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.