(Reuters) – Six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton dominated the Styrian Grand Prix in a Mercedes one-two on Sunday to celebrate his 85th Formula One win and move a step closer to Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 victories.
Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas, winner of last weekend’s season-opener that was also held without spectators at Austria’s Red Bull Ring, finished 13.719 seconds behind with his championship lead cut to six points.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen completed the podium, more than half a minute behind Hamilton, on a sunny afternoon at his team’s home track.
Hamilton’s victory, something of a cruise past the empty grandstands, was his first since Abu Dhabi in November and extended his record run of successive points finishes to 35 races.
“What a weird year it is, but it’s great to be back up here, to be driving with this kind of performance,” said Hamilton, who started from his 89th pole position after a sensational lap in a rain-drenched qualifying and remained in complete control.
“I’m so grateful to be back in first place. It feels like a long time coming since the last race last year, and to come back in after a difficult weekend last week is a great, great step forwards.”
Sunday’s race was the first time a circuit has hosted two back-to-back rounds in the same championship year, with the original calendar ripped up and rewritten due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ferrari, far from Schumacher’s glory years at the turn of the century, provided one of the major talking points with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel colliding on the opening lap and retiring from the race.
It was the second time in four races that the pair had clashed.
“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,” said Leclerc of his rash move on the inside of Vettel.
“I put all the efforts of the team in the bin.”
TAKING A KNEE
Hamilton, who wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt on the starting grid before the anthem of the Austrian state of Styria, again took a knee with other drivers as part of an anti-racism campaign.
Bottas, who started fourth and now has 43 points to Hamilton’s 37, said his afternoon had been about damage limitation.
“I still got good points, still leading (overall) so it’s not too bad. Yesterday wasn’t ideal,” he said.
Verstappen had started on the front row but was passed by Bottas in the closing stages after fighting hard to keep position.
“I tried to make it a bit difficult, because he was anyway going to get by one lap later,” said the Dutch driver. “But at least it was a bit fun because the race was boring.”
It was less so behind him, with Red Bull’s Alex Albon finishing fourth and Lando Norris fifth, a result that moved the 20-year-old McLaren driver up to third in the standings.
Norris, third last week for his first F1 podium, overtook both Racing Point drivers on the final lap.
Mexican Sergio Perez was sixth for Racing Point, after damaging his front wing in a clash with Albon, and ahead of Canadian team mate Lance Stroll. Australian Daniel Ricciardo was eighth for Renault.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz completed McLaren’s double points finish in ninth, and collected a bonus point for fastest lap, and Russian Daniil Kvyat picked up the final point for AlphaTauri.
Apart from the Ferrari duo, Renault’s Esteban Ocon was the only non-finisher. The Frenchman was retired by the team as a precaution due to a suspected cooling problem. In last weekend’s opener, only 11 cars finished.