By Gary Becker
Valtteri Bottas drove to his second career Formula One with a pole to top podium step run at the Austrian Grand Prix. Bottas was in control throughout the race managing to keep a charging Sebastian Vettel at bay as the race worked through to its final laps. Rounding out the podium was Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo who was able to hold off Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages of the race to take the final podium step.
Bottas made one of the most efficient starts in recent memory. Bottas got of the line so quickly once the lights went out to start the race Vettel questioned over the radio if Bottas may have jumped gun. Officials reviewed the start and determined Bottas was legally quick on lights out.
Once in the lead Bottas remained in control as Vettel, Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen followed. The only time Bottas gave up the lead was during his one and only pit stop on lap 42 of the 71 lap race.
As the race matured into its final stages Vettel began to close on Bottas getting within within a second of the leader but Bottas drove flawlessly to the checkered flag to claim the win.
"That champagne tasted good!" said Bottas "The first win is obviously special, but this is only my second win, so it’s a great feeling to get it. It’s been my best weekend yet with the pole and the win and I hope we can continue from here. The start was absolutely perfect – definitely my best start ever. And you saw how close it was with Sebastian at the end, so today I needed it. The car was so good this weekend, so I knew we could still do it. I got a massive blister on the rear-left in the second stint after just five laps, which made the car tricky to drive. I was losing more and more performance, but it wasn’t my first time having to keep Sebastian behind me. I kept my focus and managed to finish the race without any mistakes. It would have been tricky to keep Sebastian behind for much longer, so it was good to see the checkered flag. I’m still in the title fight and I’m only going to get better. We’re growing all the time."
For Vettel second place meant one got away.
“Today I struggled in the first stint with the first set of tires, the Ultrasofts." said Vettel "I think they were just getting too hot. Then the clouds came in and the balance of the car improved. That’s why I think we were starting to get quicker. It was a shame that we couldn’t win, because we were close. We learnt more about the car in these days and there are many positive aspects regarding this race, but I feel like I could have won today and I didn’t, so I am not entirely happy. At the beginning of the race I was just not quick enough. The pace was there, but the balance wasn’t. I like this place, which has a lot of history and it’s the place where I drove a racing car for the first time, in 2003. It’s a long time ago, but I still have beautiful memories. And now I am already looking forward to going to Silverstone.”
While the battle for the lead had the attention of most a second, even closer battle was raging for the final podium step. Ricciardo has secured third place in the running order early but as the race wound down Lewis Hamilton, who started from the eighth grid position due to a five spot penalty for a gearbox change, was closing fast. As the checkered flag loomed on the horizon Hamilton worked to within a second of Ricciardo as laps ran out.
“I do love a fight and Lewis came out of nowhere in the last few laps." said Ricciardo "It felt like the gap was stable and then within a handful of laps he was catching me pretty rapidly. I then had two laps to go and had to defend which made it a pretty exciting race for me. To have good speed around here in dry conditions was a pleasant surprise for us. I had Seb in front of me pretty much for the whole race and I know that his long runs on Friday looked quite a lot quicker than ours so we didn’t really expect to have a similar race pace to him or Mercedes today. Just to hold Lewis off, have a fight, defend and come out in front was cool. Another podium is pretty sweet. I enjoyed it up there. Silverstone is going to be great with these 2017 cars so I’m looking forward to that and I’m sure we’ll have a lot of Poms out there next weekend.”
For Hamilton the fourth place finish marked the end to a frustrating weekend.
"It’s been a difficult weekend, but I can take heart that I limited the damage to Sebastian in the points and that I went forward through the field." said Hamilton "The car was great today, I could push the entire race on the tires and I gave it absolutely everything out there. I really don’t think there was much left in the car at the end of the race, but I was probably a bit too kind in my fight with Daniel – and left him too much space. I won’t do that again. We’ve slipped further behind Sebastian again, but there’s a long way to go. I’ll keep battling and I’ll never give up. Valtteri did a great job all weekend and thoroughly deserves the win. He’s just 15 points behind me now and he’s very much in this title fight. I’m really looking forward to Silverstone - I’ve got a few days to put this weekend behind me. I can’t wait to see the home crowd again and start with a clean slate. I hope I can use Silverstone as a springboard for the second half of my season."
The day's major incident occurred at the start of the race when Daniil Kvyat drove his Toro Rosso into the McLaren of Fernando Alonso who the collected Max Verstappen who had made a terrible start and dropped through the field. Verstappen didn't complete a lap, Alonso completed one lap and Kvyat two laps. Kvyat was later handed a drive through penalty for causing the collision.
“We had a clutch issue at the start of the race." said Verstappen "I could feel on the formation lap that it wasn’t great and then at the start it failed which triggered the anti-stall as I tried to launch. I pulled away after losing many positions and tried to stay out of trouble in to turn one but I got hit on the rear tire. Because of the hit the clutch over engaged, braking the bearing in the clutch, so I had no drive. The boys are all working very hard and there is no blame on anyone, we have just had a lot of bad luck recently and I have to try and stay positive. It’s definitely not nice at the moment and I’m very disappointed again but it’s also very important to keep pushing everyone forward as there are still many races to go. We just hope that the next race will be better. I also feel disappointed for all the Dutch fans as they have traveled a long way. I wanted to put on a show for them but I could not even complete one corner today. We will of course try to do better at Silverstone.”
Haas driver Romain Grosjean earned a sixth-place finish, a result marked the American squad’s best finish so far in the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship, teammate Kevin Magnussen suffered a hydraulic issue on lap 30 that sent him to the garage.
2017 Austrian Grand Prix – Race
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 71 1:21'48.527
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 71 0.658
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 71 6.012
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 71 7.430
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 71 20.370
6 Romain Grosjean Haas 71 1'13.160
7 Sergio Perez Force India 70 1 lap
8 Esteban Ocon Force India 70 1 lap
9 Felipe Massa Williams 70 1 lap
10 Lance Stroll Williams 70 1 lap
11 Jolyon Palmer Renault 70 1 lap
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 70 1 lap
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 70 1 lap
14 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 70 1 lap
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 69 2 laps
16 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 68 3 laps
Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 44
Kevin Magnussen Haas 29
Fernando Alonso McLaren 1
Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 0
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