SPIELBERG, Austria (Reuters) - Formula One rivals Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo saw Valtteri Bottas take off like a rocket at the start of Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix and concluded the Mercedes driver had either jumped the lights, got lucky or was not human.
Both immediately went on the radio to ask their teams, Ferrari and Red Bull respectively, whether the Finn had gone too soon.
And both were still shaking their heads in disbelief after Bottas was cleared of any misdemeanour and went on to win the race.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Valtteri, I think he drove an excellent race,” said Vettel, who finished second to extend his championship lead over Bottas’s team mate Lewis Hamilton to 20 points.
”But when I said I don’t believe, it’s because I don’t believe.
“I think normally the reaction times (to the lights) are around 0.2 for everyone. I don’t think that everyone was that much slower today, and that’s why I don’t believe that Valtteri was that much quicker,” Vettel added.
“I had a strong belief at the time that he jumped the start. Turned out he didn’t. But I can’t believe that his reaction time was 0.2. That would be normal and in my point of view his reaction was inhuman. So...he said earlier that he is not human.”
The governing FIA said Bottas’s reaction time was 0.201 of a second. At the chequered flag, he beat Vettel by 0.658.
Ricciardo, who finished third for his fifth successive podium, joined Vettel on the side of the sceptics with his own “two cents” worth of opinion.
“The lights were held for a long time, more than normal,” said the Australian.
”There is always a window but it did seem longer and when you are there and your revs are high and you’re waiting, waiting...the lights went out but I guess he got lucky.
“I did it in Formula Three before, once. It was on the edge, I’m sure you react, but at that same point the lights went out. In theory it’s not a natural reaction...I don’t believe he reacted to the lights.”
Bottas said it had simply been the best start of his life, but also one he had practised to perfection.
“When the car was moving, the lights were off so that was the main thing,” he said.
“Probably one of my best starts, maybe even quite risky, I think. But there’s not much more to gain at the start and I knew I had to make a good one.”
Editing by Ed Osmond