Nico Rosberg won today’s Austrian Grand Prix to extend his championship lead back to Hamilton after a storming start.
Before today’s Austrian Grand Prix got underway, Lotus were forced to start Romain Grosjean from the pit lane after changing his gearbox over night. As he was starting from the pit lane they also carried out some tweaks to his aero package.
During yesterday’s qualifying sessions, a lot of drivers found themselves running wide at turn eight. As a result of these repeat offences the race stewards decided that any driver who ran wide here would have their lap times deleted. As lap times do not reflect your race position, any driver running wide during the race repetitively will expect a penalty their way. Providing they gained an advantage. If a driver was to use the run off area, they had been informed they could not challenge the driver ahead into turn one.
As they qualified outside the top 10, Button, Maldonado, Perez, Bianchi and Chilton all opted for starting on the soft compound tyres.
But as the lights went out both Mercedes gained places as Felipe Massa lead the field away. As the opening lap carried on, Bottas was able to regain second place. But for Hamilton he stormed through the field to move from ninth place all the way to fourth. As Hamilton made his way through the field, Vettel was making his way in the other direction.
Sebastian found himself crawling around the short Red Bull Ring circuit after loosing power. Eventually, when he was a lap down to the rest of the field, his power returned out of nowhere and he carried on with his race. Things weren’t going all to plan for Seb’s Red Bull team-mate, Ricciardo as he was forced off the track into turn 2 of the opening lap and when Seb’s power returned, Ricciardo was forced into avoiding Vettel. But for both of them, there were issues with the cars as neither were able to use the overtake boost during the race.
Despite starting in the pit lane, Grosjean was already back in the pits as early as the fourth lap. No issue for the Lotus, as the team made a strategic call to change from the supersoft tyres to the soft compound early on.
By the start of lap 9, Toro Rosso were readying themselves in the pit lane for Vergne. But at the front of the field, Massa continued to lead Bottas, Rosberg and Hamilton. With just three seconds covering the top four.
With drivers not wanting to ruin their tyres in the early stages of the race, drivers were starting to snake by the end of lap 10. Thanks to loosing places at the start, Ricciardo was a member of the snake and along with Kvyat and Magnussen they changed from the supersoft to the soft compound tyres. As Ricciardo made his way out of the pit lane, Toro Rosso released their driver almost straight into the path of the Red Bull.
Now as the rest of the field started flowing into the pits, Gutierrez was forced into stopping in the pit lane after leaving without his rear wheel attached. As for the Williams Mercedes battle, Rosberg was the first to pit giving him the best position for the undercut. Unfortunately for the fast starting Hamilton, his pit stop was almost a second longer than his team-mate so he was unable to challenge Rosberg. One lap later, Williams called Massa in from the lead but as Rosberg exited turn one, he had gained the position from Massa to take the effective lead of the race with Perez still yet to pit. Again, one lap later, Williams brought Bottas into the pits and with Massa loosing the lead to fall to 5th place, there was extra pressure on the team to provide their driver with a perfect pit stop. Amazingly, the Finn left the pits after a flying 2.1second pit stop, which found the driver leaving the pits ahead of Hamilton.
Now, following an investigation, it was announced that Gutierrez will have to serve a five second stop-go penalty following his unsafe release without the rear tyre being attached. This five second stop-go penalty is not one of the penalties that can be served alongside a pit stop, instead it’s a drive through penalty with a 5 second stop in the driver’s box.
Similarly to back in Canada, Force India were keeping Perez out on track to carry out a longer stint on his starting tyres than the rest of the field, and by lap 23 he was still running ahead of Rosberg in the lead.
Onto lap 26, Kvyat was forced into being the first driver to retire from the race, down at turn 5. This retirement happens to be his third retirement in a row. As he ran off at turn 5 and into the gravel, he had a severe deflation to the rear-right tyre on his car and soon radioed in to report he had no breaks.
Come the following lap, Rosberg lined up Perez for an overtake for the lead and into turn two, he slipped down the inside of the Mexican to take the lead. Soon after Bottas and Hamilton followed him through, whilst Massa had to wait it out. After the crash between the pair in Canada, Massa said he would think twice before overtaking Perez. But now past Perez, Hamilton set about catching Bottas and set the fastest lap of the race so far with a 1:13:558.
Now without the lead, Perez headed into the pits for a change of tyres for the first time so far in the race. Managing to get to lap 30 on the soft tyres meant he would be forced into another stop later on and left the pits on another set of soft tyres. Joining Perez in the pits at this stage was Vettel. Still running out on track in last place he was forced into pitting for a new front wing following clipping the rear of Gutierrez’s Sauber at the entrance to turn 5.
For Rosberg, Bottas and Hamilton, without Perez to slow them down the trio were free to fight for the lead. Bottas was even aided in his challenge for the lead with Rosberg running deep at turn 1 and loosing a lot of time.
Eventually come lap 36, Red Bull decided to call it a day with Vettel and retired the car. When the team retired the driver he was running a lap down to the leaders and in last place. With the driver already on his fourth power unit components, it made sense not to continue running the car as the fifth is the last component not to come with a penalty.
Come the second round of pit stops, Hamilton hit the pits before his team-mate. When the team completed his pit stop, he had lost time to Rosberg and Bottas as the team could only carry out a slow four-second pit stop. Luckily, the driver had been fuel saving and the team were now allowing him to put the hammer down. Good thing, as the team carried out a three-second stop for Rosberg on the following lap.
Reacting to the lost time, Hamilton set about catching his team-mate and on his first timed lap on fresh tyres, he completed the fastest lap of the race so far with a blistering 1:12:217. In the end it was even enough to leap ahead of Bottas following the Finn’s stop.
With the Mercedes and Williams drivers pitting, Alonso adopted the lead of the race for the time being. But for Massa, he was loosing ground in the podium fight as he exited the pits and came out behind Perez who was out of sync with the lead battle due to his different strategy.
Come lap 47, Alonso pitted from the lead of the race. After a mid two second pit stop by the Ferrari team he rejoined the action in sixth place behind former team-mate Massa. Over the following lap the order stood as; Rosberg, Hamilton, Bottas, Perez, Massa and Alonso for the top six and it dawned on me that throughout the season Alonso has been very consistent in his Ferrari. It clearly is not a car that is capable of taking the challenge to the Mercedes, or even the Williams this weekend. But despite this his consistent performances over the season saw him heading to Austria in fourth place for the drivers championship standings.
Jumping forward a few laps to lap 53, Hamilton was still running just over a second behind his team-mate but had used around 2kg less fuel. This, along with the team informing him that his rear tyres were in a slightly better shape than Rosberg’s showed that the fight for the race win could go down to the wire.
Whilst this slow burning fight carried on, back in eleventh place Raikkonen wasn’t in the best of moods with his Ferrari. Out of the points at the time, the team wanted him to close the gap to the cars ahead as they believed him to be racing Button (who was in 7th place at the time) but in true Kimi fashion, he replied back to the team wanting more power. Clearly unhappy with the performance he is getting from his Ferrari, I wonder if he regrets his return to the Italian outfit. There again, with the performances of Lotus so far this season, it could be worse for Raikkonen.
Next up to retire from the Austrian Grand Prix was the other Toro Rosso. Vergne was forced into retiring on lap 61 with a rear brake problem. Making that both Toro Rosso’s and one Red Bull car the only to retire. I mentioned earlier Kvyat’s retirement was his third in a row, for Vergne this was his fifth retirement of the season from eight races.
As the race entered the final lap, the gap between the two Mercedes drivers was under one second. On the run down to turn three it looked like Hamilton had lost all chance of getting the win but Rosberg locked up and ran wide. If Hamilton was able to take a cleaner line through the corner he potentially could have taken the lead but a slight error cost him and Nico went on to take the win.
Extending his championship lead with the win, Rosberg will be delighted to have kept Lewis at bay. But for Williams after their one-two start, Bottas was only able to bring the car home in third place to take Williams’ first podium of the season and his own first podium in Formula One. Massa was able to hold off the attack by Alonso to secure fourth place and at the end of the race it was a Mercedes one-two followed by a Williams three-four.
At the Red Bull Ring, Red Bull will not be happy with the fact all they could take out of the weekend was Ricciardo securing eight place. After a DNF for Vettel and a double DNF at the sister team, Toro Rosso.
The final standings for today’s Austrian Grand Prix:
|2||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||71||+1.9 secs||9||18|
|3||77||Valtteri Bottas||Williams-Mercedes||71||+8.1 secs||2||15|
|4||19||Felipe Massa||Williams-Mercedes||71||+17.3 secs||1||12|
|5||14||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||71||+18.5 secs||4||10|
|6||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||71||+28.5 secs||15||8|
|7||20||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren-Mercedes||71||+32.0 secs||6||6|
|8||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||71||+43.5 secs||5||4|
|9||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||71||+44.1 secs||10||2|
|10||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Ferrari||71||+47.7 secs||8||1|
|11||22||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||71||+50.9 secs||11|
|12||13||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus-Renault||70||+1 Lap||13|
|13||99||Adrian Sutil||Sauber-Ferrari||70||+1 Lap||16|
|14||8||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||70||+1 Lap||22|
|15||17||Jules Bianchi||Marussia-Ferrari||69||+2 Lap||18|
|16||10||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham-Renault||69||+2 Lap||19|
|17||4||Max Chilton||Marussia-Ferrari||69||+2 Lap||21|
|18||9||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham-Renault||69||+2 Lap||20|
|19||21||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber-Ferrari||69||+2 Lap||17|
|Ret||25||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Renault||59||+12 Lap||14|
|Ret||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||34||+37 Laps||12|
|Ret||26||Daniil Kvyat||STR-Renault||24||+47 Laps||7|