A good television show or movie can be defined by the cast of supporting characters surrounding the main protagonists. Seasons in sport also follow this line of thought and in Austria, one of the other, stronger drivers in the field staked a claim for the plaudits. Step forward…
Austria 2017 won’t go down as a modern great. Like some movies you’ve seen and heard great things about, that’s a matter of interpretation, but the beginning was good and it had a great ending and it sagged mostly in the middle. The bulk of the plot was convoluted and was hard to follow unless you invested your time in it and knew the mythos. Put simply, it was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Or Die Hard 4.0.
Yet the hero of the piece – the strong, silent type of Bottas – spent most of the race absorbing pressure like every good action hero does. In a race of two halves, separated by the single pitstop, Bottas drove with force and precision to keep Sebastian Vettel at bay, aided by a start that was so razor sharp that both Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo question the legality. The FIA declared it completely by the book, however, but it became a plot point that Vettel couldn’t quite compute.
This result now begs the question; is Bottas a title contender? The performance and the points difference – the Finn is now 35 points off Vettel and only 15 behind teammate Lewis Hamilton – has made many stand up and take notice that a continued run of form could see him becoming the fly in the Vettel vs. Hamilton narrative.
For now, Valterri should bask in the glow of the spotlight. One race doesn’t make a season, but it certainly can start a championship charge, and in Austria, Bottas’ campaign to be in the running come awards season got a well-earned and well-deserved boost.