REPORT: Bottas wins crazy F1 season opener in Austria

Valtteri Bottas has taken victory in the opening race of the 2020 Formula 1 season at the Austrian Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver bagged maximum points by leading from start to finish in an incident-packed race which had nine retirements, three Safety Car deployments and surprise podium finishers – Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in second and McLaren’s Lando Norris taking his first podium.

Lewis Hamilton started and ended the race with penalties which ruined his afternoon. The defending champion was demoted from the front row to fifth on the grid as the acquittal verdict for his yellow flag misdemeanor in Saturday’s qualifying was overturned after Red Bull submitted an appeal for review.

Max Verstappen who inherited second place and in hunt for a third consecutive win at Red Bull’s backyard sadly became the first retiree on Lap 11 with an electronic failure. He pitted and was fitted with a new steering wheel but the problem persisted.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo became the second retirement on Lap 18, also with a mechanical failure. Racing Point’s Lance Stroll suffered a loss of power and pulled into the pits three laps later.

Haas’ Kevin Magnussen had a brake failure which saw him ran off and spin to bring out the Safety Car. His teammate Romain Grosjean suffered a similar fate later in the race to make it a double retirement for the American outfit.

Majority of the cars including race leader Bottas, used the Safety Car to make their first stop for new tyres. A battle between Leclerc and Carlos Sainz for sixth place at the restart had an uninvited third-party in Sebastian Vettel who tried to capitalise by putting the nose of his car ahead into Turn 3.  But the outgoing Ferrari driver’s overly ambitious move proved costly as he made contact with Sainz and spun, dropping him down the to the bottom of the field.

George Russell stopped on track on Lap 51 with a fuel pressure problem to trigger the second Safety Car. After the Williams was cleared and the race restarted on Lap 55, the front right wheel on Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo suddenly fell off, requiring the field to be bunched up once again.

Red Bull’s sole runner and third-placed Alexander Albon just as many other drivers pitted for the second time. Mercedes on the other hand, stayed out on the hard tyres as both Bottas and Hamilton managed gearbox sensor issues.

Albon fitted with the soft tyres charged up towards Hamilton at the final restart. The Thai made his move round the outside into Turn 4 but was punted into the gravel by the six-time world champion and retired a few laps to the end. It was reminiscent to their collision at the Brazilian GP in 2019 wher Albon came off worse also.

Hamilton was given a 5 seconds time penalty for the collision. The penalty did not only dwindle his hope of fighting teammate Bottas but also made him vulnerable to cars behind on fresher tyres eager to close the gap under five seconds to demote him from the podium places.

Charles Leclerc made bold overtakes on Lando Norris and Sergio Perez to come home third at the flag but is promoted to second due to Hamilton’s penalty. It is a consolation for Ferrari after their horror showing in qualifying.

Lando Norris also passed Perez for fourth and set the race fastest lap on the final lap to cut Hamilton’s time under five seconds to earn himself a first podium in Formula 1. The McLaren driver at 20 years and 235 days, becomes the third youngest podium finisher in history behind Lance Stroll (18 years, 239 days) and Max Verstappen (18 years, 228 days).

The final result puts Hamilton in fourth ahead of Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez a 5 seconds penalty for speeding in the pit-lane. Pierre Gasly finished 7th for AlphaTauri followed by fellow Frenchman Esteban Ocon in 8th for Renault. Antonio Giovinazzi gave Alfa Romeo two points in 9th place ahead Sebastian Vettel.

Williams’ rookie Nicolas Latifi on his F1 debut finished 11th while Daniil Kvyat was the last retirement with a left rear puncture.

NEXT…..

Formula 1 will stay in Austria for another week. Next weekend’s race is dubbed the Styrian Grand Prix on the same circuit.

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