Red Bull claimed an unlikely victory at the Austrian Grand Prix, which bares its name, the Red Bull Ring in a race that was, in modern terms a race of attrition with only 14 drivers taking the chequered flag.
Straight to the start of the race, polesitter, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas made a terrible start, finding himself in fourth place exiting turn 1 as Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen dove in between Bottas and teammate, Lewis Hamilton, while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took advantage to also move ahead of Bottas.
The race turned on its head again with Raikkonen challenging Hamilton for the lead into turn 3, getting it all wrong and going wide, which allowed Bottas to come back at him to claim back 2nd place, seconds later, Raikkonen lost the 3rd place to Verstappen through turns 6 and 7 after the two banged wheels.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who also made a poor start, dropping back to eighth place had recovered to fifth place by lap 14, courtesy of Bottas’ Mercedes gearbox suffering a hydraulic failure, which put him out of the race while running in second place behind teammate Hamilton. You really have to feel for Valtteri, he has had exceptionally crappy luck during the 2018 season thus far through no fault of his own.
The Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was deployed and Red Bull, ever the opportunists stacked their drivers in the pits to switch onto the yellow marked soft tires under VSC conditions, as did Ferrari. Mercedes failed to react to the VSC and allowed Hamilton to go around again, eventually pitting the Briton 11 laps later, where he lost the lead to Verstappen and Red Bull was running 1 – 2 after Ricciardo passed Raikkonen.
As the race headed towards the final third, Ricciardo was suffering from significant blistering of his rear tires due to the exceptionally high track temperatures allowing Raikkonen to regain second place. Ricciardo immediately pitted for fresh tires, a set of red marked super-soft tires, after being overtaken.
Soon it was time for Hamilton to suffer from blistered rubber, losing third place to Vettel. Hamilton pitted for the third set of tires on lap 53, losing another place to Ricciardo in the pits, Hamilton now back to fifth place, but just one lap later, regained fourth place, not due to an overtake, but another gearbox issue, this time for Ricciardo, in his third retirement of 2018, two technical and one crash, with his teammate.
10 laps later, just eight laps from the chequered flag, Hamilton pulled off the track with an engine issue, so no points for Mercedes after taking a 1 – 2 in qualifying. This gifted third place to his main title rival, Sebastian Vettel, who, followed teammate Raikkonen home. Many expected Ferrari to switch the two drivers, to maximize the points haul for the team leader, but, thankfully, no such team order came.
Although Raikkonen did close the gap to the race leader, Verstappen, I feel that Max had it under control, managing the gap and his tires, Raikkonen finished the race just 1.5 seconds behind the race winner.
With Hamilton failing to finish the race, Vettel’s third place moves him ahead of Hamilton in the World Drivers Championship by just one point. And with Ferrari finishing 2 – 3 and Mercedes failing to score, that gives Ferrari a 10 point lead over Mercedes in the World Constructors Championship.
It was kinda nice to see cars retiring from the race, especially the normally bulletproof top three teams, reminding me of the past, where the envelope was constantly being pushed and engines expired in spectacular style, much like the Renault engine of Nico Hulkenberg did in the Austrian Grand Prix 2018.
Amazingly, only three cars finished on the lead lap, but due to the high attrition rate, we saw some new names high up the classification, props to HAAS, who scored a 4 – 5 finish with Grosjean scoring his first points of the season, and Force India scoring a 6 – 7 finish, even Sauber claimed a double points haul, finishing the race in 9th and 10th, while Alonso scored 4 points for himself and McLaren for 8th place.
Austrian Grand Prix 2018 Results
|1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:21:56.024
2. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +1.504
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrrari) +3.181
4. Romain Grosjean (HAAS) +1 LAP
5. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +1 LAP
|6. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1 LAP
7. Sergio Perez (Force India) +1 LAP
8. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +1 LAP
9. Charle Leclerc (Sauber) +1 LAP
10. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) +1 LAP