Valtteri Bottas took victory in a dramatic Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix from Charles Leclerc after a penalty for Lewis Hamilton following a contact with Alex Albon dropped him to fourth.
Bottas crossed the finishing line as the winner of an attrition race – only eleven cars made it to the end – 0.6-second clear of his Mercedes teammate, but Hamilton was immediately demoted, which boosted Lando Norris to his ever first Formula 1 career podium in third.
Hamilton’s incident with Albon happened after the end of the race’s third safety car period and after Mercedes had to intervene with its drivers due to critical reliability warnings, like staying off the kerbs.
At the start, Bottas easily held the lead off the line and blasted to a two-second lead at the end of the opening lap, as Verstappen soaked up pressure from Lando Norris after several cars – including Norris, Hamilton and Charles Leclerc shot across the runoff at the exit of Turn 1.
Bottas set about extending his lead as the race settled down, warned by his team to look after his car on the third lap, as Verstappen tracked him on his medium tyres.
But any hope Red Bull’s bold strategy would get Verstappen a third win in succession at the team’s home circuit was dashed when Verstappen suddenly lost power approaching Turn 1 on lap 11 of 71.
He back to the pits attempting to reset the issue – a suspected electrical problem – but was forced to retire.
That left Hamilton chasing Bottas as the world champion had demoted Albon using DRS to blast by on the run to the Turn 4 on lap, and he began eating into the leader’s advantage.
As the first stint wore on, Hamilton had lowered the gap to Bottas, but the soft-tyre run was suddenly ended on when the safety car was called out after Kevin Magnussen spun off with an apparent brake issue as he was being passed by Esteban Ocon into Turn 3.
Mercedes managed to turn its two cars around – both going onto the hard tyres – without losing any time for either one, and when the race resumed Bottas again streaked clear.
Hamilton, however, was soon putting Bottas under severe pressure and he called the team to check he would be allowed to choose his own engine mode, and was Mercedes soon planned to turn down the power units on both cars.
But as the leaders ran ever closer together, Mercedes moved to warn them about a potential gearbox sensor issue that threatened both of the continued participation of both cars.
The race engineers of both Bottas and Hamilton warned their charges to stay off the kerbs before the team’s chief strategist James Vowles intervened to tell them the issue was “critical”.
As the leaders adapted their driving styles Hamilton began to drop back from Bottas when the race was suddenly suspended again when George Russell retired from P13 with a loss of fuel pressure.
And as the race restarted, it was suspended again almost immediately as Kimi Raikkonen, who had just stopped for fresh softs, lost his right front wheel running through penultimate corner.
When the safety car peeled off for the final time, Bottas again shot clear and on the following lap Albon – who had passed Perez just before the previous safety car was called and then gave the position back only to resume third place while the race was still neutralised – attacked Hamilton around the outside of Turn 4.
The Red Bull seemed to be ahead on the outside line but contact between Hamilton’s left-front and Albon’s right rear sent Albon spinning off in the gravel – echoing the contact between the pair at last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
As Bottas raced to the flag in what was an 11 lap final sprint, Hamilton was given a five-second time addition.
That meant Leclerc, who had been having a low-key race before the safety cars turned the action around, finished second as he had stopped for fresh mediums during the Raikkonen safety car.
He demoted Sergio Perez from third on the road with a late move into Turn 3 five laps to run and was closer enough to Hamilton to move up to second after the flag.
Norris claimed the final podium spot after surviving a late scrap with his teammate Carlos Sainz and then bumping past Perez, who had tried to make a long run of mediums work earlier in the race, at Turn 3.
But Norris needed to close the gap to Hamilton rapidly and he set the race’s fastest lap on the last tour to take third by 0.1 seconds.
Sainz finished fifth with Perez sixth after his own five-second penalty was applied for speeding in the pitlane.
Pierre Gasly took sixth ahead of the returning Esteban Ocon, with Antonio Giovinazzi ninth for Alfa Romeo.
Sebastian Vettel took 10th despite a spin when he misjudged his braking while running behind Sainz going into Turn 3 shortly before half distance.
Nicholas Latifi finished his F1 debut last in P11, with Albon a late retirement alongside a host of other non-finishers who suffered various mechanical problems – except Daniil Kvyat who retired late on with a blown left-rear tyre as he ran into Turn 1 with two laps to go.
So a crazy race at the Red Bull Ring. Congratulations to Valtteri Bottas in winning the first race of the delayed 2020 season and yet the biggest cheers goes to Lando Norris. Third place for McLaren is such an incredible achievement. Fingers crossed next weekend race at the same venue will give us more excitement.
Austrian Grand Prix race results:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:30:55.739
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +2.700
3 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault +5.491
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +5.689
5 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault +8.903
6 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes +15.092
7 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda +16.682
8 Esteban Ocon Renault +17.456
9 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +21.146
10 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +24.545
11 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +31.650
– Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri-Honda 67
– Alex Albon Red Bull Racing-Honda 67
– Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 53
– George Russell Williams-Mercedes 49
– Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 49
– Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 24
– Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 20
– Daniel Ricciardo Renault 17
– Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 11