Lewis Hamilton wins the 2016 Austrian Grand Prix, despite last lap contact with Nico Rosberg.
From pole position, Hamilton pulled away with the Austrian Grand Prix lead. But when Rosberg undertook him through the pit stops, the race fell into Nico’s hands after Vettel’s tyre exploded to bring out the safety car. But final lap defending from Rosberg saw Hamilton win and Nico limp home on a day Pascal Wehrlein scores Manor’s second ever point in Formula One.
When the lights went out and the Austrian Grand Prix was underway, pole sitting Hamilton edged away unchallenged with a clean start. Whereas his front-row partner, Hulkenberg, suffered a poor second stage and was swamped by Raikkonen and Ricciardo.
Hulkenberg may have been able to regain the position from the Red Bull, who also lost out to Rosberg. But once the field began to stretch out, Hulkenberg began to drop off more and more from Hamilton and Button. With Nico eventually pulling his Force India into the pit lane on lap eight after losing out to Verstappen.
Like Hulkenberg, Button found himself pulling into the pit lane in the early stages. But unlike the German, Jenson held his McLaren in second place for far longer before taking on the soft tyres in fifth place. Although the stop sent him further down the field into the clutches of cars who were yet to pit.
While the men who started around Hamilton fell backwards into the clutches of Red Bull and Ferrari, Hamilton continued to lead the race with clean air. But while his ultrasoft tyres were holding up far more than they proved to last in practice, Rosberg had the first stop for the Mercedes team.
Bringing Rosberg in first, on lap 12, for a fresh set of soft tyres allowed Nico to lap quicker than everyone else on track. Eating into Hamilton’s advantage with every lap. Even setting new fastest laps of the race despite negotiating slower cars.
With the undercut on the cards, every lap Rosberg completed faster than Hamilton was giving the German an advantage over his pole-starting team-mate. And when Lewis eventually pitted 10-laps on from his team-mate, Rosberg had the lead over Lewis when Hamilton left the pits.
Worse for Lewis came five laps on when the safety car came out for a stricken Vettel. Leaving Rosberg ahead at the restart and Lewis knowing he would need to overtake his team-mate should he turn pole into victory.
The safety car itself came out when Sebastian Vettel’s race came to an end when his supersoft Pirelli tyre exploded down the pit straight. Vettel had been on those tyres since the start of the race, plus a handful of laps in qualifying, but was not yet at the stage Pirelli expected the supersofts to start falling away in terms of performance.
When Vettel’s tyre exploded at speed, the car flicked to the right – into the pit-wall before rolling back into the path of oncoming cars. Luckily for Rosberg, despite being one of the cars behind Vettel, he was able to pass the Ferrari before it rolled back across the track. Rosberg, however, was forced to run over some of the debris from Vettel’s tyre, with parts catching the floor of the Mercedes.
Prior to Vettel’s retirement, Kvyat had been the only other retirement when the Toro Rosso driver parked at the side of turn one. Making the first two retirements at the Red Bull Ring also the last two drivers to leave the Red Bull team. Although in the late stages of the race, a collection of drivers entered the pits to retire from the race.
Yet when the race restarted following the safety car period, it was Rosberg leading from Hamilton. With Lewis reacting slowly to Nico’s restart, leaving Lewis at the mercy of Verstappen across the line.
Lewis though was able to hold off the Red Bull, while further back Perez was making the most of two slow-reacting drivers to pick off their places, with eyes on Magnussen ahead.
Magnussen, however, regained the position over Perez on the exit of turn one. But exaggerated defensive moves on the run to turn two left K-Mag with a 5-second time penalty.
In the battle for the win meanwhile, Rosberg and Hamilton were swapping fastest laps as Lewis searched for a way to reduce the two-second margin Rosberg held.
But while Rosberg tried to extend his lead, he ran deep at turn 2. Reducing the gap between the Mercedes drivers to one second. Putting Hamilton on the cusp of DRS range, while Nico had half of his left barge board flapping in the wind.
Hamilton too had issues, however. With Lewis told he had “critical” suspension levels and was told to stay off the kerbs which caused multiple suspension failures across the weekend. The warning did not stop Lewis from pushing, however, as he kept hunting down Rosberg until the next pit stop phase for the team.
Unlike the first stops, Hamilton pitted first – ahead of Rosberg despite being behind his team-mate on track. And when came out the pits, he was running just ahead of a scrap between Ricciardo and Raikkonen. Although a scruffy line through turn two pushed Hamilton further back into the clutches of Ricciardo, as Rosberg pitted.
When Rosberg exited pits from his second and final stop, he was running in second place with supersoft tyres just behind Verstappen for the lead. With a gap back to Hamilton of two seconds, with Lewis running on the soft compound tyres – much to Hamilton’s annoyance as he questioned why Rosberg was on the softer compound.
While Rosberg, and Hamilton, set about catching the adopted race leader – Verstappen – Raikkonen made his move on Ricciardo for fourth place. The Ferrari had been chasing the Red Bul for a handful of laps prior to completing the move, and now had the throttle down in chase of the other ‘Bull and the Silver Arrows.
But out in front, Rosberg was challenging Verstappen for the lead.
Firstly Nico made a move into turn 2, but Verstappen fought back to retain the lead. But Rosberg had the DRS on Max and attempted another move by down the straight – with Rosberg putting Verstappen between himself and Hamilton into turn 3, with Hamilton too far back to get past Verstappen on the same lap.
Hamilton did, however, drag past Verstappen on the run to turn 2 next time around as the duo lapped Palmer. With Lewis leaving Verstappen behind as he moved back to within half a second of Rosberg.
The Mercedes duo were, however, closing in on the battle for the final point scoring place between Bottas and Wehrlein. With Pascal recovering his race to 11th place after running high in the points earlier in the race before being lapped before the safety car and charging through the lower half of the field again.
Wehrlein’s pursuit of 10th did, however, have to take a break as Hamilton and Rosberg came through. With Lewis still eating into the gap between himself and Rosberg, as Nico began to suffer from understeer with his right front tyre. But on the start of the final lap, Rosberg retained a six-tenths lead.
Rosberg, however, threw away the lead by the first corner as he clipped the inside kerb and lost all exit speed. Allowing Hamilton to close right up behind him for a drag race to the second corner.
Rosberg, though, did not want to yield and held the inside line for turn 2. Forcing Hamilton to stay wide, but Nico’s line caused contact between the Mercedes team-mates. With Hamilton forced off the track and Rosberg left without a front wing.
The team claimed after the race Rosberg had begun to suffer late on with a brake issue. But onboard cameras showed Nico did not turn in for the corner, right until Hamilton was touching his car.
With Rosberg forced to limp home, Hamilton had the chance to overtake Nico on the run to turn three. And, despite yellow flags being waved the moment Lewis approached Nico and the marshal point, Hamilton regained the lead as Perez crashed out of the race with an apparent braking issue of his own.
Limping home cost Rosberg more places too, as Verstappen and Raikkonen moved ahead of the wounded Silver Arrow. But limping home with an extremely damaged car also left Nico under investigation by the race stewards.
All the while attention was with Rosberg and Hamilton coming together to decide the race winner, Perez’s final lap crash meant Pascal Wehrlein was promoted into the points.
Pascal was not able to regain the lost ground to Bottas after Hamilton and Rosberg made their way past. But with Perez dropping out of the race, Wehrlein finished in 10th place – scoring Manor’s first point since Bianchi’s ninth place in Monaco, during 2014.
Almost luckily for Pascal, his early mistake when he overshot his grid slot before reversing into the correct space saw him receive no penalty. With no rule stating, you can not reverse on the grid. Pascal also had to run a lengthy final stint, which allowed him to stay ahead of cars as they pitted, and chase down Bottas as the Finn struggled with degradation.
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