Lewis Hamilton gets F1 title bid up and running with Styrian GP victory

Lewis Hamilton finally got his Formula One title defence up and running with a dominant victory at the first-ever Styrian Grand Prix.

After romping to one of the finest pole positions of his career in rain-hit qualifying on Saturday, the six-time world champion delivered again in the dry to take his first win of the season at the Red Bull Ring.

So much was his dominance, that the Briton led from lights to flag to take the chequered flag a mighty 13.7 seconds ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Bottas, the winner of the season-opening Austrian GP at the same circuit last week, made it a Silver Arrows one-two with a late-race lunge to beat Max Verstappen in his Red Bull.

But while Bottas was unable to repeat his race-winning exploits from seven days ago, Hamilton bounced back from an error-strewn curtain-raiser.

It was a flawless performance from the defending champion and he barely worked up a sweat as he kickstarted his quest to equal Ferrari great Michael Schumacher's record haul of seven world titles.

After taking the win, Hamilton said: "Firstly big thank you to my team.

"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?

"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."

The Brit took a knee again ahead of the race as he continues his fight against racism but as soon as the engines were revved and the lights went out, the Mercedes star showed why he is the favourite to land a record-equalling crown.

And Sunday's showing suggest that Hamilton is the man to beat this season, despite an out-of-sorts performance last week, while Ferrari's woes continue with yet another nightmare weekend.

How the fallen giants would love to rewind the clock and return to their heyday, the Italian team left red-faced once again after Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel collided on the very first lap.

Leclerc made an ambitious move to get past ahead of his departing teammate at Turn Three but got his angles wrong and ended up smashing into Vettel. Both drivers were forced to retire their cars from the race.

The crash marked the second time in four races that the two Ferrari drivers have collided with each other.

Vettel was largely blamed for that incident in Brazil, but this time it was Leclerc who misjudged the corner, causing the impact with his team-mate.

"I have apologised [to Vettel], excuses are not enough in times like this," he said.

"I’m just disappointed in myself, I've let the team down. It’s a tough time for the team, the team doesn’t need that. I’m very sorry but it’s not enough again."

That was arguably the standout incident from what was a largely underwhelming race compared to last week's chaotic season opener.

But Hamilton won't have too many complaints as he cruised to his 85th win, leaving him only six short of Michael Schumacher's all-time win record.

Bottas provided another moment of class when he cruised past Verstappen with four laps to run to cap off a faultless afternoon for Mercedes.

Behind the top three, Alexander Albon finished fourth for Red Bull ahead of McLaren's Lando Norris, who moved up three positions in an impressive final two laps.

Bottas is four points clear in the championship following his season-opening win.

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