Bottas ‘dodges bullets’ and kerbs to deliver perfect start to F1 2020

Valtteri Bottas resists Lewis Hamilton and the urge to use the kerbs as both he and his Mercedes W11 hold their nerve for Austrian Grand Prix success
Bottas ‘dodges bullets’ and kerbs to deliver perfect start to F1 2020

The 2020 Austrian Grand Prix may well be remembered for the chaotic final few laps that cost Lewis Hamilton a podium finish but for Valtteri Bottas it was a relatively serene run up front as for the second year in a row he claimed the first race spoils.

Starting from pole position, Bottas got the jump into turn one and quickly got the hammer down, extending his margin beyond the DRS range to Max Verstappen in second place to cruise into a sizeable advantage.

However, his challenge would soon come from team-mate Hamilton as he slowly edged back into contention from fifth on the grid, the defending champion getting onto the tail of his Mercedes counterpart by the time they double pitted on lap 26.

Just as Hamilton reached DRS range though, both drivers were given warnings over the radio to stay off the kerbs over concerns the vibrations could cause technical issues on the W11.

This came to a head in the closing stages when two back-to-back safety car periods in the closing stages allowed rivals on fresher rubber back up to the rear of the pair heading into the final ten laps.

While Hamilton was ultimately caught out in contact with Alex Albon, Bottas was able to keep his cool out front to complete his eighth career F1 win, mirroring his round one success in Australia last year.

Admitting to ‘dodging bullets’ amid looming technical issues and persistent interruptions, Bottas was simply pleased to reach the chequered flag unscathed.

“Winning a Formula One Grand Prix is never easy, but today didn’t definitively come easy at all,” he said after the race. “In the first stint Lewis lost a bit of time getting through the Red Bulls, so there was quite a bit of margin. So, the first stint was not that bad because I had a decent gap, I could control and make sure we’d make it to the target stop lap. I tried to do the right thing with the tyres and maintaining the car.

“In the second stint there was never, like, massive pressure, because I was up in front and we wanted to make really sure we made it to the end, but there was all these variables in the race, we had some issues with some sensors, that were damaged by the vibration of the pretty harsh kerbs we have here, so we had to avoid kerbing which, obviously, costs you quite a bit of lap time.

“And when you are in the lead, getting one Safety Car after another… In the end I was, like, “again?”, because when you are in the lead you just want things to be constant and trouble-free. There were many variables, I managed to dodge many bullets today and get the win.”

Reflecting on the call by the team to avoid the kerbs, Bottas admits he initially had a tough time managing the situation as per the team instruction while keeping Hamilton at bay.

“Initially it was a tricky one, because I was watching on the mirrors and I could see Lewis was pushing pretty, pretty hard and still making use of all the track, but obviously you want to prioritize the reliability, so took a couple of laps to try and optimize the new way of driving, avoiding the kerbs.

“At least, here, the more you go on the kerb the more the vibrations ramp up, so you kind of get a feeling for what’s OK and what’s too much. There were only a few places where you need to take care, so, after one or two laps I kind of got used to it.

“In the end, when I tried for the fastest lap, I think with a couple of laps to go, I still was off the kerbs, so it didn’t feel right. But I had to do it.”

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