Spielberg – If the Formula 1 world was looking for a good way to reboot the classic Austrian Grand Prix, they couldn’t have had a better race. It began with the surprise front row of Williams’ Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, who were closely followed by Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. Mercedes’ other half, British driver Lewis Hamilton started from 9th after a very poor qualifying round. The two Red Bulls equally did not fare so well in qualifying at their home circuit, with Australian Daniel Ricciardo starting from 5th and his German teammate, the 4-time world champion Sebastian Vettel starting in 13th after having not made it out of Q2.
The race began with strong starts from Massa, Rosberg, and Hamilton. The Brazilian was able to keep 1st place for the first 12 laps of the race until he had to pit due to tyre degradation, whilst the German briefly took 2nd from Massa’s Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas. Bottas made Rosberg’s conquest brief, as he restored his second place by the end of Lap 1. Meanwhile, Hamilton was able to advance by 5 places on the opening lap, overtaking a number of cars on the opening straight.
A major factor that played merry hell with the various team strategies, and in my opinion did not do a good deal of help for Massa in particular, was just how heavy the tyre degradation was within just a handful of laps. Both of the Williams had to pit by Lap 13, resulting in their 1,2 lead being lost and never really recovered. On the tyre side of things, Sergio Pérez performed outstandingly, being able to stay out for the first 30 laps on his first set of tyres, resulting in the Mexican maintaining first place in the wake of the Williams pit stops.
This race should very well have gone to Williams if it weren’t for their poor timing for pit stops, often, as the NBC Sports commentating crew made note of, having their drivers box a lap or two too late to keep a good advantage over the rest of the field. For this reason, Mercedes AMG Petronas was able to advance ahead of the two Williams to take the race victory.
On another note, Red Bull was once again plagued by electrical trouble, as Sebastian Vettel suddenly lost power in his car on Lap 2. Luckily for him, power was restored within a couple of laps and the German was able to continue in the race. A subsequent radio message from the team to Vettel’s Australian teammate confirmed at least somewhat that the issue arose when Vettel used the overtake button on his steering wheel. Eventually, Vettel would be forced to retire on Lap 35 after Vettel and Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez made contact, damaging the nose of Vettel’s car. Gutierrez had another troublesome incident at Lap 14 when his car was released from a Pit Stop without the back right tyre fully in place. The Mexican would serve a 10-second stop and go penalty on Lap 23.
Red Bull’s Italian sister team, Scuderia Toro Rosso had an even worse day than the rest of the pack, with both drivers retiring from the race. Russian Daniil Kvyat retired on Lap 26 after his brakes gave way, resulting in his right rear tyre being shredded and bent horribly out of shape. His French teammate, Jean-Éric Vergne returned to the pits to retire at Lap 61 with a rear brake issue.
The race finished spectacularly, with the two Mercedes in front, Nico Rosberg (1st) beating Lewis Hamilton (2nd), followed closely by Williams’ Valtteri Bottas (3rd) who won his first career podium. Close behind Bottas was his teammate, pole-sitter Felipe Massa (4th) with Massa’s old Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso finishing in 5th. Alonso was followed by Force India’s Sergio Pérez (6th), who overcame the 5-spot grid penalty given to him following his crash with Massa on the last lap two weeks ago in Montréal. On the last laps Pérez had just passed rookie Kevin Magnussen of McLaren who finished in 7th. Magnussen was followed by Red Bull’s currently most successful driver, Daniel Ricciardo (8th), who finished just ahead of Force India’s Nico Hülkenberg (9th), who came just ahead of the Iceman, Kimi Räikkönen (10th) of Ferrari.
The non-points-scoring positions were taken by McLaren’s Jenson Button (11th), Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado (12th), Sauber’s Adrian Sutil (13th), Lotus’ Romain Grosjean (14th), Marussia’s Jules Bianchi (15th), Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi (16th), Marussia’ Max Chilton (17th), Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson (18th), and Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez (19th).
One element of this race that made it unique from those that have come thus far this season is the fact that only 3 drivers had to retire! In comparison with the 9 out of 22 drivers who retired in Canada and and 8 of 22 who retired in Monaco.