Bottas’ stunning start from pole seals victory at Red Bull Ring, hard charging Vettel P2; Ricciardo fends off Hamilton to keep podium streak alive
Mercedes number two driver Valtteri Bottas got a magical start from pole when the lights went out on Sunday at the Red Bull Ring pulling out a race dominating lead that he would never relinquish even in the face of fierce pressure from the hard-charging Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. Despite doubts over wherher the Finn had jumped the start all replays seemed to show that that the first-year factory Mercedes driver simply timed his getaway perfectly. The race stewards also agreed that whatever movement Bottas exhibited pre-start was within allowable limits. Vettel’s emphatic disagreement to the contrary Bottas went on unsanctioned and pulled out an unsurmountable lead running out front to his second career F1 victory and second of the season, holding off the German Ferrari ace’s best efforts in the dying laps of the race. With all the contenders suffering from severe tire deg on long runs during a strict one-stop strategy Bottas did very well to fend off the determined four-time World Champion hunting him down.
Once again Red Bull had a tale of two drivers. Their veteran Aussie Daniel Ricciardo scooted up the order from P5 after first lap chaos and showed his competitive fire by holding off all comers for his 5th consecutive podium with a very strong P3. Those he kept behind included Mercedes championship contender Lewis Hamilton, who was relegated to starting 8th on the grid after a 5-spot grid penalty for a gearbox change. Hamilton battled all race long, pushing his tires to their absolute limit to pull himself up to a respectable P4. But it was mainly about damage control this weekend for the Mercedes ace, who saw not only Vettel gain ground on him in the title chase but also his stoic teammate Bottas move closer, as well. Hamilton now trails Vettel by 20 points and Bottas closed to within 15 points. It should be interesting to see how a more competitive situation effects the two Mercedes drivers’ now cordial relationship. Still, Bottas did keep Vettel from the win and Hamilton made the best of a bad situation so all was not a total disaster for the English triple champion.
The same could not be said for Ricciardo’s Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen. After his blazing ascent to the big team last season everything has gone pear shaped for the Dutch wunderkind in 2017. Sunday continued that woeful trend. Verstappen suffered clutch problems on the formation lap and then bogged down at the start when his car kicked into anti-stall mode. That sent him hurtling down through the field where he was tagged in a shunt caused by Toro Roso’s Daniil Kvyat running into the back of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren. Just like that, Verstappen’s car suffered terminal damage before he even got to Turn 1 leaving a host of his orange-clad fans hugely disappointed. That also made it five DNFs out of eight races, a disastrous campaign for young Verstappen. Despite claims to the contrary one wonders if his days with Red Bull are numbered. And yet Ricciardo’s superlative run seems to point some of the blame for this season of failure back at Verstappen. Perhaps he is simply too hard on his equipment. Would changing teams really change that?
Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen had a somewhat desultory effort is Spielberg. Despite qualifying fourth he ceded that position on the opening lap to Ricciardo and then after running a long first stint on Ultrasoft tires he was undercut by Hamilton on his Lap 44 pit stop for P4. The Finn was never really a factor for the podium again, struggling with undisclosed technical issues that cost him torque coming out of low speed corners. Raikkonen finished a distant P5 in the end, hardly changing the mind of Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne who called Raikkonen a “bit of a laggard” before the race. Kimi’s status with Ferrari is the big domino waiting to fall — if he stays with the Scuderia most drivers will have to stay where they are. But if he is not rehired for 2018 we could see a lot of movement in the silly season.
Romain Grosjean had a great day for American team Haas F1 driving smoothly and confidently to keep the Force India of Sergio Perez behind him and finish P6. Perez and his teammate Esteban Ocon finished P7 and P8 respectively, another terrific points haul for little Force India, who must have been relieved that the two teammates were back on their best behavior and brought both cars home safely. And Williams had a very good recovery from a disastrous qualifying effort that saw Felipe Massa start from eighteenth on the grid and Lance Stroll nineteenth. The Williams duo showed much better race pace and were able to fight their way into the points thanks in part to attrition but also generally solid piloting by the drivers. In the end the veteran Massa took P9 and the rookie Stroll came home P10, about as good a result as the team could have hoped for this weekend.
Things were not so sunny for McLaren and Toro Rosso. After Kvyat failed to break in time on Lap 1 and clouted Fernando Alosno from behind both cars were terminally damaged in addition to Verstappen’s Red Bull. Alonso’s McLaren stablemate Stoffel Vandoorne could do no better than P12, while Kvyat’s Toro Rosso teammate Carlos Sainz also had to retire his car on Lap 45. The race’s only other retirement came from Haas’ Kevin Magnussen whose unlucky weekend culminated when his hydraulics failed on Lap 29.
Top 10 finishers at the Austrian GP:
|3||3||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||71||+6.012s||15|
|7||11||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||70||+1 lap||6|
|8||31||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||70||+1 lap||4|
|9||19||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||70||+1 lap||2|
|10||18||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||70||+1 lap||1|
The next contest is but a weeks away — the British GP from venerable Silverstone. Can Hamilton get his championship quest untracked or will Vettel retain the upper hand? And what about Bottas — is he a serious contender in his own right? Hope to see you then to find out!