Valterri Bottas won the opening Grand Prix for the second consecutive season, in an entertaining race in Austria which threw up an unexpected podium.
Charles Leclerc took a surprise second place and Lando Norris snatched third by 0.2s ahead of Lewis Hamilton, with nine retirements across a race featuring engine issues for most suppliers.
It wasn’t the dominant performance many expected from Mercedes who suffered from engine and gearbox issues, and a five-second penalty for Lewis Hamilton for a collision with Alex Albon.
Charles Leclerc took a surprise second place and Lando Norris completed an unexpected podium, snatching third by 0.2s ahead of Hamilton.
A double-safety car period towards the end of the race bunched the field up and Albon, running on soft tyres compared to Hamilton’s hard rubber, looked to be able to challenge for the lead at the restart.
But, as Albon looked to have got past around the outside of turn four, Hamilton understeered and caught the left flank of the Red Bull, sending Albon spinning into the gravel trap and eventually ending his race.
That was only the start of the drama – Leclerc made his way to third passing Norris and Perez before the Mexican was given a five-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane.
The same was applied to Hamilton, although it looked as though he’d on to third place he edged ahead of Norris, who’d passed Perez on the inside of turn three just after he was given the penalty.
But Norris then produced the fastest lap of the race on the final lap to sneak into a well-deserved third by a fifth of a second.
Max Verstappen had stayed within a few seconds of Bottas at the start of the race, but then suffered an engine failure on lap 11, ending his race and what looked like any hope of a challenge to a Mercedes 1-2.
Hamilton inherited second from Verstappen’s retirement and retained that through the first set of pitstops, under safety car on lap 27 after Kevin Magnussen slid off the track at turn one, seemingly with brake issues.
By that stage he was the fourth retirement of the race as Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll had both pulled up with engine issues.
Hamilton followed Bottas at the restart but was unable to get pass the Finn with Mercedes asking both drivers to turn their engines down following Stroll’s sensor issue.
They looked to be cruising to a 1-2 finish before Williams’ George Russell, who had driven a quietly strong race and ran 12th at one point, also had trouble with his Mercedes engine and his retirement brought out the safety car for lap 52.
Albon and Norris both pitted, changing to soft and medium tyres respectively, emerging fourth and fifth behind Perez who had stayed out.
The race had a very short restart before Kimi Raikkonen’s front right wheel came off at the final corner, giving him the first crash of the season and meaning another period of suspended racing.
Finally the race restarted on lap 61 giving a dramatic final ten laps, with Bottas, Hamilton, Albon, Perez, Leclerc and Norris all occupying podium positions at some stage.
Norri’s team-mate Carlos Sainz made a late move on Perez to secure fifth place, while Pierre Gasly finished behind Perez in seventh.
Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi were eighth and ninth respectively, while Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top ten after a spin caused by a collision with Sainz midway through the race.
Austrian Grand Prix results
|1||Valterri Bottas||Mercedes||71 laps|
|6||Sergio Perez||Racing Point||+15.092|
|7||Pierre Gasly||Alpha Tauri||+16.682|
|9||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+21.146|
|NC||Daniil Kvyat||Alpha Tauri||DNF|
|NC||Alex Albon||Red Bull||DNF|
|NC||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||DNF|
|NC||Lance Stroll||Racing Point||DNF|
|NC||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||DNF|