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Andretti: Mercedes clash in Austria was “100 percent” on Rosberg

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As the Mercedes AMG Petronas teammates – and the rest of the Formula 1 circus – heads to Silverstone this week for the British Grand Prix, the drama of the Austrian Grand Prix finish between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg has also come to the U.K.

In a brief chat with 1978 World Champion Mario Andretti on Thursday, he made no hesitation about who was to blame for the clash at Turn 2 that left Rosberg’s car wounded, as Hamilton took the win.

“I think Nico just drove Lewis off the track,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “Obviously he made a mistake going into Turn 1; he protected the inside.

“The toughest way around is the outside, and he left him no room. He paid the price, and he should have.

“There’s no question in my opinion that the fault was 100 percent his as to what happened.

“This was coming down to a classic maneuver there. Nico was a little bit too ambitious.

“If he says ‘it’s the brakes,’ well he knew damn well what the brakes were. If he knew they were failing, it might have behooved him to back off.”

Mercedes issued a statement on Thursday saying there’d been positive meetings and the pair was still free to race, although tempered it by noting that within the “rules of engagement” any further clashes would bring consequences.

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).