Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix produced another chapter in the simmeringly tense relationship between Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, with the former beating the latter for the third time in the last four races.
It was a race that threatened to provide lots of on-track incident and action, and the outcome saw some praiseworthy performances, while a few drivers and teams managed to disappoint.
Our own Chandni Patel rates the winners and losers from this year’s encounter at the Red Bull Ring…
Nico Rosberg: A costly qualifying error ensured he wouldn’t claim pole position, but a great start saw him move ahead of his teammate and chief rival Lewis Hamilton. He maintained his lead throughout the race and took his third win of the season, closing the gap to Hamilton to just 10 points in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
Felipe Massa: Claimed his first podium for the Williams team this season and was able to keep the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel behind him in the closing stages, despite not quite having the measure of the SF15-T. The improved pace of the Williams FW37 with its Mercedes power unit proved enough on a track that rewards horsepower.
Max Verstappen: Was able to take points in Austria after a tough few weeks for the team. He started an outstanding P7 and was involved with many battles throughout the afternoon, once again posting some brilliant passing moves on Daniil Kvyat in the sister Red Bull team and Pastor Maldonado in the Lotus. He pitted on Lap 26 and managed his tyres on a long second stint to take points with P8.
Force India: The team’s B-spec car doesn’t arrive until Silverstone, but that didn’t mean they weren’t able to show a strong performance in the swansong outing of what is little more than an upgraded version of last year’s machine. That led to a double points finish for the team, but what was most impressive was Nico Hülkenberg’s pace, which saw him battling with Valtteri Bottas’ Williams for much of the race. A P6 finish – just a week after his Le Mans 24 Hours win – marked his best result of the season, backed up by teammate Sergio Pérez putting in a fine drive of his own to finish in ninth.
Pastor Maldonado: Perhaps he’s shaken off some of the wildness of 2014, but the Venezuelan finished his race at P7 after what has been a rollercoaster of a season so far. He was involved in many battles with a number of drivers, but managed to stay free of reliability and driver error to come take more crucial points for Lotus, which suffered a gearbox issue on the sister car of Romain Grosjean.
Lewis Hamilton: He may have had an untidy run to pole position with a spin on his final flying lap, but Sunday is a new day and he was looking to his first European win of the season to extend his points lead. At the start, however, his teammate Rosberg got the jump and took the lead which Hamilton was never able to challenge. Delaying his pit stop in the hope of getting ahead backfired, and his misery was compounded when he crossed the pit exit blend line and earned himself a 5-second time penalty. Luckily for him, Vettel’s slow pit stop meant he wasn’t in too much trouble for track position, but he was still beaten in a straight fight by his teammate and chief title rival. His post-race demeanor said it all…
Carlos Sainz: Sainz was running P9 after Lap 6 and battling hard, however, a slow pit stop compromised his race, and he further compounded his woes by speeding in the pit lane. No long after, he was forced to retire his Toro Rosso with electrical troubles; it was not a good day for the young Spaniard overall.
McLaren: Both drivers copped a combined 45-place grid penalty between them for a number of Honda power unit element changes, and the race of both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button was over before it had barely begun. Alonso had a big crash with Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari on the opening lap, while Button retired with a sensor failure.
Romain Grosjean: Tipped to score a bag of points after completing good stints and battling with many drivers, however the disappointment continued with reliability issues in his Lotus, which struck gearbox trouble.
Red Bull Racing: Exiting its home race with just a single championship point for Daniel Ricciardo’s tenth place must be the nadir of the team’s troubled 2015 campaign. Both drivers tried hard despite the circumstances of their own grid penalties, but their efforts were overshadowed by another shocking undiplomatic tirade against their engine partner, Renault. To call its conduct graceless would be a masterstroke of understatement when you recall that partnership netted them four title sweeps on the trot (and in which Renault got next to no recognition from the team).
Images via Sutton Motorsport Images