SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas held off a late charge from Sebastian Vettel to win the Austrian Grand Prix by just 0.6s, while Daniel Ricciardo pipped Lewis Hamilton to the final spot on the podium in third.
The first 68 laps had been a drab affair, but the race came to life in the closing stages as Bottas’ lead came under threat from Vettel. The championship leader was within DRS range for the final two laps, but Bottas managed to resist the pressure and keep the lead — which he had held for all but a handful of laps after his only pit stop.
Bottas had made a perfect start from pole position — so good in fact that Vettel alongside him remained convinced that it was jump start after the race. It was understandable given that the Finn’s reaction time was recorded at just 0.21s, but it set Bottas up perfectly to build a solid lead right from the opening lap. That lead remained comfortable for the majority of the race before coming under threat in the closing stages as a series of blisters opened up on the left rear tyre of car 77. Vettel smelled blood and closed within a second of the Mercedes’ gearbox, only to end up just shy of a proper passing opportunity into the two main overtaking spots at Turns 3 and 4.
Ricciardo had an even tougher challenge keeping Hamilton at bay for third as the Mercedes driver looked to salvage as much as possible from a weekend defined by a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change. Ricciardo had to block the Mercedes into Turn 4 on the penultimate lap as Hamilton got a better run out of Turn 3 and attempted to use the DRS to pass on the outside. But with Hamilton on a set of heavily blistered ultra-soft tyres, the Mercedes driver only got one chance before the rear of his car slipped out of shape in Turn 6 and Ricciardo pulled an insurmountable gap ahead of the final lap.
Hamilton’s fourth place finish rounded off a disappointing weekend for the three-time world champion, which was hamstrung from the moment Mercedes detected an issue on his race gearbox following the previous race in Baku. Rather than risk a failure in Austria, the team opted to put a new gearbox in his car on Saturday and in doing so incurred a five-place grid drop that left Hamilton eighth on Sunday’s grid.
Car 44 fought back in the early stages of the race with passing moves on Sergio Perez at Turn 3 for sixth and around the outside of Romain Grosjean at Turn 4 for fifth. He then managed to leapfrog Kimi Raikkonen with a relatively early pit stop from super-softs to ultra-softs on lap 31 that gave him track position over the Ferrari but also also the challenge of making Pirelli’s softest compound last 40 laps. Despite several radio exchanges about the state of his rear tyres, he was equal to the task albeit just short of making that final passing move on Ricciardo for a podium.
Raikkonen finished fifth after dropping two places from his third place starting position. He lost one place to Ricciardo at the start and then dropped another when he was undercut by Hamilton’s pit stop strategy. Ferrari then tried to retaliate by keeping Raikkonen out on a 44-lap stint to give him fresher tyres at the end of the race, but the Finn simply didn’t have the pace to make it work.
Grosjean kept out of trouble to finish where his Haas started in sixth. At one stage on the opening lap he was as high as fourth, but his car was no match for the Ferrari and Mercedes that ultimately finished in front of him. He crossed the line with a 10 second advantage over the two Force Indias of Sergio Perez in seventh and Esteban Ocon in eighth, while Williams managed to turn an awful qualifying day on Saturday into two points finishes on Sunday, with Felipe Massa ninth and Lance Stroll tenth.
Max Verstappen, who started fifth, was taken out in a first corner collision triggered by Daniil Kvyat leaving his braking too late and tipping Fernando Alonso’s McLaren into a spin. Both Verstappen and Alonso were out on the spot, while Kvyat was issued with a drive-through penalty that ruined his race and left him last on the road in 16th at the finish.