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Bottas wins season-opening thriller as Hamilton hit with penalties in Austria

Bottas wins season-opening thriller as Hamilton hit with penalties in Austria

F1 News

Bottas wins season-opening thriller as Hamilton hit with penalties in Austria

Bottas wins season-opening thriller as Hamilton hit with penalties in Austria

Valtteri Bottas enjoyed a thrilling lights-to-flag Austrian Grand Prix victory as the 2020 Formula 1 season finally roared into life with an incident-packed race in which reigning champion Lewis Hamilton could only finish fourth after being hit with two penalties.

Bottas' triumph ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and McLaren's Lando Norris was given a double helping hand, initially in controversial fashion as just 41 minutes before the start, the stewards announced a grid drop of three places for six-time F1 champion Hamilton for ignoring yellow flags in the final session of qualifying.

It was a reverse of the decision made on Saturday, and sparked following the introduction of new video evidence from rivals Red Bull that was previously unavailable to the stewards.

It meant that Hamilton started from fifth on the grid rather than alongside polesitter Bottas on the front row, the Briton's third grid penalty at this track in the last four years, elevating Red Bull's Max Verstappen into second spot.

With Verstappen the only driver starting the race on the medium compound tyre, compared to the soft runners all around him, an enthralling tactical battle was in the offing.

But at the start of lap 11, and with Verstappen keeping Bottas in his sights, his car began to slow and stutter as it kept going into anti-stall, ultimately retiring with what team principal Christian Horner said was a suspected electrical issue.

That promoted Hamilton into second, as the 35-year-old had passed Norris on lap four to move up to fourth and Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Alex Albon five laps later to claim third.

Renault's Daniel Ricciardo followed Verstappen into retirement with a suspected cooling issue on lap 17, followed a lap later by Lance Stroll in his Racing Point with an engine problem.

At the start of lap 26 Kevin Magnussen became the fourth retiree, with his Haas suffering a right-front brake disc failure as he shot off the track at the first corner, his car spinning before slowly reversing against a barrier.

Given Magnussen's position, it brought out the safety car, allowing Hamilton to immediately close a gap that had at that point been 3.5secs, with both he and Bottas switching to the hard tyres.

At the restart five laps later, while Bottas and Hamilton began their own private battle, behind them there was the remarkable sight of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel attempting an audacious move into turn two on McLaren's Carlos Sainz, and colliding with the man replacing him at the Scuderia next season.

While Sainz emerged unscathed, Vettel spun, dropping the four-time champion to 15th. The German, who had started a miserable 11th in an under-performing SF1000, took the flag in a lowly 10th.

Out front, as Hamilton kept the gap to Bottas continuously under a second, they both received messages to stay off the kerbs due to gearbox sensor issues, with chief strategist James Vowles later reiterating the call, saying it was "critical".

With 20 laps remaining the race took another twist as Williams' George Russell retired due to a loss of fuel pressure, pulling off the track at a point that led to another safety car. The second Haas of Romain Grosjean had retired a lap previously with what appeared to be another brake problem.

The safety car was called at just the wrong time for Bottas and Hamilton, but not for Albon who was able to switch to a set of softs, even though he lost a place to the medium-tyred Racing Point of Sergio Perez.

After a four-lap hiatus, racing resumed again but for a matter of seconds as the safety car was called out for a third time due to Kimi Raikkonen at the rear of the field losing the front-right wheel off of his Alfa Romeo as he headed into the final corner.

The safety car pulled in again at the end of lap 60, during which Albon had been allowed by the stewards to move past Perez as he had just edged into third before backing off when it was called.

With Albon on the quicker tyres, he was soon all over the back of Hamilton, nudging ahead, only for the left-front of the latter's Mercedes to catch the right-rear of the Red Bull, sending the Thai-Englishman into a spin and the gravel, from which he managed to escape.

Race control immediately called an investigation, and swiftly handed Hamilton a five-second penalty for causing a collision, as they did in Brazil last year when the two collided.

Bottas took the line comfortably ahead of Hamilton, but with the five seconds added to his time, he dropped to fourth, behind surprise package Leclerc who took advantage of the issues in front of him, and Norris, the Briton claiming the first podium of his career.

Behind Hamilton in fourth was Sainz, with Perez sixth, followed by AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon eighth on his debut for Renault, then Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi, and Vettel.

Williams' Nicolas Latifi was the last of the 11 of those that finished as Albon, who had dropped to the rear after his clash with Hamilton, pulled off track with three laps left, while the AlphaTauri of Daniil Kvyat retiring with a dramatic puncture soon after.


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