Bottas Controls Chaotic Austrian Grand Prix

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Valtteri Bottas (77) leads teammate Lewis Hamilton during Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix. (LAT Images Photo)
Valtteri Bottas (77) leads teammate Lewis Hamilton during Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix. (LAT Images Photo)

SPIELBERG, Austria – Valtteri Bottas dominated Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix to open the Formula One season at the Red Bull Ring, but that doesn’t even come close to telling the story of the race.

Throughout the race it was Bottas leading his teammate and reigning Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, who was dropped from second to fifth at the start of the race following a three-place grid penalty for failing to slow for yellow flags during qualifying on Saturday.

Hamilton quickly moved from his fifth starting position to second behind Bottas, which is how the lead duo stayed until late in the race.

With 10 laps to go things changed dramatically. Following a restart on lap 61, Alexander Albon attempted to move around Hamilton for second after pitting for soft tires. Albon attempted to pass Hamilton, but Hamilton clipped Albon and sent the Red Bull driver spinning.

Hamilton continued on while Albon dropped to the tail of the field. After a review, Hamilton was handed a five second time penalty. That opened the door for the drivers behind him to steal a place on the podium and two of them – Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris – took full advantage.

Ferrari’s Leclerc made a late surge and was able to finish third on the road, but he was within five seconds of Hamilton at the checkered so he was elevated to second.

The more dramatic finish belonged to McLaren’s Norris, who had to put together a stunning final lap if he had any hope of earning his first Formula One podium. Norris delivered not just a stunning lap, but the fastest lap of the race on his final circuit to finish 4.802 seconds behind Hamilton to take the final spot on the podium.

All of that happened well behind Bottas, who was scored 2.7 seconds ahead of official runner-up finisher Leclerc.

“Winning an F-1 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. When the Safety Car came out the last time, I was thinking ‘Come on! Again!?’ I guess it was my chance to really master the restarts here,” Bottas said. “When you’re in the lead, you want things to be constant and trouble-free, but today felt more like dodging bullets, though things were never out of control. I could build a good margin in the first stint and look after the car and the tires to make sure that we could stick to our planned strategy.

“In the second stint, there was more pressure, particularly after all the Safety Cars. We faced some reliability concerns during the race, which put quite a bit of pressure on us, but luckily we made it to the end with both cars. I think we’ve shown that we have a good package. We need to get on top of the reliability issues, but I have no doubts that our team can solve those. I’m looking forward to another race here next weekend.

Hamilton was scored fourth at the checkered flag following his five second time penalty, with the second McLaren driven by Carlos Sainz Jr. finishing fifth.

Sergio Perez was scored sixth at the checkered flag for Racing Point, followed by AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, Renault’s Esteban Ocon and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished 10th, the final car in the points, after a spin midway through the race while battling for position inside the top-10.