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GP Week : Issue 204
Nico Rosberg extended his world championship points lead over team- mate Lewis Hamilton with an astute, methodical win at the Red Bull Ring. With Hamilton starting back in ninth, it was going to take something startling for the Brit to challenge his German team- mate – and that very nearly happened, thanks to a brilliant start and first lap which saw Lewis slice his way from ninth into P4. Up front, the glory for the front-row Williams pair seemed unlikely to last and that was the case – while getting close on pace, the car’s propensity to use its tyres up a little faster would be the achilles heel, and the Mercs moved past at the first tyre stops – if there could be any criticism of Williams’ tactics it would be that the first stop should perhaps have come earlier. In the end, though, holding back the Mercedes steamroller seemed unlikely. A better stop put Bottas ahead of pole-sitter Massa, and third and fourth was a great result for the resurgent team. Up front, the question was whether the pacey Hamilton could do anything about Rosberg. Both, it seems, were managing an issue with front brakes this time and, again, it was the German who appeared to manage it best. Lewis got close, very close, with a lap to go, but any pass would have been a big, risky lunge, so it was a Rosberg-Hamilton 1-2 and a significant 29-point advantage to Nico. Hamilton, again, was slightly glum and monosyllabic post race. Team boss Toto Wolff (who also retains some shares in Williams – quite a day for him) summed it up: “The race was all about management: managing the brakes because this is such a tough circuit for them, and also looking after the Power Unit to make sure we didn't have any repeat of the problems in Canada. Nico and Lewis did an incredible job – a controlled drive from Nico, where he let the race come to him and let our strategy play out, which worked really well; then a really typical dynamic drive from Lewis, who just did an amazing first lap to climb from ninth to fourth. His equivalent across at Williams, Rob Smedley, pretty much concurred: "I believe we got everything out of today that we could have done. It was a difficult race in terms of managing brakes, systems on the car and tyres, and that dictated what we could do with strategy. The two car crews did a great job to manage tyres and get us to the end of the race and both drivers drove a sensible race. Considering where the team was 12 months ago, to where we are today, everyone should be very proud of this result and enjoy this momentt." Almost un-noticed as the race revolved around these four was quite a strong, if lonely, result for Fernando Alonso. He was, in fact, quite up-beat after wards: "I think that I can consider this to be my best race of the season, because finishing 18 seconds off the Mercedes in a race without a Safety Car or any particular incidents, is a good result. . We pushed hard all race without any problems, which means that little by little, we are improving.” Across the garage, in tenth place, Kimi is becoming increasingly frustrated. As are his team. Simply not good enough. If Alonso was content, Sergio Perez was more than happy. Starting 16th, he (as did Button) chose the alternate strategy, starting on Softs, and it paid off in spades. It was one of Checo’s better races: “I had a very strong start and made up a good few positions. It was especially important to pass Jenson [Button] because he was on a similar strategy to mine: it was a key moment for my race. The strategy worked; we showed once more that we can manage the tyres well, and we had a very strong race pace, as we have had all year.” His choice was emphasised by comparison with team-mate Hulkenberg, who started tenth and finished ninth – on the regular SuperSoft starting tyre. The Hulk had car balance and tyre wear problems and was happy to score points. Eric Boullier was pretty happy with Magnussen’s seventh place: "Kevin drove extremely maturely all afternoon, balancing the need to turn fast laps when required with the ever- present necessity to manage tyre wear. For the first half of the race, he was able to maintain a steady sixth place, best-of- the-rest behind the two Mercedes-Benzes, the two Williamses and Fernando. He did well to hold that position until lap 66, when, running on worn Primes, he was unable to prevent Checo, running on fresh Options, from passing him.” And Red Bull? In an unfortunate home- track weekend, the only RB driver on the podium was last year’s teamster, Mark Webber, doing the interviews ... Vettel’s car lost drive on lap two – bizarrely it seemed linked to the ‘push-to- pass’ power button ... and it came right 30 seconds or so later. Lapped, Sebastian eventually took off his front winglets on Guttierez's car before the team retired the car to save mileage. Caught wide at Turn 1, Canadian winner Ricciardo never really recovered, although a last-lap outside pass, for eighth, on Hulkenberg showed he never gave up trying. But in reality, this was a dark day for Red Bull – the Red Bull Ring accentuating the Renault’s lack of brute power in comparison with the Mercedes, which powered seven of the top 10 finishers. ABOVE: Turn 1 – Massa leads, Rosberg has (temporarily) out-gunned Bottas, and Hamilton is already past four cars 25 GPWEEK.com // 25 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> AUSTRIA PARTNERS: