The first weekend of Formula 1’s return is over. The Austrian Grand Prix happened this afternoon and it was a great start to the season.
About an hour or so before the race commenced, Lewis Hamilton was given a 3-place grid drop after Red Bull protested the F1 stewards decision to not give him a penalty for speeding under yellow lights on yesterday’s qualifying.
This meant that Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and Alex Albon all moved up a grid space.
Mercedes driver, Valtteri Bottas, started the race in pole position after beating Hamilton in qualifying by 0.012 seconds.
Even though he started in 5th, it didn’t take Hamilton long to rise up the ranks. In lap 14, Hamilton was 3rd behind Bottas and Verstappen, when Max Verstappen ran into some trouble with his car. Viewers saw Verstappen’s name drop from 2nd to 17th on the leaderboard within a matter of seconds as other racers blew past him. Verstappen and Red Bull revealed the problem was an anti-stall. He managed to make it to the pits where he was told he was going to get new tires and a new steering wheel. He got to the pits and the crew worked on the car, it started up again before breaking down after a few meters. Verstappen, understandably annoyed, got out the car and walked into the garage. He was the first of 9 retirements this race.
After Verstappen lost power and Hamilton took 2nd position, there were 7 seconds between him and Bottas who had kept his position in first all race so far.
In lap 18, Renualt racer Daniel Ricciardo has some technical issues with his car and goes to the pits. He becomes the 2nd race retiree.
In lap 20, Hamilton is slowly shaving time off the gap between him and Bottas, there was a 6.5 second gap at this point.
In lap 21, Hamilton set the fastest lap record shaving another 0.5s off the gap.
In lap 22, Racing Point driver, Lance Stroll pulled into the pits and went straight into the garage and became the 3rd racer to retire.
Romain Grosjean spun out of turn 4 and picked up some gravel. He managed to get back onto the track but was in last place. He went into the pits and got a new set of tires and carried on.
In lap 23, the Ferrari mechanics were ready in the pits, but quickly retreated to the cool of the garage when Charles LeClerc didn’t come in, he stayed in 6th position, 2 seconds behind Perez.
Mercedes tell Hailton that Lance Stroll retired with sensor issues and warned him to be careful. Drivers were reminded to stay clear of the high kerbs.
In lap 23, there was less than a 4 second gap between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas who had still been in 1st all race.
Lap 26 brought around the 4th retirement of the race, as Esteban Ocon tried to overtake Magnussen who slid off and spun in the run off area. Replays showed that he had some trouble braking. Magnussen immediately retired and the safety car was deployed.
Most drivers went in for a pit stop as there’s no overtaking when the safety car is out. Racing Point’s Perez was the only driver to opt for the medium compound tires, everyone else went for the hard tires.
Bottas was still in first due to no overtaking but everyone was packed together which meant it was game when the safety car went in.
The safety car went back in and Bottas was off, Hamilton was hanging on to him but with no DRS he couldn’t overtake him. Vettel then attempted to pass Sainz and spun out. He dropped down to 15th position, replays show that there wasn’t enough room for Vettel to pass through.
Lap 33, the Mercedes drivers were 2.4s ahead of Alex Albon. The stewards decided no investigation was necessary regarding the incident between Vettel and Sainz.
In lap 34, Perez climbed to 4th position, he was ahead of the McLaren’s as per his pre-race predictions. The lap after, Hamilton set a new fastest lap and he moved back into DRS range of Bottas. He wanted to turn his engine up and get into 1st but Mercedes were unwilling to take risks and they seemed to be playing the long game.
In lap 36, Renault announced that Daniel’s car was retired as a precaution after worries with a cooling issue.
In lap 41, Lando Norris gets a message from the McLaren garage telling him to go “plan A, maximum pace.”
Lap 42 and Hamilton was back in DRS range of his teammate, Mercedes were still wary and didn’t let him overtake.
In lap 43, Mercedes sent a message to Bottas warning him of sensor issues in both Mercedes cars. He was told to stay off the kerbs. The next lap and Hamilton is closing in on his teammate, he is warmed of the sensor issues and tells the garage “He’s taking much more kerb than me.” He was looking for the win here.
Laps 46 and 47, and it was more messages from Mercedes. It was revealed that it was the gearbox sensors causing the issues for them. The racers were again told to stay off the kerbs. Hamilton had closed the gap to 0.4s.
Red Bull racer Alex Albon was looking for his first podium after missing out in Brazil last year.
Lap 50 bought another retirement as Romain Grosjean ends up on the run off road. He coasts to the pits and Haas end up with a double DNF.
Lap 51 and George Russell is off the track with a heavily smoking engine. The safety car is deployed again.
Mercedes kept their drivers out, and Albon is the only top driver to lose a place due to him taking a pit stop.
Charles Leclerc reports having some problems overtaking to the Ferrari garage. At this point, neither he or his teammate have made much progress, they were 6th and 13th respectively.
Due to safety car being out, the gap between the Mercedes drivers is barely there, but as soon as it goes in Bottas speeds away from Hamilton.
In lap 55, Alfa Romeo racer Kimi Raikkonen lost a wheel on the main straight. The safety car is back out.
Alex Albon overtook Perez under the safety car as he had already started overtaking as the safety car came back out.
The safety car goes in for the 3rd time and Bottas speeds away as Albon gains on Hamilton. On turn 4, Albon made a move on Hamilton but they touch and Albon spun out.
The incident is put under investigation, as Perez regains his place on the podium.
Lap 64, Sainz puts down a new fastest lap and gets into 6th. LeClerc makes a move on Lando Norris and tries to get into 4th. He overtakes Perez and gets into 3rd.
The results of the investigation of the incident between Albon and Hamilton were in and Hamilton was given a 5 second time penalty, which would be added onto his time at the end of the race.
In lap 68, Perez who had been working hard to get back onto the podium was given a 5 second time penalty for speeding in the pits.
In lap 70 of 71, Norris is 4th but more than 5 seconds behind Hamilton. Kvyat has to retire after his rear tire delaminates and he ends up on the escape road.
Bottas leads as the racers enter the final lap, he has not lost his position all race. Norris puts up a fastest lap as he tries to get within 5 seconds of Hamilton. Bottas crosses the line first, followed by Hamilton, then LeClerc and Norris.
Due to his time penalty, Hamilton drops from 2nd to 4th, which means Norris is on the podium. He became the 3rd youngest racer to be on the podium at the age of 20 years and 235 days.
“There was definitely quite a bit of pressure over the race – the last safety car was like, c’mon, again?! We had to manage the car quite a lot and I was slightly worried but we managed to finish so that’s a very good start.”-Valtteri Bottas.
“I did not expect [the podium] it’s a huge surprise but a good one, we had a bit of luck with some crashes here and there but that was the goal – to take every opportunity even though we didn’t have the pace. We are not where we want to be but anything is possible.”Charles LeClerc.
“I’m speechless. I felt I had fudged it up quite a bit, but I didn’t give up, I managed to get back past Perez and I ended up on the podium! The last lap… you can tell I’m a bit out of breath. The last few laps, the Lewis penalty – I turned it up a little bit.”Lando Norris.