Hamilton strolls to Styrian Grand Prix win, Ferrari suffer debacle
SPIELBERG – World champion Lewis Hamilton bounced back from a disappointing start to the coronavirus-delayed Formula One season with a convincing victory at the Styrian Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Mercedes driver claimed his 85th career victory unchallenged from pole position at the 4.318-kilometre Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.
Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas retained his world title lead with second while Max Verstappen took third for Red Bull at their home track.
Ferrari's disastrous start to the season continued when Charles Leclerc drove into the back of team-mate Sebastian Vettel on the first lap, sending both out of the race.
The F1 season continues with the Hungarian Grand Prix next Sunday.
Hamilton finished fourth after a penalty-hit Austrian Grand Prix at the same venue last weekend but bounced back with a brilliant Saturday qualifying to claim pole in soaking conditions.
The sun was out for race day, however, and after drivers again took part in protests against racism Hamilton dominated from start to finish.
"What a weird year but great to be back driving with this kind of performance," said Hamilton in his podium interview. "The team did a fantastic job, it was just for me to bring it home.
"This feels like a long time coming. Difficult weekend last weekend but this was a great step forward."
Verstappen was never close enough to pressure the Briton in the second behind-closed-doors race of the coronavirus season before pitting early on lap 24. Hamilton reacted two laps later and coasted to victory.
Bottas stayed out 10 laps longer than Verstappen on his first soft tyres and had the advantage of fresher mediums in the long run to the finish.
Verstappen, with car problems, fended off the Finn's initial attack but Bottas had too much power to be denied and passed with three laps remaining.
"I tried to push for victory but we are just a bit too slow," said Verstappen. ""I tried to make it difficult for Valtteri to pass me, even though I knew he was going to get me the next lap.
"It was fun because the rest of the race was a bit boring."
Bottas agreed: "It was a good battle with him. I had a bit more pace at the end than him. Racing so close is always good fun."
But the admitted that second was the best available to him on the day.
Unfortunately both cars had to retire. #Seb5’s car had too much damage and for #Charles16 it would have been too dangerous driving with the floor in those conditions. #AustrianGP🇦🇹 #essereFerrari🔴 pic.twitter.com/5MvELBzLl8— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) July 12, 2020
"Lewis started pole and had a good start and controlled the race but there was not much happening," he said. "Starting from fourth was damage limitation for me but it was not too bad."
While Mercedes look favourites for a seventh consecutive constructors' title, Ferrari endured a farcical race after a difficult opener last week.
They brought upgrades which made little difference to their qualifying performance and lost the chance to test them in race conditions when Leclerc ran into Vettel early on.
Vettel limped to the pits and did not re-emerge while Leclerc's race ended a few laps later.
"I had the inside and I wasn't expecting Charles to try something," Vettel told Sky Sports. "We should avoid situations like this but not much I could do."
Leclerc started 14th from a three-place grid penalty in qualifying and admitted blame. "I am disappointed in myself," he said on Twitter. "Seb hasn't got any faults today.
"Too eager to gain those places in the first lap. I will learn from it."
Alex Albon took fourth in the second Red Bull and Lando Norris was fifth for McLaren after dashing past Racing Point drivers Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll on the final straight.
Daniel Ricciardo (Renault), Carlos Sainz (McLaren) and Daniil Kvyat (Alpha Tauri) completed the scoring while Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo), Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean (both Haas), Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri), George Russell and Nicholas Latifi (both Williams) were out of the points.
Renault's Esteban Ocon was the only other retirement alongside the Ferrari pair.DPA