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George Russell set for FP1 debut with Force India in Brazil

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GP3 Series champion George Russell, who enjoyed a run-out with Mercedes AMG Petronas earlier this year in the young driver test in Hungary, will make his free practice one debut for Sahara Force India at this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

The young Englishman will run at both Brazil and Abu Dhabi. He’ll fill in for Sergio Perez in FP1 at Brazil, then Esteban Ocon in FP1 at Abu Dhabi. This sees him taking over for Alfonso Celis Jr. as Force India’s third driver for the next two races.

“I’m extremely excited to be driving in free practice for Sahara Force India in Brazil and Abu Dhabi. 2017 has already been a year full of great opportunities and to top off the season with these two outings feels fantastic. I’ve never driven the VJM10 before or driven at Interlagos, but I’m really looking forward to the challenge. I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Sahara Force India for this opportunity and also thank Mercedes for their continued support,” Russell said.

Vijay Mallya added, “We are happy to give George this opportunity. He’s an up-and-coming talent and we’ve followed his success in GP3 closely. George has already been in our simulator several times and has worked well with the team. Now that we have secured fourth place in the championship, it’s the ideal time to look to the future and handing George his free practice debut will allow us to evaluate his potential.”

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).