The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX: Austria: Vettel Extends Lead As Bottas Wins

13-07-2017

By Jack Target

Well, we were due a bit of a quiet one.

Valtteri Bottas had a dominant weekend as he picked up his second win of the season and staked his claim as a title challenger.

His teammate, Lewis Hamilton, qualified in 3rd but started from 8th after a gearbox change. He ended the race in 4th, just missing the podium. The Mercedes driver not only saw Bottas close the gap on him in the drivers championship, he also saw his rival Sebastian Vettel extend his lead to 20 points. 

After the last couple of races that saw action and talking points throughout, this one didn’t quite live up to those. After a qualifying session that ended in a bit of an anti-climax, the race saw all of its action in the first and final two laps.

Qualifying on Saturday threw up a few surprises as both Williams’, including Lance Stroll who was on the podium in Azerbaijan, went out in Q1 after struggling in free practice. Both McLaren’s had made it through to Q2 and put their cars on the grid just outside the top 10. The biggest surprise would have come from Carlos Sainz who took his Torro Rosso in to Q3, although that was the highlight in a disappointing weekend for the team.

The damp squib ending to proceedings occurred when Romain Grosjean’s car stopped on track and then Max Verstappen had a spin on a flying lap. It was a blow to Hamilton who would have wanted to qualify higher than 3rd at the best of times, let alone with a five place grid penalty looming over him. 

As stated earlier, most of the action in the race happened at the start and the end. One of those moments actually happened almost before the race as Bottas got off the line extremely quickly, giving himself a big lead of Vettel. The Ferrari driver almost immediately questioned whether the Finn had jumped the start. After the stewards watched the start again in what must have been super slow-mo and much chin scratching, they decided he just about timed it right. We can only imagine what would have been said if it were Lewis or Seb pulling off a stunt like that!

In to the first corner and three drivers had their races end early. Daniil Kvyat looked like he had done enough to move a few places up, going up the inside but he braked too late and collided into Fernando Alonso, who then, tragically, went in to Max Verstappen. There were high hopes for the young Dutchman in what must have felt like a home race. His team were hosting their home Grand Prix and the stands were awash with Netherlands orange. Much like I felt when writing about McLaren’s struggles this season, it is once again disheartening to write about Verstappen exiting another race so early. He has now had five DNFs and three on the bounce. With the rumours flying around this week that he could be off to Ferrari in 2018, he will need his luck to change to show his talents once again to get a move like that. 

And that, I’m afraid to say, was almost pretty much that. Both Williams drivers recovered and finished in the points and Grosjean took advantage of a non-eventful race to hold on to 6th place after a fine start. 

Just when we started looking towards Silverstone next week, things started to pick up. In the space of around 15 laps the four seconds that separated the two four drivers had dwindled to just a second between Bottas and Vettel and further back Ricciardo and Hamilton. 

Bottas just about held on long enough to not give Vettel a sniff of a race victory but Ricciardo defended superbly in an exciting final few laps to give his home team a place on the podium. 

Of course when he was up there he had a celebratory shoey, as did Martin Brundle. This was despite the Sky Sports pundit cheering on Hamilton to take 3rd, knowing he was doing the interviews after. Bottas declined the privilege. 

So that was Austria. The lovely scenery was just about enough to keep fans interested between the exciting book ends of the race but all eyes move on to Silverstone.

Recent news of British Racing Driver’s Club, who own the track, deciding to end its current contract have sent some shockwaves through the world of Formula 1 and sets up multiple questions that we hope will be answered this weekend. However, I fear we will be as stumped as we are now. More on that after Sunday.