SPIELBERG • Lewis Hamilton is now just six victories behind all-time record holder Michael Schumacher (91) after winning yesterday’s Steiermark Grand Prix, Formula One’s first back-to-back race at the same Austrian circuit.
The six-time world champion led from pole to finish, with his race made even easier after the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel collided in the first lap, leading to their retirement.
Hamilton took full advantage of their implosion and after winning the maiden Steiermark race, which was again staged at the Red Bull Ring due to the coronavirus pandemic, he called on F1 to organise more consecutive grands prix.
“Firstly, big thank you to my team,” the Mercedes driver, who came fourth in the season-opener Austrian Grand Prix last Sunday, said. “What a weird year but great to be back driving with this kind of performance.
“The team did a fantastic job, it was just for me to bring it home. This feels like a long time coming. Difficult weekend last weekend but this was a great step forward. I love back-to-back races. Can we do them all year?”
Teammate Valtteri Bottas also capitalised on Ferrari’s mishap, finishing runner-up at the same circuit where he won last Sunday.
The Finn could have made history as the first driver to win twice at the same circuit in a single campaign, and while he failed to record his third career victory at the Red Bull Ring, he was happy with the result despite seeing his championship lead cut to six points.
“Starting from fourth was damage limitation for me but it was not too bad,” Bottas, who finished in front of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, said.
“It could’ve been more satisfying and I could’ve been more satisfied but I’m looking forward to next week (Sunday’s race in Hungary).”
The race itself was somewhat uneventful, other than a flashpoint occurring right at the start at Turn Three.
Leclerc tried a lunge down the inside of Vettel, only to hit a kerb before his car tipped onto the German. Both cars suffered damage and returned to the pits, with four-time world champion Vettel wheeled into the garage.
STEIERMARK GRAND PRIX
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1hr 22min 50.683sec
2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes +13.710sec
3 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull +33.698
4 Alex Albon (Tha) Red Bull +44.400
5 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren +1min 1.470sec
6 Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point +1:02.387
7 Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point +1:02.453
8 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault +1:02.591
9 Carlos Sainz (Esp) McLaren +1 lap *
10 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Alpha Tauri +1 lap
* fastest lap
11 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin)
DNF Charles Leclerc (Mon), Sebastian Vettel (Ger) both Ferrari.
1 Bottas 43pts
2 Hamilton 37
3 Norris 26
4 Leclerc 18
5 Perez 16
1 Mercedes 80pts
2 McLaren 39
3 Red Bull 27
4 Racing Point 22
5 Ferrari 19
Leclerc, who was second at the Austrian race, retired on lap five.
The Monegasque latter admitted he was too rash before saying sorry to Vettel and the team.
“I apologised. Obviously, excuses are not enough in times like this,” he told Sky Sports. “I am just disappointed in myself.
“I have 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 will come back stronger for the next races.”
Team boss Mattia Binotto did not pin the blame on Leclerc, although he revealed the Scuderia were at a loss for words.
“It’s a pain to conclude a race in such a way,” he said. “It’s the worst conclusion of a very bad weekend for us… it’s not the time to look for responsibility or accuse, it’s time to work united.”
Vettel, who is leaving Ferrari at the end of the campaign, also was taken aback by Leclerc’s move, calling it a “big pity” as they never got to experience their updated car.
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