A return to three-way battles in Formula One

Jawad Yaqub Roar Guru

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    Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes waves to Formula One fans and media. (Image supplied by AMG Petronas Motorsport).

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    As the old saying goes, ‘good things come in threes,’ and the Austrian Grand Prix certainly affirmed that statement regarding the direction of the 2017 Formula One world championship.

    Valtteri Bottas’ second career victory bolstered him within 35-points of the championship leading Sebastian Vettel, thrusting the Finn into what is now a three-way title race.

    A string of five consecutive podiums at mostly power sensitive circuits, including a victory for Daniel Ricciardo, sees the Red Bull Racing outfit at last join Mercedes AMG and Ferrari in the winner’s triumvirate.

    Not since 2010, Formula One has seen at least three teams regularly contesting for the overall victory, race in race out. Whilst Red Bull are seemingly out of contention for the title itself, their presence amidst the silver and red cars is a pleasing sight for the sport.

    Similarly, having a trio of championship contenders in Formula One, had pre-date the hybrid era which commenced in 2014.

    Despite the scathing criticism regarding the lack of overtaking and competition early in the season, it is clear that the new 2017 formula is Formula One at its most competitive since before the hybrid era.

    It’s not since 2013, have three individual teams achieved race victories and whilst Ricciardo’s Baku triumph did come as a result of misfortune to the title protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull are in a position now to challenge the leaders on pace.

    “We’re hoping that getting to some more conventional circuits again, we should be able to narrow that gap down,” warned Red Bull team principal Christian Horner following the Austrian Grand Prix.

    “You can see that when Hamilton got the instruction to turn up the engine for the last 10-15 laps, that was worth between 0.4-0.5s, we could still maintain our position.

    “We finished within 10 seconds of the grand prix winner, and without any safety car. We definitely have narrowed the gap and there is more in the pipeline. Everybody in the factory is working tremendously hard.

    “Hopefully they will continue to get performance on the car and, at the same time, hopefully on the engine side things will continue to improve.”

    Moving ahead to technical circuits such as Silverstone and the Hungaroring within the coming days and weeks, there will be onus on the Milton Keynes squad to back up their recent run of form – now regardless of their Renault power-unit’s deficiencies.

    As predicted earlier in the season, if Red Bull could bring their RB13 up towards the Mercedes AMG and Ferrari – they’d be in a position to start taking results away from the championship protagonists.

    Ricciardo, on pace, denied Hamilton a crucial podium finish at the Red Bull Ring and it is scenarios such is this, which will have a significant impact on the outcome of the title.

    If that is the influence that one Red Bull car can have, then it remains to be seen when the severely unlucky Max Verstappen will overcome reliability problems and find himself in that top three battle.

    In terms of the championship itself, it has been overlooked until now the credentials of Bottas as a contender. More often, would his misfortunes be accentuated with the label of ‘number two driver’ awaiting to be branded on the Finn – whilst the days on which he trumps Hamilton are not brought to light as much.

    Amongst the fiery duel between Hamilton and Vettel, the ice-cool Bottas quietly continues to accumulate and has now provided this narrative with another interesting dimension.

    No matter what outcome 2017 yields for Formula One, there is one thing to all be jubilant about and that is having a three-way title battle, as well as a trio of teams fighting each weekend for wins.

    And all that, despite many items awaiting addressing in the sport – is a strong step towards the ideal Formula One.