Lewis Hamilton started in pole position and held the lead throughout as he won Austria’s Styrian Grand Prix on Sunday but the Ferraris continued to struggle.
The six-time world champion finished ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by nearly 14 seconds and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by 33 in partly cloudy conditions a day after heavy rain in qualifying.
He celebrated on the podium by raising his right fist, a week after kneeling before the season opener wearing a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt. Several of his fellow racers chose not to kneel that day while wearing “End Racism” T-shirts and fewer didn’t kneel Sunday, reported Sky.
The drivers competed on the same track – the Red Bull Ring – for the second consecutive week after Formula One made changes to the calendar amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Styria is a region in Austria.
It was Bottas who won the opener – the Austrian Grand Prix – after Hamilton received a grid penalty in qualifying and then a five-second penalty in the race itself to drop to fourth from second.
“It’s great to be back out here and to be driving and driving with this kind of performance,” Hamilton was quoted as saying by Formula One’s official website. “The team did a fantastic job with the strategy and it was just up to me to keep it together, keep off the kerbs and bring it home.
“I’m so grateful to be back in first place and honestly it feels like a long time coming since the last race last year. To come back this year after a difficult first weekend last week, this is a great step forward.”
Ferrari didn’t have anyone inside the first six places on the starting grid for the second straight week – that hadn’t happened since 2014, according to Sky – and things got even worse for the storied Italian team once led by record seven-time champion Michael Schumacher.
Its two drivers, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, collided on the first lap, with Leclerc appearing to bump into the four-time world champion.
The damage to Vettel’s rear wing forced him out of the race while Leclerc needed a lengthy stay in pit lane before re-emerging. He would end up quitting, though, minutes later on the fourth lap.
“I apologized (to Vettel),” Leclerc was quoted as saying by Formula One’s official website. “Obviously excuses are not enough in times like this. I am just disappointed in myself. I’ve done a very bad job today. I let the team down.
“I can only be sorry, even though I know it’s not enough. I hope I will learn from this and we will come back stronger for the next races.”
After qualifying, team principal Mattia Binotto said Ferrari had to do better.
“We worked very hard to bring updates to the car earlier than planned, but they didn’t show their worth on track,” he said. “We have to work out why and change this state of affairs, which is just not good enough for a team by the name of Ferrari.”
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Racing Point’s Sergio Perez was the biggest mover of the day, finishing sixth after starting 17th on the grid.
The season continues next weekend in Hungary.