Mercedes feared Valtteri Bottas’ gearbox issue on his Formula 1 car in the Austrian Grand Prix could have resulted in an “instant kill”. 

Bottas made the perfect start to the delayed 2020 F1 season by leading every single lap of Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix as he converted pole position into victory during a thrilling opening round.

But the Finn had to soak up relentless pressure from teammate Lewis Hamilton, as well as managing a gearbox issue which hampered him for much of the 71-lap race. 

Both drivers were repeatedly warned to avoid using the kerbs at the Red Bull Ring after the sensor-related issue cropped up early on. 

Mercedes’ growing concern prompted chief strategist James Vowles to inform Bottas and Hamilton that the problem had become “critical”.

"The situation was pretty serious, right away from the start," Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff explained after the race.

"We saw it started with issues on Valtteri's car, but it was something that can be an instant kill. Then it started on Lewis's car. We didn't really know what it was.

"We know that it was somehow linked to vibration and agitation of the car. That is why we advised them very early on to keep off the kerbs.

"At the certain stage, it looked like we would not finish the race with both cars. So we were trying to really cruise home."

With reigning world champion Hamilton subjected to a fourth-place finish after being hit with a five-second time penalty for punting Red Bull’s Alex Albon off track late on, Bottas has established an early 13-point buffer in the championship. 

Bottas explained how it felt like he had to “dodge many bullets” en route to sealing his eighth Grand Prix win. 

"Winning a Formula 1 grand prix is never easy, but today definitely didn't come easy at all," he said. 

"In the first stint, obviously Lewis lost a bit of time getting through the Red Bulls, but there was quite a bit of margin so the first stint wasn't actually that bad. I could really control and really make sure that we made it to the target stop lap, and try and do the right things with the tyres and do the right thing with the car.

"The second stint, there was never like massive pressure, because I was in front and I could really make sure I could make it to the end. There were all these variables in the race.

“We had these issues with some sensors that were getting damaged by the vibration of the pretty harsh kerbs here, so I had to avoid the kerbing, which obviously costs quite a bit of lap time,” Bottas added.

"When you're in the lead, one safety car after another, but the last one I was like 'come on, again?', because in the lead you just want things to be constant and trouble-free.

"There were many variables. I managed to dodge many bullets today and get the win."



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