Valtteri Bottas took his second win of the 2017 season with a controlled lights-to-flag drive, withstanding some late pressure from a charging Sebastian Vettel. Lewis Hamilton put in a solid damage limitation performance but was unable to find a way past the Red Bull of Dan Ricciardo, who took a fifth consecutive podium finish. Kimi Raikkonen trailed home a distant fifth place, with Romain Grosjean taking an excellent sixth and the Force Indias and Williams cars completing the points.
Bottas bolts away, Kvyat causes turn 1 carnage
The Finn made a stunning start from pole position, pulling clear into Turn 1 ahead of Vettel, Ricciardo and a fast-starting Grosjean. In fact it was such a good start that Vettel couldn’t believe it could be legal, asking over the radio for an investigation into a potential jump start. In contrast it was a disastrous start for the luckless Max Verstappen, whose clutch broke as he attempted to pull away from the grid. This saw him lose several places, but the situation went from bad to worse at the first corner. Daniil Kvyat locked up both front tyres and slammed into Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, who in turn was pushed into Verstappen’s Red Bull, causing them both to retire while Kvyat hobbled on.
The race settled down quickly, with little overtaking as drivers looked to stretch out their ultra-soft stint as part of a one-stop strategy. Lewis Hamilton didn’t make the flying start he hoped for from 8th, but the superior pace of the Mercedes allowed him to move past the Force Indias and the Haas of Grosjean. Massa and Stroll both successfully picked their way through the turn 1 trouble and found themselves in 9th and 10th in the early stages of the race, behind Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. The Haas car showed strong pace all weekend but a suspension failure in qualifying forced Kevin Magnussen to start well down the field. He was piling the pressure on Stroll but a hydraulic failure forced him into retirement.
Hamilton undercuts Kimi, closes in on leaders
Despite starting on the super-softs, Hamilton was the first of the front runners to pit on lap 31 and quickly set the fastest lap of the race on his new ultra-softs. Ferrari considered bringing Raikkonen in but quickly realised that they couldn’t cover off the Mercedes, so Kimi stayed out in the hope that fresher tyres at the end of the race would be an advantage. Vettel and Ricciardo pitted soon after while race leader Bottas had struck the perfect balance between race pace and tyre preservation, allowing him to continue until lap 41. Raikkonen was still yet to pit so briefly took the lead of the race, but he was unable to hold up his fellow countryman for long and pitted at the end of lap 44.
Further down the field there was little change in position. Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll started on softs and super softs respectively, allowing them to switch to ultra-softs for the last stint as they looked to put pressure on the Force India duo ahead. Jolyon Palmer was having a strong race in 11th, followed by Vandoorne, Hulkenberg, the Saubers and Kvyat, who had been handed a drive-through penalty for his first lap error.
Title leaders give race thrilling climax
Hamilton had closed to within three seconds of Ricciardo but then started to struggle with tyre blistering – an issue for many drivers throughout the race, and with Bottas holding a similar lead over Vettel it looked as though the race order was settled. However, with around ten laps to go the two championship leaders turned up the wick and began to close in, knowing that an extra few points could be crucial in the final standings. On the penultimate lap Hamilton got alongside Ricciardo into Turn 4 and looked as though he would make a pass around the outside, but the Australian held his nerve and took his fifth podium in a row, getting the best from a car that is still not on the pace of the Ferrari and Mercedes.
The battle for the win bore similarities to the end of the Russian Grand Prix, where Vettel closed to within a few tenths of Bottas but was never in a position to attempt an overtake. Unfortunately for the German it was the same story in Austria – he crossed the line less than a second behind, but he never looked likely to make an overtake. Bottas kept his cool and controlled the pace to the chequered flag, taking his second career win. He becomes the fourth Finnish driver to win multiple Grands Prix.
Kimi Raikkonen took a distant fifth, having gone off the road at turn 1 while overtaking a backmarker and losing momentum thereafter. Romain Grosjean was the last of the runners on the lead lap, taking an excellent sixth. Perez and Ocon recovered from their Baku disaster to collect seventh and eighth, with Massa and Stroll recovering from a nightmare qualifying session to collect the final points.
Sebastian Vettel extended his lead to 20 points over Lewis Hamilton, with race winner Bottas a further 15 points behind. The Finn has exceeded the expectations of many so far, and a DNF for Vettel could see him pull himself into the championship battle. Ricciardo and Raikkonen are a comfortable fourth and fifth, while Perez took advantage of Verstappen’s misfortune to leapfrog him in the standings.
- Vettel (Ferrari) – 171
- Hamilton (Mercedes) – 151
- Bottas (Mercedes) – 136
- Ricciardo (Red Bull) – 107
- Raikonen (Ferrari) – 83
- Perez (Force India) – 50
- Verstappen (Red Bull) – 45
- Ocon (Force India) – 39
- Sainz (Toro Rosso) – 29
- Massa (Williams) – 22
Mercedes extended their lead over Ferrari to 33 points, beyond that it’s very much as you were in the standings.
- Mercedes – 287
- Ferrari – 254
- Red Bull – 152
- Force India – 89
- Williams – 40
- Toro Rosso – 33
- Haas – 29
- Renault – 18
- Sauber – 5
- McLaren – 2
There’s little time to rest with the British Grand Prix coming up this weekend, following the news that Silverstone intend to activate a break clause in their contract after the 2019 race.
There is also the first ‘F1 Live’ event taking place in London tonight, with a live stage show in Trafalgar Square and a car parade on Whitehall. The main event begins at 5.30pm. More details can be found here.