Valtteri Bottas claims Austrian Grand Prix victory at the Red Bull Ring.
It may be the Red Bull Ring, but only Mercedes have tasted victory at the energy drink-owned circuit. With Valtteri Bottas continuing on from Hamilton and Rosberg in putting a Mercedes atop the podium, claiming his second Grand Prix win ahead of Vettel once more. Even launching off the line so quick he was investigated for a jump start.
The moment the lights began in Austria to fade and Bottas headed the field up the hill, both Vettel and Ricciardo deemed the pole-sitter to have jumped the gun. Anticipating the lights going out as he edged away from his slot just 0.201 seconds from the lights beginning to fade.
Bottas’ mega reactions not only caused his two closest rivals to consider it a jump start. But the stewards did, too. Taking the incident to be the first worthy of investigation, but deciding against handing out a penalty.
Valtteri had clinched pole from Sebastian Vettel in the provisional stage of Q3 as his Mercedes’ straight line speed advantage negated the Ferrari’s greater traction. Running away from the Prancing Horse down the straights, but only on pole after Vettel’s poor final corner left him clawing back at the track when P1 was in his sights.
Hamilton, on the other hand, knew he needed a great qualifying result with a five-place grid penalty already in his pocket for an out of sequence gearbox change. Yet no matter how much he needed to head the field, third was all he could muster – falling to eighth on the grid. Splitting the Force India’s, with the Red Bull’s straight ahead.
Qualifying at their home Grand Prix was not a straightforward matter for Red Bull either. For while yellow flags may have been waving late on in Q3 for Grosjean’s halted Haas, Verstappen was already clear of the slow zone. But chasing time on a scruffy lap left Dutch star pushing too hard out of what is now Turn 7, following the re-allocation of corners, and spinning into the gravel ahead.
Then came the race. Another session far from straightforward for the constructor whose owner also owns the circuit. For while Ricciardo laid the pressure on the Ferrari’s, Verstappen was going the other way. Slipping into anti-stall as he sluggishly pulled away.
Like a snail caught on a motorway, the field flew past the slow moving Red Bull as Verstappen looked to get going. Only to spin at Turn 1, under the sorrow view of the nearby grandstand packed with Dutch fans who flocked to Speilberg to watch their star.
There were more than 10,000 Dutch fans expected to flood the grandstands of the Red Bull Ring to see Verstappen ply his trade. But for all their passion and pride, their man could not unleash the lion as he had wished to do. Retiring on the opening lap, to fail to finish his fifth Grand Prix in the last seven.
Verstappen’s withdrawal from the front of the field elevated Hamilton one place up on his demoted grid slot. Tucking in behind Perez as he split the Force India’s, and watching on as Romain Grosjean slipped ahead of Raikkonen as Ricciardo edged the Finn wide at Turn 3.
Edging wide is one thing, contact is another. Something Fernando Alonso found himself a victim of at Turn One. Making it two retirements in not as many corners when Daniil Kvyat locked up under braking. Sailing into the rear of the McLaren ahead having negotiated his way around his team-mate following Sainz’s slow start.
Although not believing a 2014-style recovery drive would be possible, Hamilton began his charge to the front by dispatched Perez for P6 early doors. Then, like Raikkonen, making Grosjean an easy target as Lewis picked off the Haas into Turn 4.
The only thing now between Hamilton and an attack on the podium laid Kimi Raikkonen. A possible rear-gunner for title-chasing Sebastian Vettel, whose Rosso Corsa paintwork filled Lewis’ vision while Bottas out in front began to report of blisters on his ultrasoft tyres. Something Lewis should not have to concern himself with having taken Q2 on the supersoft rubber.
Yet despite having the harder compound fitted, it was Lewis who pitted first. Comfortably returning to the circuit with the ultrasoft tyres ahead of sixth-placed Romain Grosjean, now running as the sole remaining Haas after Magnussen fell victim of a hydraulics failure.
“I cannot believe this. F**k this,” comes the sorry message from Magnussen.
Mercedes had instructed Lewis to come into the pits should Raikkonen not, or remain out had the Finn ducked in. But with the Ferrari remaining out on his qualifying tyres, Mercedes utilised the gap to drop Hamilton into clean air.
Immediately Lewis set rapid pace on his fresh set of the softest Pirelli offering. Lapping 1.5 seconds faster than Bottas, taking the pit-window out of Ferrari’s hands, and forcing Red Bull’s as not pitting would have thwarted Ricciardo’s race.
Hamilton, despite flying on the ultrasofts at first though, began complaining that his Silver Arrow was carrying too much front wing. Upsetting the balance to the rear, and causing a fresh challenge to add to maintaining life in his ultrasofts.
Good news for Lewis, however, was that Valtteri Bottas in the leading Mercedes was able to reach lap 41 of 71 before feeling as if he had reached the limit of his tyre life. Emerging out of the pits behind Kimi Raikkonen, who was yet to pit, and with Vettel in third edging closer than before after a slow front-right change for Bottas.
With Raikkonen now ahead of Bottas, he had the chance to hamper his Finnish counterparts progress at the aid of his team-mate. But after a scruffy Turn 3, Valtteri flew through with DRS to regain the lead. Demoting Raikkonen who immediately pitted to fall to fifth behind Hamilton.
Kimi had partly lost time a few laps prior to Bottas regaining the lead after catching Vandoorne who ignored the waved blue flags. Something the McLaren driver was punished for with a drive-through. But now with the freshest tyres out of the front runners, Raikkonen immediately began taking time away from the Briton in fourth.
Eating into Hamilton’s advantage was like easy pickings at first for Raikkonen as he set the new fastest lap of the race. Setting a new lap record for the Red Bull Ring in doing so as Lewis began to blister his tyres. not worth stopping again, though, as possible for Lewis to catch Ricciardo in 3rd
Stopping again, though, was not worth Hamilton’s time as it remained possible for the Mercedes man to catch Ricciardo in third and push for a podium finish. A feat achievable of despite blisterings and a challenge met with a faster lap than Raikkonen’s ‘lap record’.
With two laps remaining on the board, the race winner and his podium acquaintances were still yet to be finalised. With Vettel just eight tenths down on Valtteri and Hamilton the same margin behind third-placed Ricciardo.
Both hunting for a last ditch move to gain a vital place, but only Lewis able to make one after running deep into Turn 1 actually handed Hamilton an insane exit to run up the hill and challenge down to T4. Ricciardo with the inside line, however, pushed Lewis back behind and into his ultimate fourth place finish.
Neither then were close enough to challenge on the final lap, seeing Bottas able to cover the charging Vettel to claim his second victory in Formula 1 in similar fashion to his first back at the 2017 Russian Grand Prix.
Ricciardo in third also continues his run of podium finishes, including victory last time out in Azerbaijan. While also coming despite the Red Bull being down on corner speed to Ferrari or Mercedes. Which actually leaves Red Bull contrastingly as the team with greater straight-line speed, something they have previously down on to their rivals.
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||71||6.012||15|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India||70||1 lap||6|
|8||Esteban Ocon||Force India||70||1 lap||4|
|9||Felipe Massa||Williams||70||1 lap||2|
|10||Lance Stroll||Williams||70||1 lap||1|
|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|
|17||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||44||DNF|
|20||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||0||DNF|