For the second year in a row, Valtteri Bottas took pole position for the Austrian Grand Prix. He would be looking to also bring home the win for the team for the second year in a row. His Mercedes teammate and championship leader, Lewis Hamilton, was in second with close rival Sebastian Vettel in third. However, due to a 3 place penalty for blocking Carlos Sainz on a qualifying lap, he would start sixth for the race meaning that his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, would start in third instead. Romain Grosjean put in another fantastic qualifying for Haas. He would start fifth and would be looking for his first points of the year. His teammate Kevin Magnussen was in eigth. Pierre Gasly was the first of the Toro Rossos in twelth despite not having the upgrade package that his teammate Brenden Hartley had recieved. Hartley would start down in 19th. Another fantastic effort from Charles Leclerc put his Alfa Romeo Sauber in thirteenth place. However, he would start 18th after a gearbox penalty with his teammate Marcus Ericsson rounding off the grid in 20th place.
Before the race, Fernando Alonso had some “last minute configuration changes” which meant that he had to start from the pit lane. The lights went out and Kimi Raikkonen got off to a fanastic start. He was in between the two Mercedes drivers going into turn 1. He was just able to make his way past Bottas into turn 1. He then got a good run on Hamilton into the turn 2 harpin and went round the outside. However, he went in too deep and had to go on to the run off area. Raikkonen struggled on the first lap, despite his good start. He was later overtaken by Bottas and Verstappen. Raikonen’s teammate, Sebastian Vettel also had a hard time of things on the opening lap; losing two positions off the start. He was eager, however, to make up these places as he went straight past the Haas of Kevin Magnussen into turn 1 on the second lap. Meanwhile, Vettel’s potetial teammate for next year, Charles Leclerc had a trip off into the gravel at turn 5 which put him down the order in 19th place.
By lap 5, the drama of the opening few laps had ended. Lewis Hamilton led from his teammate and pole sitter Valtteri Bottas. Verstappen was 3rd for Red Bull with Raikkonen down in 4th after an eventful first lap. Vettel had made up his grid position now and was up to sixth after overtaking Grosjean’s Haas. The other Haas of Magnussen was right behind in 8th. The Toro Rossos and the Alfa Romeo Saubers were struggling at this stage, Gasly was in 15th from Ericsson, Leclerc and Hartley in 18th.
Lap 12 saw Nico Hulkenberg have a massive engine failure on the pit straight. Two laps later Valtteri Bottas pulled over with a gearbox failure which brought out the virtual safety car. The Red Bull and Ferrari drivers took their opportunity to pit which meant that Lewis Hamilton was in trouble unless he could find some pace over the cars behind. There was the possiblility of a 1 stop from the Ferraris and Red Bull drivers as Pirelli said the soft tyres could go to the end of the race from that point. By lap 16 we were racing again and Vettel overtook Magnussen, who hadn’t stopped under the virtual safety car, and put himself into 5th place.
By lap 20 Hamilton still led, however he had the Red Bull and Ferrari drivers closing the gap all the time. They were squabbling amongst themselves; Riccardo, for example flew round the ouside of Kimi Raikkonen at turn 3 to take 3rd place away from the Finnish driver. Despite the battling, Hamilton couldn’t hold the gap out any longer and had to pit on lap 26. He came out behind Raikkonen in 4th. Further down the field on lap 28, Charles Leclerc reminded Ferrari why he was so highly rated by pulling off a fantastic move around the outside of Stroll at turn 3; however the Williams driver was able to defend into turn 4. However, a lap later Leclerc was able to make the move stick at turn 2. This put the Ferrari young driver into 14th place.
Over the next few laps, we saw many drivers complaining about tyre wear. No one complained more than Daniel Ricciardo who was struggling with his rear left tyre. He eventually pitted on lap 39 after Raikkonen moved past him during the previous lap. He came out in 5th place as Sebastian Vettel overtook Lewis Hamilton at turn 2 to move into 3rd place.
By lap 40, Verstappen led comfortably from Kimi Raikkonen with Sebastian Vettel in 3rd. Hamilton was in 4th with Verstappen’s teammate Ricciardo in 5th. Grosjean and Magnussen were 6th and 7th for Haas respectively with Gasly rounding out the points in 10th for Toro Rosso. His teammate Hartly was close behind in 11th. However, he hadn’t stopped by that point. Leclerc was 12th with Ericsson 14th.
It seemed for the next 10 laps as if this would be it and there wouldn’t be any more action. However, on lap 54, Daniel Ricciardo had a massive mechanical issue which forced him out of the race. Not the way he wanted to be spending his birthday! Hamilton’s race, however, wasn’t much better as he had to pit again which put him down in 5th.
By lap 60, the finishing order looked pretty set. Verstappen led and didn’t seem to be having any trouble. Raikkonen and Vettel were 2nd and 3rd. I was worried at this stage that we were going to have a re-run of the 2003 Austrian Grand Prix; where Rubens Barrichello let Michael Schumacher through at the final corner of the last lap to give Schumacher vital championship points.
On lap 65, Mercedes’ day went from bad to worse when Lewis Hamilton pulled over to the side of the track with a mechanical failure. This made sure that, for the remainder at the front, it was relatively plain sailing. At the back however, a nice battle was emerging with the two Saubers. Ericsson was able to make his way past Leclerc and then later the Toro Rosso of Gasly. He tried to chase down Alonso’s McLaren by the end of the race. However he wasn’t able to and Leclerc was able to overtake him by the end of the race.
In the end it was Verstappen who took a great victory with Raikkonen and Vettel getting solid championship points in second and third. Romain Grosjean scored his first points of the season finishing 4th with his teammate backing up in 5th. Ocon and Perez were 6th and 7th for Force India with Alonso 8th after starting from the pitlane for McLaren. Leclerc and Ericsson were 9th and 10th for Alfa Romeo Sauber with the sole Toro Rosso of Gasly 11th.
Overall, I thought today was a fantastic Grand Prix. Max Vertsappen was calm and collected and really showed his skill today to take the win. Ferrari put in a good effort to get the double podium and take the lead of the Constructor’s Championship. Vettel took the lead of the drivers. Haas put in a very good effort to get 4th and 5th. That’s their best ever finish in F1. Another good effort from Alfa Romeo Sauber saw them finish in 9th and 10th. They’re becoming regulars in the points now. Sadly, Toro Rosso struggled with the nature of the Red Bull Ring. My driver of the day was Marcus Ericsson due to his fantastic late charge up the field. He really showed why he’s in F1 today.