As predicted by The Paddock, Valterri Bottas won the 31st edition of the Austrian Grand Prix and extended the constructors’ championship lead for Mercedes. It was a supremely dominant performance by the Mercedes’ driver to claim only his second win of the year and of his formula 1 career. Interestingly, it was a little of similar race for the Finnish driver when compared to his maiden win in Russia, especially during the closing stages of the race when Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel put the former Williams’ driver under pressure with a hot chase.
Valtteri Bottas reckoned immediately after his race win: “I had a bit of deja-vu in the end from Russia, Vettel was catching up but the problem was I had a massive blister. At the beginning, I could control the race but it was trickier towards the end.”
The win has put the unassuming Valtteri 15 points within his favoured teammate, Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ championship.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel continued his push for the title as he finishing only 0.6secs behind race winner, Valtteri Bottas. The 30-year old German has exhibited extraordinary consistency having finished on the podium in seven of the nine races so far in 2017. However, the quadruple formula 1 world champion appeared unhappy after the race claiming he needed one more lap to snatch the win from Bottas.
Sebastian Vettel retorted: “I was very happy in the second stint of the race. As soon as we put on the super-soft tyre the car came alive. I think I needed one more lap because Bottas was really struggling to get up the hill.”
The Prancing Horse driver now has a 20-point lead heading into the British Grand Prix weekend, with 171 points to Hamilton’s 151, the closing Bottas is on 136 and 107 for Daniel Ricciardo who finished third in Austria.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo recorded his fifth consecutive podium in Austria – his best ever run, putting him level with compatriots Jack Brabham and Alan Jones. He’s also only the fifth current driver to claim at least five straight podiums, after Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
The Paddock takes a team-by-team look back through a largely soporific Formula One Grand Prix at Spielberg……
Mercedes [Valtteri Bottas, P1; Lewis Hamilton, P4]
If motor racing can serve any useful purpose in such difficult times like these, it is an entertaining distraction. This was the first race since Vettel deliberately drove into Hamilton in Azerbaijan. And for the first few laps it seemed the Austrian Grand Prix might just do it. It was contrasting fortunes for Mercedes drivers – while Valtteri Bottas was revelling in pole start after a dominant qualifying performance on Saturday, teammate Lewis Hamilton was seething in eighth after a poor qualifying performance and a five-place grid penalty.
It was a dramatic beginning to the race. As Bottas made a getaway so good the stewards investigated a potential jump start. According to the transponder data, the Finnish driver’s start fell within the very narrow tolerances of the system designed to measure whether or not a driver has jumped the start.
From the start, it was a masterly controlled race by Bottas. The 0.21s reaction time by enjoyed from the set up the Finn perfectly to build a solid lead right from the opening lap.
Hamilton’s fourth place finish rounded off a disappointing weekend for the three-time world champion, which was hamstrung from the moment Mercedes detected an issue on his race gearbox following the previous race in Baku. Rather than risk a failure in Austria, the team opted to put a new gearbox in his car on Saturday and in doing so incurred a five-place grid drop that left Hamilton eighth on Sunday’s grid.
The Briton fought back in the early stages of the race with a passing move of Sergio Perez before managing to leapfrog Kimi Raikkonen for fourth position in the end.
Ferrari [Sebastian Vettel, P2; Kimi Raikkonen, P5]
Largely, the Austrian Grand Prix was not lively until the closing laps, all thanks to Sebastian Vettel who closed in on Valtteri Bottas for the lead. From Lap 47, Vettel’s Ferrari came alive, and so did the race. The German was on fire as he was steadily hunting down the Mercedes driver as the latter’s tyres started fading. The final laps were nail-biting as Vettel closed remorselessly, until they crossed the start/finish line with one lap left just six-tenths of a second apart.
Teammate, Kimi Raikkonen continued to play second fiddle as he managed to finish fifth after dropping two places from his third place starting position. He lost one place to Ricciardo at the start and then dropped another when he was undercut by Hamilton’s pit stop strategy.
Red Bull [Daniel Ricciardo, P3; Max Verstapen, Retired Lap 0]
Daniel Ricciardo had to fight the toughest battle of the race trying to keep Hamilton at bay for third as the Mercedes’ driver was struggling to salvage something from an already ruined weekend. However, the Australian opening lap pass on Kimi Raikkonen was the key in his securing a home podium for Red Bull at the Austrian Grand Prix.
Ricciardo, who started fourth, was quick off the line and made a bold move on Raikkonen’s Ferrari into Turn 4 to snatch third, a position he would hold for the remainder of the race.
For Max Verstapen, it was another catastrophic Sunday to forget. The young Dutch, who started fifth, was taken out in a first corner collision triggered by Daniil Kvyat leaving his braking too late and tipping Fernando Alonso’s McLaren into a spin.
Haas [Romain Grosjean, P6; Kevin Magnussen, Retired Lap 29]
Surprisingly, Romain Grosjean kept out of trouble to finish where his Haas started in sixth. At one stage on the opening lap he was as high as fourth, but his car was no match for the Ferrari and Mercedes that ultimately finished in front of him.
It was a different story for his teammate, Kevin Magnussen who could only complete 29 laps before retiring with his VF-17 car. The Dane was poised to join Grosjean with another points-paying effort for the team, but while running 11th and just a tenth of a second shy of the 10th-place Williams of Lance Stroll, a hydraulic issue on lap 30 sent Magnussen to the garage.
The result marked the American squad’s best finish so far in the 2017 Formula 1 season, and the eight points Grosjean delivered significantly bolstered Haas F1 Team’s seventh-place standing in the constructors’ ranks.
Force India [Sergio Perez, P7; Esteban Ocon, P8]
It was a massive relief for everyone in the Force India garage as there was no incident between Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon for the first time after Canada and Baku.
The two drivers were duelling on Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Haas’ Romain Grosjean, but for inferior race strategy. It is been a strong season for the team so far having gotten either of their two drivers within points at seven of the nine races this season. The only blemish on team’s score card this season remains Sergio Perez unfortunate retirement in Baku.
Williams [Felipe Massa, P9; Lance Stroll, P10]
It was an impressive starts to the race for both Williams’ drivers, as both Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll managed to avoid a number of incidents on the opening corners. In the opening lap, Felipe gained seven places up to P10 and Lance moved up seven places into P11.
By lap 48, both Lance and Felipe had come in for ultrasoft tyres with 2.3-second pit-stops.
Lance moves up to 11th in the Drivers’ Championship, while Felipe remains 10th. The team holds fifth in the Constructors’ Championship with 40 points.
Renault [Jolyon Palmer, P11; Nico Hulkenberg, P13]
It was the third eleventh place finish of the season for Jolyon Palmer at the Austrian Grand Prix as he finished just half a second away from the points. However, Nico Hulkenberg’s P13 finish was a consequence of poor start off the line.
McLaren [Stoffel Vandoorne, P12; Fernando Alonso, Retired Lap 1]
McLaren’s struggles continued in Austria as the team failed to get any of their drivers within points for the umpteenth time this season.
While Stoffel Vandoorne was 12th in the other McLaren, having been penalised for ignoring blue flags, ahead of Hulkenberg, the Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, and Kvyat, Fernando Alonso inadvertently collided his recalcitrant McLaren’s MCL32 with Verstappen, who spun. Verstappen and Alonso had sufficient damage that they were forced to retire.
Sauber [Pascal Wehrlein, P14; Marcus Ericsson, P15]
It was another difficult weekend for Sauber as both Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson only managed to finish the race in 13th and 14th respectively. Pascal Wehrlein started the race in the pit lane as a penalty for an engine change. As if that was not enough a challenge, the 18-year old German picked up a piece of debris during his first lap before reaching Turn 4. He pushed hard to get the car to the end of the race.
The story was not really different for Marcus Ericsson, the Swedish driver lost early ground as he had issues with getting the tyres to work properly and the blue flags did not help in getting his tyre in the right operating windows.
Toro Rosso [Daniil Kvyat, P16; Carlos Sainz, Retired Lap 44]
The junior Red Bull team endured another frustrating Sunday as Daniil Kvyat was involved in opening lap collision in Austria. The Russian speared into the back of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, which in turn tipped Red Bull’s Max Verstappen into a spin. The latter pair were eliminated, and while Kvyat was able to continue, damage and a drive-through penalty for causing the collision left him three laps down at the flag.
Carlos Sainz had a slow getaway, but managed to avoid the first lap collision ahead to run comfortably in P9 before a return of the technical gremlins that had marred his weekend. He dropped down the field, before being called in to retire on lap 44.
The Paddock’s Take on the Weekend
It was largely a disappointing as many including The Paddock expected a blistering race in the aftermath of Baku road rage. However, Valtteri Bottas’ second win of the season, as masterly as it was, has not really put him in contention to make the fight for 2017 formula 1 drivers’ championship a 3-horse race. In my opinion, the Finn is just a decent playing second fiddle in the Silver Arrows team to the ‘anointed’ Lewis Hamilton.
More importantly, it was one weekend that has stressed the need for Sebastian Vettel to be more dominant if he really wants to win his fifth formula 1 drivers’ championship this year.
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