Tue, 18 May 2021

Bottas wins surreal F1 Austrian Grand Prix

06 Jul 2020, 02:18 GMT+10

By F1 correspondent Michael Butterworth

BEIJING, July 5 (Xinhua) -- Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas won the first race of the delayed 2020 Formula 1 season, taking victory in an epic Austrian Grand Prix from Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, after Bottas' teammate Lewis Hamilton was penalised for a late-race collision with Red Bull's Alex Albon.

Starting from pole position, Bottas led every lap at the Red Bull Ring and kept his head when many behind him were losing theirs, with the race involving three separate safety car periods and seeing no fewer than nine drivers fail to see the chequered flag.

After Mercedes had dominated qualifying, it seemed as if Bottas and Hamilton would have it all their own way in Sunday's race, despite Hamilton starting from fifth rather than second after a penalty for ignoring a yellow flag in qualifying.

However, a series of late-race safety car periods and concerns over Mercedes reliability leveled the playing field and allowed others to close on the new-look Silver Arrows, with the Brackley squad decked out in an all-new dark livery in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Albon had taken advantage of one such safety car period to pit for a new set of soft tyres, and looked as if he had the pace to challenge Hamilton and Bottas, both of whom were on worn hard tyres and had been told to look after their cars by their engineers, who were concerned about a gearbox sensor issue on both cars.

But just as Albon looked set to pass Hamilton on lap 61, the two cars touched and sent the Red Bull into a spin, ending his challenge and seeing Hamilton slapped with a five-second penalty for his part in the collision, which echoed the two drivers' tangle at last year's Brazilian Grand Prix.

Hamilton's penalty meant that Leclerc crept up almost unnoticed into second place, a welcome fillip for the Maranello squad that, on early evidence, appear to be less competitive than in 2019.

Third place was filled by a delighted Lando Norris, who delivered on the promise his McLaren had shown during qualifying to become Formula 1's third-youngest podium finisher of all time.

The Bristol-born star also took an extra point for notching fastest lap, which he secured on the last lap of the race as he strove to finish within five seconds of Hamilton and overhaul his compatriot.

Behind a relegated Hamilton, Norris' teammate Carlos Sainz took fifth place on an excellent weekend for McLaren, ahead of Racing Point's Sergio Perez, who himself received a five-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane.

Pierre Gasly finished seventh for the newly-renamed Alpha Tauri squad, with Renault's Esteban Ocon eighth on his return to an F1 race seat after sitting out 2019.

Antonio Giovinazzi took ninth for Alfa Romeo, with the top ten rounded out by Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who dropped down the order early on after coming off second best in a tangle with Sainz, who will replace the German at the Maranello outfit next year.

Having won the last two Austrian Grands Prix, Albon's teammate Max Verstappen might have fancied his chances of sealing a hat-trick, but the Dutch driver had the misfortune of being 2020's first retiree, grinding to a halt on lap 11 with a mechanical issue.

Other drivers to retire include Daniel Ricciardo, whose Renault suffered with overheating issues, while the two Haas cars of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen both retired with brake failure.

Giovinazzi's teammate Kimi Raikkonen also dropped out after his front right wheel detached itself from his car, which narrowly missed Vettel and triggered the race's third safety car period.

Lance Stroll's Racing Point, the Williams of George Russell, and Gasly's teammate Daniil Kvyat also failed to see the chequered flag in a race of attrition.

The unusual nature of the 2020 F1 season sees the Red Bull Ring once again play host to Formula 1 next weekend, for the Styrian Grand Prix.

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