Nico Rosberg celebrated a comfortable win in the Austrian Grand Prix and edged closer to Lewis Hamilton in World championship rankings.
Hamilton started the race from pole position, but it was his Mercedes teammate and championship rival Rosberg who took the lead at the first corner thanks to a brilliant getaway, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel slotting into third.
Shortly after, the race action was suspended by the Safety Car, brought out by a scary crash between Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen at the back of the grid.
Exiting Turn 2, the Finn – who qualified well down the order after a disastrous qualifying session – had a major tank-slapper putting down the power, and in trying to correct his fish-tailing Ferrari, tagged Alonso. The pair slid along the trackside Armco, with Alonso frighteningly becoming wedged on top of Räikkönen’s SF15-T.
After the race resumed, Rosberg was able to pull a comfortable lead. When it was time to stop in the pits to switch from Super Soft tyres to the Soft Pirelli rubber, Hamilton tried to cut the gap by delaying his own tyre change, but the tactics backfired and the gap was bigger than before the stop.
To add to that, the British driver ran across the white line at the pit exit and was hit with a 5-second time penalty – to be added to his final time as he wouldn’t have to pit again – meaning he would have to not only overtake Rosberg on track, but pull out at least a five-second gap if he wanted to win.
It was a challenge that was too great for the World Champion, who had been outclassed fair and square by a motivated teammate in equal machinery.
Luckily for Hamilton, there would be no challenge from behind to threaten his penalty, rendering it academic in the end.
Sebastian Vettel, whose Ferrari was running in third after the start, was hampered by a sticking wheel nut at his pit stop, and dropped to fourth when he resumed on track, behind the Williams of Felipe Massa.
Although the four-time world champion inched closer to the Brazilian, he was no match for the Mercedes engine in the Williams car, and despite running in DRS range, the German couldn’t get close enough to regain the position.
Valtteri Bottas had to settle for fifth after his Williams developed brake problems. The Finn was battling with Nico Hülkenberg and Max Verstappen throughout the race, but came in some 53 seconds behind race winner Rosberg.
Hülkenberg celebrated a season’s best sixth place in his Force India after a fine drive, adding another impressive result to the Le Mans 24 Hours victory with Porsche a week ago.
Pastor Maldonado drove a typically aggressive and ultimately superb race to finish in seventh place, and displayed great car control in his Lotus when he pulled a late move on Verstappen down the start/finish straight, nearly losing control of his E23 Hybrid when he attacked from the Toro Rosso’s tow with the DRS open.
Sergio Pérez was ninth in the second Force India after running a long first stint, with his and Hülkenberg’s tally moving the Silverstone team into outright fifth in the Constructors’ Championship standings. Given the team is set to introduce a heavily upgraded ‘B’ version of its VJM08 at the next Grand Prix in Britain, it bodes well for its prospects in the second half of the championship season.
Daniel Ricciardo drove a typically dogged race to snatch the final point for Red Bull Racing, after starting from the second-last row of the grid and having to serve a five-second pit stop penalty for yet another Renault engine change. The RB11’s horsepower disadvantage was clear for all to see, but the Australian was as determined as ever and passed Felipe Nasr’s Sauber late in the race after a spirited battle.
Twelfth place went to the sister Red Bull RB11 of Daniil Kvyat, who damaged his front wing on the sprint to Turn 1 when he was caught out by Pastor Maldonado’s slow-starting Lotus.
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson finished one spot behind and two laps adrift, losing time having to pit after the Lap 1 contact, and then having to perform the equivalent of a CTRL+ALT+DEL reboot of his C32’s electronics when his engine mysteriously cut out exiting the final corner.
It was a race of comparative high attrition with six retirements. Will Stevens parked his Manor Marussia with an oil leak while the field was still under Safety Car conditions, and he was later joined by Carlos Sainz (electronics) and Romain Grosjean (gearbox), who both retired on the same lap.
A double-DNF capped off McLaren’s wretched weekend, with Alonso the innocent victim in someone else’s accident – he notched up his fourth consecutive retirement – and Jenson Button grinding to a halt with faulty electronics.
Up at the front, Rosberg won his third race in the last four rounds and is now only 10 points behind Hamilton in the championship.
“I had good pace in the race, the car felt good and I could push from the first lap all the way,” the beaming German said after the race.
Hamilton said he struggled with wheel spin at the start, and – unable to mask his displeasure at being beaten again by his teammate – had to admit that Rosberg’s pace was superior.
“I had a problem with what we call the weight revs,” he explained. “I took my foot off the gas and the throttle was still on, dumped the clutch and just had lots of wheel spin. I was keeping up with Nico in the first stint, but in the second stint Nico had better pace, so congratulations to him.”
Massa celebrated his first podium since last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. With Räikkönen’s first-lap retirement, and Vettel finishing in fourth, Williams cut the gap to second-placed Ferrari to 63 points in the Constructors’ Championship standings.
“We managed to get the opportunity, which was a mistake from another team,” he said of Vettel’s pit-stop blunder. “After that I was just managing the pace, which was maybe a little slower than Vettel’s but I managed to keep him behind, which was the important thing. It was important points against Ferrari, also considering what happened to Kimi today.”
The next Grand Prix takes place in two weeks’ time at Silverstone.
|Formula 1 Grosser Preis von Österreich 2015 – Final Classification (71 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||71||1:30:16.930|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||71||+ 8.800|
|3.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||71||+ 17.573|
|4.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||71||+ 18.181|
|5.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||71||+ 53.604|
|6.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||71||+ 1:04.075|
|7.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||70||1 lap behind|
|8.||Max Verstappen||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||70||1 lap behind|
|9.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||70||1 lap behind|
|10.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||70||1 lap behind|
|11.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||70||1 lap behind|
|12.||Daniil Kvyat||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||70||1 lap behind|
|13.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||69||2 laps behind|
|14.||Roberto Merhi||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||68||3 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||35||Gearbox|
|DNF.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||35||Electrical|
|DNF.||Jenson Button||McLaren Honda MP4-30||8||Electrical|
|DNF.||Will Stevens||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||1||Oil leak|
|DNF.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda MP4-30||0||Collision|
^ Hamilton – originally classified in second place – was awarded a 5-second time penalty (applied post-race) for crossing the pit exit blend line
Image via Sutton Motorsport Images