Valtteri Bottas held on to victory by six tenths of a second from Sebastian Vettel at the end of the Austrian Grand Prix, in a race that largely went down to strategy.
Bottas had a lighting start off the grid, reacting to the lights within 0.2 seconds of them going out which allowed him to gain two meters on Vettel into Turn 1. Lewis Hamilton managed to make his way up to sixth, while Romain Grosjean was fourth at one stage before being passed by Kimi Raikkonen and Hamilton whose cars were superior in a straight line.
Max Verstappen had perhaps the most contrasting start to Bottas, kicking his car into anti-stall which put him in the mid-pack, before being spun out at Turn 1 by Fernando Alonso who was clattered by a fast approaching Daniil Kvyat. The Toro Rosso driver said he encountered braking problems, although the stewards still gave him a drive through penalty as it took out both Alonso and Verstappen who had over 10,000 fans in the grandstands supporting him.
As the race settled down up front it became a case of who was going to pit first out of the front runners, and before long Hamilton started to complain about front graining on his Super Softs. After a few attempts at getting close to Raikkonen who was matching his lap times, Mercedes elected to pit Hamilton to switch him onto the Ultra Soft tyre.
Ferrari kept Raikkonen out at this point as he would have emerged behind the charging Mercedes, with Red Bull being the next to pit Daniel Ricciardo in order to cover off Hamilton. Ferrari pitted Vettel first just a lap after Ricciardo, then Raikkonen next – although at this stage Bottas had already stopped and overtook his fellow compatriot after Ferrari attempted to back the Mercedes driver into Vettel.
In the end Raikkonen lost out to Hamilton who was now having to manage the pace on his Ultra Soft tyres which were starting to show signs of wear, particularly after the team dialled too much front wing into his car during his pit stop which was compromising his frontend grip.
Down in the mid-field Kevin Magnussen retired during the pit stop phase due to hydraulic problems battling for the final points position with Lance Stroll, which allowed Jolyon Palmer to get onto the back of the Williams driver – who started from 18th on the grid – having pitted a few laps earlier. Felipe Massa was also challenging Esteban Ocon for eighth place, while Grosjean was managing his pace in sixth place.
During the closing stages the gap start to decrease up front between the two leaders Bottas and Vettel, with Ricciardo also under pressure from Hamilton. The Ferrari driver got close on occasion to the Mercedes, the gap going as low as five tenths of a second before traffic started to play a part. Hamilton used this to his advantage chasing down Ricciardo, although only had one attempt at an overtake on the penultimate lap when the Red Bull driver had a bad exit coming out of Turn 3.
The pair were side-by-side heading into the downhill Turn 4, but Hamilton was just edged out by the Red Bull driver which sealed his place on the podium. Up front Vettel was close to Bottas on the final lap but the dirty air from the Mercedes through the high speed corners stopped the Ferrari driver from having a go, and by Turn 6 all Bottas had to do was keep it on the road.
The Mercedes driver took his second win with the team ahead of Vettel, firmly adding himself as a contender for this years championship as we reach the halfway stage for next weekends race at Silverstone.
Raikkonen finished a lonely fifth from Grosjean who said he was the winner of “Formula 1 Grand Prix 2” – in order words, best of the rest – in sixth ahead of Perez and Ocon. The Williams of Massa did get close to Ocon in the closing stages, but had to move out the way for the leaders which stopped him from having a go at eighth place.
Likewise for Jolyon Palmer who just missed out on his first points of the season, finishing 0.545s behind Stroll who was riding on the highs of Azerbaijan when he earned his first podium.
Elsewhere Carlos Sainz retired from the race midway through with gearbox problems, making it his third retirement of the season.