AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX 3/7/16
Surrounded by the stunning Styrian hills, skirted by meadows – is the Red Bull Ring….
1. Lewis Hamilton
2. Max Verstappen
3. Kimi Raikkonen
4. Nico Rosberg
5. Daniel Ricciardo
And again it is Mercedes making the headlines……
Hamilton and Rosberg collided on the last lap. For the third time in 5 races.
Their collision in Spain put them both out of the race at the beginning of May. And it appears this did not rein in either of them. Neither will submit. It is this single-minded desire for the championship win that makes this such an epic battle to watch. Again we saw Rosberg ‘controlling’ the lead and Hamilton attempting to overtake, despite a relatively slim chance of success.
Exciting to watch. Though not if you are Mercedes. They are considering taking the unpopular step of imposing team orders in an attempt to stop further collisions.
“All of us remember days of strategy calls and they make it boring….. but if the racing is not possible without contact that is the consequence. Collision of team-mates is a no-go for every team..” (Toto Wolff)
Once more we ask the question who was ‘to blame’?
Mercedes Toto Wolff described the crash as ‘brainless’ – without apportioning blame to one above the other.
Rosberg blamed Hamilton for his attempt to overtake him when he was clearly in a position to ‘dictate’:
“We were battling and I was struggling a little with my brakes. I went a bit deep but that is fine because I am on the inside so I can dictate. So I was surprised Lewis turned in and caused a collision. It’s unbelievable”
However, Hamilton’s version was different:
“He made a mistake into Turn One and I had an opportunity to go around the outside in Turn Two. I left a lot of room on the inside and I guess he locked up and crashed into me.”
On the podium the mainly German/Austrian crowd booed Hamilton. It was clear whose side they were taking.
Rosberg had turned late into a corner – as Hamilton tried to pass around the outside – damaging his front wing and receiving a 10 second penalty and 2 licence penalty points. He appeared to be letting his car run wide until contact was made – easing Hamilton off the track. Had Rosberg failed to leave racing room? The stewards certainly believed so. He also received a reprimand for failing to stop with a seriously damaged car. Rosberg’s front wing was initially trapped underneath his car following the crash.
Two weeks ago in Azerbaijan, Rosberg had dominated, Hamilton had struggled. Now Hamilton has closed the gap to 11 points. On another day pit errors and questionable strategy could have cost him. He had started in pole position (after qualifying in damp conditions) and led for the first 21 laps. When his pit stop in lap 21, to change to softs, was delayed due to a problem with his rear wheel – he rejoined the race behind Rosberg – who had fought back from starting 6th (because of a gearbox penalty). A change in strategy with a second pit stop for ‘used’ softs, put Hamilton behind Rosberg yet again on lap 54. And so began the frantic battle that resulted in the collison.
After coming a comfortable 2nd in the European Grand Prix Sebastian Vettel suffered a unwelcome change of fortune – his right rear tyre exploded on lap 27 causing him to crash into the pit wall.Pirelli have suggested that debris was to blame. He was leading Rosberg at the time. Another lost opportunity for Ferrari. Vettel has since stated how happy he is to continue his ‘ego-free’ partnership with Raikkonen, in a barely disguised dig at the Mercedes ‘team-mates’.
Max Verstappen drove another magnificent race – taking the second podium of his career in 2nd – finishing 5.7 secs behind Hamilton and 3 tenths of a second ahead of Raikkonen.
Kimi Raikkonen referred to 3rd place as ‘a big gift’. Nico Rosberg ‘limped’ into 4th. Daniel Ricciardo was frustrated with his lack of speed taking 5th. After coming 6th – his best position so far for McClaren this season, Jenson Button was ‘amazed’:
“All the cars that finished in front of us are much quicker, so I’m amazed that we kept them behind at the start of the race. We did a good job today, strategy wise we got the maximum out of the car…. to get a sixth has made me very happy.”
6. Jenson Button
7. Romain Grosjean
8. Carlos Sainz
9. Valtteri Bottas
10. Pascal Wehrlein
Force India’s Sergio Perez failed to capitalise on 3rd place in the European GP and left the race in Austria after a brake failure. His team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, a front row starter, faded quickly and didn’t finish due to brake concerns. A brake problem in Force India?
Felipe Massa also failed to finish due to rising brake temperatures. As did McClaren’s Fernando Alonso after his energy store battery pack system failed. Suspension issues in qualifying left him starting from the pit, the bad luck continued and Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) didn’t complete the race either.
Hamilton has repeated his customary Senna quote, suggesting he is willing to risk suspension should he be ordered to do something other than attempt to push for the win:
“Like Ayrton (Senna) would always say, “if you don’t go for the gap, you are no longer a racing driver.” I will never stop being a racing driver.” (LH)
Onto Silverstone next….