Bottas dominates en route to Austrian GP victory ahead of Vettel

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Valtteri Bottas delivered the most dominant display of his Formula 1 career to date en route to his second victory for Mercedes in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix, beating championship leader Sebastian Vettel despite a late charge.

Starting from pole, Bottas led for all but one lap at the Red Bull Ring to give Mercedes its fifth win of the year as teammate Lewis Hamilton recovered from a grid penalty to finish fourth.

Bottas appeared to make a clean getaway from pole to stream clear of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen behind, leading the front-runners through the first corner.

Hamilton stayed out of trouble to gain a couple of places, but Max Verstappen was less fortunate, getting caught in an incident with Fernando Alonso and Daniil Kvyat.

A late stamp on the brakes saw Kvyat run straight into the rear of Alonso, sending him straight into Verstappen’s path and eliminating both cars in the process.

Bottas was soon put under investigation for an apparent jump start, only for race control to find his reaction time was in fact near-perfect, just 0.2 seconds after lights out. In the clear, the Finn began to put down the hammer, pulling out a five-second lead over Vettel.

With the majority of the field targeting a one-stop strategy, most began to struggle with excess wear almost 20 laps complete. Hamilton, however, was more comfortable after starting on super-softs, becoming the fastest man on circuit in his pursuit of Raikkonen for fourth place.

The three-time champion struggled to find enough pace to make a pass, forcing Mercedes to rethink his strategy and bring him in at the end of Lap 32 for a set of ultra-softs to take him to the end of the race.

Hamilton quickly found pace on the fresh ultra-soft tires, posting a new lap record at the Red Bull Ring to spark more of the front-runners into a stop. Ricciardo and Vettel came in one lap after another in order to corner off the Mercedes driver, leaving Bottas and Raikkonen as the only leaders yet to stop.

Bottas had managed to put the hammer down prior to Vettel’s stop to extend his lead over the pack to more than eight seconds, but the decision to keep him out longer meant that by the time he had completed his stop at the end of Lap 41, his advantage was now just three seconds.

After enjoying one lap in the lead, Raikkonen’s tires soon began to fade badly, allowing Bottas to slip ahead before Ferrari brought its own flying Finn into the pits. Hamilton’s earlier stop paid off, giving him P4 when Raikkonen emerged behind, eight seconds down with fresher super-softs to take to the end.

At the front, Vettel soon began to find his feet on his own super-soft rubber, beating Hamilton’s lap record as he worked to reduce the gap to Bottas at the front. Ferrari informed its championship leader that rain was also possible in the closing stages, prompting him to turn up the wick.

Vettel was able to cut the gap to Bottas to less than a second entering the final three laps, getting within DRS range and applying pressure on the Finn in a flurry of déjà vu from the Russian Grand Prix earlier this year.

However, Vettel ultimately ran out of laps as the Finn crossed the line after 71 laps to secure his second F1 victory, winning by just six-tenths of a second.

The race to complete the podium went down to the final lap as Daniel Ricciardo sought to hold off a charging Hamilton.

A sequence of fastest laps despite regular complaints about his tires saw Hamilton draw to within DRS range of Ricciardo late on and even try a pass with two laps to go, but the Red Bull driver fought back and was able to finish a second clear in P3.

Kimi Raikkonen’s bold strategy backfired as he ailed to fifth place for Ferrari, finishing ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean, who took the team’s best result of the year in sixth.

Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon bounced back from their fracas in Baku to finish seventh and eighth respectively without any on-track incidents, extending the team’s buffer in P4 in the constructors’ championship.

Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll benefitted from the early drama and some clever strategic work to recover from Williams’ worst qualifying result in fourth years and deliver a double points finish, crossing the line P9 and P10 respectively.

Jolyon Palmer narrowly missed out on his first point of the year, crossing the line 11th for Renault, while McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne wound up 12th at the flag ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and the Sauber pair of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson.

Daniil Kvyat was the last classified finisher in P16, three laps down on Bottas, with teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. retiring after 44 laps. Haas’ Kevin Magnussen also sustained a DNF with smoke coming out the back of his car before half distance.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”