Lewis Hamilton was pleased to end a tough Malaysian Grand Prix weekend by extending his lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the Formula 1 drivers’ championship to 34 points.
Hamilton rallied from a tough practice to take pole position on Saturday for Mercedes, only to struggle for race pace and eventually finish second behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Vettel fought back from last place on the grid to finish fourth, with his race pace looking stronger than Hamilton’s for much of the 56-lap affair as he rose through the order.
With Hamilton and his Mercedes team extending their leads in their respective championships despite being third-best at times in Malaysia, the Briton was left pleased with his weekend’s work.
“A much better weekend than we anticipated after our Friday. We’ve got a lot of work to do with our car, so considering the issues we did have, it is a good result,” Hamilton said.
“I think Valtteri [Bottas, who finished fifth] obviously seemed to struggle a lot more and I was able to just pull a little bit more out of it I guess.
“These next races are going to be crucial in terms of finding out whether we can iron out some of the creases in the car. But who would have thought the Ferraris would have problems? All we can do is try to capitalize as much on those.
“Naturally, I wanted to win the race and so Max did a fantastic job today but ultimately winning the race is still the goal. So even if you get second, it is not that satisfying.”
With five races to go, Hamilton now leads by 34 points, meaning he remains on-course to claim a fourth world title in 2017.
Hamilton’s fight with Vettel will continue next weekend with the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
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.