AUSTRIAN GP – Valtteri Bottas takes victory in a drama-filled opening race as Lando Norris takes maiden podium

Testing & Race Reports

Valtteri Bottas has taken victory in a drama-filled Austrian Grand Prix beating his teammate on the road by a tenth, however, the world champion was demoted to fourth after a collision with Alex Albon in the closing stages which gave Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc a surprise second place.

Bottas for the second year in a row starts his season with a victory as he looks once again to try and beat Hamilton to secure the title taking his second win at the Red Bull Ring. Bottas lead from the start after building a two-second lead over Verstappen, Hamilton was demoted to fifth shortly before the start of the race.

The lead Mercedes, on faster tyres compared to the Red Bull, steadily pulled away as Hamilton started his fightback in the opening laps by passing Albon, Norris and Perez.

Hamilton was chasing his teammate during the closing stages when knocked Albon into a spin at Turn Four similar to the incident between the two at Interlagos last year. The world champion appeared to nudge the car round as fought with Hamilton for fourth place.

Mercedes had to warn both drivers to stay off the kerbs because of a potential gearbox sensor issue. Both Bottas and Hamilton were forced to adapt there driving before George Russell was forced to stop on track bring out the safety car because of a fuel pressure issue.

Hamilton told Sky Sports, “It really felt like a racing incident but either way I’ll take whatever penalty they feel I deserve and move forwards.” He goes into next weekends Styrian Grand Prix with a thirteen point deficit, hoping that there isn’t a repeat of today’s race next Sunday.

The restart of the race soon lead to another safety car, as Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire after his wheel fell off the car, Alfa Romeo will certainly be getting a €10,000 fine for the unsafe release.

The race proved as dramatic as ever with nine drivers failing to finish the race, including Max Verstappen who looked to be in contention for the podium.

McLaren were again the main winners from Hamilton’s misfortune, with Lando Norris inheriting third place after the six-times champion failed to build a big enough gap between himself and Norris to cancel out the five-second penalty for the collision with Albon.

It means for the first time since 2014 that the six-times champion finishes the opening race as the lead Englishman in the driver’s championship. Ferrari was never expecting a strong race, However, Charles Leclerc was a benefactor from the drama as he came from tenth to second, which could suggest the team are stronger on the race pace than over a single lap.

Leclerc said, “I did not expect it. A huge surprise, but a good one. I think we did everything perfect today. We had a little bit of luck, but that was the goal – to take every opportunity. We knew we didn’t have the pace to finish here.”

Norris added, “There’s a few moments where I thought I fudged it. I dropped to fifth with a few laps to go and Carlos nearly passed me and I managed to get back past Checo and I ended up on the podium. It was a good race, a hard last few laps to push as hard as I can, I’m so happy for the team to achieve what we have given where we were a few years ago.”

Sergio Perez was sixth following a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Pierre Gasly was seventh, ahead of Esteban Ocon, who returned to the points in his first race since the 2018 Abu Dhabi, scoring points on his debut for Renault.

Antonio Giovinazzi was ninth, ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who had to settle for tenth position after being knocked into a spin trying to pass Sainz midway through the race. The spin appeared to be characteristic of those he had during last season following yet another botched overtake on the man who will replace him next season.

Nicolas Latifi was the last man to finish the race in eleventh, ahead of a long list of retirements, including teammate George Russell. The unofficial eSports champion was forced to retire because of car problems, following six back to back Grand Prix wins since Brazil in early May.

Max Verstappen had been the best challenger to Mercedes for the win, but his race was over when his car appeared to slow in the first stint. The Dutchman was on the alternative strategy and looked as if he could have duelled with the two Mercedes to take a back to back in Spielberg.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo retired in the early stages with car trouble, while both Haas drivers spun out of the race. George Russell was running in an encouraging position for Williams before late car trouble.

Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo shod a front tyre at the beginning of the second Safety Car restart, while Alpha Tauri was denied a double points finish when Daniil Kvyat’s car suffered a rear suspension failure on the penultimate lap.

Austria will host the second round of the season next Sunday, the race could prove as just as dramatic. The teams will look to build on this weekend as the teams prepare for the first championship double header in the sports history at the same circuit.



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