Rosberg leads Mercedes to Victory in Austria


Nico Rosberg - Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas

Nico Rosberg extended his championship lead to 29 points after leading Mercedes to their sixth one-two finish of the year at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Rosberg and team-mate Lewis Hamilton passed the two Williams drivers – who both started on the front row of the grid – during the two pit stop windows.

Valtteri Bottas secured his first Formula 1 podium after finishing ahead of team-mate and pole-sitter Felipe Massa, who had to settle for fourth. The duo collected a valuable 27 points for Williams, moving the team up to within two points of Force India in the Constructors’ Championship.

Sergio Perez also impressed. After starting fifteenth, the Mexican used a different tyre strategy to bring his car home in sixth place, behind the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.

It was always going to be difficult for Williams to convert an impressive qualifying result into a race win, but Massa got away cleanly from pole position, and led the race up until his first pit stop.

Nico Rosberg was quick off the line, and beat Valtteri Bottas into the first corner. However, the Finn took his second place back later in the opening lap, and remained there until the first round of pit stops.

Lewis Hamilton had an excellent first lap, with plenty of overtaking, and moved from ninth to fourth by the end of the first lap, and right behind his team-mate and title rival.

Mercedes made their move during the first pit stops. Rosberg was the first of the front-runners to make his stop, at the end of Lap 11. Crucially, neither of the two Williams drivers, nor Hamilton, responded straightaway. Hamilton came into the pits at the end of Lap 13, and re-emerged behind his team-mate.

Massa pitted one lap after Hamilton and was leap-frogged by Rosberg. Hamilton caught Massa napping a couple of corners later, and the Brazilian was already behind both Mercedes drivers.

Bottas pitted one lap after Massa. He, like his team-mate, emerged between the two Silver Arrows but, unlike his team-mate, did not get passed Hamilton. This turned out to be crucial in deciding which of the two Williams drivers claimed the last spot on the podium.

Sergio Perez started on the soft tyre rather than the super softs, so did not stop within the same window as the leaders. This gave the Mexican a few laps in the lead of the grand prix but, on Lap 27, both Rosberg and Bottas made their way past him. Hamilton passed him soon afterwards to take third place, and then Massa moved up to fourth after Perez finally made his first pit stop on Lap 30.

At the second round of pit stops, Hamilton moved past Bottas to join his team-mate at the front of the pack, and from then it was a formation run to the end of the lap. The anticipated fight between Rosberg and Hamilton never emerged, despite the cars coming close to one another in the final few laps.

Ironically, at the track named the Red Bull Ring, the cars financed by Dietrich Mateschitz and the energy drink company fared badly. Daniel Ricciardo managed only eighth place, and team-mate Sebastian Vettel certainly had a race to forget: on his second lap, his car suddenly lost drive, but then his momentum returned as quickly as it had deserted him, and he re-joined the field a lap down. Later in the race he damaged his front ring while trying to overtake Esteban Guttierez. He then retired the car, completing only 34 laps.

The post-race atmosphere in the Toro Rosso garage will have been no better. Daniil Kvyat was the first retirement of the race on Lap 24 after what looked like a right-rear suspension failure, and then Jean-Eric Vergne called it a day with brake failure after 59 laps.