Nico Rosberg took his third win of the season at the Austrian Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton despite a determined charge by the Briton to second from ninth on the grid. The German’s win extends his World Drivers’ Championship lead over Hamilton to 29 points. Williams’ Valtteri Bottas claimed his first podium finish with third place. ahead of pole winner Felipe Massa.
At the start, pole position man Felipe Massa made a solid getaway to briefly hold the lead. Behind him Bottas lost second place to Rosberg into Turn One but managed to wrestle back the position at the following corner.
Behind them Hamilton made a storming start, climbing to fift,h from ninth on the grid. He went one better in the final turn of lap one to pass Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and he then settled in behind team-mate Rosberg as the field crossed the line to begin lap two.
Sebastian Vettel though was in trouble. At the start of lap two he slowed dramatically and reported that he had lost power. He pulled over and seemed set to stop but then mysteriously his Red Bull RB10 seemed to right itself. He was told to ‘go racing’ by his race engineer. The champion though was a lap down on the field and a significant recovery looked impossible.
The Red Bull driver soldiered on at the back of the field, surviving a collision with Esteban Gutierrez along the way, until he was eventually told to retire his car midway through the race.
Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo also had a rocky start. He was pushed wide in turn two on the first lap he dropped from fifth on the grid to eighth. He was soon after informed that he should not use his overtake button for the whole race and, hampered by power problems, he was soon down to tenth.
With the opening Super-soft tyres being used by the bulk of the field graining badly, the first round of pit stops wasn’t long in coming. Jean-Eric Vergne was the first in, on lap nine, the Toro Rosso swapping the Option tyres for Prime Softs. He was followed a lap later by Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and on the following lap by Kevin Magnussen, Daniil Kvyat and Ricciardo.
Rosberg pitted from third place on lap 11, allowing Hamilton to fly past. Hamilton couldn’t find the pace necessary on his own in-laps and stop, however, and when he emerged after his own stop on lap 13 he found himself just behind Rosberg.
Leader Massa, meanwhile, was readying himself for his tyre change on lap 14. His stop was far from perfect however and when the Brazilian emerged he found himself behind Rosberg and was then quickly passed by Hamilton.
Bottas’s stop on lap 15 was much quicker, however, and the Finn was able to split the leading Mercedes after taking on Soft tyres. The order on lap 16, then, was Sergio Perez, who had started on Softs and had yet to pit, followed by Rosberg, Bottas, Hamilton, Massa and McLaren’s Jenson Button, who had also started on the Soft tyre, from 11th on the grid.
On lap 27 Rosberg passed Perez for the lead, the Mexican ceding the position without much of a fight having been told by his pit wall that the race would come back him as his strategy played out later on.
Bottas too sneaked through but Hamilton had to wait until the next tour before he could pass the Force India. The delay allowed Rosberg to pop in a fast lap. Hamilton responded with his own, but the gap had by now drifted to 2.4 seconds.
Perez eventually made his first stop on lap 29, taking on a second set of Softs before rejoining in eighth position.
At the front the battle was hotting up again as Bottas and Hamilton closed in on Rosberg, who made a small mistake. The Williams driver got to within a second of the leading Mercedes, with Hamilton in close attendance, but Rosberg soon responded, and the gap widened to 1.1 seconds.
Hamilton made his second stop in lap 39, taking on a final set of Softs and rejoining in fifth. Rosberg though kept going for another lap and following a three-second stop he retained his advantage over Bottas and Hamilton. When Bottas pitted on lap 41 his relatively tardy 3.4 seconds stop allowed Hamilton to move ahead and claim second.
Massa made his final stop on lap 43, switching to Soft tyres in 3.4 seconds. The Brazilian then unfortunately found himself behind Sergio Perez, who was set for a longer stint on his second set of Soft tyres.
On the road the leader was Alonso and the Ferrari driver continued until lap 47 when he took on his final set of Soft tyres. He emerged in sixth place behind Massa. At the front, Rosberg led by 1.6 seconds from Hamilton, with Bottas a further 5.7 seconds behind.
The question now was whether Perez in P4 and Button in P7 behind Alonso could make any impact once they made their final stop for Super-soft tyres
Unfortunately for Force India, the answer was not much. Perez took on the Option tyre on lap 55 and rejoined in eighth position, five seconds behind McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen. The Mexican had enough pace in hand to pass Magnussen for sixth place, on lap 66, but with a 13 second deficit to Alonso and just laps left, sixth was the best that Perez could do.
Button, meanwhile made his stop on lap 58 but lodged behind tenth-placed Raikkonen in the closing stages, the McLaren driver failed to make a significant move.
At the front the battle for the lead finally flared in the final three laps, with Hamilton attempting to get inside DRS range of his team-mate. With a lap left and with Hamilton just 1.1 second behind his team-mate both drivers were told they could use all the tools at their disposal. As the pair went through turn three Rosberg lit up his brakes.
Hamilton saw an opportunity but he too erred in the corner and the chance was gone. Rosberg hung on to claim his third win of the season. The win means he stretches his championship lead over Hamilton to 29 points.
With Hamilton second, Bottas took his first podium finish with third, ahead of Massa and Alonso. Perez held onto sixth ahead of Magnussen but Ricciardo made and excellent last-lap pass on Hulkenberg to steal eighth. The final points position went to Raikkonen who easily kept Button at bay.
Austrian Grand Prix driver quotes:
Rosberg: “It wasn’t the easiest of races, trying to manage certain things happening, but I had a very very fast car again but it is great to win again. It was also great to get another one-two. It’s great to be back in Austria, it’s great to have a race here again and the fans have been fantastic. I am looking forward to the next one [at Silverstone], it is the home race so another one-two would be great to give the guys in the garage something to cheer about.”
Hamilton: “I enjoyed it, it’s much better than being in the front all the way but going nowhere, it’s great to see how strong Mercedes is right now. I am always on maximum motivation but today I knew I had to pull something special out of the bag to achieve what I wanted. It was important to get a one two for the team. I was so so fast in practice that I should have been on pole. I was really happy with the start and after that it was a really good fun race. This has been a bad weekend for me but to get second place on a bad weekend was great.”
Bottas: “I am really really happy and I am finding it hard to put it into words. The race was just what we needed at this point, the car was good again today and I am just grateful for the guys for giving me such a good car.”
Ricciardo: “It was all unfortunate, we would have loved to have given the local fans a lot more love here today. On the drivers parade it was awesome to see so many fans and I think we all felt good going into the race. We tried to do all we could but unfortunately we couldn’t really get much more from the race today. This weekend there have been teams who have come here and have improved, Williams and Toro Rosso, they have bought some upgrades so it feels a few teams have made bigger strides here this weekend but hopefully we will be back on form at Silverstone.” (GP247-F1 Media)
Austrian Grand Prix, Red Bull Ring – Sunday, 22 June 2014