The Austrian Grand Prix is going to be an interesting one, with a number of fast cars starting at the back of the field including the two Red Bull’s and Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari.
It was a mixed qualifying which saw a number of surprises, including Nico Hulkenberg getting his Force India to fifth, and Max Verstappen in seventh on a track Renault wasn’t expected to perform on. With a number of engine changes both McLaren’s and both Red Bull’s will be starting at the back of the grid.
Quite like qualifying, the risk of rain is still around which was at 50% at the start of the morning, although falling as the race approached.
As usual the top ten will start on the tyre they qualified on, which naturally is the faster super soft, although other cars further down the order going against trend. Maldonado started on the soft tyre, along with Perez, Raikkonen and Ricciardo.
With the lights going out Hamilton had a slow start from Rosberg, the German getting the lead at the first corner. Hamilton attacked into the second corner. Rosberg. Fernando Alonso ended up onto of Kimi Raikkonen between turn 2 and 3, a very nasty looking accident with the safety car deployed. Dany Kvyat came into the pits for the soft compound tyre and a front wing.
Replays showed that Alonso was very close to the cockpit of Raikkonen and the Finn was very lucky not to have been injured. Will Stevens under the safety car also stopped out on the circuit on the exit of turn 3. Replays of the start also showed Marcus Ericsson having a jump start. Also, Bottas lost a place to Verstappen, while Sainz improved to 9th.
Still under the safety car, Jenson Button stopped on lap 4 to remove debris. He was unable to serve his penalty as it can only be taken under race conditions. He switched to the soft tyre, having seen what Kvyat was doing and seeing if they could get to the end of the race.
The safety car came in at the end of lap 6, Hamilton dropped back slight from his team mate at the head of the field. Sainz and Grosjean had a coming together at turn 3, giving the opportunity to Perez in getting into the top ten. Jenson Button also served his stop/go penalty. Coming out of the pits, the McLaren slowed sounding terrible and retired at the end of the lap.
By lap 10, Hamilton had dropped back from Rosberg by over two seconds and well outside of the DRS range, there was the same gap back to Vettel in 3rd. Verstappen was very close to Hulkenberg in the battle for 5th. Ericsson was given a drive through for his jump start.
With his brakes running hot, Verstappen dropped back from Hulkenberg slightly, while Grosjean behind him went off at the penultimate corner.
Hamilton on lap 14 went faster than Rosberg for the first time, with the Brit still over two seconds ahead. Vettel had fallen off the back of the Mercedes. Bottas had yet to pass Verstappen in 6th place. He got ahead into turn two on lap 15, although the Dutchman was trying to fight back. In the battle for 10th Perez was ahead of Grosjean and Maldonado.
At the front Hamilton was closing in on Rosberg, with the gap down to under two seconds. Vettel over six seconds behind the second Mercedes. A poor lap from Lewis Hamilton on lap 20 meant that the gap then went up again to over two seconds.
Despite saying that he had been held up by his team mate in the battle for 10th, Maldonado dropped back from his team mate.
Marcus Ericsson slowed on the inside of the last corner, able to get going again and it was covered just by yellow flags.
Grosjean pitted on lap 24, changing to the soft tyre. A nice quick 2.6 second stop for the Lotus team, taking him out of his battle with Maldonado and Perez who were already on the soft tyres. Nasr also pitted, elevating Sainz, Perez and Maldonado. Bottas went around the outside of Hulkenberg for 5th in turn 3, coming back from his poor start. Hulkenberg pitted at the end of the lap, taking the soft compound tyre. He came out just ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. Sainz also pitted, just it was a slow one with the front left not on correctly.
Grosjean went on to attack Felipe Nasr, around the outside of turn 3, although they worked it out and Grosjean stayed ahead. Coming in a lap later, Bottas came out of the pits behind Hulkenberg. He struggled to hold the car around the lap in the dirty air. Verstappen also stopped and was possibly slowed by a departing Williams.
At the front the gap had increased to three and a half seconds, although Hamilton was back on the attack again. Carlos Sainz was given a five second penalty for speeding in the pitlane.
Having both stopped Kvyat was ahead of Verstappen, with the Dutchman gaining the position on lap 30. Hamilton started to close on Rosberg by a couple of tenths per lap. Grosjean also got ahead of Kvyat, while Sainz in the sister team said that he had a loss of power.
Lap 32 saw Hamilton gain on Rosberg by half a second, brining the gap down to two seconds. Rosberg pitted at the end of the lap, a huge lock up going into the pit lane. The team swapped to the soft tyres, with a good 2.7 stop for Rosberg. Hamilton was on the attack, closing in by 7 more tenths by the end of that lap.
Massa stopped on lap 34 from forth, while Hamilton stated out. It was another lap later for Hamilton, although it was a slightly slower pitstop with Rosberg retaining the lead.
A lap later and Vettel and Grosjean pitted, another slow pit stop for Ferrari with the right rear. It was a 13 second stop for Ferrari, giving third place for Massa in the Williams. Bottas got ahead of Maldonado for 5th, with Perez leading the train.
It was announced that Hamilton was under investigation for crossing the white line on the exit. Carlos Sainz in the mean time retired, with Grosjean also remained in the pit lane after going off the race track.
With Rosberg going faster in the lead, Hamilton was given a five second time penalty. Given that Vettel had such a bad pit stop it doesn’t really mean anything, but really rules out a win if Rosberg has no problems.
By Lap 45, Massa was still in 3rd, with Vettel closing in on the Williams. Bottas was in 5th place. Kvyat pitted for the super soft tyres, while Perez tried to overtake Nasr at turn 2, making the move stick at turn 3. Ericsson pitted a lap later in the Sauber, he too took the super softs.
Maldonado was attacking Ricciardo, the only driver not to have stopped. The Lotus cleared the Red Bull on the long straight a lap later, even before turn 2. Ricciardo pitted at the end of the lap, taking his 5 second penalty in the process and took the super soft tyre. Ricciardo came out in 11th.
At the front Mercedes were coasting, the battle behind of Massa and Vettel were slowly closing in on the leaders.
Further back, after their pit stops Red Bull were closing in on the top ten, with them even eyeing Perez in 9th. Perez was told by his team that there was still life in the tyre and he should push. Ricciardo was closing on Nasr, with Massa and Vettel closing in behind in their battle. Ricciardo got ahead into turn 3, but Nasr got it back again, before losing it in turn 5. Pastor Maldonado was also closing in on Verstappen for 7th place.
Up the road and the gap between Massa and Vettel was down to a second. Vettel really closing in on the Williams by lap 64. Perez also said over the radio that he had a lot of vibrations in the Force India. Even Rosberg was complaining of a vibration on the right front, which was getting stronger.
On Lap 66 Vettel had got the gap down to under half a second. The Ferrari being much better on the brakes, and faster through the middle sector of the lap. Both about to lap the Manor of Roberto Merhi. The Manor nearly turned in on Vettel at the last corner.
Nico Rosberg was concerned about the vibration on the tyre, but the team didn’t seem too concerned. Verstappen remained ahead of Maldonado, with Massa ahead of Vettel. Maldonado nearly hit Verstappen on the pit straight, while Verstappen went on at the first corner which helped the Lotus overtake the Dutchman. He complained over the radio that his tyres were gone.
For the lead, Hamilton had got the gap down to two seconds, but with Maldonado and Verstappen in between the two of them. It wasn’t enough though on the final lap with the German winning for the second year running. Felipe Massa kept the Ferrari behind for the final step on the podium.
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 71
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 71
3 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 71
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 71
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 71
6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 71
7 Pastor Maldonado Lotus/Mercedes 70
8 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso/Renault 70
9 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 70
10 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 70
11 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 70
12 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull/Renault 70
13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 69
14 Roberto Merhi Marussia/Ferrari 68
– Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Renault 35
– Romain Grosjean Lotus/Mercedes 35
– Jenson Button McLaren/Honda 8
– Will Stevens Marussia/Ferrari 1
– Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 0
– Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 0