Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
The return of Formula 1 to Austria saw blue skies populated with the occasional cloud. At the start of the race, the temperature was 25◦C and the wind was a calmer 10kph with the track up to 48◦C. Great excitement attended the Williams front row lockout but it was to be the inexorable weight of Mercedes backend that saw all the important work being done through pit strategy at the front, while the poor luck of Sebastian Vettel continued to plague him with issues on lap 1 effectively ending his race. It was a tough race for Ricciardo as well, as both cars were denied the use of the overtake button due to electrical issues. Still, his last lap pass on Hulkenberg was one of the highlights of the race.
Equally, Hamilton’s first lap which saw him ascend from 9th to 4th in just one lap demonstrated the brutal might of the Mercedes package. But all was not hunky dory in Mercedes land as the Styrian setting put quite the strain once again on the brakes and cooling of the Silver Arrows, constraining the competition and forcing the long game to be played by all. Wags will be barking about Hamilton’s loss of time in the pits, but the real issue is that it let the competition split the pair on both stops rather than losing him the race. Further back it was to be a hard race on the machines as there were 5 retirements, including both Toro Rosso’s.
Still in the end it was all smiles for the Mercedes duo as Rosberg was able to retain his qualifying advantage in the race despite real pressure on the last lap and a mistake that nearly gave his rival the advantage. But the biggest winners today were Williams, overhauling McLaren in the Constructor’s and Bottas, taking to the podium having deftly slipped his teammate trying to cover Hamilton in the pits.
With Mercedes in the decidedly unusual and delightful situation of not starting from the front it was not surprising to hear Nico Rosberg already complaining of car issues on the parade lap. Still, it mattered not as the Mercedes driver got off to a good start and after looking racy with Bottas for P2, he settled into P3. His teammate starting in P9, however electrified the crowd by making up 3 places by turn 1 once the lights went out. He continued his assault slipping past Magnussen into turn 2 and then, wasting little time efficiently dispatched Alonso into turn 8 and effectively having caught up Rosberg to limit the damage from yesterday’s qualifying. Also racy further back was a feisty Kvyat who had quite the nice dice ending with him taking the advantage over Perez on the first lap.
At the back end of the first lap was a truly unlucky Sebastian Vettel, whose overtake button apparently caused a total loss of power, much to his dismay. AS he crawled around the circuit his engineers advised him to shut the engines down. Displaying his usual regard for team orders, he roundly ignored them and was once again rewarded as his power came back and he was allowed to go racing, though he had already been lapped by most of the field at that point. Equally bad news for Ricciardo as the team advised him to not use overtake as well, dooming him to finish well back of the leaders after his brilliant finish in Canada.
By lap 5 the Williams and Mercedes lads had started to open a gap to Alonso and the rest of the field and it was one that would never really narrow. An eerie lull settled over the lead pack as Hamilton slowly edged up to Rosberg but by lap 8 you could see the cars squirrelling into the downhill exit of turn 8 under as the tyres began to give up under the soaring temperatures and heavy fuel loads. Shots of the leaders confirmed heavy graining on the rears. Lotus led the first round of pit stops on lap 10 as a train began to form behind Magnussen in 6th. Responding to this McLaren pitted him lap 11 as the leaders continued to circulate, followed by Kvyat and Ricciardo. Toro Rosso released Kvyat directly into the path of Ricciardo, which did neither one of them favors and no doubt the good Dr. Marko was on the blower to Toro Rosso in short order.
It was Rosberg to act first, seeking the undercut on Massa and boxing at the end of lap 11. With a rapid 2.6 second stop he emerged into traffic as his teammate was busy tracking down Bottas. Hamilton stayed out for an extra lap as Gutierriez encountered trouble in the pits having left without all the bits attached to the car. This cost him not only a 10second stop and go, but also a 10 spot grid penalty for Silverstone. Lap 14 saws Hamilton box as the Williams continued to lap serenely in the lead. With a slowish stop the stage was set for drama, but Hamilton managed to get out just ahead of Button. One lap later, however and Massa’s stop saw him lose the lead to Rosberg but emerge ahead of Hamilton. Reacting quickly, Hamilton pounced and took the spot from Massa without much fuss. But his stop continued to bite as Bottas stop one lap later was clocked at 2.1 seconds and he once again split the Mercedes duo. This time, Hamilton was unable to pull off the overtake on track, a theme that would be repeated quite often amongst the Mercedes powered cars. Meanwhile all the shuffling left the recently disgraced Perez with the lead and though at first it appeared he was holding up Rosberg the leaders settled into his pace and the status quo was confirmed for the next stint as Alonso made the move into 7th.
The reasons for this quickly became obvious as radio traffic between Mercedes and Hamilton confirmed that they were far less than confident about the cooling and brake solutions that had cropped up in Canada. No sooner would he begin to close on Bottas than he would be told he was over target and the main straights featured him pulling out of the slipstream to cool the car.
Further back Vettel took to the pits and Hulkenberg managed to pass for 9th. Back at the front Perez finally pitted for a second pair of softs on lap 30. Left to his own devices, Nico decided to spice up the race by going rather wide in turn 1 and opening the door for Bottas. Looking rather racy Bottas took after Rosberg with enthusiasm, though he was unable to actually find his way past it made for several laps of nail biting excitement as Hamilton was trying to line him up at the same time. By lap 35 Hamilton was being warned off as he was once again over target and Vettel had managed to hit the rear of Gutierrez trying to get past him. He boxed for a new nose as the collision was investigated with no further action resulting, but no matter as the team had seen enough and retired Vettel to save the PU as Vettel. Bottas too began to drop back from Rosberg and was gradually falling out of DRS. Perez passed his teammate for P7 and Alonso Magnussen, Perez, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo and Raikkonen quietly occupied the rest of the top 10.
Lewis no doubt acquired a new nickname as the team told him it was “Hammer Time” on lap 38 as evidently his brakes had finally recovered from the beating he was giving them. Given the opportunity, the Sky broadcasters had no choice but to begin reciting the lyrics, but they get no points unless the wear the pants too.
Lap 40 saw Lewis being given the first stop in an attempt to undercut Bottas since he was unable to find his way past on track. And again, with a 4 second stop the team risked him not getting past, though in replay his brakes were smoking and clearly on fire as he left the pits so maybe there was a need for that extra time. And post-race analysis shows damage to the cake tin actually slowed his stop. Still, it all came good as Mercedes boxed Rosberg a lap later as Bottas was slow to respond and didn’t come in until lap 42, emerging behind Hamilton. Massa came in 2 laps later and there they would stay till the end of the race.
With the race temporarily unsettled there was a rather comical transmission from Rosberg asking who he was racing, he was told by the team “Lewis, to the end”.
Massa’s stop saw Alonso in front for a bit as Hamilton was told he was good to go to the end of the race. The stops continued to reverberate down the field as Raikkonen came in and emerged in front of Maldonado. Massa’s late stop continued to cause him trouble as having emerged into 6th he had managed to close up on Perez but was finding it difficult to get past. Raikkonen and Button continued to struggle at the back of the top 10 and lap 55 saw Perez com in releasing Mass to begin the job of reeling in his teammate. Perez’ nifty driving saw him out ahead of Hulkenberg and it was quite the recovery given his poor starting position. Vergne in a cloud of carbon brake dust looked suddenly dubious to make the finish and indeed he would retire a few laps later with a brake failure, but not before holding up Massa and giving Alonso a chance to catch him up.
As dark clouds loomed in the distance, Bianchi smartly executed a pass on Kobayashi to put Marussia once again ahead of Caterham, adding to the woes of the green team as Button began to work his way back up to Raikkonen after his latest pit stop.
The last phase of the race was in gear with Massa and Hamilton slowly edging their way back up to the teammates in the hopes of one last push. Despite the best efforts of the commentators to gin up some excitement, it was clear that the only way a pass would happen at the sharp end was through a mistake or mechanical failure. As the laps ticked by, once again Rosberg was happy to oblige as he locked up on the last lap, finally bringing Hamilton into DRS. But it was too little too late as Hamilton didn’t have enough grip left in his tyres to take advantage and they crossed the line in the same order they had run the final third of the race. But not all was lost as Ricciardo did manage a pass on Hulkenberg for 8th on the last lap and a rather neat one at that.
A big podium for Bottas and a huge thrashing of McLaren for Williams is clearly the story of the day. Mercedes too managed a careful victory, though the fragility of the brakes will no doubt be a cause for worry at Brackley as potentially we are seeing the first signs of Brawn’s departure and Lauda’s housecleaning appearing in the races. Additionally the inability to get round the Williams on track will no doubt be the cause of some sleepless nights for the boffins at Mercedes. Alonso took his customary 5th followed by a fairly brilliant drive from Perez into 6th. A quiet and workmanlike drive by Magnussen saw him claim the only points for McLaren today as Raikkonen ultimately won the battle for 10th with Button.
|6||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:13.099||28.200||2|
|8||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:13.882||42.900||2|
|9||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:14.995||43.500||2|
|12||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus||1:13.977||1 lap||2|
|13||Adrian Sutil||Sauber||1:14.617||1 lap||2|
|14||Romain Grosjean||Lotus||1:16.859||1 lap||2|
|15||Jules Bianchi||Marussia||1:15.771||2 laps||1|
|16||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham||1:17.998||2 laps||1|
|17||Max Chilton||Marussia||1:16.649||2 laps||1|
|18||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham||1:17.384||2 laps||2|
|19||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber||1:16.185||2 laps||3|
|R||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||RETIRED||37 laps||3|
|R||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||RETIRED||12 laps||3|
|R||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||RETIRED||47 laps||1|
World Drivers Championship
World Constructors Championship