(REUTERS, AFP) - Finland's Valtteri Bottas won a dramatic first race of the delayed Formula One season for champions Mercedes in Austria on Sunday (July 5), with the safety car driver kept busy and only 11 of the 20 cars finishing.
Charles Leclerc finished a surprise second for Ferrari, with McLaren's Lando Norris taking his first podium after six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton collected a five-second time penalty that dropped him from second. The Briton had already received a three-place grid penalty at the start after qualifying second on Saturday.
The race at the Red Bull Ring, which started after 14 of the 20 drivers took a knee on the grid in an anti-racism statement, was held without spectators for the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Lewis was really quick today but I managed to keep it together. No better way to start the season,” said Bottas.
Leclerc, one of six drivers who opted not to take a knee on the grid, had started in seventh place.
“It’s a huge surprise, but a good one. I think we did everything perfect today – we had a bit of luck, but it’s part of the race too. That was the goal, to take every opportunity,” he said.
Norris was overjoyed at his finish, coming on the back of a fourth-best time in qualifying. At 20, he was the youngest driver in the race and is now the youngest Briton to stand on an F1 podium, as well as also setting the fastest lap.
“I’m speechless. There were a few points where I thought I’d fudged it up a bit... but I managed to get past Perez and end up on the podium!"
Spaniard Carlos Sainz made it a double points haul for McLaren in fifth, with Sergio Perez sixth for Racing Point and Pierre Gasly seventh for AlphaTauri.
Esteban Ocon, who last raced in 2018, took eighth for Renault on his return while Antonio Giovinazzi bagged ninth for Alfa Romeo and Sebastian Vettel, who had another nightmare, completed the top 10 for Ferrari.
Canadian Nicholas Latifi was the last car running with 11th for Williams.
Hamilton was handed a five-second time penalty for causing a collision with Red Bull’s Alex Albon while defending second place.
The Thai spun off into the gravel, his podium hopes gone and was afterwards left close to tears.
“It’s not been a great weekend for me, yesterday was entirely my fault and to get a penalty today... it is what it is,” said Hamilton.
Albon’s Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen had been the first driver to retire - with engine problems.
The second race is at the same circuit next weekend, another Formula One first.