Formula 1 fans were not disappointed Sunday after a thrilling Austrian Grand Prix full of drama saw pole sitter Valterri Bottas claim the race win, the same feat he accomplished at the Red Bull Ring in 2017.
The drama started before the race began, as Bottas’ teammate Lewis Hamilton received a three place grid penalty for not slowing down for yellow flags during qualifying when Bottas went off track in turn four. Much like with DAS, it was Aston Martin Red Bull Racing that launched the inquiry into this.
This moved Max Verstappen to the front row for his team’s home grand prix, Lando Norris to third for McLaren F1 Team, and the other Red Bull of Alex Albon to fourth. This was the first time a McLaren has started inside the top three since Jenson Button in 2016 at this very circuit.
Max Verstappen was the only driver in the top ten to start the race on medium tyres, potentially giving him a strategic advantage over the drivers around him.
When the race actually got underway, Bottas launched into the lead as everyone made it clean through turn one. By the end of lap one, Bottas already had a gap of two seconds to Verstappen.
Ten laps later the chaos began, as coming out of turn one, Verstappen had lost power. All advantage he potentially had being on the medium tyre was lost. The dutchman was forced to retire on lap 13 as any measure the team took to re-fire the car was thwarted by anti-stall technology.
On lap 16, BWT Racing Point F1 Team’s Lance Stroll reported that he was down on power, and began to fall down the grid. He stuck it out for as long as he could, but nine laps later on lap 22 he too was forced to retire.
While Stroll was managing his mechanical issues, Renault DP World F1 Team driver Daniel Ricciardo was the second retirement of the race on lap 18, as his machine was stricken with cooling issues.
On Lap 21, Romain Grosjean of Haas F1 Team dipped a tyre in the gravel and lost control out of turn four. The car was fine, but it dropped him to the back of the pack as he came in and pitted early for hard tyres.
However it would be the other Haas of Kevin Magnussen that would have a brake failure on lap 25 heading into turn three and bring out the first (yes, first) safety car of the day. Magnussen was able to keep the car off the wall, but he would become the fourth retirement of the day.
During this safety car, all drivers except for Sergio Perez came into the pits and got hard tyres. During all this chaos, the large gap that Bottas had to Hamilton was neutralized, but upon the restart on lap 31, the Finn dashed ahead and gained his lead again.
That same lap in turn three, Sebastian Vettel tried to make a late move into turn three on Carlos Sainz Jr., the man who will be replacing him at Scuderia Ferrari next season, and make a pass happen like his teammate Charles Leclerc had just done, but Vettel made contact with Sainz and spun.
This only added to the German’s struggles as he was trying to work his way through the grid after starting in 11th place.
Things finally started to calm down after this as the two Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team cars dominated the field in first and second. The team wasn’t without it’s own drama as on Lap 44 Mercedes reported gearbox sensor issues, and the team notified the drivers to stay off of the notorious Austria kerbs.
On Lap 47, Mercedes Chief Strategist James Vowles told the drivers that the situation was critical, and that they needed to avoid the kerbs at all costs.
Lap 50 saw Romain Grosjean off at turn four again, this time he suffered the same brake failure as his teammate Magnussen, becoming the fifth retirement of the race.
At almost the same time, Williams Racing’s George Russell suffered a fuel pressure issue, bringing a heartbreaking end to a brilliant run in 12th place. The sixth retirement of the day brought out the second safety car of the day.
This safety car saw plenty of mix ups in strategy, as the likes of Ferrari and McLaren had both drivers pit of softer tyres, and Albon who came in for scuff softs. The Mercedes and Perez did not pit and stayed out front on their hard tyres.
Bottas led the grid to the restart at Lap 55, which only lasted a few corners before another safety car was brought out as Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN veteran Kimi Raikkonen had a tyre pop right off his car in turn eight and he slid to a halt on the frontstretch for retirement number seven.
Before the safety car came out, Albon made a brilliant move on Perez into turn three, and was given the position as it was deemed that he made the move before the safety car came out.
The race then came down to a 10 lap shootout as the restart came on lap 61, and on the same lap Albon’s race ended in heartbreak, as he went to make a move around the outside of Lewis Hamilton and had it completed, but the six time world champion did not give him enough room, causing Albon to spin and ending any hope Albon had at getting his first F1 podium. His day ended with a mechanical failure on lap 69, the eighth retirement of the day.
The stewards gave Hamilton a five second time penalty for causing this collision, his second such penalty in three races. This allowed Charles Leclerc to sneak into second place as he made a wonderful dive on soon to be teammate Sainz in turn three to grab the position.
On lap 68, Perez received a penalty for speeding in the pit lane, which gave some hope to Lewis Hamilton that he could still get a podium position.
Lap 70 saw Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda’s Daniil Kvyat had a tyre get destroyed going into turn one, ending a potential double points finish for the newly rebranded team. Kvyat was able to get safely off the track so as to not bring out another safety car.
While this happened in the backfield, Lando Norris had gotten past Sergio Perez the lap prior, and was making a push to get within five seconds of Lewis Hamilton. As Bottas crossed the line to win, and Charles Leclerc came home second, Norris put together the fastest lap of the grand prix on the final lap to get within five seconds at the line, beating Hamilton by 0.198 seconds. This gave the twenty year old Brit his first career podium, and bumping Lewis Hamilton to fourth.
The grand prix saw nine retirements by its end, more than doubling the single race record from last year of four at the German Grand Prix. While he may not have finished on the podium, Hamilton broke his own record of consecutive points finishes with this being his 34th.
Fans and teams won’t have long to recover after this, as F1 is right back at the Red Bull Ring again next week for the Pirelli Styrian Grand Prix.
|1||77||Valterri Bottas||FIN||Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team||1:30:55.739|
|2||16||Charles Leclerc||MCO||Scuderia Ferrari||1:30:58.439|
|3||4||Lando Norris||GBR||McLaren F1 Team||1:31:01.230|
|4||44||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team||1:31:01.428*|
|5||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||ESP||McLaren F1 Team||1:31:04.642|
|6||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||BWT Racing Point F1 Team||1:31:10.831*|
|7||10||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1:31:12.421|
|8||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Renault DP World F1 Team||1:31:13.195|
|9||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||ITA||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||1:31:16.885|
|10||5||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Scuderia Ferrari||1:31:20.284|
|11||6||Nicholas Latifi||CAN||Williams Racing||1:31:27.389|
|12||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||DNF|
|13||23||Alexander Albon||THA||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||DNF|
|RET||7||Kimi Raikkonen||FIN||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||Crash|
|RET||63||George Russell||GBR||Williams Racing||Mechanical|
|RET||8||Romain Grosjean||FRA||Haas F1 Team||Mechanical|
|RET||20||Kevin Magnussen||DEN||Haas F1 Team||Mechanical|
|RET||18||Lance Stroll||CAN||BWT Racing Point F1 Team||Mechanical|
|RET||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Renault DP World F1 Team||Mechanical|
|RET||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||Mechanical|