The 2015 F1 season got off to something of a quiet start with first practice for the Australian Grand Prix earlier today, as the off-track debacle surrounding Sauber threatened to overshadow proceedings at Albert Park on Friday.
The Swiss team has been fighting a case against its former reserve driver Giedo van der Garde throughout the week, and now faces having its assets seized by bailiffs and even possible imprisonment for team principal Monisha Kaltenborn. Nevertheless, the show must go on in Melbourne.
First practice saw Nico Rosberg and Mercedes pick up where they left off in 2014, topping the timesheets with a Silver Arrows one-two as Lewis Hamilton finished second. The Mercedes drivers finished over one second clear of the rest of the field, sending out an early statement of intent to the rest of the field.
Most of teams completed only limited running in the first session on Friday, and instead opted to work on getting all of the systems running smoothly and in place ahead of second practice when we should see more extensive running.
SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.
The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.
Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.
Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.
But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.
It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.
Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.