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Can Red Bull use home ring advantage to attack Mercedes?

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SPIELBERG, Austria (AP) Having won two years in a row in the verdant Austrian hills, and coming off a victory in the maiden Formula One street race in Azerbaijan, Nico Rosberg is naturally confident about the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend.

Rosberg has increased his championship lead over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton again after the win in Baku, and could join Alain Prost as a three-time Austria winner.

“To have two wins from two races at any track is pretty special, so if I could make it three in three that would be awesome,” Rosberg said.

“That was a good weekend for me,” he said of the race in Baku. “I really felt at one with the car, so that’s a big positive looking ahead to the next races. Austria has been a real strength for us as a team in the past two years.

“Our Silver Arrow is still definitely the best package on the grid, and I can’t wait to see what it can do in Spielberg.”

Another win would leave defending champion Hamilton with a huge deficit. Rosberg already leads by 24 points, and another 25 points for the victory in Austria would send Rosberg closer to his first title, considering the supremacy the Mercedes cars have enjoyed in the last few seasons.

Hamilton, who finished behind Rosberg in the two previous Austrian races, was fifth in Baku, after crashing in qualifying and experiencing engine problems.

“I’ve put it behind,” Hamilton said.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the team has to get rid of “small mistakes” that have cost points “here and there.”

“Force India has been very strong recently, Williams are always quick in Spielberg and, of course, there is the constant threat from Ferrari and Red Bull, particularly at a home race for the latter.”

The Austrian GP returned to the schedule in 2014, is held on the Red Bull Ring, and is a home race for the team of the same name. But the relatively short course of only nine curves hasn’t yet been a successful track for Red Bull. Its best result was eighth in 2014 and 10th in 2015.

“Spielberg always has a pretty awesome atmosphere, and the setting is pretty amazing,” Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo said. “The circuit is quite short but is also fun. I would love a few more corners but it is a fun track for what it is, quite flowing and fast.

“We haven’t had the results we would like there in the past but we’re coming there with our best package yet, so hopefully that can put us up into the top five.”

Ricciardo has extended his contract with Red Bull until 2018.

Teammate Max Verstappen, the surprise winner in Barcelona, wasn’t too optimistic.

“Here in Austria, Mercedes can’t be beaten,” he said.

The weather could be a major factor, with thunderstorms and rain predicted for the weekend and Sunday’s race.

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

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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).