Max Verstappen gave Red Bull Racing its first triumph at their home track by surviving a chaotic Austrian Grand Prix to claim the victory.
The first wave of quick laps ended in favor of Bottas – the Finn was 0.5 seconds ahead of Hamilton and Vettel because of an error showed only the sixth result.
His team-mate Ricciardo retired with an exhaust problem and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner admitted that prompted concerns over Verstappen’s auto. Red Bull is third in the constructors’ championship, 58 points adrift of Ferrari.
“I think that if you look at Mercedes’ history, the team is basically what Ross [Brawn] put in place several years ago”.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who trails championship leader Hamilton by 14 points going into Sunday’s ninth of 21 races, had a fastest lap that was 0.236 behind Hamilton’s. Romain Grosjean (“Haas”) 7.
Ricciardo and Hamilton were forced to pit for a second time, such was the severity of their problems, yet, as Ferrari had no such issues, it was upto Verstappen to do all he could to stay in front.
“I just tried to do my best race possible”. Raikkonen said: “I had to back off at turn one because the cars were squeezed together”.
“We made the right call when virtual safety vehicle came out and we pitted”.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen finished a close second, with team mate Vettel third against expectations after a grid penalty had demoted him to sixth on the grid.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was the first retirement, with his engine spewing a cloud of smoke and flames.
The day looked promising for Mercedes in the early laps. “My gearbox is gone”, he told the team.
As well as Hamilton’s retirement, the Dutchman benefited from a tactical blunder by Mercedes, who failed to send their drivers in for a pit stop when the virtual safety vehicle was deployed on lap 14.
“But you have to have confidence in your boys to nail a double stop with the proximity that the drivers were in there”.
The move proved crucial in a race in which a calm and composed Verstappen perfectly managed both his pace and, more importantly, his tyres. “It’s my mistake. Do what you can”, replied Mercedes strategist James Vowles. With Hamilton failing to score, Vettel regained the championship lead 146-145.
But it was a far from easy win; especially with teammate Daniel Ricciardo retiring – which prompted Red Bull to turn down the leading car’s engine. I’m not going to be able to pass these guys.
“The tyres are very sensitive and it can happen in the first five laps, if you’re too aggressive, the tyre starts to open up and the damage is done”.
It was clear that tyre wear was emerging as a critical factor.