Valtteri Bottas claimed his second win of the year leading the Austrian Grand Prix from start to finish.
A late charge by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel saw the Finn challenged in the closing laps but he eventually got across the line with a narrow 0.658 second margin.
The win for Bottas was a good result for Hamilton who started in eighth after a poor qualifying and a five-place grid penalty for a gear box change. Hamilton worked his way into fourth to limit the damage on his title hopes but Vettel has still extended his points lead.
In third was Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who has now been on the podium in the last five races. This is in stark contrast to team-mate Max Verstappen who again suffered a DNF – his fifth in seven races.
Romain Grosjean grabbed a bagful of points finishing in sixth ahead of both Force India’s. Williams drivers Massa and Stroll recovered from starting in 17th and 18th to round out the top 10.
Bottas Gets Good Start
The Austrian Grand Prix got off to a tantalizing start with Hamilton jumping a slow Verstappen. The teenager – who was cheered on by over 10,000 travelling Dutch supporters – then got taken out of the race after Kyvatt misjudged braking into Turn 1 and his Toro Rosso shunted Alonso’s McLaren into Verstappen.
Among the commotion, Bottas took an early lead from pole position aided by a remarkable get away. Vettel and Ricciardo both complained over their team radio that Bottas jumped the start, or at least anticipated the start which isn’t permitted, but stewards ruled that the 0.201 second reaction time was within acceptable limits.
Without that worry the Finn edged out a comfortable lead over Vettel, while Hamilton slowly worked his way through the field. He got past Force India’s Sergio Perez on lap six and Haas’ Romain Grosjean on lap eight, before setting sights on Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Hamilton closed the 4.5 second gap to Raikkonen by lap 19 but couldn’t find a way to overtake. His race engineers brought the Mercedes in for an early pit stop on lap 31 which gave him the lead over the Ferrari but Hamilton was then forced to see out the remaining 40 laps on the less durable ultra-soft tires.
Slow-Burn Race Comes Alive
A race that then largely got into a dull rhythm quickly sprung to life again towards the end as Vettel tried to close on Bottas and Hamilton looked for a podium finish.
Bottas picked up a tire blister and was losing time to the charging Scuderia but a back-marker helped the Mercedes to cross the line for a win.
Vettel said: “The first part of the race I was struggling a bit to feel the car, but then as soon as we put on the supersoft tire the car came alive and I had really good pace.”
“I was catching little by little and he obviously struggled, so the last laps it was getting really close. I think I had Perez (to pass), 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 a good result.”
The second place for Vettel worked in favor of Hamilton who also tried to catch Daniel Ricciardo for third in the closing stages. Hamilton turned up the engine and delivered some fastest lap times but wearing tires forced him to back-off to see out the race.
Hamilton is now 20 points behind Vettel in the title race, with Bottas a further 15 points behind, but it was probably the best outcome for the Englishman who is struggling to get his campaign on track.
“Twenty points behind is 20 points behind,” said Hamilton.
“It’s not great but it could be 30-something today. Of course, there is a hit when you get a penalty and start eighth rather than third. It makes a difference but it is not the end of the world. I got the best points I could.”