Flying Finn Valtteri Bottas got the Formula One season off to a winning start for Mercedes at the Austrian Grand Prix, but it was a mixed day for the defending constructors’ champions as Lewis Hamilton was penalised late in the race and demoted from second to fourth.
It was a chaotic season-opener in Spielberg, but Bottas showed he is up for a title fight with teammate and defending drivers’ champion Hamilton as he led from start to finish.
The race was interrupted three times by a safety car and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon — who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.
Hamilton was given a five-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.
“There was definitely quite a bit of pressure on through the race,” said Bottas. “One safety car was still OK. With the last one I was like ‘come on’. There were so many chances for Lewis to come through if made a small mistake.
“I managed to keep it together and control the race from my side and it’s a good start to the season.
“We had to manage the car quite a lot so we couldn’t use all the kerbs but I’m glad all the cars managed to finish, and the team standings we are leading so that’s a very good start.”
Although Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.
But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures — and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria — with third place.
“There’s a few moments where I thought I fudged it,” said Norris. “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.”
It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium and his superb final lap was the fastest of an exciting opening race. Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third youngest ever in Formula One.
1. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 25 points
2. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 18
3. Lando Norris, McLaren, 6
4. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 12
5. Carlos Sainz Jr, McLaren, 10
6. Sergio Perez, Racing Point, 8
7. Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, 6
8. Esteban Ocon, Renault, 4
9. Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, 2
10. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1