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Bottas admits he had to ‘rally drive’ to hold off Perez for final podium spot on aging tyres

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After being beaten to the final podium spot by Sergio Perez last time out in France, Valtteri Bottas had his revenge in Styria on Sunday, as he pipped the Red Bull driver to P3, despite have started behind him.

Bottas was a frustrated fifth on the grid, even after setting the second-fastest time of qualifying ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton. That was thanks to a penalty for dangerous driving after a practice spin in the pit lane.

READ MORE: 'Everyone is trying to screw you over in this sport' – Bottas unhappy with 'harsh' penalty as he drops from P2 to P5 on grid

But the Finn made amends in the race, passing McLaren’s Lando Norris early on and then jumping Perez in the pit stops. He managed his hard tyres well for his second and final stint, weathering a late surge from the Mexican, who had switched to a two-stop strategy.

“I think from where we started, we maximised today,” said Bottas, “and at least nice to get ahead of Perez, which is obviously a big target for us, trying to get points against Red Bull. So that’s good.

“There was not much left in my tyres at the end - today was more like rallying in Finnish Lapland than F1 in Austria!”

2021 Styrian Grand Prix: Pérez chases Bottas to the line in late fight for podium place

So how much better could Bottas have done at the Red Bull Ring were it not for that unusual grid drop? Perhaps one place better at least…

“Without the penalty, I think maybe the maximum we could have hoped for is P2, but I think first place… Max [Verstappen] and Red Bull, they were a bit out of reach today.

“I think it feels like [they are] two, three-tenths a lap quicker, so it’s actually quite a lot. They have a strong power unit, they have a strong car, and it feels like they are a bit better with the tyres. So definitely once the season goes on, we have work to do.”

Valtteri Bottas: Verstappen and Red Bull 'out of reach today'

With the second round of the Austrian double-header less than seven days away, Bottas conceded there’s little Mercedes can do to close the gap significantly, but insisted he was encouraged by this weekend’s performance, in particular his strong qualifying lap.

“Of course, in one week, we can’t make any miracles, but we try to learn from this week and hopefully we can be at least a little bit better placed next week. And, of course, we’re going to aim for a [even] better [qualifying] lap next week – look forward to it!”

Even after today's podium Bottas remains fifth in the driver standings, 12 points behind Norris. It did mean, however that Mercedes only dropped three points to Red Bull in the constructors' championship, the world champions now trailing by 40 points after eight of 23 races.

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