Flying Finn’s fabulous finish

For Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari, it was damage limitation, I suppose. It was all because in the first stint Valtteri Bottas just destroyed Vettel. And in the second stint, though the Finn began to get blisters on his tyres, he did really well to hang on and stay ahead of Vettel.

The Austrian Grand Prix winner, Valtteri Bottas, celebrates on the podium with a champagne bath.   -  GETTY IMAGES

I’ll be honest, the Austrian Grand Prix was not the most exciting race in the world. Probably two laps of excitement at the top, four laps at the end and a lot of nothing in between. But sometimes you do get those races, and it’s an odd one because the Red Bull Ring should promote lots of overtaking and good racing. I think the reason is because it’s quite a short lap and the field is quite tightly bunched in terms of lap time. So you don’t see the big overtaking moves and the gaps that you’d perhaps expect to see.

Tension still simmers after Baku

Before we go into the Austrian weekend, I ought to talk about Thursday (July 6). We arrived in Austria and there was such a lot of tension after the hearing into Sebastian Vettel’s move in Baku; there was a lot of tension in the paddock between Vettel and Lewis, Mercedes and Ferrari. The Dutch fans were out in force, filling the camp sites and the Max Verstappen grandstands, and it makes for a really good atmosphere.

Bottas outclasses a rapid Ferrari

Valtteri Bottas has to be at the top of my talking points. I thought he did a stellar job, especially in qualifying. When you look at the lap time comparison between Ferrari and Mercedes, it looked like Ferrari actually had more downforce and was quicker in the corners. The Mercedes pulled it back particularly in the second half of the straight and Valtteri got a bit of a slipstream, which, I think, helped him on his pole lap. There were lots of small factors that contributed to the Finn getting pole and Mercedes is clearly very strong when it comes to turning up the engines and getting peak power for that last part of qualifying. I don’t think Ferrari is quite there yet. Combined with a slipstream it was a very, very strong lap from Valtteri that allowed him to get pole position.

It was surprising to see Lewis not really able to do the lap. He knew from Tuesday (July 4) or Wednesday (July 5) that his penalty was coming. Mercedes decided to wait until Friday (July 7) night to announce it (unscheduled gear box change) to the rest of the world, but Lewis knew about it and he almost seemed a bit deflated and demotivated when it came to qualifying.

He didn’t seem to be the Lewis that we saw in Baku and Canada, where he bounced into qualifying and really went for pole position. Here he was okay — he got third, which became eighth with the penalty, so a little bit of a sub-par qualifying.

In the race Lewis was great. Coming from eighth up to fourth was a good, strong performance, but I think he’ll be a little bit disappointed. If he started sixth, he may have had a better chance of getting past Daniel Ricciardo. In the end, he was probably a lap or two away from getting Ricciardo, and those points could be crucial at the end of the World Championship fight.

For Sebastian and Ferrari, it was damage limitation, I suppose. It was all because in the first stint Valtteri just destroyed him, disappearing seven seconds up the road and it looked like Sebastian and Ferrari had no chance to compete against him. But in the second stint, Valtteri started to get blisters on his tyres, and those of you on Twitter would have seen the picture I posted of Valtteri’s car underneath the podium with a band of blistering around the rear-left. So I think he did really well to hang on to that and to get the performance he needed at key points of the lap to make sure he stayed ahead of Sebastian.

Sebastian said it was very reminiscent of the last part of the race in Russia, where he felt he needed two more laps to get the move done.

Max Verstappen’s run of rotten luck never seems to end.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Red Bull’s best showing yet

Let’s talk about Red Bull. I thought it was the team’s most convincing performance in a normal dry race. To finish within six seconds of the winner was a fantastic effort. Yes, Valtteri had tyre trouble, but Seb was also there and it was on a circuit that doesn’t favour a car’s performance.

I think Red Bull was very happy. I spoke to Christian Horner and to Daniel’s race engineer Simon Rennie and they were both very buoyant about the result and almost pleasantly surprised with how competitive they were.

On that Friday and in qualifying they didn’t quite look like they were there, but it went well for them on race day, unlike the other side of the garage.

I always thought it was Jolyon Palmer who kept having trouble in free practice, but it all goes wrong for Max Verstappen on race day, doesn’t it?

Canada, Baku and now here — that’s three races, with arguably 40 points gone out of the window for Max. I can see why he was massively disappointed once again. It will come good for him, because he’s driving amazingly well. All through the weekend he looked stronger than Daniel, and his qualifyings have been strong, as well as his free practice pace. Every time he gets in the car, he’s just on it. Red Bull loves that about him and I can see why he’s one of those once-in-a-generation talents that come to Formula 1, no question about it.

High-speed test of Silverstone

On to Silverstone next for the British Grand Prix. There’s going to be a lot of intrigue because this is the first true high-speed circuit that we’re coming to since Barcelona. Ferrari looked amazing in the high-speed corners in Austria and I wonder if Mercedes is going to sneak in a bit more downforce or bring updates. We’re constantly seeing bits and pieces coming to those cars; they’re pushing hard.

Twenty points is the gap now between Seb and Lewis in the World Championship race, and I’m sure Lewis will be massively motivated to get a win on home soil here, in front of the fans at Silverstone.

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :