Formula 1

Bottas Battles to Austrian Victory

The Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas claimed his second F1 victory at the Austrian Grand Prix after holding off a late surge by the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.

After Bottas beat Vettel to pole position by less than a tenth of a second on Saturday, less than a second separated their two cars when they crossed the finish at the end of a slow-burning afternoon in the Styrian mountains.

Despite a relatively easy race for Bottas until the final few laps it didn’t look like the Finn was going to have it all his own way following an investigation into an alleged jump start. The stewards conducted a lengthy investigation, prompted by complaints from both Vettel and Ricciardo that they felt Bottas jumped the start, though ultimately Bottas was cleared of any wrongdoing. When he was later told that Bottas’ reaction time off the line was measured at 0.201 of a second, a thousandth above the threshold for a penalty, a sceptical Vettel retorted: “I don’t believe that.”

Having survived the investigation, Bottas built up a critical lead in the opening stint on his ultrasoft tyres to Vettel and Ricciardo. Though the advantage shifted at the only pit stop when the Mercedes switched onto the supersoft tyre, Ferrari looked to have the advantage on that tyre compared to the Mercedes, and as a result Vettel closed in on the back of Bottas. The situation was not helped by the fact that Bottas blistered his tyres. Critically for him, Bottas gained almost half a second in traffic three laps from the end and made no mistake during a tension-filled final lap as Vettel shadowed him to the chequered flag.

The second win of his F1 career has led to many people suggesting that he could be in with an outside chance of the championship this year, and this might not be the two-horse race we’ve been predicting so far. With the gap between the two Mercedes team mates reduced to 15 points, Bottas is now closer to Hamilton in the championship standings than Hamilton is to Vettel. Meaning he very well could be in the hunt for the championship with half the season left to go.

Thanks to his second place, Vettel has been able to extend his lead over the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton in the championship to twenty points, after Hamilton failed to pass Ricciardo for third place. Hamilton, who seemed to get more annoyed as the race went on due to an imbalance of the rear in his W08 Mercedes, went side-by-side with Ricciardo through turn three on the penultimate lap but was unable to make the move stick. As a result Ricciardo took his fifth consecutive podium finish.

“I gave it everything I could,” said Hamilton. “I take heart and just move on. It’s been a difficult weekend. I have a couple of down days now and look forward to seeing the home crowd. Hopefully we won’t approach Silverstone with any issues and can start with a clean slate.”

Ricciardo’s team mate Max Verstappen was not so lucky in the race and suffered a first lap collision leading to his fifth retirement in seven races. The young Dutchman only made it to the first corner before the collision with Fernando Alonso’s McLaren that was triggered by the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat. And to add insult to injury, it was right in front of the grandstand filled with Dutch supporters who had made the trip to see him race in Austria. Ultimately Kvyat was found guilty by the stewards of causing the first lap incident and was handed a drive through penalty. But seeing as that incident took out a Red Bull at their home Grand Prix, many suspect this could be yet another nail in the coffin for Kvyat’s F1 career as a Red Bull young driver.

Elsewhere Romain Grosjean took sixth for Haas, their best result of the season so far. The Haas car looked to be fast around the Red Bull Ring, and ultimately Grosjean capitalised on that to gain some much-needed points for the team. They were not the only team to have a positive weekend, as following their rather dramatic Grand Prix in Azerbaijan, the Force India’s of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon finished seventh and eighth respectively.

The final two points positions were claimed by the Williams duo of Felipe Mass and Lance Stroll, who fought their way through the field following a disastrous qualifying session where the pair of them were knocked out in Q1. Stroll did have to rebuff the Renault of Jolyon Palmer for the final points position, who finally was able to out race his team mate Nico Hulkenberg this season.

Overall the race could be described as lacklustre. Not a huge amount went on during the race and it really only started to get entertaining towards the end with the various different battles for podium positions. If there had been another two or three laps I think the podium would have looked very different, but alas there wasn’t. The main issue with the Red Bull Ring is it’s had a lot of the bite taken out of it from when it was the A1 ring. As well as this the lap is so short with so few overtaking opportunities it’s a bit like a street circuit in that respect, a game of follow the leader round the track. Simply put, compared to Baku this was a dull race where it felt like nothing happened for 70 laps and then everything happened on the final lap. Our Formula E reported Amie Hawk however, decided to look on the bright side of things.

“It was nice to have a more relaxed race after Baku. No serious crashes or incidents apart from the opening lap. Wonderful to see Bottas take his second win with the Mercedes team and Perez moved up to 6th in the standings for Force India. They continue to show just how strong the smaller teams are.”

I’m inclined to agree with her in a way. Although this wasn’t Baku level entertainment, sometimes races like this allow us to appreciate the great races when they do come along. And it was a good result for Force India who once again are showing you don’t have to have the mega budgets of the big teams to be consistent point scorers. However, like many fans of the sport, I’m looking forward to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

I’ll leave you now with my highlight of the weekend, and of course with Daniel Ricciardo on the podium a shoey is never far away, or is it? Valtteri Bottas was having none of Ricciardo’s shoey antics and could be seen smacking the boot full of champagne away, to be fair I don’t blame him. A load of champagne infused with the sweaty foot juices of Daniel Ricciardo is hardly my idea of a nice cocktail.

Austrian GP race result

1) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes,
2) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari,
3) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull,
4) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes,
5) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari,
6) Romain Grosjean, Haas,
7) Sergio Perez, Force India, + 1 LAP
8) Esteban Ocon, Force India, + 1 LAP
9) Felipe Massa, Williams, + 1 LAP
10) Lance Stroll, Williams, + 1 LAP
11) Jolyon Palmer, Renault, + 1 LAP
12) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, + 1 LAP
13) Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, + 1 LAP
14) Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber, + 1 LAP
15) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, + 2 LAPS
16) Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, + 3 LAPS
17) Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, DNF
18) Kevin Magnussen, Haas, DNF
19) Fernando Alonso, McLaren, DNF
20) Max Verstappen, Red Bull, DNF

Feature Image Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas Ress Release

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