Lewis Hamilton claims first win of title defence with Styrian Grand Prix victory

Lewis Hamilton dominated the Styrian Grand Prix to take the first win of his world championship defence.

The Mercedes driver laid the groundwork for his victory with one of his greatest pole laps in yesterday's rain-hit qualifying session.

And in the dry at Spielberg's Red Bull Ring, Hamilton delivered a faultless performance to see off team-mate Valtteri Bottas, with Max Verstappen third.

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Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates with champagne after the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton raises a fist on the podium after winning the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas (L) celebrate with champagne after the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Joe Klamar / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen steers his car during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Darko Bandic / AFP) (Photo by DARKO BANDIC/AFP via Getty Images)
Second placed Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas celebrates with champagne after the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Third placed Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen celebrates with his trophy on the podium after the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
AlphaTauri's Russian driver Daniil Kvyat steers his car during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Darko Bandic / various sources / AFP) (Photo by DARKO BANDIC/AFP via Getty Images)
Racing Point's Mexican driver Sergio Perez steers his car in front of Racing Point's Canadian driver Lance Stroll during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
People take pictures as Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton wins the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Joe Klamar / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas crosses the finish line at the end of the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Joe Klamar / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Red Bull's Thai driver Alex Albon steers his car during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Joe Klamar / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen steers his car during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Darko Bandic / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DARKO BANDIC/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Haas F1's Danish driver Kevin Magnussen steers his car ahead of Haas F1's French driver Romain Grosjeanduring the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Darko Bandic / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DARKO BANDIC/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Red Bull's Thai driver Alex Albon steers his car during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Joe Klamar / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas steers his car during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Darko Bandic / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DARKO BANDIC/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas (L) and Alfa Romeo's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen steer their cars during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Joe Klamar / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Renault's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo steers his car in front Renault's French driver Esteban Ocon during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton steers his car during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Darko Bandic / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DARKO BANDIC/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
AlphaTauri's Russian driver Daniil Kvyat (front) steers his car during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Joe Klamar / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Red Bull's Thai driver Alex Albon steers his car during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MARK THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
McLaren's British driver Lando Norris steers his car during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MARK THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Haas F1's French driver Romain Grosjean steers his car during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MARK THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Red Bull's Thai driver Alex Albon steers his car during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Renault's French driver Esteban Ocon (L) steers his car in front of Renault's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MARK THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
McLaren's British driver Lando Norris (front) and Racing Point's Mexican driver Sergio Perez steer their cars during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Joe Klamar / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Red Bull's Thai driver Alex Albon (R) followed by McLaren's Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr steers his car during the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Joe Klamar / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Drivers steer their cars at the start of the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Joe Klamar / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Track staff members pick up a piece of a car on the race tracks following a collision at the start of the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (L) leads from the pole position at the start of the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Darko Bandic / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DARKO BANDIC/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (L) leads from the pole position at the start of the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Darko Bandic / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DARKO BANDIC/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (C) leads from the pole position at the start of the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson / various sources / AFP) (Photo by MARK THOMPSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Drives take part in an anti-racism protest in support of the Black Lives matter movement prior to the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson / various sources / AFP) (Photo by MARK THOMPSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel (L) and Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton take part in an anti-racism protest in support of the Black Lives matter movement prior to the Formula One Styrian Grand Prix race on July 12, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson / various sources / AFP) (Photo by MARK THOMPSON/AFP via Getty Images)
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"It is great to be back up here and driving with this kind of performance," said Hamilton after the race. "It was about keeping it together and bringing it home.

"I am so grateful to be back in first place. It feels like a long time since I won at the final race of last season. This is a great step forward."

Ferrari's miserable start to the season continued after Charles Leclerc punted team-mate Sebastian Vettel out of the race on the opening lap. Both drivers were forced to retire.

Alexander Albon finished fourth ahead of Lando Norris, who moved up three positions in an impressive final two laps. Bottas is four points clear in the championship following his win here last Sunday.

Hamilton might have finished only fourth in the season opener following, by his own admission, a rather tame display.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel stands against racism alongside Lewis Hamilton
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel stands against racism alongside Lewis Hamilton (Mark Thompson/AP)

But after he took a knee alongside 11 of his drivers before the race – Kevin Magnussen and Racing Point driver Sergio Perez joining last week's cast of six in not kneeling – Hamilton blasted out of his marks from pole and never looked back, winning by 13.7 seconds.

The drama instead took place behind the six-time world champion, with Verstappen just about managing to hold of McLaren's fast-starting Carlos Sainz in second, before the two red cars collided.

Leclerc, starting in 14th, attempted to overtake Vettel at the third corner on the opening lap, but he completely misjudged the move.

Leclerc was launched airborne and out of control after hitting the kerb. He smashed into the unwitting Vettel, ripping off the German's rear wing.

Vettel was forced to park his wounded car in the pits, and while Leclerc attempted to carry on, he was unable to do so following terminal damage sustained in the accident.

The crash here marks the second time in four races that the two Ferrari drivers have collided. Vettel was largely blamed for that incident in Brazil last year, but here it was Leclerc who was at fault.

"I apologised to Seb," said Leclerc, 22. "Excuses are not enough in times like this and I'm just disappointed in myself.

"I have done a very bad job today. I have let the team down. I can only be sorry, even though I know it's not enough. I put all the efforts of the team in the bin."

There were no such worries for Hamilton as he cruised to his 85th win, leaving him only six short of Michael Schumacher's all-time win record. Hamilton is this year bidding to match the German's championship record of seven, too.

Valtteri Bottas of Finland was second behind Hamilton
Valtteri Bottas of Finland was second behind Hamilton (Darko Bandic/AP)

While last week's opener was a thrill-a-minute spectacle, there were few flashpoints in Sunday's race.

With Hamilton clear in front, Bottas, who started only fourth following a poor performance in the rain, stayed out longer than his rivals in the hope of usurping Verstappen in the closing stages.

And the move paid off for the Finn, who, sailed past the Dutchman with four laps to run.

Sergio Perez looked set to finish fifth but damaged his front wing after a failed move on Albon in the closing stages. That allowed Norris, who had just moved ahead of Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo, to take fifth in the final yards of the race. Perez finished sixth ahead of Stroll, Ricciardo and Sainz.

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