SPIELBERG – Valtteri Bottas insisted before the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday that he has what it takes to win the Formula One world championship.
That’s a tall order with six-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton as his teammate at Mercedes. Especially as Hamilton needs one more title to equal Michael Schumacher's record of seven.
But Bottas showed impressive composure to win Sunday's race — which had no fans present due to the coronavirus pandemic — with Hamilton just a half-second behind him for spells. Not easy for Bottas when Hamilton's among the best drivers at overtaking in F1 history, and when a chaotic race restarts three times behind a safety car.
“There was definitely quite a bit of pressure. One safety car was OK but by the last I was like, ‘Come on — again?’” a relieved Bottas said. “There were so many opportunities for Lewis to take the lead if I made a small mistake and he was really quick today. But I managed to keep it together, could really control the race from my side, and there’s obviously no better way to start the season.”
Hamilton crossed second but finished fourth after getting a late time penalty.
Bottas kneeled with the winners’ trophy and the podium trio — including second-place Charles Leclerc for Ferrari and third-place Lando Norris for McLaren — held up a black T-shirt with “End Racism” written on it.
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.
It was better to be up ahead.