Bottas victorious in wacky race at Austria

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

4 thoughts to “Bottas victorious in wacky race at Austria”

  1. Austrian Grand Prix race review as reported by

    Valtteri Bottas has struck the first blow in the 2020 season, winning the Austrian Grand Prix from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, as Lewis Hamilton was demoted from a second place finish on the road to P4 after a five-second penalty for contact with Alex Albon – handing McLaren’s Lando Norris his first F1 podium for finishing P3.

    The Mercedes duo of Bottas and Hamilton enjoyed a comfortable performance advantage throughout the 71-lap encounter. But with 10 laps to go, the race exploded into life, with Hamilton handed his penalty after nerfing Albon into a spin on a Safety Car restart on Lap 61.

    A late surge for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc after a difficult weekend for Ferrari saw him climb to third by the flag, meaning he inherited second after the Hamilton penalty, while a late pass on the Racing Point of Sergio Perez was enough to give Norris the net P3, meaning McLaren begin a season with a podium for the first time since 2014.

    Behind Norris, Hamilton took fourth, ahead of the second McLaren of Carlos Sainz and Perez. Then came the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly in seventh, ahead of F1 returnee Esteban Ocon in eighth, with Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi P9 and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel – who spun early on in the race after contact with Sainz – in P10, just one place ahead of the final finisher, Williams’ Nicholas Latifi.

    It was a nightmare race for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, meanwhile, who experienced a loss of power after just 11 of the 71 laps, costing him a chance of shooting for a third straight win at the Red Bull Ring – while team mate Albon appeared to suffer a similar problem just two laps from the end.

    Mercedes were struck a blow with less than an hour to go before the race start. With the stewards having ruled on Saturday evening that Hamilton had not been at fault during qualifying for failing to slow under yellow flags brought out when team mate Bottas slewed off the track, a challenge to the decision submitted by Red Bull on Sunday led to the stewards reversing the decision, dropping Hamilton three places on the grid, from second to fifth (just as his penalty for impeding Kimi Raikkonen did last year) while promoting Verstappen to second alongside Bottas.

    With that narrative crackling in the background, once the drivers had presented a united front against racism on the grid with a respectful moment of silence, it was time for Formula 1 to get back on track and battle to commence, 217 days since the sport’s last Grand Prix.

    Bottas was impeccable off the start, quickly pulling clear of Verstappen, who gave Norris a little squeeze at Turn 1, forcing the McLaren off – with Hamilton and Leclerc also taking to the run off behind him.

    Hamilton was seeking to make places early doors after his pre-race penalty, but an attempt to go around the outside of Albon at Turn 4 on Lap 1 saw the Mercedes get squeezed by the Thai driver with a smart defence. The pair would have a rendezvous at the same corner later on in the race…

    Bottas had quickly pulled a solid couple of second lead over Verstappen by the start of Lap 3, but the Dutchman was biding his time, knowing that his medium tyres – with Verstappen the only driver in the top 10 to start on them – would mean he could stay out longer than the Finn.

    Verstappen and Red Bull’s careful strategising came to nought on Lap 11, though, when Verstappen lost drive coming out of Turn 1, forcing him into retirement and ruining his chances of taking a third straight win at Red Bull’s home race.

    There were more mechanical problems a few laps later when the cameras picked up Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo limping around the track, the Australian also forced into retirement. Just a few laps after that and Racing Point’s strong opening weekend in 2020 was tarnished when Lance Stroll, who’d been in heated discussions on the radio about a sensor issue on his RP20, was also forced out of the race.

    The drama kept coming, with Haas’ Romain Grosjean spinning on his own at Turn 4, before a few laps later, his team mate Kevin Magnussen ploughed on at Turn 3, appearing to have lost his brakes. His parked up VF-20 brought out a Safety Car on Lap 26 of 71, with all drivers in the top 10 pitting, Bottas thus retaining his lead over Hamilton, Albon, Norris and Perez.

    Bottas performed a perfect restart on Lap 31, gapping Hamilton nicely. Behind, though, there was a certain irony as Sebastian Vettel – having been unable to make much headway thus far in the race – looked to take advantage of Leclerc and Sainz’s scrap over P6 and sent his Ferrari up the inside of Sainz at Turn 3. But the move was never really on, the pair touched and Vettel was sent into a spin, dropping him to 15th as the man who’ll replace him at Ferrari next year continued on his way.

    With 30 laps to go and the Mercedes pair a clear 10s up on Albon in third, both Bottas and Hamilton were ordered by the team to stay off the kerbs, with frets on the Mercedes pit wall about disturbing the sensors on the cars’ gearboxes.

    They weren’t the only team with worries, with Haas enduring a second retirement when Grosjean ran off at Turn 4 with an issue, while George Russell, having impressively managed to keep the recovering Vettel behind him in his Williams, was also forced into retirement on Lap 51, bringing out another Safety Car.

    With Mercedes opting not to change tyres on Bottas and Hamilton’s cars, Red Bull decided to pit Albon from third, allowing Perez up into the podium places, but handing a potential advantage to the Thai driver, who re-joined the race in P4, in the final laps.

    Racing had resumed for just a few seconds on Lap 55 when yet another Safety Car was brought out, after Kimi Raikkonen’s front-left tyre scarily removed itself from his Alfa Romeo as the Finn rounded Turn 9. Before the Safety Call was called, though, Albon had made it past Perez at Turn 3 to claim third place.

    The Thai driver then looked pacey at the restart on Lap 61, and immediately closed on Hamilton. Albon slung it around the outside at Turn 4 and was narrowly ahead when the pair sensationally touched, spinning Albon into the gravel – with contact with Hamilton, as it had done in Brazil last year, costing Albon a shot at a podium, as he dropped to last place.

    Hamilton was duly handed a five-second race penalty for the incident – a fact which had severe consequences for the British driver given the tightness of the field after the Safety Car. Having looked more comfortable since switching to the medium tyre on Lap 51, Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari – which had shown no better than midfield pace in the early stages of the race – appeared to come alive, as he passed Norris for P4, while Albon’s problems then handed him P3, as Ferrari began to look slightly more like their old front-running selves.

    As Bottas crossed the line to win on Lap 71, after surviving three Safety Car restarts, the Finn was jubilant, having produced his second season-opening win in as many years, as Hamilton was pushed down from P2 to P4.

    Leclerc admitted that a podium of any description, let alone second, was “a huge surprise”, after qualifying a dismal P7, going on to call his race one of his best. Having passed Sergio Perez with two laps to go, Lando Norris continued to demonstrate McLaren’s resurgent trajectory, benefitting from the Hamilton penalty to take his maiden F1 rostrum in third, with what was McLaren’s second podium in three races – while Norris even took an extra point for fastest lap, to cap a mighty weekend from the 20-year-old, who’d also enjoyed his best ever qualifying on Saturday.

    Sainz confirmed McLaren’s fine opening gambit for 2020 with fifth place, having made his own pass on Perez in the closing stages, while Pierre Gasly scored points on AlphaTauri’s ‘debut’ with seventh – unlike team mate Daniil Kvyat, who slid off the track with a left-rear puncture two laps from the end, one of nine drivers to fail to reach the chequered flag in a day of attrition at the Red Bull Ring.

    So, F1 is back for 2020 – and it’s Valtteri Bottas who’s got his year off to the best possible start at the end of wildly eventful Austrian season opener.

  2. Surprise second “feels like a victory” according to Charles Leclerc. has the news story.

    Ferrari Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc says his unexpected second place in the Austrian GP “feels like a victory” after the Italian team struggled for performance all weekend.

    Leclerc could qualify only seventh, but after a strong run in a race of high attrition he moved up to third place on the road at the flag, having passed Lando Norris and Sergio Perez in the closing stages of the race.

    A five-second penalty for Lewis Hamilton moved him up to second place.

    The Monegasque driver admitted that the result had come as a surprise.

    “I’m extremely happy, it feels like a victory today,” he said. “I did not expect it either. A nice surprise but a good one. I think we did everything perfect today to be honest to finish second.

    “We had a little bit of luck, obviously, with Lewis’s penalty. Some crashes here and there and that was a goal to take every opportunity we had even though we, didn’t have the pace to to finish where we were I think. P2, I am extremely satisfied and there’s still a lot of work to do.

    “We are still far away and we are not where we want to be, but anything is possible. So we need to keep the mental strong, all the team work as a team and I’m pretty sure we’ll come very well, it will take time.”

    Leclerc said he pushed as hard as he could, given the limitations of the car’s performance.

    “I wanted to be very aggressive because at every safety car I was struggling at Turn 1 to Turn 3, I knew there was no opportunity for me here.

    “But I knew that my opportunity will come if me someone will do a mistake and Lando slowed down a little bit with Sergio and I went for it, and the other one with Sergio was pretty tough but I enjoyed it.

    “I would rate this as one of my best races since I arrived in F1, because I didn’t do any mistakes.”

  3. Red Bull Racing’s Alex Albon believes his clash with Lewis Hamilton denied an opportunity to take a potential race win. has the details.

    Alex Albon felt he was on-course to score his maiden Formula 1 victory in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix prior to the clash with Lewis Hamilton when battling for second.

    Albon spent much of the race running third behind the two leading Mercedes, but was able to pit for a fresh set of soft tyres after the safety car was called for a second time with 20 laps to go.

    Mercedes opted to keep both race leader Valtteri Bottas and second-placed Hamilton out on their hard tyres, which had already completed 25 laps by that point.

    Albon sat third on the restart and was quick to try a move around the outside of Hamilton at Turn 4, appearing to pull clear of the Mercedes.

    But contact between Hamilton’s front-left wheel and the rear-right of the Red Bull car sent Albon into a spin, dropping him to the back of the field.

    Hamilton was hit with a five-second time penalty for the clash, dropping him to fourth in the final classification.

    It marked the second incident between Albon and Hamilton in the closing stages of a race in three races, the pair having collided at last November’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

    “I am a bit fresh right now so I have got to be careful with what I say,” Albon said after the race.

    “I really felt like we could have won that race. Of course Mercedes had the outright pace today, but the guys did a great job with strategy.

    “When I did the pitstop, I didn’t know where we were on track or what was going on. As soon as it all played out, it looked really strong for us.

    “I knew basically that they were on the hard tyres and the first five laps [of the stint] was when I was going to do the overtakes. I was confident and the car was feeling good in the last stage of the race.”

    Albon said that while the clash with Hamilton in Brazil was more of a racing incident, the blame was clearer to put on his rival this time around.

    “I feel like this one, I wouldn’t say hurts more, but I felt like Brazil was a bit more 50/50.

    “This one, I felt like I did the move already, and I was already focussing on Bottas. It was so late, the contact.

    “I think there is always a risk of overtaking on the outside, but I gave it as much space as I really could.

    “I was right on the edge and I knew as long as I gave all the space I could give to him it is up to him if he wants to crash or not.”

    Asked if he would go and speak to Hamilton, Albon replied: “I’ll cool off and I’ll come back.”

    Hamilton had fought back from fifth to second after receiving a three-place grid penalty just one hour before the start of the race, making the Albon clash a final twist on a difficult day.

    “It has not been a great weekend for me,” Hamilton said.

    “I think yesterday was entirely my fault, it was a bit odd today in the preparation to all of a sudden get a penalty but it is what it is and it didn’t destabilise me.

    “It just encouraged me to go out there and try to drive as best as I could. I feel like I did and obviously I had great pace to catch up with Valtteri.

    “It was a really unfortunate scenario with Alex. I can’t believe we have come together again, but it really felt like a racing incident.

    “But either way, I’ll take whatever penalty they feel I deserve and move forwards.”

  4. Lando Norris thought he had “fudged” podium shot in the final moments in a crazy race at the Red Bull Ring. has the news story.

    McLaren’s Lando Norris says he thought he’d “fudged” his charge to a debut Formula 1 podium during a “few moments” of a chaotic Austrian Grand Prix.

    Starting from third following Lewis Hamilton’s three-place grid drop for a yellow flag infringement in qualifying, Norris dropped to fifth in the opening laps.

    Late five-second penalties for Hamilton for contact with Alexander Albon, and for Sergio Perez for pitlane speeding, Norris found himself in podium contention in the closing laps.

    An aggressive move on the Racing Point at Turn 3 gave him some clean air, which he used to post the fastest lap of the race on the final lap and end up within 4.8s of Hamilton at the chequered flag – netting him a first F1 podium in third by just two tenths on corrected time.

    Commenting on the race, Norris said: “I’m speechless. I think there’s a few points in the race where I thought I kind of fudged it up quite a bit.

    “I dropped to fifth with a few laps to go, Carlos [Sainz] was almost going to get past me.

    “But I didn’t give up and I managed to get past Perez and ended up on the podium.

    “I mean it’s a long race, but I kept going and kept giving my all, [I had] a pretty cool last few laps trying to push as much as I can. I am a bit out of breath, but I am so happy and proud of the team.

    “Considering where we were a few years ago to now, I think it’s a pretty good achievement, so I’m proud to be part of it.”

    Norris says he was aware of Perez’s penalty, but not Hamilton’s at the time, and his hard pass on the Racing Point was more down to being vulnerable to attack from behind owing to struggles following cars.

    “The last few laps, when I had to get past Checo, I knew he had a five second penalty but nothing more than that,” he added.

    “I always seemed to struggle when I was close to the cars ahead and more vulnerable to the guys behind.

    “So I knew – not just because of Lewis, because I didn’t know at the time [he had a penalty], I knew I had to try to get past him.

    “And then when the Lewis penalty came, I knew I had to turn it up a little bit.”

    McLaren had to lay off around 1200 of its staff across its company during the coronavirus-forced lockdown having been hit hard by the financial fallout wrought by the pandemic.

    All of that came months after a member of its race team tested positive for COVID-19 on the eve of the Australian Grand Prix, which led to its withdrawal from the race and ultimately the outright cancellation of the event.

    Team boss Andreas Seidl noted that there was “nothing better” than Norris’ result for the team after such a “difficult period”.

    “Obviously I’m just proud to be honest to be part of the team today,” Seidl told Sky Sports F1.

    “There could be nothing better for the entire team, especially after this difficult period, and such a result to get P3 and P5 I think, it’s simply unbelievable for the entire team.”

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