Valtteri Bottas goes wire-to-wire to win the 2020 Formula One season opener at Red Bull Ring as chaos ensued behind him all day long.
The F1 season opener was nothing short of drama prior to lights out. Red Bull Racing protested on Saturday that Lewis Hamilton was speeding under yellow flag conditions during qualifying. Originally, the steward cleared Hamilton of any wrongdoing.
However, the stewards held a hearing 90 minutes prior to lights out on Sunday and declared a three-place grid penalty on Hamilton after discovering evidence from Hamilton’s onboard camera that he was speeding under yellow conditions. Hamilton would drop to fifth prior to the start behind Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and Alexander Albon.
It was a clean start to the race at lights out. Drivers were able to settle into their positions early. Valtteri Bottas would storm to over a three-second lead over second place Verstappen. However, on lap 11, Verstappen would lose power rounding turn one and would drop to 20th. He would head to the pits but the team could not find where the issue stemmed from and he had enough.
Verstappen retired from the race, which is only the third time the Red Bull Racing driver has missed points in the last two seasons.
On lap 18, Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo would retire from the race would engine issues, and the same would happen to Racing Point’s Lance Stroll on lap 23.
During a joust with Esteban Ocon, Haas Racing’s Kevin Magnussen would lose his brakes and spin in sector two. He would become the fourth retiree on the day and the safety car would be deployed.
The track went back to green flag conditions on lap 31 and going into a corner, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel would attempt to dive in on Carlos Sainz, who will be replacing Vettel next year, but would turn himself in the corner. Vettel would drop to 15th.
Up front, both Mercedes of Bottas and Hamilton were ordered by their team to slow down the pace and keep the cars off the curbs as they were dealing with gearbox issues. Both drivers had a large lead over third-place Albon before the safety car was deployed once again after Williams Racing’s George Russell stopped on the track due to mechanical issues.
On the same lap, Haas Racing would lose their other driver as Romain Grosjean would run out of brakes.
The restart on lap 55 would not last long as Kimi Raikkonen lost a rim and crashed to have the safety car deployed for a third time.
With 11 laps to go, the race went back to green. Albon was on soft tires while both Mercedes were on hard tires. Albon looked to clear Hamilton on the outside, but Hamilton would clip the Red Bull driver just before Albon was about to clear him and Albon spun.
The stewards penalized Hamilton five seconds for the incident and finished fourth.
Albon and Daniil Kvyat would suffer mechanical issues in the closing laps to bring the total number of finishers down to 11.
On the final lap, Norris would lay down the fastest lap of the race to earn an extra point and score his first career podium finish thanks to the Hamilton penalty.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc would finish in second for his 11th career podium finish.
F1 will return to Red Bull Ring next weekend for the Styrian Grand Prix.