Valtteri just holds off Sebastian in beautiful Austria
With the dust settling after the controversial incident between Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton in the previous Grand Prix in Azerbaijan, the Formula 1 circus headed to the beautiful little Spielberg circuit in Austria this last weekend for the next round in the world championship. The race was a bit of a strategic slowburner to start with, but culminated in a thrilling finale and a second ever victory for Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, just ahead of the pursuing Vettel.
Hamilton had set the pace in the opening two practices sessions before Vettel was quickest in third and final practice, both lowering the outright circuit lap record. Come qualifying Lewis could only manage the third fastest time behind Valtteri and Sebastian and his woes were compounded by having to take a five place grid penalty, dropping him to eighth, due to his team having to change his gearbox prematurely for this weekend, knowing prior to heading to Austria that this would be necessary.
When the read lights went out at 2pm local time on Grand Prix day poleman Bottas made a superb getaway, prompting Vettel and Ricciardo to question whether he had perhaps jumped the start, but it turned out to be legal and arguably the best start of his entire career.
12,000 Dutch fans had journeyed down to support their young hero Max Verstappen, driving for Red Bull, but you had to feel for the sea of orange t-shirts when their man was forced to retire from the race at the very first corner on the opening lap. Max had a clutch problem on the grid, slowing his start, and then Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat braked too late for turn one, hitting McLaren’s Fernando Alonso who in turn hit Verstappen. The result was an early exit from the Grand Prix for both Max and Fernando.
As the race order settled, Bottas led from Vettel, Ricciardo and Räikkonen, with Hamilton seventh. Lewis was on a bit of a charge though and soon moved up to fifth position. He was the first of the leading runners to make a pit stop, gambling on a switch from super soft to ultra soft tyres, and the other front guys soon made their own stops to move from ultra soft to super soft tyres. This left Kimi in the lead, yet to make his stop, but once Valtteri had caught and passed him the Ferrari driver made his own stop.
Lewis radioed in to say “I’m struggling out here” due to tyre wear, but stuck with the same tyres to the end. Vettel was four seconds behind the leading Bottas, but started to eat away at that gap and with three laps to go was right with the frontman, whilst Hamilton was closing the distance between himself and third placed Ricciardo.
As the race reached a thrilling climax Bottas just held off Vettel for the victory and Ricciardo did enough to keep Hamilton off the podium, making it five consecutive top three finishes for the likeable Australian. Räikkönen and Haas’ Romain Grosjean completed the top six, followed by the Force India pairing of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon plus the Williams duo, Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll.
Second place for Vettel extended his Drivers’ championship lead over Hamilton by six points to 20 and Bottas moved to just 15 points behind his Mercedes team-mate. Mercedes left Spielberg with a 33 point Constructors’ championship advantage over Ferrari.
Everyone is now busy relocating from the mountains of Austria to the fast open sweeps of our very own Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire for the British Grand Prix this coming weekend. It should be a cracker. See you there.
2017 F1 Austrian Grand Prix Results
1 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 1hr21m48.527s
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +0.658s
3 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +6.012s
4 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +7.430s
5 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) +20.370s
6 Romain Grosjean (Haas) +1m6.281s
7 Sergio Perez (Force India) Lapped
8 Esteban Ocon (Force India) Lapped
9 Felipe Massa (Williams) Lapped
10 Lance Stroll (Williams) Lapped
11 Jolyon Palmer (Renault) Lapped
12 Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) Lapped
13 Nico Hülkenberg (Renault) Lapped
14 Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber) Lapped
15 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) Lapped
16 Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) Lapped
17 Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) Retired
18 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) Retired
19 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) Retired
20 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) Retired
2017 F1 Drivers’ Championship (after 9 rounds of 20)
1 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 171 points
2 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 151 points
3 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes 136 points
2017 F1 Constructors’ Championship (after 9 rounds of 20)
1 Mercedes 287 points
2 Ferrari 254 points
3 Red Bull 152 points