Bottas gets win in F1 season-opener
STYRIA – Formula One came back with a bang on Sunday as Finland’s Valtteri Bottas won a dramatic Austrian season-opener for champions Mercedes in a race with only 11 finishers and no spectators.
Charles Leclerc finished a surprise second for struggling Ferrari with McLaren’s Lando Norris celebrating his first F1 podium after a time penalty dropped Mercedes’ six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton to fourth.
“I managed to keep it together and control the race from my side and it’s a good start to the season,” said Bottas, who started on pole position and had to keep his cool through three safety car periods.
Norris, at 20 the youngest driver in the race and now the youngest Briton to stand on an F1 podium, also claimed a bonus point for fastest lap.
The race, on a sunny afternoon at the scenic Red Bull Ring was behind closed doors – a Formula One first – due to the COVID-19 pandemic that had put the season on hold since March.
The drivers gathered on the grid before the start in a show of unity against racism, with Hamilton and 13 others taking a knee in solidarity.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz made it a double points haul for McLaren in fifth, with Sergio Perez sixth for Racing Point and Pierre Gasly seventh for AlphaTauri.
Esteban Ocon, who last raced in 2018, took eighth for Renault on his return while Antonio Giovinazzi bagged ninth for Alfa Romeo and Sebastian Vettel, who had another nightmare, completed the top 10 for Ferrari.
Canadian Nicholas Latifi was the last car running with 11th for Williams.
There was drama even before the race when stewards performed a U-turn after a Red Bull challenge and dropped Hamilton from the front row to fifth on the grid for a qualifying error.
That also promoted Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to the front row alongside Bottas.
Any hopes the Dutchman had of completing a hat-trick of Austrian wins disappeared when he suffered an early technical problem and became the season’s first retirement. (Reuters)