haas (0)
  10. Red Bull (0)

Drivers’ Championship

  1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 25
  2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 18
  3. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 16
  4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 12
  5. Carlos Sainz Jr. (McLaren) – 10
  6. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) – 8
  7. Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri) – 6
  8. Esteban Ocon (Renault) – 4
  9. Antonio Giovanazzi (Alfa Romeo) – 2
  10. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) – 1
  11. Nicholas Latifi (Williams) – 0
  12. Daniil Kyvat (Alpha Tauri) – 0
  13. Alex Albon (Red Bull) – 0
  14. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) – 0
  15. George Russell (Williams) – 0
  16. Romain Grosjean (Haas) – 0
  17. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) – 0
  18. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) – 0
  19. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) – 0
  20. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 0

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