Austrian Grand Prix: Rosberg beats Hamilton fair and square
Nico Rosberg delivered a flawless performance at the Austrian Grand Prix to score his third victory of the season, beating his Mercedes teammate fair and square in a tense contest in the Styrian mountains, marred by a scary first lap collision between the sport’s most experienced campaigners Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso – neither were hurt.
As the red lights went dark Rosberg blitzed off the start line, from second place on the grid, to take the lead and stayed in front throughout the 71 laps to score his 11th career victory and the second consecutive victory at Red Bull Ring.
After celebrating in orchestra conductor style Rosberg said, “It’s an awesome feeling to win again here. The start made the race. It was a great start and I managed to defend in the first couple of corners. I was really happy with the car and to see the gap open up to Lewis.”
Three of the past four races have gone to Rosberg and he now lies 10 points adrift of championship points leader Hamilton.
Not only did the Briton fluff his lines at the start, he also crossed the pit exit line after his first and only pit stop which earned him a five second penalty. From that point on it was game, set and match to Rosberg, who did the real race winning work during a commanding spell around the halfway mark, in which he also set the fastest lap of the grand prix.
At one point, before the stops, Hamilton was within a couple of seconds of the leading Mercedes, and a battle was still in the offing. But Rosberg pitted first, while Hamilton stayed out for another two laps which in the end hurt him and probably contributed to his haste in leaving the pits.
Hamilton acknowledged, “Nico did a fantastic job today. He was quicker during the race. I had a bad start which lost me ground. In the second stint it was just about making the distance so that’s what we tried to do.”
Round 8 of the title race thus belonged to Rosberg who will no doubt be highly motivated to take the fight to Hamilton in the two races before the summer break, while Mercedes will celebrate yet another 1-2 in Lauda-Wolff Land as it appears the dominant team have found another notch in that ‘Magic Button’ of theirs.
After Montreal much was said and expected of the Ferrari challenge to Mercedes, but this did not materialise and the Reds will head back to Maranello lamenting a weekend packed with mistakes and mishaps which probably started with a woeful qualifying performance or maybe it all began when team boss Maurizio Arrivabene was nearly run over in the pitlane on Friday…
Whatever the case Vettel never looked to threaten the Silver Arrows, and third was a given until a pitstop blunder dropped him to fourth behind Felipe Massa in the Williams. The German pursued for all he was worth, got close but not close enough. Once again, in the space of two weeks Ferrari showed how to turn a certain podium finish into fourth place.
Massa on the other hand did a good job and was well placed to take advantage of Vettel’s pit stop delay, and thereafter did what was required to keep the attacking Ferrari at bay for the final half dozen laps. Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas was fifth, making it another good weekend for the Grove outfit in Austria.
Massa said of his race, “It’s great people here supporting. It was a fantastic race today. We managed to get Sebastian with his pit problem and pass him there. I understood that at the end of the race he would be behind me because they were one or two tenths quicker every lap. But I managed to keep the line and just use the experience.”
Earlier Raikkonen’s luck got no better as he was eliminated in a first lap shunt in which his Ferrari was mounted by Alonso’s all new short-nose McLaren.
It appeared the Finn lost the back-end which went into a slither which he could not control, the car veered right and collided scarily with the McLaren of Alonso. The TV footage was inconclusive – was there a tap? Or did the Ferrari simply break grip? Nevertheless it was a certain early shower for the F1 veterans, who shook hands as they emerged unscathed from their expensive wrecks.
Alonso gave his version afterwards, “It was obviously quite scary. Kimi started with the prime tyre, which probably didn’t help for the level of grip. He exited Turn 2 with a lot of wheelspin so the car was moving. We were all overtaking him left and right and when he lost the car to the left I was on the left.”
“We went both on the wall and I was lucky to not hit him on the head. I was braking but my wheels were in the air. Luckily we were both fine. I was in the wrong place. It was a very strange incident. He lost the car in fifth gear or something like that,” added the Spaniard.
Back to the race where Le Mans winner Nico Hulkenberg was in good spirits all weekend, and delivered a strong showing to finish sixth, with Force India teammate Sergio Perez ninth doing the world of good to their constructors’ championship standings.
Sandwiched between the Force India duo were Pastor Maldonado and Max Verstappen who delivered the biggest (heart-stopping) moments of the race as they dueled for position. Maldonado’s swerve on the main straight to duck out of Verstappen’s slipstream was extreme and the Venezuelan was lucky he did not spear into the barriers at high speed.
Nevertheless if F1 fans want entertainment, Maldonado and Verstappen delivered big dollops of the stuff on their way to seventh and eighth respectively.
Daniel Ricciardo toiled hard all afternoon, running a fifty lap first stint on the softs before bolting on super softs to salvage a point for Red Bull in their home race, albeit a lap down on the winners.
In closing we cannot ignore yet another dark day, make that dark weekend, for the McLaren-Honda partnership. Alonso was out early in their short nose MP4-30, which was hardly a revelation when it was going around, and Jenson Button retired immediately after the safety car period, which meant he did no laps in anger.
All weekend things were very bleak for the second most successful team in F1 history and hard to believe but matters worsened on race day – all watched by Honda’s new president Takahiro Hachigo from the McLaren pit garage…
Austrian Grand Prix, Red Bull Ring – Sunday, 21 June 2015
|6||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India||+64.075s||8|
|7||Pastor Maldonado||VEN||Lotus||+1 Lap||6|
|8||Max Verstappen||NED||Toro Rosso||+1 Lap||4|
|9||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India||+1 Lap||2|
|10||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull||+1 Lap||1|
|11||Felipe Nasr||BRA||Sauber||+1 Lap||0|
|12||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Red Bull||+1 Lap||0|
|13||Marcus Ericsson||SWE||Sauber||+2 Laps||0|
|14||Roberto Merhi||ESP||Marussia||+3 Laps||0|
|Ret||Carlos Sainz||ESP||Toro Rosso||DNF||0|
- Fastest Lap – Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1m 11.235s (Lap 35)