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F1GPAustria_2017-Bottas

2017 F1 Grand Prix of Austria — Results & aftermath

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.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

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.

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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:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 71 1:21:48.523 25
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 71 +0.658s 18
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 71 +6.012s 15
4 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 71 +7.430s 12
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 71 +20.370s 10
6 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 71 +73.160s 8
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 70 +1 lap 6
8 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 70 +1 lap 4
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 70 +1 lap 2
10 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 70 +1 lap 1

Complete race results amiable via Formula1.com.

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!

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2017 F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan — Results & aftermath

Red Bull’s Ricciardo capitalizes on chaos for Baku victory as Hamilton and Vettel clash; Mercedes’ Bottas fights back for gritty P2, Williams’ rookie Stroll scores maiden podium

Sunday’s Azrbaijan Grand Prix on the tight and windy Baku City Circuit was everything last year’s first-ever running was not: exciting, chaotic and unpredictable. In a race disrupted by several long and eventful Safety Car periods and one Red Flag timeout for debris on track, as well as a host of retirements and disabled vehicles, the preferred script of pole-sitter and Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton vs the pursuing Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel did not play out according to plan. Not even close. Instead, what had been a largely respectful rivalry turned sour when, during the second Safety Car period, Vettel ran into the back of Hamilton as the Englishman slowed his Silver Arrow coming out of Turn 16. The surprised German then pulled beside him to make his displeasure known. In a stunning turn of events the Ferrari bashed into the side of the Mercedes. Whether the 4-time World Champion made the move deliberately or merely lost control while yelling at Hamilton we may never know. But in the end intent was not important, as Vettel’s reckless move both lost him respect from Hamilton and also earned the German a 10-second stop & hold penalty.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

The penalty was late in coming, however, and was only issued after a lengthy Red Flag period necessitated by a crash between Force India teammates Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez and the unacceptable accumulation of debris on the track. And there were many who felt that Vettel got off lightly, Hamilton chief amongst them. Nevertheless, he must have been thinking that victory was all but certain when the race restarted and his Merc ran free and clear in first position. But Hamilton soon faced a crushing disappointment of his own when it became apparent that his headrest was not properly re-installed during the Red Flag period and kept popping up, a somewhat inexcusable lapse by the team. Despite his best efforts to secure it while driving 200mph down the straights Hamilton was forced to pit for repairs for that unforced error on Lap 31, an ill-timed extra stop. Hamilton emerged P8 and when Vettel finally took his penalty on Lap 33 his Ferrari still managed to come out ahead of the circulating Mercedes. So despite being the aggrieved party, Hamilton got no revenge on Vettel in this race and was never able to pass him. Vettel finished P4 despite his transgression with Hamilton P5 and the Englishman now trails his newly bitter rival by 14 points. More than that, the seemingly friendly competition is over between the two — it will now be war between Vettel and Hamilton in the fight for the title.

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There were many beneficiaries of the contretemps between the two championship aspirants but the biggest and happiest was Daniel Ricciardo. Despite pitting early to clean the break ducts on his Red Bull, Ricciardo was able to work himself back up to a competitive position via the Safety Car periods and attrition in the field, including his unlucky teammate Max Verstappen, who dropped out with engine failure on Lap 13. When the third and final Safety Car period ended on Lap 24 the affable Aussie was all the way back up to P5 and was ready to pounce. And pounce he did, picking off two Williams with one late-breaking power move. That left only Hamilton and Vettel ahead and when they each suffered their respective race-altering issues, Ricciardo inherited the race lead. He never looked back and no one else ever got a sniff as he piloted his Red Bull to his fifth GP win and first since Malaysia in Round 16 of last season. It was also the fourth podium in a row for the surging Ricciardo, much to the chagrin of his podium mates who are more often than not are forced to drink champagne out of his hot, race-worn shoe in a bizarre but endearing ritual.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, also benefitted from the chaos, clawing his way back from a first lap coming together with fellow Finn and Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen that cut down his left front tire and forced him to limp around to the pits and rejoin a lap down after a tire service and a front wing change (Raikonnen would eventually be forced to retire on Lap 47 due to the accrued damage after his team tried valiantly to keep his car in the race). Again, though, the host of Safety Cars worked to Bottas’ advantage, as did the misfortune of his teammate and rivals, and Bottas was not only able to unlap himself but drove steadily up through the field with good pace. As the laps ran down, he had worked his way all the way back up to P3 and was hunting the last surviving Williams of Lance Stroll. Bottas never stopped pushing and slipstreamed Stroll, surging past him right at the line for a hard fought P2. It was an excellent drive for the Finn and a definite bright spot on a rather mixed day for Mercedes.

While Stroll would have loved to have taken P2 he was nonetheless thrilled with his first career F1 podium, which was also Team Williams’ first of the season. The 18-year-old Canadian rookie became the second youngest driver to podium behind Max Verstappen. After scoring his first points in his home Grand Prix two weeks ago Stroll seemed to find his footing and put the rough start to his year behind him. Certainly the field was scrambled in Azerbaijan but Stroll was genuinely fast all weekend on this demanding circuit, out-qualifiying his veteran teammate Felipe Massa P8 to P9. And when the opportunities presented themselves in the race he didn’t miss them, driving flawlessly and avoiding contact with walls and other cars. He kept it throughly tight and clean and in the end the young Canadian was rewarded with a P3, a very significant achievement at the beginning of his F1 career.

The lone surviving Force India of Esteban Ocon took P6 despite damage incurred while dicing with his teammate Sergio Perez coming out of the second Safety Car period (their accident caused that eventful Red Flag). It was the second race in row where the two drivers were at loggerheads after Perez balked Ocon’s progress in Montreal, denying the young Frenchman a potential podium. That ill will is sure to continue, as the collision eventually led to Perez’s retirement and pushed Ocon down the order. Force India were left to wonder what might have been when they could have been the biggest beneficiaries of all the chaos and looked at one point like putting both cars on the podium. The team has got to get control of their two talented and strong-willed drivers lest they continue to let massively valuable points slip through their fingers due to lack of team discipline.

Rounding out the Top 10, Kevin Magnussen drove an excellent race and came home P7 in his Haas, Carlos Sainz recovered from an early spin to bring his Toro Roso home safely in P8 and Fernando Alonso scored McLaren’s first points of the season with a decent P9 despite his Honda engine still being down on pure power. And both McLarens finally ran a full race distance! Pascal Wehrlein took P10 for struggling Sauber, only the team’s second points-scoring finish in 8 rounds this year.

Top 10 finishers of the Azerbaijan GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 51 2:03:55.573 25
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 51 +3.904s 18
3 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 51 +4.009s 15
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 51 +5.976s 12
5 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 51 +6.188s 10
6 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 51 +30.298s 8
7 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 51 +41.753s 6
8 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO 51 +49.400s 4
9 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 51 +59.551s 2
10 94 Pascal Wehrlein SAUBER FERRARI 51 +89.093s 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next race is in two weeks time from the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria. With tempers getting as hot as the summer weather and respect between Vettel and Hamilton, not mention Bottas and Raikonnen, evaporating like the early morning dew it should be a hammer and tongs showdown between Ferrari and Mercedes. Hope to see you then!

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2017 F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan — Qualifying results

Hamilton bests Bottas for pole at Baku in inter-team Mercedes battle; Raikkonen & Vettel 3-4 for Ferrari

Mercedes Lewis Hamilton pipped his teammate Valtteri Bottas for pole in dramatic fashion at the Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan this Saturday. Coming out of a Red Flag period caused by Daniel Ricciardo’s shunt, the drivers were left with only 3:33 to set a faster time than Bottas’ seemingly untouchable provisional pole run around the tight and treacherous turns of Baku. But despite this year’s tire compounds’ problematic and prolonged warm-up period, the cars lighter weight from fuel burn off at the end of the session saw no decrease in performance in that last minute scramble. And in fact Hamilton was able to set a blazer of a lap for his 66th career pole — breaking a tie for second all-time with his idol Ayrton Senna — even as his impressive first year teammate Bottas improved his speed on his way to a solid P2 start and a Mercedes front row lockout. Both Ferrarari’s were also able to jump up the pylon, albeit more than half a second behind the Silver Arrows, with Kimi Raikkonen besting his usually quicker teammate Sebastian Vettel, P3 to P4. In fairness, Vettel was forced to switch to an older power unit prior to quali so he might be a bit down on horsepower to the Finn. Watch for the Vettel and the Scuderia to have some tricks up their sleeves come race day.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was overtaken by both Prancing Horses at the end of the day but after a host of technical issues in the practice sessions he should probably feel well pleased with starting P5. Whether his increasingly fragile Renault power plant and RB13 chassis can make it to the end of Sunday’s race, however, remains to be seen. After his terminal slide into the wall late in Q3 the other Red Bull of Riccardo saw his fastest time, once good enough for P7, eclipsed by all the other runners in the final session and the Aussie will start back in P10. Force India look set to continue their increasingly tense drivers’ dual after their memorable spat in Montreal a fortnight ago, with Sergio Perez desperate to keep the rapidly improving your Estaban Ocon behind him in the team pecking order. Perez was faster than Ocon by a mere .07 and they will line up P6 and P7 respectively. And Williams Lance Stroll seemed to take his first-ever points scoring F1 race at his home Grand Prix in Canada and covert it into much needed confidence at this tricky track, looking quick all weekend and out-qualifying his veteran teammate Felipe Massa for the first time this year, P8 to P9.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Azerbaijan GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:41.983 1:41.275 1:40.593 20
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:43.026 1:41.502 1:41.027 23
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:42.678 1:42.090 1:41.693 23
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:42.952 1:41.911 1:41.841 23
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:42.544 1:41.961 1:41.879 22
6 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:43.162 1:42.467 1:42.111 21
7 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:43.051 1:42.751 1:42.186 21
8 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:43.613 1:42.284 1:42.753 21
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:43.165 1:42.735 1:42.798 22
10 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:42.857 1:42.215 1:43.414 20

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live on NBC Sports starting at 9AM Eastern here in the States. Still a green circuit in only its second running, Baku has all the technical aspects that make for a really good F1 circuit. And with the walls just waiting to catch out the unsuspecting virtually anything could happen to any of the drivers in the race. Hope to see you then to see how it all shakes out!

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2017 F1 Grand Prix of Canada — Results & aftermath

Mercedes’ Hamilton returns to form with dominant win in Montreal, teammate Bottas P2; Ricciardo takes P3 for Red Bull, Vettel a valiant P4 for Ferrari

The Canadian Grand Prix nearly always seems to be the tonic Lewis Hamilton needs to get back to his winning ways. And two weeks after his disappointing 7th place finish in Monaco the Mercedes ace dominated this race yet again, running away from the field after a terrific start from the pole. Leaving all pursuers in his wake at the place where he won his very first F1 race in 2007, Hamilton romped to his remarkable sixth career victory at the beautiful parkland course on the Ille Notre Dame in Montreal. There are some tracks that simply suit certain drivers and Hamilton has repeatedly proven that Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve is his personal playground. With his teammate Valtteri Bottas finishing a distant second place some 20 seconds behind it was an all round excellent day for the Mercedes factory team but an even better one for Hamilton and his championship aspirations.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Not only was Hamilton dominant but the expected dual with his nemesis, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, never materialized. While the German points leader started from P2 on the grid and looked for all the world like he had the pace to battle Hamilton for the win he got away slowly and was tagged at the very first turn by the overtaking Red Bull of Max Verstappen. That clout damaged his Ferrari’s front wing. But when a safety car was deployed on that opening lap due to the spinning Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz collecting the Williams of an unlucky Felipe Massa neither Vettel or the team noticed the damage. By the time they did and called Vettel into the pits for a wing change the safety car period was over and cars were back circulating at race pace. That cost Vettel a ton of track position and when he rejoined he was back at the tail of the field in P18. Nevertheless, with some patient but forceful driving and clever pit strategy to switch to two stops for tires instead of only one, Vettel worked his Prancing Horse back through the field and into contention for a potential podium. While that huge task eluded him he was able to overtake the dicing Force India’s of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon due to his relatively fresh Ultra Soft tires, locking up a valuable P4 at the checkered flag. So though Hamilton trimmed the points lead back down to just 12 with his win it was still a good day of damage control for Vettel. However, with the Mercedes one-two Ferrari lost their lead in the Constructors’ battle and now find themselves 8 points behind the Silver Arrows.

The Scuderia was not helped by Kimi Raikkonen’s subpar performance. After also getting away slowly at the start and losing positions from his P4 grid spot, Raikkonen’s attempt to battle back into contention was thwarted late in the race by incurable break issues that forced the Iceman to back off on his pace. Running in conservation mode Raikkonen could do no better than P7. Ferrari’s misfortune was Daniel Ricciardo’s opportunity, as the senior Red Bull driver took advantage of a good start to ward off all comers and secure P3, his second consecutive podium. But all was not well for Red Bull because Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen did not complete the race. Despite a lightning getaway and surviving the early contact with Vettel, the Dutch wunderkind’s troubled 2017 season continued when his car lost a battery on Lap 11 and he was forced to retire. Versttappen has now retired in three out of seven races to start the year and has only one podium so far, a P3 in China. With Red Bull’s woes and third-best status in the paddock it is distinctly possible that the talented youngster will be looking to jump to a team with greater reliability and performance next year so he can fulfill what everybody believes is his championship potential.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Canadian Grand Prix - Race Day - Montreal, Canada

What should have been a banner day for overachieving Force India was marred somewhat by internal team dissension. While Sergio Perez finished P5 and Esteban Ocon came home P6, an extremely valuable trove of points for the little squad, it seemed that for want of a little more cooperation between their drivers they could have done even better. With Ocon running faster times on fresher rubber due to pitting after Perez the young Frenchman had the pace and potential to take the fight to Ricciardo and perhaps onto the podium. Perez refused to yield his position pleading with his team to let him be the one to attack Ricciardo. But lap after lap Perez failed to get by Ricciardo while Ocon was stuck behind Perez as his tire advantage dissipated. And that enabled Vettel to pip both of them for P4 in the final laps. So while in other races Force India would be giddy with a 5-6 finish, in Canada it felt a bit like they had left points on the table.  It also remains to be seen how the two previously friendly teammates deal with Perez’s stubbornness. Ocon was certainly disappointed at not having the chance to fight for a podium during the narrow window when he had the pace in his tires to do so.

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Nico Hulkenberg had another solid run for the Renault factory team finishing in P8. And after his teammate Massa crashed out on the opening lap, young Canadian Lance Stroll flew the flag for Team Williams in his home Grand Prix scoring his first F1 points in his seventh career race with a well driven P9. After a poor start to his F1 career the 18-year-old sorely needed a good result and scoring points in front of his ecstatic countrymen should give Stroll the confidence boost all drivers require to succeed. Finally, Haas’ Romain Grosjean managed to survive the Sainz-induced opening lap shunt and, despite an early pit stop for repairs, managed to grab the last points paying position in P10.

Top 10 finishers at the Canadian GP:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 70 1:33:05.154 25
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 70 +19.783s 18
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 70 +35.297s 15
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 70 +35.907s 12
5 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 70 +40.476s 10
6 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 70 +40.716s 8
7 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 70 +58.632s 6
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 70 +60.374s 4
9 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 69 +1 lap 2
10 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 69 +1 lap 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next race is in two weeks time with the second running of the cool Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan. With the fight between Vettel and Hamilton and Mercedes and Ferrari tight as a tick every race takes on major significance, so best not to miss any of them. Hope to see you then!