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Valtteri Bottas

Austrian Grand Prix: Bottas holds off Vettel

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas cruised to victory in the Austrian Grand Prix, after making a bullet start he took command of the race and stayed in control all afternoon, withstanding a late race challenge on fast fading tyres from Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari who had to settle for second.

Bottas’ start was stupendous, his reaction time 0.2 of a second, and thereafter kept the lead for the 71 laps. Vettel chased all afternoon, coming on strong in the final dozen laps where he reeled in the Mercedes relentlessly but fell agonisingly short.

Bottas’ tyres were at the very end of their life, indeed he showed Vettel their state of blistering in parc ferme, nevertheless it was his second career victory, and his first win scored from pole position which has put him back into title contention – a mere 15 points adrift of his teammate and 35 down on championship leader Vettel.

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The Finn, who was also voted Driver of the Day by fans, summed up his race, “I had a bit of a deja vu with what happened in Russia. I had a massive blister on the rear tyre since lap five of the second stint. The backmarkers made it quite tricky but I’m really happy. Massive thank you to the team.”

“I got the start of my life. I was really on it. It’s still a long year ahead, we’re not even halfway. It’s early days and we’re still developing as a team,” he added.

Vettel’s second place means he extends his lead at the top of the championship standings to 20 points over Hamilton, but he was left to rue the fact that he was so close, but yet so far from win number four of the season.

The Ferrari driver said on the podium, “It was very close. I was told that he was in trouble and I was pushing anyway. I felt much happier in the second stint, in the first half of the race I was struggling a bit to feel the car. 

“But as soon as we put on the supersoft tyre the car came alive and I had really good pace. I was catching little by little and he obviously struggled. I think I needed one more lap because he was really struggling to get up the hill. I obviously wanted to win, but nevertheless a good result.”

As for Bottas’ quick start, Vettel added with a grin, “I was pretty sure he jumped it.”

Behind the leaders Daniel Ricciardo and Lewis Hamilton, who started eighth slugged it out for the final spot on the podium, the Mercedes driver threw everything at it but the Red Bull driver denied him to claim third place at his team’s home race.

Ricciardo said after his fifth consecutive podium finish, “It was a fun race. Some decisive moments at the start and then defending Lewis the last couple of laps. It got pretty close but I stuck to my braking points. Five in a row is nice and it’s pretty awesome to do it at our home race.”

“The second last lap was the tightest. Lewis got close but nice to hold him off. it was nice to see the chequered flag. I believe it was all legal,” concluded the Australian.

After starting from eighth, due to a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change, Hamilton’s race was a bout damage limitation.

Although the podium was desperately close, in truth his tyres were also wasted and a last attack on the final lap came to naught, but fourth place was about as good as he would have realistically hoped for, and was undoubtedly helped by the early demise of Max Verstappen.

Hamilton told reporters after the race, “I gave it everything I could. I take heart and just move on. I feel good. 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.”

In retrospect it was a largely dull afternoon, in the Speilberg hills, which developed into a nail biting finale, but in the end there were no late race dramas or surprises as a result of the frantic excitement during the final minutes of the race.

Prior to that the only other real drama was the first turn collision which resulted in instant DNFs for Verstappen and McLaren driver Fernando Alonso.

Verstappen had a clutch issue and was slow off the line, he was engulfed by Alonso and Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso as they zoomed into Turn 1. Kvyat overdid it and smacked the rear of Alonso’s McLaren who clipped the Red Bull of Verstappen.

Although Kvyat survived, and was handed a drive through penalty for causing an accident. But he contact did enough damage to sideline Alonso and Verstappen.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth with Frenchman Romain Grosjean sixth for Haas and Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon following behind.

The Williams pairing of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll completed the points places after starting 17th and 18th.

Blow-By-Blow

Bottas got away best at the start, but so good was his getaway that there was the suspicion the Finn had jumped the start. Further back Verstappen made the poorest start, bogging down badly when the lights went out. He was swamped by rivals and dropped back to where 14th-place starter Alonso was profiting from taking an inside line.

The Spaniard was followed by Kvyat but as they went into Turn 1, Kvyat braked too late and collided with Alonso who in turn hit Verstappen. The McLaren and Red Bull sustained significant damage and though both made it back to the pits they were forced to quit the race. Kvyat was later handed a drive through penalty for causing the collision.

Ahead Ricciardo, who had made a good start, was on the attack. He pressured Raikkonen into Turn 3 and stole third place from the Finn. Pushed wide, Raikkonen was also passed by Grosjean in the Haas, though he passed the Frenchman on the next lap.

Bottas meanwhile was carving out a solid lead. By lap 17 the Finn had built a five-second to Vettel, with Ricciardo a further 3.5s back. Raikkonen was fourth but he was being hunted down by Hamilton, who had risen to fifth place from eighth on the grid.

Grosjean was now sixth ahead of the Force India duo of Perez and Ocon, while Williams had profited hugely after the start, with Massa now ninth from P17 on the grid and Williams team-mate Stroll in 10th from a P18 start.

After closing to within a second of Raikkonen, Hamilton’s pursuit of the Finn stalled and by lap 31 he was looking for options as he failed to find a way past on track. The response was for him to pit on lap 32 for supersoft tyres.

That caused a ripple effect and two laps later third-placed Ricciardo stopped for supersofts, with Vettel pitting immediately after.

Bottas and Raikkonen stayed out however and by lap 38 the Mercedes driver was 19.5 seconds ahead of the Ferrari driver, with Vettel now third and 7.1 seconds further back having made a stop. Ricciardo was now fourth, 4.5 seconds ahead of Hamilton.

Bottas eventually pitted from the lead on lap 41, taking on supersofts for his final stint. Raikkonen, though, soldiered on with his starting ultrasofts. Bottas though was closing on his newer tyres and retook the lead on lap 44. That was the cue for Raikkonen to finally pit for supersofts at the end of that tour. He rejoined in fifth place behind Hamilton.

Hamilton’s task was then to chase down third-placed Ricciardo. The Australian was alive to the threat and as the Briton upped the pace, the Red Bull driver responded. That he was able to almost match the pace of the Mercedes was to the credit of the Australian and his team.

Inevitably though Hamilton began to eat into the gap and 10 laps from the flag the Briton was just 2.3s adrift of the Red Bull.

With three laps to go Bottas was a slim 1.2 seconds ahead Vettel, while Ricciardo was just 1.1s ahead of Hamilton. It looked like a grandstand finish was in the offing, but in the end both the Finn and the Australian held their nerve well and despite both gaps shrinking to less than a second, Bottas took the win ahead of Vettel and Ricciardo held third ahead of Hamilton.

Raikkonen finished fifth ahead of Grosjean, while Perez was seventh ahead of team-mate Ocon. Williams enjoyed a positive day as Massa finished ninth and Stroll came home in in tenth.

Austrian Grand Prix, Red Bull Ring – Race Results

POSNODRIVERCARLAPSTIME/RETIREDPTS
177Valtteri BottasMERCEDES711:21:48.52325
25Sebastian VettelFERRARI71+0.658s18
33Daniel RicciardoRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER71+6.012s15
444Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES71+7.430s12
57Kimi RäikkönenFERRARI71+20.370s10
68Romain GrosjeanHAAS FERRARI71+73.160s8
711Sergio PerezFORCE INDIA MERCEDES70+1 lap6
831Esteban OconFORCE INDIA MERCEDES70+1 lap4
919Felipe MassaWILLIAMS MERCEDES70+1 lap2
1018Lance StrollWILLIAMS MERCEDES70+1 lap1
1130Jolyon PalmerRENAULT70+1 lap0
122Stoffel VandoorneMCLAREN HONDA70+1 lap0
1327Nico HulkenbergRENAULT70+1 lap0
1494Pascal WehrleinSAUBER FERRARI70+1 lap0
159Marcus EricssonSAUBER FERRARI69+2 laps0
1626Daniil KvyatTORO ROSSO68+3 laps0
NC55Carlos SainzTORO ROSSO44DNF0
NC20Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI29DNF0
NC14Fernando AlonsoMCLAREN HONDA1DNF0
NC33Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER0DNF0

Drivers’ Standings

POSDRIVERNATIONALITYCARPTS
1Sebastian VettelGERFERRARI171
2Lewis HamiltonGBRMERCEDES151
3Valtteri BottasFINMERCEDES136
4Daniel RicciardoAUSRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER107
5Kimi RäikkönenFINFERRARI83
6Sergio PerezMEXFORCE INDIA MERCEDES50
7Max VerstappenNEDRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER45
8Esteban OconFRAFORCE INDIA MERCEDES39
9Carlos SainzESPTORO ROSSO29
10Felipe MassaBRAWILLIAMS MERCEDES22
11Lance StrollCANWILLIAMS MERCEDES18
12Nico HulkenbergGERRENAULT18
13Romain GrosjeanFRAHAAS FERRARI18
14Kevin MagnussenDENHAAS FERRARI11
15Pascal WehrleinGERSAUBER FERRARI5
16Daniil KvyatRUSTORO ROSSO4
17Fernando AlonsoESPMCLAREN HONDA2
18Jolyon PalmerGBRRENAULT0
19Marcus EricssonSWESAUBER FERRARI0
20Stoffel VandoorneBELMCLAREN HONDA0
21Antonio GiovinazziITASAUBER FERRARI0

Constructors’ Standings

POSTEAMPTS
1MERCEDES287
2FERRARI254
3RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER152
4FORCE INDIA MERCEDES89
5WILLIAMS MERCEDES40
6TORO ROSSO33
7HAAS FERRARI29
8RENAULT18
9SAUBER FERRARI5
10MCLAREN HONDA2