Valtteri Bottas has claimed the second Grand Prix victory of his Formula 1 career to move himself into contention for the Drivers’ Championship fight.
The Finn narrowly held off Ferrari’s fast-closing Sebastian Vettel by just six-tenths of a second, while Daniel Ricciardo gave Red Bull Racing some cheer at its home race by fending off Lewis Hamilton – recovering from a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change – for the final podium slot.
While the race won’t go down as one of the classics of the 2017 season, the tussle at the Red Bull Ring proved to be a slow-boiling affair that culminated in an exciting finish as the entire field struggled with tyres that blistered heavily on a hot track surface.
Bottas made a lightning quick getaway from pole position – so quick indeed, that both Vettel and Ricciardo questioned whether the Mercedes driver had jumped the start. The FIA’s sensors showed his reaction time to be just 0.2 seconds after the starting lights faded – above the governing body’s undisclosed tolerance threshold, it subsequently clarified – but it proved to be decisive in allowing him to build an early lead.
Vettel slotted into second on the run into Turn 1, ahead of teammate Kimi Räikkönen and Ricciardo, but behind them all hell broke loose.
Ricciardo’s luckless teammate Max Verstappen was slow to get off the line thanks to what would have been a terminal clutch issue, and the Dutchman fell back into the clutches of the midfield as he worked towards the first corner. With a fast-starting Fernando Alonso tucked in behind him, Verstappen found himself tipped into a spin by the McLaren driver, who was himself punted from the rear by Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat.
Verstappen and Alonso would be instant retirees, while Kvyat – who pitted at the end of Lap 1 for a new front wing – was subsequently handed a drive-through penalty for causing the accident. The Russian, under increasing pressure to retain his seat and Red Bull backing, finished in sixteenth and last place.
As the remaining runners sprinted up the hill to Turn 3, Ricciardo made a decisive lunge up the inside of Räikkönen to claim third place. The move pushed the Finn wide, dropping him to fifth behind Haas’ Romain Grosjean.
Hamilton, meanwhile, who started from eighth thanks to his five-place grid penalty, was up to seventh between the two Force India Mercedes’.
As Bottas eased away into an early lead over Vettel and Ricciardo, Räikkönen disposed of Grosjean on Lap 3 and set about trying to chase down the leading trio. Hamilton similarly worked his way ahead of the other Force India of Sergio Pérez and then Grosjean to be fifth by the end of Lap 8.
As the top three started to spread out, Hamilton closed up to Räikkönen but was unable to find a way by and so the Mercedes team elected to bring him in early, switching his blistered Super Soft tyres to run an ambitious 40-lap stint to the chequered flag on the less durable Ultra Softs.
Red Bull Racing responded to Hamilton’s pit stop two laps later and pitted Ricciardo – changing the Australian’s Ultra Soft rubber for Super Softs – while Ferrari did likewise to Vettel a lap after. The German’s gap to Bottas had steadily increased to around six seconds by the time he pitted.
Despite the fresher rubber, Vettel and Ricciardo were not able to significantly dent Bottas’ lead after rejoining the track which allowed the Finn to run until Lap 41 before he finally declared his tyres were finished.
He pitted and emerged behind his countryman Räikkönen, who was kept out by Ferrari in the hope that he could back Bottas into Vettel. The tactic proved futile as Bottas breezed ahead of Räikkönen on Lap 44 to reclaim the lead. Räikkönen would pit at the end of the lap and rejoin in a distant fifth place.
From there on, Bottas simply needed to manage the gap to Vettel. His tyres were once again blistering on a track surface measuring north of 45°C and in the closing stages Vettel had slashed the gap to Bottas to just 1.1 seconds with three laps of the race to go.
Ricciardo was facing similar difficulties maintaining a gap to Hamilton – who, despite being vocal about his tyre wear, continued to break the Red Bull Ring’s lap record in his bid to close down the Australian.
The final three laps saw two terrific scraps to determine the make-up of the podium. Bottas had just enough in hand, and thanks to a rather unhelpful Pérez holding Vettel up while the Ferrari driver tried to lap him through Turns 6 and 7, crossed the finish line with 0.6 seconds in hand.
Ricciardo’s tussle proved tighter. Hamilton launched an attack on the second-last lap through the second DRS zone between Turns 3 and 4, but the Red Bull Racing driver cleverly placed his car on the inside line and fended Hamilton off through the right-handed to earn a well-deserved and popular podium – his fifth on the trot.
With Vettel finishing ahead in second, the German’s title lead over Hamilton extended from 14 points to 20 ahead of the Mercedes driver’s home race. Bottas, meanwhile, now finds himself just 15 points behind his teammate and threatening to bring himself into what has to-date been a two-way scrap.
Räikkönen finished a distant fifth, while Grosjean hung on to claim his best finish of the season in sixth. The two Force India Mercedes’ of Pérez and Esteban Ocon claimed seventh and eighth respectively to earn more valuable points for the Silverstone outfit.
The top ten, and plenty of credit too, was completed by the Williams pairing of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, who recovered from the team’s worst qualifying performance of the season. Their cars proving much happier on heavier fuel loads, the two made great getaways off the line and avoided the chaos at Turn 1 to run inside the top-ten, where they stayed for the rest of the race.
Renault’s Jolyon Palmer finished frustratingly out of the points in Stroll’s wheeltracks, but could take some comfort in beating home teammate Nico Hülkenberg. The German lost places after the start trying to avoid the melee at Turn 1 and never really recovered, finishing thirteenth.
The French outfit’s cars sandwiched the sole remaining McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne, who earned a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags while Räikkönen was trying to lap him. Despite the penalty, the Belgian didn’t lose a place.
The two Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson ran at the back as they have done all weekend, finishing fourteenth and fifteenth respectively ahead of the penalised Kvyat.
With Verstappen and Alonso eliminated at the first corner, the race’s other retirees were Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr.
Magnussen, who was a contender for a top-ten qualifying position on Saturday until his rear suspension failed in Q1, had moved up to the fringes of the points before his gearbox hydraulics failed just before mid-distance. Sainz – who created a ruckus among Red Bull management by declaring he didn’t want to run a fourth season at Toro Rosso – seemingly encountered a repeat of the engine glitch that hit him in FP3 and had to park his car in the pits.
|FORMULA 1 GROSSER PREIS VON ÖSTERREICH 2017 – FINAL CLASSIFICATION (71 LAPS)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08||71||1:21:48.523|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF70H||71||+ 0.658|
|3.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13||71||+ 6.012|
|4.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08||71||+ 7.430|
|5.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF70H||71||+ 20.370|
|6.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17||71||+ 1:13.160|
|7.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10||70||1 lap behind|
|8.||Esteban Ocon||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10||70||1 lap behind|
|9.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40||70||1 lap behind|
|10.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40||70||1 lap behind|
|11.||Jolyon Palmer||Renault Sport F1 Team RS17||70||1 lap behind|
|12.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren-Honda MCL32||70||1 lap behind|
|13.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS17||70||1 lap behind|
|14.||Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36||70||1 lap behind|
|15.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36||69||2 laps behind|
|16.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12||68||3 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12||44||Engine|
|DNF.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17||29||Gearbox|
|DNF.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren-Honda MCL32||1||Collision|
|DNF.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13||0||Collision|
Images via LAT Images, Mercedes AMG Petronas and Red Bull Content Pool