Bottas Edges Vettel in Austria with Ricciardo Third

Ryan Ashenhurst
Ryan Ashenhurst
Ryan Ashenhurst
Contributor

Valtteri Bottas secured the second F1 victory of his career and edges closer to Vettel and Hamilton in the driver standings. Vettel finished second and Ricciardo was able to beat a Mercedes and Ferrari car to pick up another podium. Hamilton recovered to fourth, but drops away from Vettel in the title fight.

It was a dramatic start, with a bottleneck between Kvyat and Alonso tagging Verstappen at the start, the Dutchman spinning with a limping car, retiring on lap one to the misery of the huge Dutch presence. Alonso was also out on lap one too.

Bottas had a flying start, although Vettel was over the team radio accusing the Finn of jumping the start. It emerged that there was absolutely no controversy surrounding the start, and that it was only called out as a potential jump because it was so good. Further back, Hamilton was involved in a ferocious battle with the Force India drivers for 6th in the opening laps.

Romain Grosjean had an excellent start in his Haas and was up to 5th amidst the chaos at the start. Williams also benefitted from the staggered pack at turn one, with Massa and Stroll up to 9th and 10th.

By lap seven, Bottas was three-seconds ahead of Vettel and pulling the gap. A few laps later, the Finn’s Mercedes teammate had cleared the Force Indias and past Grosjean’s Haas for 5th. Hamilton was chasing down Raikkonen, who was under pressure to get a result after some criticism from Sergio Marchionne.

Kvyat was swiftly given a drive-through penalty for the messy collision with Alonso and Verstappen at the start, it was a very clear decision to make and dropped the Russian to the back of the grid.

By lap 15, the running order was settled, with Bottas leading Vettel by five-seconds followed by Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Hamilton, who was complaining over team radio about heavy understeer in the car. He would have quicker tyres later in the race with a set of new Ultrasoft tyres.

Grosjean was nine-seconds adrift of 5th, but was matching the pace of Perez and Ocon behind. By lap 18, a few drivers were already complaining about blistering on the front-rights, indicating that the Pirelli compounds weren’t running too well on the 49-degree surface.

Further back, Magnussen was closing in on Stroll for 10th, the Dane unlucky to be further up the field after a suspension failure in qualifying, so was making up for lost ground in the race. Hamilton was within a second of Raikkonen too on lap 22, but would be over 6-seconds adrift of Ricciardo in 3rd if he could get past.

On lap 26, Bottas had extended his lead to 8-seconds, but was also complaining of some blistering on one of his front-tyres, although he was still matching the pace of the chasing Ferrari of Vettel.

With Hamilton unable to overtake Raikkonen, and Magnussen unable to catch Stroll, it was becoming clear that overtaking around the Red Bull Ring under the new regulations. Then disaster struck for K-Mag again, a sudden lack of power-steering meaning his Haas had suffered a hydraulics failure. It concluded a difficult weekend for the Dane, but his teammate was still doing well, retaining 6th on lap 32.

On the same lap, Hamilton pitted for a set of Ultrasofts in an attempt to jump Raikkonen for 4th given that the Brit couldn’t manage an overtake on-track. It would give Hamilton the opportunity to catch Ricciardo in the closing stages.

Vettel boxed a few laps later and emerged 3rd, behind Raikkonen but crucially ahead of Ricciardo. Bottas wasn’t under threat from the undercut given he had built a 9-second gap before the stops.

After Bottas’ stop on lap 41, Raikkonen was promoted to the lead and Vettel was 4-seconds behind Bottas, who had emerged in 2nd. A clever Ferrari strategy was on the cards, with it looking likely that Raikkonen would hold his Finnish compatriot back for as long as possible to allow Vettel to catch up. But Bottas wasn’t waiting for it to happen, and pounced on lap 44 when Raikkonen had a scruffy exit out of turn-3. Raikkonen boxed at the end of that lap, emerging in 5th.

After the leaders had all completed their pit-stops, Bottas still had a 4.5-second lead. On lap 48, Sainz retired from the race from 11th, the Spaniard ending a controversial weekend prematurely in the pits.

By lap 50, Vettel was starting to creep on Bottas, reducing the gap to 3.9-seconds. The Ferrari was looking very balanced on the Supersofts and the German had found a nice rhythm. Further back, Ricciardo was pulling away from Hamilton, who was starting to come under some pressure from Raikkonen.

On lap 57, Massa was making some serious gains on Ocon’s Force India for 8th, but like other battles in this race, would struggle to overtake once he’d caught up.

Further ahead, Hamilton’s tyre issues were clearly not as bad as Ricciardo’s ahead, as the Aussie found himself with only a 1.3-second lead over the Brit by lap 63. Further ahead, the gap between Bottas and Vettel had reduced to 2-seconds too.

In the closing laps, it was the title protagonists who were the hunters, with Vettel catching Bottas and Hamilton on the rear-wing of Ricciardo. On lap 70, Hamilton was alongside Ricciardo at turn-4, but the Red Bull was able to keep his nose ahead.

Bottas endured late pressure from Vettel to pick up the second victory of his career. It was a smooth drive to victory and a perfect pole to win conversion, but Vettel’s second place finish extends his lead in the driver standings to 20-points over Hamilton, who had to settle for fourth after another great drive from Ricciardo denied him a place on the podium. A more interesting gap than the one at the top is the one behind Hamilton. Bottas has reduced the deficit to his teammate in the driver standings to 15-points and should his form continue, could easily emerge as the leading Mercedes driver after a few more races.

Raikkonen finished fifth and it was another race in which he looked off the pace of the top-four and steering wheel gremlins didn’t help his cause. Grosjean recorded an excellent sixth place finish for Haas, with Perez seventh, Ocon eighth, Massa ninth and Stroll rounding out the top ten for his third consecutive points finish in a row.