Torrential rain washes out FP2 at Austin

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AUSTIN, Texas – It’s never a good story when you, as a reporter, have completed as many laps in a session as the entire field of 20 drivers and cars competing in the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

Yet that’s the situation I, and anyone else in the media centre here, finds themselves in following torrential rain that has washed out second free practice today.

The session was canceled just before 3 p.m. CT and local time.

At 1:45 p.m. local time, the FIA indicated the “Risk of rain for this session is 100%.”

Just six minutes later, at 1:51 p.m., this graphic flashed: “Start of P2 will be delayed indefinately. Marshals unable to work due to the proximity of lightning.”

The rain wasn’t too bad just before the start of the session but within five minutes, it turned to absolute buckets of rain coming down on the circuit.

At 2:56 p.m. CT and local time, this graphic confirmed the session was canceled:

“P2 is cancelled. No medical helicopter operations for the next 2 hours.”

Ever competitive though, teams kept posting on Twitter. Here’s some of the highlights from the non-session:

Heck, we even entered the party for a bit.

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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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.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

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.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

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.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).