AHEAD OF VETTEL AND RICCIARDO
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas took his second career Formula One victory with a powerful yet controlled drive lights to flag win ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo held off a late surge from Lewis Hamilton to take the final podium position.
Bottas got away best at the start, but so good was his getaway that there was the suspicion the Finn had jumped the start. Further back Max Verstappen made the poorest start, bogging down badly when the lights went out. He was swamped by rivals and dropped back to where 14th-place starter Fernando Alonso was profiting from taking an inside line.
The Spaniard was followed by Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat but as they went into Turn 1, Kvyat braked too late and collided with Alonso who in turn hit Verstappen. The McLaren and Red Bull sustained significant damage and though both made it back to the pits they were forced to quit the race. Kvyat was later handed a drive through penalty for causing the collision.
Ahead Daniel Ricciardo, who had made a good start, was on the attack. He pressured Kimi Raikkonen into Turn 3 and stole third place from the Finn. Pushed wide, Raikkonen was also passed by Haas’ Romain Grosjean, though he passed the Frenchman on the next lap.
Bottas meanwhile was carving out a solid lead. By lap 17 the Finn had built a five-second to Vettel, with Ricciardo a further 3.5s back. Raikkonen was fourth but he was being hunted down by Hamilton, who had risen to fifth place from eighth on the grid. Grosjean was now sixth ahead of the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, while Williams had profited hugely after the start, with Felipe Massa now ninth from P17 on the grid and team-mate Lance Stroll in 10th from a P18 start.
After closing to within a second of Raikkonen, Hamilton’s pursuit of the Finn stalled and by lap 31 he was looking for options as he failed to find a way past on track. The response was for him to pit on lap 32 for supersoft tyres.
That caused a ripple effect and two laps later third-placed Ricciardo stopped for supersofts, with Vettel pitting immediately after. Bottas and Raikkonen stayed out however and by lap 38 the Mercedes driver was 19.5s ahead of the Ferrari driver, with Vettel now third and 7.1s further back having made a stop. Ricciardo was now fourth, 4.5s ahead of Hamilton.
Bottas eventually pitted from the lead on lap 41, taking on supersofts for his final stint. Raikkonen, though, soldiered on with his starting ultrasofts. Bottas though was closing on his newer tyres and retook the lead on lap 44. That was the cue for Raikkonen to finally pit for supersofts at the end of that tour. He rejoined in fifth place behind Hamilton.
Hamilton’s task was then to chase down third-placed Ricciardo. The Australian was alive to the threat and as the Briton upped the pace, the Red Bull driver responded. That he was able to almost match the pace of the Mercedes was to the credit of the Australian and his team.
Inevitably though Hamilton began to eat into the gap and 10 laps from the flag the Briton was just 2.3s adrift of the Red Bull.
With three laps to go Bottas was a slim 1.2 ahead Vettel, while Ricciardo was just 1.1s ahead of Hamilton. It looked like a grandstand finish was in the offing, but in the end both the Finn and the Australian held their nerve well and despite both gaps shrinking to less than a second, Bottas took the win ahead of Vettel and Ricciardo held third ahead of Hamilton. Raikkonen finished fifth ahead of Grosjean, while Perez was seventh ahead of team-mate Ocon. Williams enjoyed a positive day as Massa finished ninth and Stroll came home in in tenth.