Austrian GP - Sunday - Race Report

The Getaway: How Bottas won

Start, Austrian GP 2017

Start, Austrian GP 2017 

 © RV Press


By Dan Knutson in Spielberg

Valtteri Bottas made a perfect but controversial getaway from pole position to take the lead in the Austrian Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver then held off a charging Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari to win for the second time in his Formula 1 career.


Bottas was always quick at the Austrian track when he drove for Williams, and he continues that trend with Mercedes.


Bottas earned the pole for the second time in his career. It was mighty close, however, as he beat out Vettel by just 0.042 of a second.


It was, Bottas said afterwards, the best start of his life.


The computerized timing system, which does not lie, showed that Bottas did not jump the start and had a reaction time of 0.201 of a second. Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo believe that Bottas released his clutch paddle just before the red lights went out and then things worked out perfectly because the lights went out just he was on is way.


Bottas actually did nudge his car forward ever so slightly before the red lights went out. But it was within the fine margins of "anticipating the start" permitted by race officials.


"From my point of view, he jumped the start," Vettel said. "Obviously I was sure that he did; it looked like it from the inside of the car but it's not for me to judge at the end of the day. I probably was a bit late because it's quite tricky then to keep standing still. I had a bit of wheel slip later on but overall I thought it was a good start."


Lewis Hamilton could have been a contender. But he had a five-place grid penalty for getting a new gearbox in his Mercedes, and he managed to qualifying "only" third. That meant he had to start eighth. He worked his way up to challenge Ricciardo for third place in the final laps.


Hamilton' time of 1:07.411, set on lap 69 of 71, was a new race lap record on the circuit, beating the mark of 1:08.337 that Michael Schumacher set in 2003.


While much of the race was a set pattern with Bottas, Vettel and Ricciardo running spaced out at the front, the final laps turned into a cliff hanger with Vettel all over Bottas and Hamilton all over Ricciardo.


While Bottas was able to pull out a gap of nearly eight seconds over Vettel in the first part of the race, the cliff hanger was set up as Bottas couldn't maintain that breathing room.

"He was catching up," Bottas said, "but the problem in the last stint was that I had a massive blister in the rear left since lap five or so; that made it quite tricky. In the beginning I could control the pace but in the end the back markers made it quite tricky."


Ricciardo's engineer told him to "get his elbows out" on the last lap to hold off Hamilton. He managed to do so to hold onto third even though Hamilton had managed to get alongside him at Turn 4 on the previous lap.


Vettel reckons he could have won if the race had gone on for one more lap.

"I was told he was in trouble," Vettel said of Bottas. "I was pushing anyway. I felt much happier in the second stint, second part of the race. In the first part of the race I was struggling a little bit to feel the car but then as soon as we put (on) the super soft tire, the car came alive and I had really good pace. I was catching little by little but then he obviously struggled so the last laps it was getting really close. I think I had Perez which cost me a bit of time with lapped cars. I think I needed one more lap because he was really struggling to get up the hill. Obviously I wanted to win but nevertheless it was a good result.


Just in Russia where Vettel was hounding eventual winner Bottas, Bottas kept his cool and the lead and won by 0.658 of a second. His margin of victory in Russia was 0.617 of a second.


In the end, Bottas and Mercedes won in Austria, but barely beat Vettel and Ferrari.

"It was very close and probably he was happier with the car in the first stint than I was and the other way around in the second stint," Vettel said. "We started from zero, he had eight meters advantage when the lights went off, and then we finished half a second behind each other. In the end, I think we had the same pace."

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