Lewis Hamilton wins Styrian GP from pole after Ferraris collide on first lap

  • Mercedes teammate Bottas is second, Verstappen third
  • Leclerc apologises for hitting Ferrari teammate Vettel

After a stunning shakedown to open the season with the Austrian Grand Prix, Formula One’s follow-up at the Red Bull Ring proved an altogether more sedate affair. Lewis Hamilton brought breathtaking spectacle to qualifying at the Styrian Grand Prix but on race day he delivered the familiar craft and control to deliver a consummate victory.

Having made his statement on the track, the world champion did so once more on the podium where the Mercedes driver made the black power salute, his commitment to fighting racism again uncompromisingly displayed.

Mercedes and Hamilton’s dominance could not have sat in starker contrast to the disarray behind them, in which Ferrari were left reeling in ignominy.

Hamilton was fourth on the same track the previous week and determined to hit back immediately. He did so almost with insouciance. Having taken pole with one of the best laps of his career in the wet on Saturday, he held his lead, scampered up the track and drove a faultless race to take the flag in front of his teammate Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. After two grands prix of a season likely to run to 15 races, Bottas leads the championship on 43 points, with Hamilton second on 37.

“What a weird year but great to be back with this kind of performance,” Hamilton said. “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. I love back-to-back races. Can we do them all year?”

For Mercedes this was an ominously strong performance. The team are looking to score a record seventh consecutive constructors’ championship. With two wins from two races at a circuit where they have struggled and both drivers in fine fettle, their pursuit of an historic achievement is firmly on course, especially with Ferrari already lagging so far behind.

Sebastian Vettel had to retire on the first lap after a collision with his Ferrari teammate, Charles Leclerc.
Sebastian Vettel had to retire on the first lap after a collision with his Ferrari teammate, Charles Leclerc. Photograph: Dan Istitene/Formula One/Getty Images

Nearest competitors Red Bull cannot match Mercedes for pace and Verstappen did all he could to stay in the fight but could not threaten. Mercedes, should they repeat this performance at next Sunday’s race in Hungary, may expect only to enjoy even more of an advantage when racing moves to Silverstone, Spa and Monza.

Ferrari’s season is slipping away almost before it has begun. They have a driver in Sebastian Vettel who they chose to drop for next season before this one started. They have admitted taking the wrong direction on the aero design for their car, which they are now furiously trying to rectify. Their engine is down on power since the FIA came to a private agreement with the team over its performance towards the end of last season.

Off the pace, neither Ferrari driver was higher than eighth in any session of the race weekend, they qualified in the midfield and seconds after the start their race fell to pieces.

On the opening lap the two Ferraris were squeezed together when Charles Leclerc, who started in 14th, was too ambitious in diving up the inside through turn three. He was flicked in the air on the kerbs and hit Sebastian Vettel, whose car sustained major damage to the rear wing.

Vettel, who started on 10th, retired immediately and Leclerc did the same a few laps later. It was a disastrous double DNF when the team desperately needed track time to assess the aero upgrades they had brought to the race. The pair had also taken one another out in Brazil last season.

Vettel was blameless and not happy. “I wasn’t expecting Charles to try something,” he said. “It is a big pity and something we should avoid. I don’t think there was space, that’s why we collided.” Leclerc held up his hands. “I’m just disappointed in myself, I’ve let the team down,” he said.

1 Lewis Hamilton (GB) Mercedes GP 1hr 20min 50.683secs; 2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:21:04.402; 3 Max Verstappen (Neth) Red Bull 1:21:24.381; 4 Alexander Albon (Thai) Red Bull 1:21:35.083; 5 Lando Norris (GB) McLaren 1:21:52.153; 6 Sergio Pérez (Mex) Racing Point 1:21:53.070; 7 Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 1:21:53.136; 8 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 1:21:53.274; 9 Carlos Sainz (Sp) McLaren at 1 lap; 10 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia AlphaTauri at 1 lap; 11 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing at 1 lap; 12 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 at 1 lap; 13 Romain Grosjean (Fr) Haas F1 at 1 lap; 14 Antonio Giovinazzi (It) Alfa Romeo Racing at 1 lap; 15 Pierre Gasly (Fr) Scuderia AlphaTauri at 1 lap; 16 George Russell (GB) Williams at 2 laps; 17 Nicholas Latifi (Can) Williams at 2 laps.

Not Classified: 18 Esteban Ocon (Fr) Renault 25 laps; 19 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 4 laps; 20 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1 lap.
Fastest Lap: Carlos Sainz 1min 05.619secs on lap 68.

Ferrari are fifth in the constructors’ championship behind Mercedes, McLaren, Red Bull and Racing Point. Their debrief will be long and painful and the team principal, Mattia Binotto, was blunt in his assessment. “I think it’s the worst conclusion of a very bad week for us,” he said. The pressure on him in only his second season in charge is rapidly mounting and the team cancelled their post-race media session.

Alexander Albon was fourth for Red Bull and behind him there was mighty scrap in the midfield and once more Britain’s Lando Norris came out on top for McLaren. The 20-year-old in his second season in F1 took his first podium in the opening grand prix and followed it with another sparkling run from ninth on the grid to take fifth. Light on fuel and quick, he charged at the close, passing Lance Stroll and Sergio Pérez on the final lap. Norris is third in the championship on 26 points.

The Racing Point of Pérez was sixth from 17th on the grid. His teammate Stroll was seventh. Daniel Ricciardo was eighth for Renault with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz ninth and claiming the point for fastest lap. Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top 10 for AlphaTauri.


Giles Richards

The GuardianTramp

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