Valtteri Bottas may have brought home the win at today’s Formula One season opener in Austria, but the real news today is McLaren driver Lando Norris’s first finish on the podium, even though he does have to thank Lewis Hamilton for soaking up a five-second penalty that pulled him down to fourth place.
Hamilton got slapped with that penalty after a lap-61 tangle with Red Bull driver Alex Albon. Race officials concluded that Hamilton didn’t give a full car’s-width to the outside as Albon edged around him. Contact between the two ended Albon’s race early.
Albon was far from the only driver to retire early in exciting fashion in this season opener. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen’s race ended during lap 11, Alfa’s Kimi Raikkonen was out after losing his right front wheel in lap 53, and AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat was out after a rear-wheel puncture just two laps before the end of the race. All in all, nine drivers didn’t make it through this season opener.
Norris’s podium finish wasn’t the only first-time result of this race. Further down in the results, Sebastian Vettel made his career first tenth place finish today, putting a damper on otherwise surprisingly impressive results for Ferrari, owing to Charles Leclerc’s second-place finish after a dash from the middle of the pack to the front in the final stages of the race. Leclerc’s podium finish surprised most after a middling performance in qualifying earlier this weekend.
Today’s race was the first to incorporate new guidelines to ensure social distancing is observed and risk of viral transmission is minimized. Next week, Formula One returns to Red Bull Ring for the second race of the season as the series attempts to minimize travel and exposure to covid-19 for drivers and support staff alike as it proceeds with its 2020 season. After this race, it’s clear that we won’t just be watching for covid-19-related slip-ups. We’ve got to keep our eye on Norris too, provided his car isn’t sold out from under him, of course.