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Title underdogs Gasly, Albon take GP2, GP3 poles in Abu Dhabi

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Friday proved to be a day for the championship underdogs in Abu Dhabi.

Not only did Lewis Hamilton top both Formula 1 practice sessions ahead of Nico Rosberg, but the trailing drivers in GP2 and GP3 took pole position for their respective series to shake up the title race.

In GP2, Red Bull junior driver Pierre Gasly entered the Abu Dhabi weekend trailing Prema Racing teammate Antonio Giovinazzi by seven points in the drivers’ standings.

However, the gap was reduced to just three after a stunning lap of 1:47.476 was enough to give Gasly pole position and the four bonus points on offer in qualifying.

Giovinazzi was unable to respond, finishing eight-tenths of a second adrift in sixth place, putting him on the back foot heading into Saturday’s feature race at the Yas Marina Circuit.

The GP3 qualifying session offered a similar narrative as the trailing Alexander Albon captured pole position, while title favorite Charles Leclerc lagged behind.

ART racer Albon took pole by over two-tenths of a second on Friday, picking up the four bonus points on offer to whittle Leclerc’s lead down to just 25 heading into the opening race of the weekend.

The opening GP2 and GP3 races of the weekend will take place on Saturday following F1 qualifying, with their season finales preceding the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.

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).