MEDIA RELEASE/Aston martin F1 Team - Photo: supplied Otmar, what does it mean to you…
Valtteri Bottas has struck the first blow in the 2020 season, winning the Austrian Grand Prix from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, as Lewis Hamilton was demoted from a second place finish on the road to P4 after a five-second penalty for contact with Alex Albon – handing McLaren’s Lando Norris his first F1 podium for finishing P3.
Drivers and teams made a collective statement prior to the start of the Austrian Grand Prix as driver donned black ‘end racism’ t-shirts and lined up at the start-finish line. Many followed the lead of Lewis Hamilton and knelt on one knee in support of the world-wide movement in response to the death of American George Floyd in May this year. Teams down the grid also followed and knelt by their cars on the grid.
Valtteri Bottas found the Aston Martin Red Bull of Max Verstappen alongside on the front row of the grid. Lewis Hamilton had received a late three place grid penalty for failing to slow for a yellow flag in the final stages of qualifying the day before.
As the lights went out Valtteri Bottas led Max Verstappen and Lando Norris, who tried to drive around the outside of the Red Bull at the first turn. The pair ran side by side for half a lap before Verstappen managed to ease ahead. Lewis Hamilton was also forced wide at turn 1 when Alex Albon refused to give room for the Mercedes at the corner. Daniel Ricciardo lost a place to Sebastian Vettel after he was caught out by a slow Racing Point.
Alex Albon benefitted from the introduction of DRS to move past Norris for 3rd place on lap 3 as the McLaren cars lapped slower than the other cars in the top 10. Hamilton then dropped Norris further down the field one lap later as the Mercedes driver recorded the fastest lap of the race. By lap 9, Hamilton had caught and passed Albon in the DRS area on the run towards turn 4.
Max Verstappen, the winner of the 2018 and 2019 Austrian Grand Prix, slowed dramatically on lap 11 and radioed to his team “I can’t change it.” Verstappen managed to crawl back to the pits, climbed out of the car and stormed out of the garage. Christian Horner later explained that the car had suffered from a “Suspected electrical issue, which was hugely frustrating.”
Lance Stroll had also reported a problem with the Mercedes power unit in his Racing Point as he fell back into the clutches of Vettel and Ricciardo. “I still have no power,” Stroll told his engineer on lap 15. “I know you have a problem,” came the team’s reply, “We are trying to fix it.”
Daniel Ricciardo was the next to experience a mechanical issue and suddenly slowed on track. He also managed to drive back to the pits and was pushed into retirement. The team later reported that the Renault had suffered from overheating issues. Stroll then joined Verstappen and Ricciardo as a retirement in the garage on lap 21.
Romain Grosjean stopped for tyres on lap 22 after a spin in his Hass, while teammate Kevin Magnussen also spun his car on lap 26 after a right front disc failure as he tried to protect his place from Esteban Ocon. The Haas came to rest in the run off area which forced race control to introduce the Safety Car.
Teams rushed their cars in for the compulsory pitstop shortly after and Mercedes narrowly avoided stacking their second car after Hamilton dropped back slightly on the entry to the pit lane. Sergio Perez narrowly avoided Lando Norris as the Racing Point left its pit box.
Bottas led Hamilton by 7/10ths of a second at the restart, while Carlos Sainz looked to dive inside the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. Sainz was slightly baulked by the car ahead and Vettel looked to pounce with an ambitious move at the apex of the corner. Vettel spun after contact between the pair and dropped down to 15th.
The Mercedes team issued warnings to both Bottas and Hamilton of a sensor issue on lap 41 with the message “Chassis default 2.1.” They then warned both drivers to “Stay off the kerbs.” As the pair continued to battle for the lead. Further messages defined the issue as “It’s gearbox sensor, not chassis” and reminded “This is the red and white kerbs, Lewis.”
Both Romain Grosjean and George Russell had mechanical issue in their respective cars. Grosjean limped back to the pits with brake problems, while Russell was forced to abandon his Williams on the side of the circuit. The Safety Car was deployed for the second time as marshals recovered the car.
Red Bull, McLaren, Racing Point and Ferrari there the dice and brought their remaining cars into the pits for fresh rubber, while the leading Mercedes remained on track with their hard compound tyres. Norris, Sainz, Leclerc and Perez went for the medium compound, while Albon and Vettel were given the soft tyre.
The race resumed for less than a lap before the Safety Car came out for a third time. Kimi Raikkonen had the left front wheel fall off the hub on the run to the final corner as the Finn guided the three wheel Alfa Romeo to a stop against the pit wall.
Alex Albon went on the attack at the restart and moved to pass Hamilton on the outside. There was contact between the front wheel of the Mercedes and the rear of Albon mid corner. The Red Bull spun into the gravel as Hamilton continued. Hamilton received a five second penalty for the incident, which ultimately cost him a podium finish.
Leclerc moved into 3rd place in the closing laps and made some inroads on the Mercedes pair ahead. Norris moved inside Perez and the pair made contact after the Racing Point failed to give racing room for the McLaren. Norris escaped unharmed and went on to claim the fastest lap on the final tour of the race to beat Hamilton by 1/10th of a second.
“I’m speechless, there were a few points in the race where I thought I’d fudged it,” Norris said. “I got past Perez and ran a few fast laps at the end. To be part of the team that have come from where we were a few years ago to where we are today.”
Bottas crossed the line ahead of Hamilton, Leclerc and Norris. After penalties it was Bottas, Leclerc and Norris on the podium.
“There was definitely quite a bit of pressure all through the race. One Safety Car was still okay. With the last Safety Car it was like, ‘Come on, not again.’ There were so many chances of Lewis having to get the lead even if I made a small mistake. He was really quick today, I managed to keep it together and control the race from my side. There’s no better way to start the season.” – Valtteri Bottas.
With the teams set to stay on the ground in Spielberg until next weekend, F1 will be back with the Styrian Grand Prix on July 10-12 at the Red Bull Ring. Can the teams fix the issues they discovered in race one? How serious are those Mercedes sensor niggles? And can Max Verstappen strike back after a disappointing opening round?
For all our news keep your eyes peeled on the Velocity Magazine website and social media, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for our daily updates and to get the latest edition of our glossy magazine subscribe here from just $55 for 12 months subscription.