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Valtteri Bottas clinches action-packed F1 opener in Austria

Much drama in Austria as Hamilton finishes fourth after receiving grid and time penalties

While much of the attention was on six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton ahead of Formula One's season-opening Grand Prix in Austria yesterday, it was his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas who clinched victory in an action-packed race.

Charles Leclerc finished a surprise second for Ferrari with McLaren's Lando Norris celebrating a first podium finish after a time penalty dropped Hamilton to fourth.

"I managed to keep it together. No better way to start the season," said Bottas of the closed-door race which had only 11 finishers.

There was drama even before the race when stewards performed a U-turn after a Red Bull challenge and dropped Hamilton from the front row to fifth on the grid for a breach in Saturday's qualifying.

That also promoted Red Bull's Max Verstappen to the front row alongside Bottas on pole position.

Any hopes the Dutch youngster had of completing a hat-trick of Austrian wins, after 2018 and 2019, disappeared when he suffered an early technical problem and became the season's first retirement.

In a race with three safety car periods, Bottas soon had Hamilton in his mirrors, but the Briton's challenge vanished when he was handed a five-second time penalty for causing a collision with Red Bull's Alex Albon while defending second place. The Thai spun off into the gravel, his podium hopes shattered.

Leclerc, whose team had struggled in qualifying, moved up to third against all expectations - which became second after the chequered flag.

"I did not expect it. A huge surprise, but a good one," said the Monegasque, one of six drivers who opted not to take a knee on the grid in an anti-racism gesture.

"We did everything perfect today - we had a bit of luck, but it's part of the race too. That was the goal, to take every opportunity."

Sebastian Vettel had a poor outing, however, finishing 10th.

Norris was overjoyed at his third-placed finish, coming on the back of a fourth best time in qualifying.

"I'm speechless. There were a few points where I thought I'd fudged it up a bit... but I managed to get past (Racing Point's Sergio) Perez and end up on the podium," said the 20-year-old, who has become the youngest Briton to stand on an F1 podium.

Spaniard Carlos Sainz made it a double points haul for McLaren in fifth, with Perez sixth for Racing Point and Pierre Gasly seventh for AlphaTauri.

The season continues with a second race in Austria on Sunday, before Hungary (July 19) and back-to-back races in Silverstone (Aug 2 and 9). - AFP

AUSTRIAN GP RESULTS (Top 5)

1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes): 1hr 30min 55.7392 sec

2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari): +2.700s

3. Lando Norris (McLaren): +5.491s

4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes): +5.689s

5. Carlos Sainz (McLaren): +8.903s

DRIVERS' STANDINGS (Top 5)

1. Bottas: 25 points

2. Leclerc: 18

3. Norris: 16

4. Hamilton: 12

5. Sainz: 10

CONSTRUCTORS' STANDINGS (Top 5)

1. Mercedes: 37

2. McLaren: 26

3. Ferrari: 19

4. Racing Point: 8

5. AlphaTauri: 6

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