Lewis Hamilton aims to immediately shrug off modest start to F1 season
BERLIN - Two penalties were too much for even the mighty Lewis
Hamilton to swallow at the season-opening Austrian Formula One Grand
Prix, but it could make the season a lot more exciting.
A grid demotion from second to fifth for not slowing down under
yellow flags in qualifying, imposed an hour before the race start
Sunday, was followed by a five-second penalty towards the end of the
race for an incident with Red Bull's Alex Albon as Hamilton finished
off the podium in fourth.
The outcome shows that Hamilton won't have an easy ride as he chases
a record-equalling seventh world title in a season already very
different than others owing to the coronavirus crisis.
"The mistakes of the favourite were not the worst news for what
should be a strange season all around," Germany's Sueddeutsche
Zeitung paper said on Monday.
Britain's Guardian named the race with plenty of excitement and three
safety car phases an "engrossing and bravura show" while saying
Hamilton's day "ran like some violent rollercoaster."
Teammate Valtteri Bottas stayed out of all trouble and won from pole, but it was not an easy day for Mercedes even before Hamilton was
punished for the incident with 10 laps left.
— Formula 1 (@F1)
Running first and second at the time, the drivers were repeatedly
warned by the team to stay off the kerbs because of gearbox sensor
"At a certain stage it looked like neither of our cars would finish
the race, so we were trying to cruise home and really look after our
cars," Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff admitted.
And when Albon pitted for fresh and fast soft tyres under the final
safety car stage victory appeared under threat as Bottas and Hamilton
stayed out on their slower mediums.
"I really think we could have easily won that race," Albon said. "I
feel like I had completed the move on Lewis already, and I was
thinking about getting Bottas on the next lap."
But the two collided as Albon tried to pass Hamilton on the outside,
their second incident after Brazil 2019, the Thai spun and then even
had to retire late in the race, just as teammate Max Verstappen,
winner of the previous two Austrian races, early on.
Hamilton still seemed on course to a podium but Lando Norrris then
put together a sensational final lap in his McLaren to pip Hamilton
by less than two-tenths for a his first career podium in third, with
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc second from seventh on the grid.
%%%twitter https://twitter.com/LandoNorris?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@LandoNorrisand inside the @McLarenF1 garage as they celebrate an incredible podium finish in Austria 🎉 #AustrianGP🇦🇹 #F1 pic.twitter.com/tMywYR6Bbe
— Formula 1 (@F1)
By doing so, Norris became the first Briton to rank ahead of Hamilton
in the championship since Jenson Button at the 2014 season-opener in
Australia where Hamilton didn't finish and Button placed third.
Hamilton, who had made plenty of headlines in the run-up and during
the weekend with his big support of the Black Lives Matter movement,
and along with 13 other drivers had taken a knee before the start,
took it all in his stride as a somewhat elder statesman now.
"I drove my heart out in the race, I did everything I could - but it
was just one of those weekends," he said.
"There are lots of areas where I can improve. I didn't do a great job
in qualifying ... The scenario with Alex felt more like a racing
incident to me. The time penalty meant that I lost the podium, but it
is what it is.
— Formula 1 (@F1)
"Ultimately, this was not a good weekend for me, but it could be
worse - I'll take what I've got, try to learn from it and be better
Hamilton's next chance comes right away on Sunday on the same course,
where he has now missed the podium four times since his lone win
there in 2016.