Lewis Hamilton put the disappointment of last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix behind him and launched his bid for a seventh world title after winning the Styrian Grand Prix from teammate Valtteri Bottas Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
A late collision and penalty last Sunday meant that the six-time world champion had to settle for fourth, but there was no stopping the Englishman this weekend, as he hammered home his pole advantage to record his 85th race win in F1.
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) July 12, 2020
Lando Norris started the final lap in 7th place but a dramatic finish saw the McLaren driver overtake both Racing Points of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll to take fifth behind Alex Albon as Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten.
“Firstly, I have to say a big thankyou to the team and everyone back at the factory,” said Hamilton afterward. “What a weird year it is, but it’s great to be back up here and to be driving and to be driving with this kind of performance. The team did a fantastic job with the strategy and then it was just for me to keep it together, stay off the kerbs and bring it home.
“I tried to get the fastest lap but on 40-lap old mediums, I wasn’t going to get it to someone on new, fresh tyres, but that’s okay. I’m so grateful to be back in first place and honestly it feels like a long time coming since the last race of last year and to come back this weekend after a difficult weekend first weekend, last week, it is a great, great step forwards.”
An extremely wet qualifying session on Saturday resulted in an exciting mix on the grid, but following his stellar lap on Saturday, it was Hamilton who maintained his lead into Turn 1 from Verstappen, Sainz and Bottas.
Behind the leaders, Ferrari’s disastrous weekend continued, as contact between the teammates tore off the German’s rear wing, ending his race and bringing about a Safety Car. The damage to Leclerc’s car was also terminal, and it there will surely be a long debrief in the Scuderia garage that it would be wonderful to eavesdrop!
“Obviously a big shame and something we should avoid but not much I really could have done about. I don’t think there was space and that’s why we collided,” said Vettel.
It looked as if it was certainly the fault of the young Monegasque, and he admitted as much, admirably taking the blame for his team’s double DNF.
LECLERC: "I apologised. Excuses are not enough at times like this. I'm disappointed in myself and let the team down.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 12, 2020
“I am very disappointed with myself and I’m just sorry and I let the team down,” said Leclerc. “The team doesn’t need that and I’m just very sorry.”
When racing resumed in earnest, Hamilton began to put some distance between himself and Verstappen. But after an excellent start from 11th on the grid, another star of Saturday George Russell came off the worse in a three-wide fight with compatriot Norris and Stroll, the Williams running wide into the gravel and effectively ending his hopes of a points finish.
It was always going to be an uphill battle for Sainz to keep the second Mercedes of Bottas behind, and it didn’t take long for the Finn to sweep past with DRS into Turn 4. With the majority of runners opting for the softest and grippiest red banded Pirellis with free choice after the wet qualifying, the first series of pit stops was always going to prove vital as ever.
Renault were enjoying a rare strong weekend, surely music to the returning Fernando Alonso’s ears, Daniel Ricciardo one of the few drivers to start on the medium compound Pirelli tyre and holding his pace in seventh to run longer than his rivals into the first stops, the Australian battling firmly but fairly with teammate Ocon to take his teammate into Turn 4 and into 6th.
Another team on the offence was the Racing Point duo of Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez, the pair slicing their way through the field after a disappointing qualifying and quickly into 7th and 8th on the track.
Verstappen was the first of the big hitters to stop, shedding his red softs for mediums on lap 25, Hamilton reacting to the undercut two laps later, emerging back out in front when the dust settled as Ocon retired with a suspected cooling issue.
With Bottas the last of the front runners to box on lap 34, the Finn would have to pass Verstappen on track to make it a Mercedes 1-2 and maintain his championship lead. It would now be a straight fight to the flag.
And with the Dutchman’s tyres fading fast, Bottas made the move stick with four laps remaining and secure Mercedes’ first 1-2 of the season, and surely not the last. But there would be no stopping the dominant Hamilton on this occasion as he crossed the line 13.719s seconds ahead of his teammate to send out an ominous message.
“Obviously Lewis started from the pole and had a good start, so I think he could really control the race,” said Bottas, who still leads the championship standings. “But form my side I think starting fourth was damage limitation, so I still got good points, still leading, so it’s not too bad.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 12, 2020