Austrian GP: Valtteri Bottas wins wild F1 opener; Lewis Hamilton loses podium
F1 is back: and back with a bang; Bottas wins for Mercedes but Hamilton dropped to fourth after penalty for Albon tangle; Leclerc takes second with Norris claiming first podium of career on final lap
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 05/07/20 11:27pm
Valtteri Bottas won an astonishing Austrian GP, as a penalised Lewis Hamilton was relegated off the podium to fourth, in a hugely-dramatic return for Formula 1 in the first race of the delayed 2020 season.
Hamilton finished second to Bottas on the road as otherwise-dominant Mercedes nursed gearbox problems but slipped to fourth in the final result after being handed a late five-second time penalty for a collision with Red Bull's Alex Albon at Turn Five.
- Full Austrian GP race result
- Hamilton and Albon react to collision
- F1 drivers unite against racism; 14 take a knee
- Sky F1 offer: Get the channel for £10 extra a month
A charging Charles Leclerc inherited second as a result after an unexpected late surge for struggling Ferrari, with Lando Norris capping a brilliant weekend for him by claiming the first podium of his young career for McLaren.
Crucially, a new outright fastest lap of the race from Norris on the 71st and final tour meant the 20-year-old crossed the line within 5s of Hamilton to demote the six-time champion another place.
"It really felt like a racing incident but either way I'll take whatever penalty they feel I deserve and move forwards," said Hamilton to Sky F1.
In a wild return to racing action after a seven-month lay off, nine drivers failed to make the finish - including the luckless Albon and team-mate Max Verstappen, who had run second to Bottas early on before his Red Bull car suffered a suspected electrical issue.
It meant that only rookie Nicholas Latifi, who ended up 11th, failed to score points among the finishers.
Race victor Bottas said: "Winning an F1 race is never easy, but today was particularly challenging. There were so many things going on in the race and it would have been quite easy to make a small mistake and lose it all."
High and unusual drama in the hour before the race had already seen Hamilton demoted to fifth on the grid when the stewards overturned their own decision from Saturday night in an investigation about the Mercedes driver passing yellow flags in qualifying, after a protest from Red Bull was upheld.
In another late-race penalty, Racing Point's Sergio Perez lost fifth to Carlos Sainz in the second McLaren after having five seconds added to his time for speeding in the pit lane.
Pierre Gasly was seventh for AlphaTauri, Esteban Ocon eighth on his F1 return with Renault, and Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi ninth. Sebastian Vettel was only 10th for Ferrari - after he dropped down the order after a botched overtake on Sainz mid-way through the race.
Austrian GP top 10 result
1. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
2. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
3. Lando Norris, McLaren
4. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
5. Carlos Sainz, McLaren
6. Sergio Perez, Racing Point
7. Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
8. Esteban Ocon, Renault
9. Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
10. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
Mercedes' not-so-easy victory as F1 returns
After the world events of recent months, the F1 drivers started the afternoon by lining up at the front of the grid in a united show of support in the fight against racism.
All 20 drivers wore T-shirts carrying messages against discrimination, while fourteen of them also took a knee.
After more than 200 days without racing, the first 'lights out' of the season proved an impressively trouble-free occasion as Bottas converted his pole into the race lead over the promoted Verstappen.
The lead Mercedes, on faster tyres compared to the Red Bull, steadily pulled away as Hamilton started his fightback in the opening laps by passing Albon, Norris and Perez.
Hamilton was then promoted to second when Verstappen's RB16 ran into terminal trouble on lap 11 and started running slowly around the track.
At that point, Bottas held a seven-second lead but Hamilton quickly started closing down his team-mate before the Safety Car was called when Kevin Magnussen's Haas span off the circuit.
With the top runners taking that as their queue to initiate the first round of pit stops, Bottas was able to switch for fresher tyres and maintained his lead when the race resumed again.
But, on one of the most unforgiving tracks for reliability due to the Red Bull Ring's high kerbs, Mercedes soon told both their drivers to stay off the kerbing amid concerns about the W11's gearbox.
"The gearbox issue is critical. Please stay off the kerb - both cars," said Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles to both Hamilton and Bottas.
The race was then interrupted by two more quick-fire Safety Cars - first when George Russell's Williams pulled off the road and then when the front-right wheel on Kimi Raikkonen's Alfa Romeo spectacularly fell off at the restart.
And while the Mercedes cars and Perez stayed out, Red Bull threw a strategy dice by pitting Albon for new soft tyres.
What happened in Hamilton vs Albon?
With a clear tyre advantage over the top three, Albon set about catching Perez and once ahead of the Racing Point - he initially overtook at Turn Three just before the second Safety Car was initiated, Perez repassed, only for Race Control to reverse the positions - he chased down Hamilton.
On lap 60, Albon went around the outside of the Mercedes into the downhill Turn Five but the two cars made wheel-to-wheel contact and the Red Bull was spun into the gravel.
Stewards soon ruled that Hamilton had been at fault and handed the world champion a five-second time penalty. It was the second time Hamilton had been found at fault for a clash with Albon in the last three races, either side of F1's elongated off-season
"[It was] a really unfortunate scenario with Alex," Hamilton told Sky F1 after the Austrian GP. "I can't believe we've come together again."
A dejected Albon added: "I felt Brazil was a bit more 50/50, this one I felt like I did the move already and I was kind of already focused on Bottas in front.
"It was so late for contact. There's always a risk of overtaking on the outside but I gave as much space as I really could, I was right on the edge."
The new Formula 1 season is underway in dramatic style on Sky Sports F1 and continues next week with the second race at the Red Bull Ring - the Styrian GP. Find out more & subscribe.