SPIELBERG (Austria) • Valtteri Bottas won a cliffhanger Austrian Grand Prix for Mercedes yesterday, with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel finishing a mere 0.6 of a second behind to increase his lead over Lewis Hamilton to 20 points after nine Formula One races.
Hamilton, Bottas' team-mate, started in eighth place after a grid penalty triggered by an unscheduled gearbox change and finished fourth. Vettel now has 171 points to Hamilton's 151. Bottas is third overall on 136.
"I had a bit of deja-vu in the end from Russia," said the Finn, referring to his first Formula One win at Sochi in April when the German almost reeled him in at the finish and also crossed the line 0.6sec behind.
"At the beginning I could control the race but it was trickier towards the end."
Australian Daniel Ricciardo finished third for Red Bull, at a circuit owned by the energy drink brand, for his fifth successive podium finish with Hamilton pushing him hard to the chequered flag.
"I gave it everything I could," the three-time world champion said. "But I can only take heart from the final part of the race and move on. It has been a difficult weekend."
AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX
1 Valtteri Bottas (Fin)
Mercedes 1hr 21min 48.527sec
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger)
3 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus)
Red Bull +6.012
4 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr)
5 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin)
6 Romain Grosjean (Fra)
7 Sergio Perez (Mex)
Force India +1 lap
8 Esteban Ocon (Fra)
Force India +1 lap
9 Felipe Massa (Bra)
Williams +1 lap
10 Lance Stroll (Can)
Williams +1 lap
OVERALL STANDINGS DRIVERS
1 Vettel 171 pts 2 Hamilton 151 3 Bottas 136 4 Ricciardo 107 5 Raikkonen 83
1 Mercedes 287 pts 2 Ferrari 254 3 Red Bull 152 4 Force India 89 5 Williams 40
The victory from pole position was the second of the season and of his career for Bottas, who joined Mercedes in January as a replacement for retired 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg.
Apart from the closing laps, with the German chasing down the Mercedes in a nail-biting finish and Bottas looking anxiously in his mirrors as he wrestled with blistered tyres, the Finn's biggest scare came at the start.
Bottas reacted with split-second precision, his getaway so blindingly quick that Vettel alongside immediately questioned whether the Mercedes had jumped the lights.
Stewards investigated and took no further action. "I think that was the start of my life. I was really on it today," Bottas said.
Before the race both he and Hamilton had insisted there would be no team orders and that Bottas would be free to follow his own plan out front and as he had in Russia and he did exactly that.
He knew the threat from Vettel would be immediate and he neutralised it with aplomb, an absolutely genius start backed by immediately putting clear distance on the German that he maintained almost to the end.
"I was pretty sure he jumped it. How would you feel if you were just shy of half a second behind the winner? It was very close," said Vettel, who felt he would have won with one more lap.
As Bottas led away, bits of bodywork went flying behind him in a three-car coming together that drew a groan from some 10,000 orange-shirted Dutch fans around the circuit as Ricciardo's teenage team-mate Max Verstappen was shunted off.
McLaren's Fernando Alonso joined Verstappen in retiring without completing a lap, the Spaniard hit from behind by Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat and pushed into the Dutch driver. Kvyat was given a drive-through penalty.
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN