Valtteri Bottas converted his pole position to victory at the Austrian Grand Prix, keeping chief rival Sebastian Vettel at bay despite late pressure from the championship leader.
Bottas looked untroubled in the early stages, the only mid-race drama to befall the Finn being a slightly delayed pit-stop, caused by the front right wheel failing to be mounted at first time of asking.
There was controversy at the start as Vettel accused the Finn of a jump start, but telemetry showed the Mercedes driver reacted two tenths after the lights went out, which the stewards judged to be outwith the scope of an anticipated start.
The start saw the other major drama of the race, as Max Verstappen was forced to retire for the fifth time in seven races. A faulty clutch caused his anti-stall to kick in off the grid, dropping him into the midfield melee approaching the first turn. Behind him, Daniil Kvyat locked his brakes, torpedoing into the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, who was pushed into Verstappen by the impact. The latter pair were both forced to retire at the end of the lap.
In a scenario reminiscent of Bottas’ first race win in Sochi this year, Vettel mounted a comeback in the second phase of the race, catching the Mercedes with only 4 laps to go. The Ferrari however was not able to cope with lapped traffic as effectively as Bottas, losing crucial tenths when navigating backmarkers with three laps left.
He was not the only driver under threat in the last laps of the race, as Daniel Ricciardo was forced to defend from Lewis Hamilton, who had recovered from starting eighth due to a gearbox penalty to finish in fourth. Hamilton’s best chance at a podium came on the penultimate lap, using DRS on the run towards Turn 4, but Ricciardo’s steadfast defence of the inside line proved enough to keep the Brit at bay.
Kimi Räikkönen had been running in fourth place during his first stint, but elected to go the longest of the top five contenders before his only pit-stop. This sent him into fifth, several seconds behind Hamilton after the pit-stop cycle, from which he could not recover. His attempts to catch the three-time world champion sent him into the Turn 1 run-off at one point, lunging past a backmarker and unable to shore up his Ferrari in time.
Romain Grosjean had made an excellent start to the race, jumping up to fourth place at the first corner. It was not to last however, unable to hold off the recovering Räikkönen and Hamilton. He settled into sixth place, unchallenged by the Force Indias behind, finishing as the last car on the lead lap. The other half of the Haas garage was not so lucky, with Kevin Magnussen retiring with a hydraulic problem on Lap 31 whilst challenging for the final points position.
The Force India pair of Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon held steady in seventh and eighth, while the Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll had taken advantage of the first lap accident to vault from the penultimate row of the grid to the final points places. Massa’s attempts to disrupt Ocon’s race by putting in the longest stint of the race on the soft tyre did not work however, leaving him to settle for ninth.
Jolyon Palmer came close to his first points of the season, catching Stroll in tenth in the closing laps but coming only half a second away from breaking into the Top 10 at the finish.
Stoffel Vandoorne managed to split the Renaults despite picking up a penalty for ignoring blue flags whilst being lapped by Räikkönen. On the same lap as the stewards handed down their decision, Carlos Sainz Jr. capped a miserable day for Toro Rosso by crawling to pit-lane to retire, whilst Kvyat finished three laps down and last, seventeenth place behind the Sauber pair of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson.
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