Valtteri Bottas’ flying start turns up heat on Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton now has a 20-point gap to close on leader  Sebastian Vettel. Picture: Getty.
Lewis Hamilton now has a 20-point gap to close on leader Sebastian Vettel. Picture: Getty.
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Lewis Hamilton insists he need not change anything in his approach despite heading to Silverstone on the back of another average result at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The Briton will enter his home race 20 points behind championship leader Sebastian Vettel after recovering from a pre-race grid penalty to finish fourth at the Red Bull Ring.

His Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas is also breathing down his neck having sealed the second win of his career, with Ferrari’s Vettel coming home a close second to extend his advantage and Daniel Ricciardo finishing third to take a podium for Red Bull at their home track.

Hamilton, still smarting after Vettel escaped any post-race reprimand for deliberately driving into him at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, came here with plenty to ponder.

The three-time world champion was on the back-foot from the get-go in Austria as – despite setting the early pace – he would drop five places on the grid following a gearbox change.

A brake-disc failure in Saturday practice added to his issues before he could only go third-fastest in qualifying.

It means he heads to Northamptonshire under pressure to turn things around but not, in his mind, having to alter anything to do so.

“I don’t think there’s a call for me to do anything else than I’m already doing,” he said.

“It’s not like the team aren’t on my side or they’re not working hard or I’m not pushing them hard enough, so all I can do is try to inspire them.

“When I look at the race pace, I was actually quickest so I had the strongest race ... I don’t think the points reflect this. There’s nothing else I can do, I just have to keep driving the way I have been and hope things get better.”

Bottas deserved his second F1 win, putting in a near-perfect qualifying lap on Saturday and then pulling off a miraculously quick start to maintain his lead in the race.

It was so good the stewards investigated whether he had jumped the start for the next 26 laps, only to deem the Finn had timed it to perfection.

“I think that was the start of my life, I was really on it today,’’ he said.

“It is only the second win in my career. A massive thank you to the team. It is still a long year ahead, we are not even halfway and it makes good for the points, but we are still developing.”

Now just 35 points shy of Vettel himself, Bottas insists he is now in the fight for the title he had been targeting since leaving Williams for Mercedes in the winter.

“Since the day I signed with Mercedes, what else can you put as a target? It’s always been the target,” he said.

“I’m developing so much every single race and feel like I’m really getting better all the time. It’s a long year ahead but for sure I’m in the championship fight.”

Vettel came within sixth-tenths of a second of passing the Mercedes by the time they took the chequered flag and, despite Bottas being cleared of a jump-start, the German remained adamant he had seen it differently.

“From my point of view he jumped the start,” he said.

“It looked like it from inside the car but it’s not for me to judge at the end of the day.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Valtteri. He drove an excellent race.

“At the end, with a difficult car he didn’t do a mistake, so he performed well. But when I said I don’t believe, it’s because I don’t believe.

“I don’t think that everyone was that much slower today, that’s why I don’t believe Valtteri was that much quicker.”

Kimi Raikkonen finished a distant fifth for Ferrari after his fightback was curtailed, with Romain Grosjean coming home for Haas in sixth. Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon secured a double points finish for Force India, with the Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll recovering from a terrible qualifying session to round out the top 10.