F1: Bottas wins hectic Austrian GP
Valterri Bottas manages the Austrian GP to perfection despite gearbox worries for Mercedes to win on F1's return as chaos ensued behind with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and McLaren's Lando Norris taking surprise podiums.
5th July 2020
Valterri Bottas won the opening race of the 2020 Season after managing to nurse his Mercedes home ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and McLaren's Lando Norris after Lewis Hamilton was given a time penalty which demoted him from second to fourth after contact with Red Bull's Alexander Albon.
The race marked the very first of the season and the first race since Abu Dhabi last year - 217 days ago and it did not disappoint.
It was a lights to flag victory for Bottas who started the race from pole while Hamilton battled his way through after a penalty demoted the Brit to fifth after a protest by Red Bull made the Stewards reverse their decision to give him a three place grid penalty after failing to slow under yellow flags in Q3. Once up to second, the Mercedes duo looked unstoppable but both drivers suffered near critical gearbox failures in the second-half of the race.
With 10 laps to go, the race exploded into life after Hamilton was given a time penalty after nerfing Albon into a spin as the Red Bull tried to overtake on the Safety Car restart. After a poor weekend, Leclerc surged with his Ferrari looking quick on low-fuel to inherit second while a late overtake on Racing Point's Sergio Perez and fastest lap on the tour of the circuit lap gave Norris his maiden podium in the sport.
Hamilton was demoted to fourth ahead of Carlos Sainz and Perez who also received a time penalty for speeding in the pit-lane. Alpha Tauri's Pierre Gasly took seventh ahead of F1 returnee Renault's Esteban Ocon. Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi finished just ahead of Sebastian Vettel who spun early on in the race after contact with Sainz to round-out the top 10. Debutant Nicholas Latifi finished in 1tth as the last classified runner for Williams.
How the race unfolded
Even before the race had started, there was movement on the grid as Hamilton was given a three-place grid penalty after Red Bull protested the decision to why the Mercedes driver wasn't punished after failing to slow down under double waved yellow flags in Q3. This moved Max Verstappen to second, Norris to 3rd and Albon to 4th.
It was a perfect start by pole-sitter Valterri Bottas as Max Verstappen was hounded by Lando Norris. The top ten stayed exactly the same as they were on the grid until Albon overtook Norris for 3rd into Turn 4. Norris is passed by Hamilton on lap 4 with the Mercedes driver going down the inside of Turn 3 to grab 4th.
It was until lap 7 where Hamilton was in the DRS zone of Albon but the Red Bull seemed to have the pace to keep the Mercedes behind at the moment. Verstappen is playing the long game having started on the Medium tyre, Bottas's lead has grown to 3.5 seconds after nine laps. With the help of DRS, Hamilton got past Albon before Turn 4 for 3rd.
Disaster for Verstappen, his Red Bull slows. He drops back and is trying to make it back to the pits. Bottas extends his lead to nearly eight seconds over Hamilton who's promoted to second while Albon inherits 3rd. Red Bull attempted to restart the car but it was no good. Verstappen climbed out of the car and became the first retirement of the season.
Stroll's was struggling in eighth as he had the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel and the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo. The Canadian was managing engine issues which explained his loss in pace. But the threat from the Renault driver died as Ricciardo started to slow. He pulled into the pits to retire as Vettel overtook Stroll into Turn 3.
Stroll's day was determined on lap 21 as the Canadian pitted and became the third retirement as Haas's Romain Grosjean pitted after a spin exiting Turn 4. Hamilton was slowly catching Bottas as the gap was being reduced each lap. The Brit had brought the gap down to five seconds on lap 23.
As Renault's Esteban Ocon overtook the Haas of Kevin Magnussen in the braking zone, the Haas driver kept going. It looked like a brake failure for the Dane. His stricken Haas meant that the Safety Car was deployed. Everyone pitted under the Safety Car with Bottas maintaining his lead ahead of Hamilton, Albon, Perez, Norris and Charles Leclerc. Perez swapped the Softs for a set of Mediums while everyone went for the Hard tyre instead.
The Safety Car ended on lap 30 with Bottas leading the field as racing resumed on lap 31. It was a poor restart by Leclerc who had Sainz hounding the Ferrari driver. Vettel behind got too eager and tapped the McLaren but it ended in a spin for Vettel. He dropped to 15th.
Bottas pulled himself out of the DRS range as Perez got back past Norris for 4th. The Finn wasn't favouring the tyres at this point in the race and this allowed Hamilton to get the gap to under one second. Mercedes told Hamilton that they are going to turn the engines down to save them from going bang. Bottas towed Hamilton as both were told that the team were seeing gearbox sensor issues on both cars and that both were to stay off the kerbs. The gap was consistently under one second between them. Behind, Albon held fourth ahead of Perez and Norris.
It was getting critical for both Mercedes drivers as both had been told that it was critical on both cars but especially worse on Bottas's. It had been a great weekend so far for George Russell but his Williams endured technical issues. The Brit parked his car on the exit of Turn 4. The Safety Car was deployed once again while Haas retired Grosjean after what looked like another brake issue for the team.
Behind the Safety Car, Albon, Norris, Leclerc, Sainz, Daniil Kvyat, Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel pitted for a second time. Bottas led Hamilton, Perez, Albon and Norris. The Safety Car ended with racing resuming on lap 55. Bottas led as Albon pressured Perez as the Safety Car was redeployed. Kimi Raikkonen's Alfa Romeo was parked along the main straight after his front-right tyre fell off the car as he headed through Turn 9 and into Turn 10. He became the seventh retirement of the race. Albon retook 3rd from Perez under the Safety Car as the Red Bull driver made the move stick before the Safety Car was deployed.
Racing resumed on lap 61 as Bottas led the field. Albon was all over the back of Hamilton and tried to go round the outside of Turn 4 but is hit by the Mercedes. Albon drops to last while the incident is noted by the Stewards as Albon was ahead before the contact. Sainz made his way back to 6th as the McLaren driver overtook Pierre Gasly.
Norris made a late move on Perez into Turn 3 but that left him vulnerable to attack from Leclerc. The Ferrari driver went round the outside of the McLaren of Turn 4 to take 4th. Bottas led by 2.3 seconds ahead of Hamilton with Perez, Leclerc and Norris behind. Leclerc dived down the inside of Perez for 3rd as Hamilton received a five second time penalty for the collision with Albon. Then, Perez was handed a five second time penalty for speeding in the pit-lane. Norris then overtook Perez as Albon pulled off the track to retire.
Kvyat then pulled over to retire his Alpha Tauri from 9th as his rear-left suspension failed. Bottas crossed the line to win ahead of Hamilton but the penalty for the Brit dropped him to 4th promoting Leclerc to second and Norris to 3rd.
Austrian GP Result
Valterri Bottas, Mercedes, 71 Laps
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, +2.700s
Lando Norris, McLaren Renault, +5.491s
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +5.689s
Carlos Sainz Jr, McLaren Renault, +8.903s
Sergio Perez, Racing Point Mercedes, +15.092s
Pierre Gasly, Alpha Tauri Honda, +16.682s
Esteban Ocon, Renault, +17.456s
Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo Ferrari, +21.146s
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, +24.545s
Nicholas Latifi, Williams Mercedes, +31.650s
Daniil Kvyat, Alpha Tauri Honda, DNF
Alexander Albon, Red Bull Honda, DNF
Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Ferrari, DNF
George Russell, Williams Mercedes, DNF
Romain Grosjean, Haas Ferrari, DNF
Kevin Magnussen, Haas Ferrari, DNF
Lance Stroll, Racing Point Mercedes, DNF
Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, DNF
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Honda, DNF