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Dovizioso edges Marquez in MotoGP Austrian thriller

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Some finishes at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria that have seen the lead change hands on the last corner of the last lap – see Michael Schumacher over Rubens Barrichello in the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix – are memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Others, such as today’s MotoGP Austrian Grand Prix, are memorable for all the right ones. Today it was Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso who wrote a spellbinding final chapter to an otherwise scintillating race, holding off a last-lap, last-turn gasp from Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez to secure the victory.

The two exchanged positions quite a number of times throughout the race but it was Dovizioso who held on by just 0.176 of a second for the win, his third of the season, after a gripping fight.

You can see the final corner of the race in a slo-mo video linked here.

Dani Pedrosa took third in the second of the Repsol Hondas, a few seconds in arrears.

Marquez now leads Dovizioso by 16 points, 174-158, after this result in the championship battle. Marquez won last week at Brno in the Czech Republic but today’s result sees Dovizioso regain some of the points lost there.

The series’ next race is at Silverstone in two weeks’ time.

Rayhall: One that got away in Austria

Photo courtesy United Autosports
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Editor’s note: Sean Rayhall, one of America’s rising driving talents, will file a series of blogs throughout the year chronicling his season in the European Le Mans Series, co-driving with John Falb at Zak Brown and Richard Dean’s United Autosports team in its Ligier JS P3. His third blog recaps a tough end to what had been a winning weekend in Austria, before a post-race penalty was assessed (previous blogs are linked here; Silverstone, Le Mans). 

The Red Bull Ring weekend for us came at a good time, to get back in a rhythm after I’d had quite a busy few weeks of travel leading into it. Between testing at Spa, coaching at Mont-Tremblant and resting up when I could it was good to have a nice flight back overseas to Austria on the Thursday before Round 3 of the ELMS season.

We felt really positive about our chances going into the weekend with how both the team and us as drivers performed separately last year, so we figured putting the two together could work out nicely for us.

Free practices didn’t go too much as planned, as we were a bit off. We were running a few things differently on our car and we were struggling to achieve the ultimate pace on new tires to qualify up front, although on old tires our pace was mega.

Photo courtesy United Autosports

My engineer “G-Baby” (Gary Robertshaw) was pretty grumpy at this point and to be completely honest, so was I. But what followed next was almost magical because of how rarely you see this happen.

Gary dug deep and worked incredibly hard to do what he did, to get us the pace in qualifying. Going in, he looked at me and said, “Alright, we are changing everything. It’s going to be better and you’re just going to have to drive whatever it is.”

From a driver’s eyes, this is both motivating and concerning. I was literally briefed in the car by radio five minutes before qualifying on how I was going to have to brake differently. That being said, long story short, throwing the kitchen sink at it worked and we qualified sixth, within a few tenths of the other Ligiers.

At race time I wasn’t sure what our race pace was going to be like, so I knew I needed to get to the front and keep as many people behind me as possible to secure a good race for us.

So launching flat out on the start going up the hill, everyone hugged the inside and I went “high side and handsome” to get us into P3 by Turn 3. As this is such a short track, you need to make positions up quickly before a lap gets away from you.

A few laps later we made the pass for P2 coming out of Turn 4, and we were on a mission. About 35 minutes into the first stint a GTE car came back on track in front of me, which caused me to completely flat spot the right front tire I had to race on till the end of my second stint.

This took a lot of patience because I knew I would give up P2, but I also knew that I had to nurse this tire for another hour and a half. So we hit a bad bit of traffic and (Giorgio) Mondini got by as I settled into P3 for the rest of my stints.

John got in the car on a mission and was chasing down the leader with new tires, and I’d have to say it was one of the best drives of his life.

Win celebrations were there at first, but were short-lived. Photo courtesy United Autosports

He got to the leader and it was a battle for about 45 minutes before the driver in the No. 11 Eurointernational car cracked under pressure and made contact with a lapped car. We weren’t home free yet, as we were assessed a drive through penalty for track limit violations as John was avoiding a GTE car. Somehow after serving the penalty we still came out on track 2.5 seconds ahead of second. And somehow, we were safe to bring it home and grab the win. Talk about a nail-biter weekend and an emotional roller coaster!

The initial post-victory celebrations before penalty. Photo courtesy United Autosports

We had a great afternoon getting our belongings and trophies, had a drink with the team, and then went to our favorite Italian man in Austria’s place for some pizza and a bottle of his famous Orange melon Liquor to take back to Vienna with us. Antonino was perhaps the oddest but funniest man we met it Austria. By far, John Falb, Scott Andrews, and I had the best dinner out of everyone from the track that night!

About an hour into the car drive back to Vienna, I received a phone call informing us we had been penalized for getting to 80 kph two seconds too late (failing to reduce enough speed), and they had given us a post-race penalty of 25 seconds. That gave the win away and put us in second place. To be honest, these were two penalties that we never gained time from, would never have been race deciding, that were allowed to decide our race for us.

Unfortunately, that’s racing and we will just have to work had enough to be able to handle 50 seconds in penalties at Paul Ricard – but ideally, not receive any further penalties assessed.

This is the challenge though and it’s up to us how we rise above it between John, myself, “G-Baby” and the entire United Autosports team, who again put us in a position to win. And the team still did get one win – our guys in the LMP2 car, Filipe, Will and Hugo, won the race overall in their Ligier! Congrats to them.

Thanks for reading guys! Will let you know how the next one goes!

F1: Austrian Grand Prix race videos on NBCSN (VIDEO)

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Videos from today’s Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring on CNBC are linked below.

Valtteri Bottas returned to the top for his second victory of the year, using an excellent start to his advantage and then defending from Sebastian Vettel at the end of the race.

With a mix of post-race interviews and in-race highlights, there was a lot to digest. The post-race edition of Paddock Pass will also attempt to recap it all.

POST-RACE INTERVIEWS/FEATURES

Valtteri Bottas post-podium

Daniel Ricciardo’s latest shoey

Lewis Hamilton frustrated with fourth

Kimi Raikkonen on a tough fifth

Romain Grosjean a solid sixth

Vettel adamant Bottas jumped start in Austria, calls it ‘inhuman’

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Sebastian Vettel remained adamant in the aftermath of Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix that Formula 1 rival Valtteri Bottas jumped the start, despite the Finn being cleared by the FIA’s data.

Bottas made a stunning getaway from pole, sparking race control to investigate a possible jump start as Vettel also complained over the radio.

The stewards found that Bottas had reacted 0.201 seconds after the lights had gone out, clearing him of any wrong-doing.

Bottas went on to beat Vettel to victory at the Red Bull Ring by 0.6 seconds, leaving the German disgruntled about the start-line antics.

“From my point of view he jumped the start. I was sure that he did,” Vettel said in the post-race press conference.

“It looked like it from inside of the car, but it’s not for me to judge at the end of the day. Probably it was a bit late because it’s quite tricky then to keep standing still.”

When informed Bottas’ reaction time was 0.201 seconds, Vettel said: “I don’t believe that.”

Bottas defended himself by explaining he did gamble on when to pull away, saying this is a normal tactic.

“There’s always a variation of time for when the lights go off, but for quite a long time that variation hadn’t been massive,” Bottas said.

“You know more or less the zone when it is going to be off, you are so alert at that point, your gambling between your reaction and guessing.

“Sometimes you get a mega start, sometimes you react a bit late and today it was one of my best reactions to the light. As long as the reaction time is positive, you’re fine.”

Vettel replied: “First of all, to clarify, I don’t want to take anything away from Valtteri. I think he drove an excellent race. Also at the end with a difficult car, he didn’t do a mistake, so he performed well.

“When I said I don’t believe this, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that reaction times are around 0.2 for everyone. I don’t think that everyone was that much slower today. That’s why I don’t believe Valtteri was that much quicker.

“I had a strong belief at the time he jumped the start. I’m guessing that there’s reason to believe he didn’t, but I can’t imagine his reaction time was 0.2.

“From my point of view his reaction was inhuman.”

WATCH LIVE: Austrian GP on CNBC, NBC Sports app from 7:30am ET

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The Formula 1 season nears its halfway point in Austria on Sunday with round nine of the 20-race season as the title fight continues to hot up between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.

F1 AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX LIVE STREAM

After coming to blows two weeks ago in Baku, Vettel and Hamilton’s rivalry was the talk of the paddock in Spielberg, but the pair have apparently patched things up and cooled tensions.

Neither driver was able to bag pole position on Saturday, with that honor instead going to Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, after edging out Vettel in the Q3 shootout.

Bottas heads into Sunday’s race chasing his second grand prix victory, while Hamilton has a fightback to complete after a penalty dropped him to eighth place on the grid.

With Vettel second for Ferrari and the likes of Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo, and Max Verstappen all lurking at the front, the stage is set for a close battle on Sunday.

You can watch the Austrian Grand Prix live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 7:30am ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett will be on the call for the race, with pit reporter Will Buxton providing updates and interviews throughout the race live from Spielberg.

Also be sure to follow the @F1onNBCSports Twitter account for live updates throughout the race.