So much for the view that this season’s Formula One title battle was going to be a two-horse race. Commentators had billed this season’s duel between Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel as the headlining title fight for the F1 crown.
However, Valtteri Bottas’ excellent victory at the Austrian Grand Prix has clearly breathed new life into this season’s championship battle, as he moved within 15 points of Lewis, who is currently in second-place.
Set against the picture-postcard Styrian Mountains, Valtteri’s drive from pole to chequered flag at Spielberg was as beautiful as the setting. In fact, the Finnish driver’s start was so good that the race stewards needed a second look to make sure it was not a false start.
It wasn’t, and his blistering getaway put him on track for his second career victory in Formula One; and one that was fully deserved after qualifying on pole the previous day ahead of Vettel, who finished second.
Valtteri said: “Since the day I signed with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Team, what else can you put as a target than winning the championship, so it’s always been the target. I don’t want to shout about it too much. It’s still early days, more than 50 percent of the season to go, a massive amount of points to get.
“I’m developing so much every single race and feel like I’m really getting better all the time. It’s a long year ahead but for sure in the championship fight. To win the title, you need to make most out of every race weekend and get all the point available.”
Although Valtteri’s blistering start left Vettel baffled, the 27-year-old Finn was in no doubt that his record getaway was not in breach of the rules. Valtteri added: “I had no doubt about the start. I was sure it was all ok. I knew it was the best start I’ve ever had before. We do lots of start practice and reaction practice and in practice you can hit much better times than those but it was the perfect start.
“You need to be alert when you think the lights are going to go out and everything just came together.”
Meanwhile, Lewis battled back from eighth on the grid to come home in fourth place. The Brit enjoyed a thrilling tussle with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo over the final two laps but was pleased with the damage limitation done to his championship points.
Lewis said: “Valtteri did a fantastic job today and yesterday so he thoroughly deserved to win but it was actually a really good race for me. My initial feeling was that if I was more aggressive I would have been ahead of Daniel, but having watched it back I don’t think I could have done any better.
“When I looked at the race data, I was actually quickest, so I had the strongest race, so there are a lot of positives and I don’t really think the points reflect that.”
The scene is now set for F1 to come home in awesome style next weekend - with the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on the 16th July. Stay tuned.
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1h21m48.523s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 0.658s
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 6.012s
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 7.430s
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 20.370s
6 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m13.160s
7 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1 Lap
8 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1 Lap
9 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1 Lap
10 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 1 Lap
11 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1 Lap
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Honda 1 Lap
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1 Lap
14 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber/Ferrari 1 Lap
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 2 Laps
16 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Renault 3 Laps
- Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Renault Engine
- Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari Hydraulics
- Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda Collision
- Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault Collision