Round nine of the Formula One World Championship took place today in the blistering (quite literally, see below) temperatures at the Red Bull Ring circuit in Spielberg, Austria.
Valtteri Bottas started on pole with Lewis Hamilton 2nd and Kimi Raikkonen 3rd, but as they got underway that didn’t seem to matter as the cars were three wide into turn one! How there was no contact is beyond me, superb driving by everyone. It was Hamilton who came out on top of that battle with Bottas slotting behind his team mate and Raikkonen third. The start was extremely dynamic with cars moving all over the place; Stoffel Vandoorne suffered contact on that opening lap, meanwhile Esteban Ocon was pushed onto the grass by his opposition.
An engine failure for Nico Hulkenberg caused a virtual safety car which set the tone for the rest of the race as numerous pit stops were triggered. Hamilton was the only front runner not to pit under that virtual safety car, and he would regret that decision as this is the moment that lost him the lead. However due to a later engine problem, Lewis would not finish the race, so it did not matter too much anyway.
It was a race of attrition with Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Hartley, Vandoorne and both Mercedes cars not seeing the chequered flag; engines, gearboxes, hydraulics and thermal induced tyre blistering were the problems of the day. Curiously, most of the issues were mechanical which is very rare to see these days. There’s going to be a lot of disappointed drivers tonight!
In the chaos, Max Verstappen came home to take his fourth win in Formula One ahead of both Ferrari’s. Interestingly, Ferrari chose not to switch Sebastian Vettel ahead of Kimi Raikkonen for the championship. The Haas drivers secured their best ever team result; 4th and 5th, with Romain Grosjean picking up his first points of the season. The Force India drivers were 6th & 7th ahead of Fernando Alonso. Meanwhile, Sauber scored a double points finish, 9th & 10th, for the first time since China in 2015!
A special mention for Force India and Sauber today. Both Esteban Ocon and Charles Leclerc let their team mates through during the race because they were struggling on their tyres. However, when Sergio Perez and Marcus Ericsson were unable to make up any subsequent positions, they both let their team mates back past on the final lap. Absolutely tremendous teamwork.
The F1 circus heads to Britain next weekend with Vettel one point clear of Hamilton in the World drivers’ championship. Unusually, Britain is in the midst of a heatwave at the moment, and early weather predictions suggest that the heat and humidity will remain for the race. Could this be the first British GP in history where no-one expects rain?!
Who do you think will win in Britain? Let us know in the comments below.