SPIELBERG, Austria – The Formula One season might not have commenced how Lewis Hamilton hoped it would a week ago, but he wasted no time finding sweet redemption on Sunday at the Red Bull Ring.
With a dominant drive from start to finish, Hamilton controlled the Styrian Grand Prix from the pole and only gave up the top spot for a handful of laps after making his lone pit stop at the end of lap 27.
Once his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas ceded the lead and hit pit lane on lap 35, Hamilton resumed his post out front and held it all the way to the finish.
The six-time and defending F-1 champion took the checkered flag a comfortable 13.719 seconds clear of Bottas for his 85th career grand prix triumph, first of the season and second at Spielberg.
It leaves Hamilton just six wins behind Michael Schumacher for the all-time record, and his 152nd podium finish puts Hamilton just three behind Schumacher’s leading mark in that category.
“This has tended to be one of my weaker tracks, so I am over the moon to have a performance like this today. I’m so, so happy,” said Hamilton. “This feels like a long time coming since the final race of last year, and it is a great step forward to come back from a difficult first weekend. The team did a fantastic job with the strategy and then it was about keeping it together, staying off the curbs and bringing it home.
“I tried to get the fastest lap towards the end, but I had 40-lap old mediums, so it was going to be difficult against someone on new, fresh rubber,” Hamilton added. “A big thank you to my team and everyone back at the factories; they have done a brilliant job. I think it’s easy to lose focus and determination, but I don’t ever see that with this team. We know there’s a long way to go and it’s a challenge for everyone, but this is a step forward.”
While the flow of the race was straightforward from start to finish, the 71-lap race started off with a bang, as the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel collided in turn three on the opening lap.
The contact and subsequent damage forced both cars to retire, leaving the Prancing Horses fifth in the constructor’s standings after two races this season. Leclerc later took responsibility for the incident.
After the resumption of the race from behind the safety car at lap four, the final 68 laps around the 4.318-kilometer, 10-turn circuit ran uninterrupted.
Though Bottas ultimately came home second, he had to run down and pass Verstappen to do so, making use of slightly-fresher tires and a brilliant move at turn four with four laps left to get the job done.
Verstappen filled out the podium ahead of his Red Bull teammate Alex Albon, with McLaren’s Lando Norris crossing fifth after a brilliant final lap saw him leap up two spots from seventh at the white flag.
The Racing Point pair of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll, Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and Alpha Tauri’s Daniil Kvyat completed the points-scoring drivers in the top 10.
Sainz, who pitted for fresh tires late, earned an extra championship point for setting the fastest lap.
Botta leads Hamilton 43-37 in the driver’s championship, while in the constructor’s race, Mercedes heads McLaren 80-39.
Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen, Alex Albon, Lando Norris, Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll, Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat, Kimi Räikkönen, Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean, Antonio Giovinazzi, Pierre Gasly, George Russell, Nicholas Latifi, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc, Sebastian Vettel.