It may be a surprise or a sigh of relief to inform you that Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas took the win at the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring this weekend.
Although, to be fair Bottas had an impressive run in qualifying Saturday to grab his second career pole, as well as his second pole with the Mercedes team this season. As someone who was thrown into the mix of things with the German team last minute for the 2017 season, he has done nothing more than surprise us race after race. Especially to note last week in Baku as he passed Williams’ Lance Stroll on the straight to finish for second place.
Fans conflicted by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel’s FIA hearing outcome last Monday can breathe a sigh of relief to see he didn’t manage to get the win. But those watching the podium ceremonies made their unhappiness at his 2nd place podium finish known with plenty of boos.
Yet no one was visibly happier than Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who made his fifth podium finish in a row today at the team’s home track, taking 3rd.
And it wasn’t an easy third towards the end. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton spent his race climbing back from his 8th place start after qualifying 3rd yesterday and observing his 5-spot grid penalty for a gearbox change. With 5 laps to go, Hamilton had managed to catch up to Ricciardo, and was on his tail the last two laps–getting so incredibly close to stealing that podium spot from the Aussie.
Needless to say, we’re all excited and intrigued now that Hamilton has now gone two races in a row without being on the podium. This is well, odd. Not only that, but Bottas’ win and podium finish put him one podium finish ahead of his World Champion teammate. For his “rookie” year with the team, and his stubborn, albeit talented teammate, this feels especially odd.
It’s not to say that Hamilton is necessarily losing his touch, but his performance this season is not exactly what we expected, having missed his face among the podium finishers on now four out of the past nine races.
And speaking of missing faces, although this leaning more towards in races, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was taken out in the first lap of the race by Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, who isn’t new to making sketchy, risky moves on the track. Although perhaps Alonso would not have made much progress this weekend, it still doesn’t add well to the string of failures and unfinished races for the Spanish driver. Luckily, this retirement was not due to a Honda engine failure, but rather a reckless Kvyat, who was penalized with a drive through penalty for his action.
That action, also took out Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who was ran into by Alonso after his initial contact with Kvyat. Verstappen has now had to retire due to reliability issues or incidents five out of the last seven races. To give you some perspective on that–his last great run was his 3rd place podium finish in China (seven races ago), and since then has retired five races.
Luckily again, this retirement was not due to a reliability issue, but he must feel the frustration for not really being able to race, and watching his teammate do exceptionally well in the meantime.
On terms of reliability, toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz was retired due to mechanical issues, as well as Haas’ Kevin Magnussen. Haas has been struggling a bit these last few races, especially Magnussen, whose car gave out on him during qualifying yesterday after placing a qualifying lap that progressed him to Q2. He wasn’t able to run for the session though. Sainz experienced similar problems that were clearly not completely rectified, and he was asked to retire on lap 45 of the 71 lap race.
At least some good news for Haas, is Romain Grosjean was able to not have as many difficulties and finished a top-10 finish this week with 6th.
Next week is Silverstone with the British Grand Prix. Everyone is curious to see if Vettel steps out of line and gets himself another penalty and possible race ban. Bottas is clearly getting stronger and much more confident with the Mercedes team, with this weekend’s points making him a possible contender for the Drivers’ Championship (which is quite welcomed). And Ricciardo is blissfully happy with five podiums in a row–maybe going for six next weekend.
For once, we can say with how this season has been going, whatever happens next weekend might actually be a surprise.
The final results of the Red Bull Ring, Austrian Grand Prix:
1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
6. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
7. Sergio Perez (Force India)
8. Esteban Ocon (Force India)
9. Felipe Massa (Williams)
10. Lance Stroll (Williams)
11. Jolyon Palmer (Renault)
12. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren)
13. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault)
14. Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber)
15. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber)
16. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso)
NC. Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) DNF
NC. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) DNF
NC. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) DNF
NC. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) DNF