Aus­trian, Bri­tish and Hun­gar­ian Grands Prix

Prov­ing that first win was no fluke, his vic­tory at Spiel­berg marks Bottas as a true ti­tle con­tender

F1 Racing (UK) - - CONTENTS -

“I be­lieve… the team be­lieves,” said Valtteri Bottas as he stood proud fol­low­ing the sec­ond grand prix vic­tory of his ca­reer. We’d got so used to con­sid­er­ing the bat­tle for the 2017 For­mula 1 World Cham­pi­onship to be a two-horse race be­tween Se­bas­tian Vettel and Lewis Hamil­ton that the Finn in the other sil­ver car had tended to be over­looked. This will no longer be the case af­ter what hap­pened in Aus­tria.

A per­fectly con­trolled vic­tory drive from pole po­si­tion pinged Bottas slap-bang onto the cham­pi­onship radar – and, as he him­self was quick to point out, there was still more than half of this sea­son to go. At this stage, Bottas was now 35 points down on leader Vettel and just 15 be­hind Mercedes team-mate Hamil­ton. QUAL­I­FY­ING Hamil­ton had known since the pre­vi­ous Tues­day that a gear­box change (noth­ing to do with the Vettel rear contact in Azer­bai­jan) would re­sult in a five-place grid drop in Aus­tria. Mercedes broke the news on Fri­day evening af­ter Lewis had topped both free prac­tice ses­sions with his new ’box.

A brake fail­ure had ham­pered him in fi­nal free prac­tice on Satur­day, but he was fastest in Q1 as he worked to min­imise the im­pact of his penalty. In Q2 he opted to run on the su­per­soft Pirellis, en­sur­ing he would start the race on this slower tyre, at odds with the rest on their ul­tra­softs. Sec­ond to Bottas in the ses­sion, he re­verted to ul­tras for Q3 but still lost out to his team-mate in the first runs that would de­fine the start­ing or­der.

As the sec­ond runs got un­der way, Ro­main Gros­jean’s Haas trick­led to a stand­still on the exit of Turn 3, while an over­steer­ing Max Ver­stap­pen threw his Red Bull into a high-speed spin out of Turn 7. The yel­low flags en­sured no one would go faster to­day. That left Bottas with his sec­ond ca­reer F1 pole ahead of Vettel’s Fer­rari, which had been just 0.04s down on the Mercedes on those first runs. Hamil­ton was third, mean­ing an eighth­place start­ing slot on row four.

RACE Bottas de­scribed it as “the start of my life” as he shot into the lead when the five red lights went out. Vettel was adamant Valtteri had jumped them, even when it was pointed out that his rival’s re­ac­tion time had of­fi­cially been mea­sured at +0.201s. “Don’t be­lieve it…” Seb replied with a rue­ful smile. Daniel Ric­cia­rdo had a good view from his fourth place on the grid and couldn’t re­sist adding his “two cents” in the press con­fer­ence. “The lights were held for a long time, more than nor­mal,” he said. “For sure, he went, but the lights went out. I guess he got lucky.”

As the field threaded its way up­hill into Turn 1, Ver­stap­pen’s race was al­ready un­rav­el­ling thanks to a clutch prob­lem – to the dis­may of the orange army that dom­i­nated the grand­stands and grass banks at Red Bull’s home venue.

Fer­nando Alonso had made his usual flier, only to find him­self bumped into Ver­stap­pen on en­try to the first turn. The vil­lain was Daniil Kvyat, who re­ceived a drive-through penalty for start­ing the con­certina shunt. At the front, Bottas led from Vettel, as Ric­cia­rdo moved up to third. Fast­start­ing Ro­main Gros­jean made it up to fourth from sixth, while Kimi Räikkönen was down two places in a messy opener dur­ing which his Fer­rari ran wide out of Turn 3 as Ric­cia­rdo got the bet­ter of him.

Hamil­ton de­moted Ser­gio Pérez and Gros­jean to chase Kimi’s Fer­rari. Out of kil­ter on tyre strat­egy, Lewis was the first of the fron­trun­ners to make their sin­gle stop, ditch­ing the slower supersofts for ul­tras on lap 31. Räikkönen would be forced to wait longer than most be­fore his stop, sub­sti­tut­ing his ul­tras for supersofts on lap 44 as he (briefly)

“BOTTAS

LOOKED TO BE STROKING TO­WARDS VIC­TORY IN THE EARLY STAGES, OPENING A 7.9S GAP TO THE FER­RARI BE­FORE VETTEL STOPPED FOR SUPERSOFTS

be­came a fac­tor in the bat­tle for the lead. The strat­egy didn’t work out too well, with Hamil­ton com­fort­ably tak­ing P4 from him as he re­joined.

Bottas looked to be stroking to­wards vic­tory in the early stages, opening a 7.9s gap to the Fer­rari be­fore Vettel stopped for supersofts on lap 31. The Merc man­aged ten more laps on ul­tras be­fore mak­ing its stop, but the strat­egy re­sulted in a net loss. On lap 42, Vettel was just 4.4s down with 29 laps still to run – and long-run­ning Räikkönen, still on his set of ul­tras, was ahead of them both, which was just what Mercedes had been try­ing to avoid.

Would Kimi baulk the Merc and help Vettel close in? No. Bottas swept past his fel­low Finn on lap 44, with Räikkönen fi­nally pit­ting to take on supersofts at the end of the lap.

Still, it wasn’t over: Vettel was gain­ing. On lap 69 of 71 the Fer­rari was just 0.8s be­hind – and fi­nally within DRS range. But Bottas, nurs­ing a blis­ter on his left-rear Pirelli, kept his cool. Vettel was 0.65s shy at the flag.

Be­hind them, Hamil­ton did at least man­age an at­tempt on Ric­cia­rdo for third. The Mercedes got a run on the Red Bull down to Turn 4 on the penul­ti­mate lap, but the out­side line was al­ways a tall or­der. Ric­cia­rdo clung on to third.

Af­ter­wards, in the press con­fer­ence, Vettel’s doubts over Bottas’ light­ning getaway were be­gin­ning to sound like sour grapes. Be­side him, Bottas clearly couldn’t care less. His be­lief, in him­self and his quick-sil­ver Mercedes W08, was only grow­ing stronger.

Ver­stap­pen’s orange army were dis­ap­pointed when their man was knocked out on the very first lap, as Daniil Kvyat shoved the Mclaren of Fer­nando Alonso into him in a con­certina shunt Bottas held on from a fast-clos­ing Vettel to score his sec­ond win and ig­nite his ti­tle chal­lenge

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