Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Catman
We seem to be in a mid-season lull of tedious races this year, with TJ13 readers voting the Austrian Grand Prix to be much worse than last year’s instalment. The only saving grace was the shoddy Red Bull cars, who were passed by everybody, and of course the antics of Max Verstappen and Pastor Maldonado.
2014 – TJ13 reader score – 6.45
Nico Rosberg led the drivers championship with 140 points to Lewis Hamilton’s 118. Mercedes had dominated the championship so far, only missing the top step of the podium once at the previous race in Canada. Between them the Silver Arrows had also claimed every pole position that year.
Qualifying saw a brief upset to the form book, with the Williams team locking out the front row for the first time since 2003, after errors from Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton relegated them to third and ninth respectively. Normal service was unfortunately quickly resumed in the race, with Lewis passing five cars in the first lap and both Mercedes undercutting the Williams cars at the pitstops. Hamilton followed Rosberg home and despite a torrid race with poor pitstops he finished close behind. Both Mercedes were still suffering braking system overheating issues that caused their demise in Canada, but such was their speed advantage here they were able to limp home well clear of the competition.
2015 – TJ13 reader score – 5.29
Nico Rosberg had the measure of Lewis Hamilton all weekend, particularly in the fast flowing middle sector of the lap. Lewis had pulled a blinder on his first effort in Q3, which was such a surprise to both drivers that they both spun off the track on their final runs in an attempt to beat it. Nico was pretty frustrated to lose out on pole position he felt he had in the bag.
In the race he set about putting this right, with an excellent start jumping his team-mate into the first corner and successfully defending his position up the hill. Hamilton looked to pile on the pressure into the next few corners, but the spectacle was ruined when Kimi Raikonnen, struggling once again with power delivery from his Ferrari, squirmed on acceleration and left Alonso nowhere to go. Kimi gave Fernando a ride to the barriers and that was that.
With the safety car neutralising the pack and a tidy restart from Nico the race was all but won. The only way he was going to lose was by making a mistake, which he nearly did on the way into the pitlane by clipping the grass and almost hitting the wall. Apart from that, he was able to manage the race comfortably.
The Red Bull cars were woefully slow, even an alternative strategy could not bring them significantly up the field. The TV coverage focused on them being passed time and time again by quicker cars, which was not what their Austrian overlords were looking for at their home race. A lonely single point for Daniel Ricciardo provided some very mild relief, although this was only forthcoming after the sister car of Carlos Sainz retired.
TJ13 Driver of the Weekend – Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg carried on momentum from his debut win at Le Mans with a fantastic drive at the Austrian Grand Prix. He completely obliterated his team mate, qualifying 5th to his 16th and delivering a measured race to come home with a good points haul in 6th. He didn’t have the ammunition available to challenge the Williams cars ahead but easily had the measure of those behind.
Coming in second was Nico Rosberg, who completely had the measure of the championship leader through the whole weekend (excepting a silly mistake in Q3 that was quickly amended at the start of the race) and also drove a very measured and mature race.
Tied with Rosberg on votes was the very likeable Felipe Massa, who was there to capitalise when the Ferrari pitstop farce held up Sebastian Vettel. He had to push to keep the prancing German behind, but was able to keep him at arms length until the end.
The final foray between Max Verstappen and Pastor Maldonado earned them some votes, but not enough to challenge the big guns. Maldonado was particularly impressive, showing immense cohones and lightning fast reactions to avoid spearing off into the beautiful Styrian mountains, but his past history means that votes are not forthcoming for him. Max said he enjoyed their tussle, and as we know keeping a teenager entertained these days is no mean feat!
This was also only the second time in Pastor’s F1 career that he has finished in the points in two consecutive races. Can he make it three in a row for the first time ever?! Stay tuned for the British Grand Prix to find out!