Formula One: Valtteri Bottas wins Austrian Grand Prix

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Valtteri Bottas wins Austrian Grand Prix

Valtteri Bottas showed impressive composure to win the Austrian Grand Prix, which had no fans present due to the coronavirus pandemic, with teammate Hamilton just a half-second behind him for spells.

Bottas insisted before the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday that he has what it takes to win the Formula One world championship.

That’s a tall order with six-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton as his teammate at Mercedes. Especially as Hamilton needs one more title to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven.

But Bottas showed impressive composure to win Sunday’s race, with Hamilton just a half-second behind him for spells. Not easy for Bottas when Hamilton’s among the best drivers at overtaking in F1 history, and when a chaotic race restarts three times behind a safety car.

Valtteri Bottas wins Austrian Grand Prix

“There was definitely quite a bit of pressure. One safety car was OK but by the last I was like, ‘Come on — again?'” a relieved Bottas said.

“There were so many opportunities for Lewis to take the lead if I made a small mistake and he was really quick today.”

“But I managed to keep it together, could really control the race from my side, and there’s obviously no better way to start the season.”

Hamilton crossed second but finished fourth after getting a late time penalty.

Bottas kneeled with the winners’ trophy and the podium trio — including second-placed Charles Leclerc for Ferrari and third-placed Lando Norris for McLaren — and held up a black T-shirt with “End Racism” written on it.

Valtteri Bottas (C) poses Charles Leclerc (L) and Lando Norris at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on the Red Bull Ring racetrack in Spielberg, Austria.

Nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

“I dodged a few bullets today,” Bottas said after the eighth F1 win of his career.

Hamilton was given a five-second time penalty for causing Albon’s crash, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

“It was just a misjudgment by Lewis at the end of the day and it’d be good if he apologized for it,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said.

“This sport can be pretty brutal sometimes and it feels like today’s been one of those days. Alex drove a great race, he didn’t deserve that.”

The race had looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes, as has been the case so often in recent years, but late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise.

“It felt like a victory today. Second place is something I never would have expected,” said Leclerc, who started from seventh. “I will rate this as one of my best races, I didn’t do many mistakes.”

Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures, and threw social distancing out of the window amid the euphoria as CEO Zak Brown hugged everyone in sight.

His jubilation was understandable. It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium and his superb final lap was the fastest of an exciting opening race.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third youngest ever in F1. Only Verstappen and Lance Stroll were younger.

 

Chidi Nwoke.