“Sebastian Vettel has experienced a bitter fall from the start of the Formula One emergency season. In the victory of Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, the Ferrari driver was already far behind in Austria on Sunday when he also slipped out of the points by a turner.
With tenth place in the ghost race in Spielberg, the farewell tour of Vettel, who had retired at the Scuderia at the end of the year, began frustratingly. The fact that his Malheur had been preceded by contact with his Ferrari successor Carlos Sainz at McLaren made the debacle perfect.
A five-second time penalty after a collision with Red Bull man Alex Albon left world champion Lewis Hamilton in fourth place behind McLaren man Lando Norris, who was 0.1 seconds ahead of the British world champion thanks to the fastest lap of the race. Vettel’s stable rival Charles Leclerc raced second behind Bottas.
Seven months since the season finale in Abu Dhabi and four months since the cancelled Australian opener, Formula One had to wait for its next Grand Prix. The reboot after the Corona crisis was then carried out with a symbolic act.
Fourteen of the 20 pilots took one knee as a sign of protest against racism. In addition to Hamilton, the strongest supporter of this gesture, Vettel joined the action. In addition, all drivers wore black T-shirts, most with the words “End Racism”. Hamilton’s shirt carried the message “Black lives matter.”
Time penalty for Hamilton
The Briton, who wants to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championship titles this season, suffered a setback just before the start. Hamilton had to start from fifth place instead of second because he had irregularly ignored yellow warning flags in qualifying on his fastest lap. The race commissioners held a protest by the Red Bull team. “You have to take it sportily,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
Hamilton’s team-mate Bottas, who had secured pole position in front of the Englishman on Saturday, led the field into the first corner after the red lights were extinguished. Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, the winner of the previous two years, was already two seconds behind the Finn after the first lap.
The Dutchman, however, experienced a disaster. Due to technical problems, he dragged his car into the pits on lap 13, but had to finish the race prematurely. “It probably would have been a simple podium, but what can I do?” he said.
Mercedes rejection of Vettel
Vettel tried to make up for 11 places in the back field after his qualifying debacle. The Hesse in Spielberg had been annoyed by his retirement from Ferrari at the end of the year. He had received clear signals that the racing stable actually wanted to continue with him. Vettel then named Mercedes as an option for 2021. “We are sticking with our two boys,” Daimler Group CEO Ola Källenius said, however, rejecting a change of German on Sky TV.
In emergency operation with a strict hygiene concept, the racing series still wants to save its World Championship year. At the top, however, the picture of past years did not change. The silver arrows, painted black as a sign against discrimination, led. And even after the first stop during a safety car phase on the 26th lap, Bottas and Hamilton were the first duo to return to the track.
The field dragged on, four rounds later the Grand Prix was reopened. Then it crashed with Vettel, who wanted to pass his Ferrari successor Sainz in turn three. The German made a turn in a duel with the Spanish McLaren man and fell seven places to 15th place.
Bottas and Hamilton then had to worry. Due to problems with the transmission sensors, both drivers were instructed to stay away from the edge stones. However, the Mercedes duo survived these tremors as well as a second safety car phase from the 52nd lap. On an overtaking attempt by Alex Albon, Hamilton remained cool despite touching, while Max Verstappen’s stable rival had to make a trip to the gravel bed. But the Briton was given a five-second penalty that dropped him back.