What happened at the Austrian Grand Prix?

Daniel Ricciardo makes it five podiums in a row by taking third at the Red Bull Ring, while an ‘unhuman’ start sets up a win for Valtteri Bottas.


Lewis Hamilton: qualified 3rd, finished 4th. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 1st, finished 1st.

Bottas set up his second career win with a superbly-taken pole on Saturday – his time of 1min 04.251secs the fastest pole lap in any Grand Prix for 32 years – and then produced a getaway so good on Sunday that it prompted an investigation into whether he’d jumped the start; 20 laps into the race, it was revealed he’d reacted to the lights going out within 0.2 seconds, as close as you can get to anticipating the start without jumping it. The Finn battled blistering tyres late in the race and had Vettel closing on him at a rate of knots, but just as he’d done in Russia earlier this season, kept his nerve to deny the German and get himself within 35 points of Vettel’s series lead. Much of Hamilton’s preparation for Sunday’s race was spent talking about the incident with Vettel last time out in Azerbaijan, and any chance of a repeat fight with his main title rival evaporated when he had to take a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, which, counter to speculation, wasn’t caused by Vettel running into the back of him in Baku. The Briton opted to start the race on the slower supersoft tyre from eighth on the grid after his penalty was assessed to be on the faster ultrasoft tyre for the final laps, but ran out of time to catch Ricciardo for the final podium place.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 5th, finished 3rd. Max Verstappen: qualified 6th, did not finish.

Ricciardo didn’t need a second invitation after a chance to win in Baku fell into his lap, but he celebrated his third at the Red Bull Ring with almost as much gusto after fending off a flying Hamilton in the closing stages. The Australian made a brilliant move on Raikkonen’s Ferrari at Turn 3 on the first lap to set up the chance of a podium place, and while Bottas and Vettel were never realistically within reach, he did everything in his power to hang onto the final rostrum spot, a firm Turn 4 defence on the penultimate lap scuppering Hamilton’s best chance to pass. The podium was Ricciardo’s fifth in succession, the best run of his career, and saw him consolidate his fourth place in the title chase. This week’s post-race shoey ‘victim’? Former racer turned TV pundit Martin Brundle. By contrast to his teammate, Verstappen’s luck seems to go from bad to worse; some 10,000 Dutch spectators turned the grandstand near Turn 1 into a sea of orange, but the masses of Max fans were left gutted after the first 20 seconds of the race when their man was backwards in the adjacent tarmac run-off area, nerfed into a spin by Alonso’s McLaren, which had been harpooned by Kvyat’s out of control Toro Rosso. Even before the accident, a failing clutch saw Verstappen made a poor start, and he’s now retired from five of the past seven races to drop to seventh in the drivers’ standings behind Perez.

Sebastian Vettel: qualified 2nd, finished 2nd. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 4th, finished 5th.

Vettel was convinced Bottas had jumped the start – questioning it straight away over the radio and doing his best not to answer questions about it after the race before eventually describing it as “unhuman” – but second place was his seventh podium in nine races this season, and a six-point gain on Hamilton extended his lead atop the standings to 20 points. Vettel’s deficit to Bottas ebbed and flowed throughout, and with four laps to go, the German was just one second in arrears and an unlikely win became a possibility. In the end, just 0.658secs was the margin between the pair after 71 frantic laps. Raikkonen started third with Hamilton’s penalty, but was monstered by Ricciardo on lap one and didn’t feature much thereafter, Ferrari keeping him out for 44 laps before his sole pit stop in an attempt to hold up Bottas after the Mercedes driver ceded the lead in his own stop, hoping to bring Vettel back into play for the win. It didn’t work, and Raikkonen spent much of the race moaning about steering wheel settings while finishing in no man’s land, 20 seconds behind the winner, but miles ahead of Grosjean in sixth. Nine races into the 20-race campaign, Vettel (171 points) has already doubled Raikkonen’s tally of 83, which goes a long way towards explaining Mercedes’ 33-point lead over the Prancing Horse in the constructors’ championship.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 8th, finished 7th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 9th, finished 8th.

After the last race in Baku, Force India’s instructions to its drivers were simple – race hard, but do not, under any circumstances, run into one another. Ocon was largely felt to be the guilty party after he and Perez clashed in Azerbaijan – the Mexican said before the race in Austria that his young French teammate needed to be “more intelligent” in future – and when they qualified eighth (Perez) and ninth (Ocon) with less than a tenth of a second between them, the chance for more paint-swapping between the pair loomed large. In the end, Perez’s superior pace saw Ocon more concerned with Massa’s Williams behind him than mounting a charge for seventh, and with 10 points between its drivers, Force India was able to extend its comfortable margin for fourth in the constructors’ standings despite never looking likely to challenge for the podium as it did in Canada and Azerbaijan.

Felipe Massa: qualified 17th, finished 9th. Lance Stroll: qualified 18th, finished 10th.

Three points combined for Massa and Stroll looked like a pipedream after qualifying on Saturday, when the Williams duo were down on the second-last row of the grid in a car that had been updated with a new front wing, bargeboards and sidepods since Azerbaijan, but struggled for balance and to get temperature into its tyres. “We’re not quick here, and we don’t know why at the moment,” lamented technical director Paddy Lowe after qualifying, but Massa felt the car would be better in the race. The experienced Brazilian was right, using a marathon first stint on the soft tyre to vault into top-10 contention, and Stroll joined him as the pair took advantage of the chaos caused by Kvyat at the first corner. To score points at all after the team’s worst qualifying of 2017 had to be considered, in the circumstances, a decent save.

Fernando Alonso: qualified 12th, did not finish. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 13th, finished 12th.

“They cannot play bowling,” was Alonso’s assessment of being skittled by Kvyat the first corner and his race lasting all of 300 metres, the Spaniard paying the price for his customary strong start by being in the firing line as the field filed into the first right-hander of a 71-lap journey. Vandoorne had to make two visits to the pits after being penalised for taking too long to respond to blue flags while being lapped by Raikkonen, but it didn’t affect his finishing position, and the Belgian remains one of three full-timers on the grid (Palmer and Ericsson are the others) yet to score a point this season.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat: qualified 14th, finished 16th. Carlos Sainz: qualified 10th, did not finish.

The race at the Red Bull Ring was a nightmare for Red Bull’s sister squad, with Kvyat getting a drive-through penalty for causing the first lap mess and finishing dead last, and Sainz forced to retire on lap 45 as his car, beset by reliability problems for most of the weekend, finally cried ‘enough’ when he was running on the fringes of the top 10. The Spaniard spent the weekend making headlines more for what he said out of the car for what he did in it, saying said he felt a fourth year at Toro Rosso in 2018 was “unlikely” if no space opened up at the senior Red Bull Racing team. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and motorsport consultant Dr Helmut Marko poured cold water on that idea though, Horner saying Sainz will be at STR next season, and Marko questioning his loyalty and suggesting he “focus on driving”.

Romain Grosjean: qualified 7th, finished 6th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 15th, did not finish.

There were contrasting emotions at Haas on Sunday night, with Grosjean scoring the team’s best result of the season with sixth, but the luckless Magnussen forced to take an early bath for the second day running. Grosjean was pleasantly surprised to be starting sixth after Hamilton’s penalty promoted him a spot on the grid, and he briefly fought Raikkonen’s Ferrari in the initial stages before settling into a rhythm, and while he finished well over a minute behind Bottas, his was the last car not lapped as he snared eight precious championship points. Magnussen was despondent when his car’s front suspension broke after he’d made the second part of qualifying on Saturday, and was plenty peeved on Sunday when he had a hydraulics failure that saw the car stuck in gear after 30 laps, a chance to attack Stroll for what became the final points-paying position going begging.

Jolyon Palmer: qualified 16th, finished 11th. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 11th, finished 13th.

Palmer finished 11th – one place out of the points – for the third time in the past four races in Austria as the wait to break his 2017 season duck rolls on. Hulkenberg, who missed out on Q3 by six-thousandths of a second on Saturday, took an early gamble to fit the more durable soft-compound Pirelli tyre in attempt to get to the end of race on lap 16, but could only advance as far as 13th on a day where nearest rivals Haas had their strongest race of the year.

Marcus Ericsson: qualified 19th, finished 15th. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 20th, finished 14th.

Sauber were in a race of their own in Austria – Ericsson and Wehrlein were well over a second per lap slower than any other car in Friday practice – and owned the back row of the grid in qualifying, Wehrlein then electing to start from the pit lane after the team fitted a new turbocharger to his car before the race. Neither made much progress – only the penalised Kvyat finished behind the two blue cars – and Ericsson was lapped twice to Wehrlein’s once, but both were more than half a minute outside of the points.


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