Race Report: Austrian GP- Hamilton wins in Austria

The lead up to the Austrian Grand Prix was a bit of a yo-yo effect with the weather on Friday and Saturday being dry, then wet, then dry and it looked like Lewis Hamilton’s race was going to follow that strategy with leading, then trailing and then winning.

Lewis hasn’t found success in Austria like his teammate Nico Rosberg but Sunday did open his account on wins at the Red Bull Ring. Hamilton had a slow stop on lap 22 which handed the lead to Rosberg and a final stop for Lewis saw a set of Soft compounds fitted while his teammate was given the Super Soft. When queried about the choice by Hamilton, the team said they felt this was the best tire to see him to the end of the race and so it appeared to be.

The podium ceremony boo-inspiring move came on the last lap at turn 2 when Hamilton closed on the outside of Rosberg and came alongside the German heading into the turn. Nico went very deep into the corner and held Lewis out very wide by delaying his turn-in to the apex and when Hamilton tried to turn into the corner, the two teammates collided. Rosberg had effectively pushed Hamilton off track by delaying his turn-in and Lewis turned into the corner—perhaps anticipating when Nico would start to turn in to actually make the corner—and that is when contact was made.

Mercedes revealed that Nico had a brake issue that caused him problems in the braking zone and you could clearly see that he was struggling with massive brake dust coming from his wheels under braking for several laps. A long brake pedal, trying to defend your position and braking late doesn’t make for a good scenario but I suspect Nico was never going to make it easy for Lewis to get around him and was going to take every bit of the road in order to prevent it.

The podium was completed byt an exuberant Plucky Teen Max Verstappen and so it should be, his tires were so old they were actually apologies to a tire and Kimi Raikkonen says he felt Ferrari could have done better but took 3rd nonetheless.

WinWin

A win for Lewis Hamilton who hasn’t historically done well at this circuit and had actually lost the lead to his teammate who started 6th so to recover, be shod with harder tires than Nico and still manage to win the race was a quite a feat and dogged determination from Hamilton. It’s also a win because the team were marking Sebastian for the first half of the race and when Seb DNF’d, they quickly realized they had Nico to contend with as well as slow pit stops for Lewis so great drive and strategy to get him the win.

A big win for McLaren who finished 6th with Jenson Button managing a terrific race while his partner, Fernando Alonso, suffered the indignation of retiring his car with a battery failure. McLaren were able to convert their qualifying performance into a great points-scoring run.

A win for Max Verstappen who gave Red Bull a podium finish at their home track and proved once again that this young man has to tools and talent to be a great driver in F1 given his tire management was spot on today on some very old rubber. That craft usually takes a while to get on top of but he’s done a terrific job of it since entering F1.

Romain Grosjean had a terrific day in Austria giving Haas F1 a great 7th place finish and the team said they may have more up their sleeve after qualifying on Saturday. Indeed, they did and Grosjean turned a ho-hum qualifying into a terrific one-stopper result on Sunday.

The star of the show for me was Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein who, like Max Verstappen, managed his dog-eared tires to the end and gave the team their first points since the late Jules Bianchi took 9th in Monaco back in 2014. Sure, he inherited the position when Force India’s Sergio Perez crashed out on the last lap due to a mechanical issue but you have to be there to take the position and Pascal was running 11th which is a great result for the team. Pascal managed to avoid a penalty for reversing his car on the grid just prior to the start.

A win for Paul Charsley who’s boy Felipe Nasr beat the Swede, Marcus Ericsson. Enjoy it Paul, it’s rare and should be savored.

FailFail

A fail for Daniil Kvyat and Toro Rosso as the young Russian was forced to retire form the race and this means that his teammate, Carlos Sainz, has scored in the top 10 every race since Daniil came back to the team while the poor Russian has scored just one point. Not a career-cementing situation.

A big fail for Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel who had 29 laps on his Pirelli Supersoft compound tires when the left rear exploded while leading the race. This happened on Seb’s birthday no less. Vettel was keen to suggest that the issue, which he’s had before with Pirelli tires, is a recurring theme and left a few folks wondering if the tire pressures aren’t to blame as well but he clearly wasn’t going to suggest the team’s strategy ran him too long on the tires. It’s compounded slightly by a good starting position for Kimi who wasn’t able to convert that to a better position than third.

A fail for Force India who started on the front row and ended with two retired cars as Nico Hulkenberg had a serious vibration and Sergio Perez a dramatic and dangerous crash on the final lap. Apparently both issues were due to brakes.

WTHWTH

It’s a WTH moment for Nico Rosberg who was never going to make it easy for Lewis to pass him but having a brake failure at turn one, then braking late in turn 2 was going to be very difficult for sure. Perhaps the brake issue was misjudged and added to the situation meaning he wasn’t aware he had a serious brake issue as Toto Wolff said the team couldn’t tell him he did. If you dive into a corner, about to be passed, and try to brake late with a failed brake system, you’re going to run wide but if you were planning on running wide, perhaps that exacerbates the entire situation. That’s the benefit of the doubt…However

Unless new information is released by the team, it was a ham-fisted move as I think Nico took too much of the corner and probably didn’t need that much to put a prevent move on Lewis. Nico most likely would have been able to keep Lewis squeezed to the track side on exit and held his position but I must say, after watching Nico’s on-board many times, that Nico was taking all of the corner, not just the apex line and Lewis turned into Nico as he was doing so. Nico’s left hand was at twelve o’clock but clearly taking all of the corner off the line and to be honest, I would have expected him to take all of the corner. He pressed Lewis hard and Lewis turned into the corner even though there was a car there taking every inch of that corner…right or wrong. There was a car there and it was going all the way to the back of the corner at the white line so you have a choice, turn in and hit Nico or run off track and let Nico punt you. Lewis chose the former and if I were Lewis, I would have chosen the same.

Lewis did this to Nico in Canada this year and Austin last year. He claimed understeer as the problem and perhaps Mercedes has offered brake issues as Nico’s reason in Austria. The problem is, Lewis did it far better and with less of the corner. He took just the amount he needed to get Nico off the line and off his own line and it thwarted Nico’s forward progress just enough to let Lewis come out ahead. Well executed and aggressive driving on Lewis’s part—unlike this incident.

In this case in the Austrian Grand Prix, whether due to brakes or not, it was clumsier than how Lewis has handled the same situation. Nico seemed to be drifting all the way out to the white line in order to take the entire corner and in my opinion, he didn’t need that much of the corner. You could argue that Lewis, upon reaching the white line at track’s edge, followed the white line of the corner on the outside and as it curved back, following the profile of the corner, and made contact rather than lifting. Watching Nico’s on-board, you can see that Lewis planted his left wheel on the white outer line and followed it through the corner making contact with Nico as he was making a straighter line to the back of the corner prior to offering a lot of opposite lock to make the turn. Lewis said he gave him plenty of room and he clearly did, no doubt, but that’s only applicable if Nico was taking the line and apex, not the entire corner itself which is where it got too clumsy, too ham-fisted on Nico’s part.

In the end, I think it was a bit clumsy and aggressive but I am not in agreement with the penalty assessed to Nico. Last lap passes for the win? Isn’t this what we want in F1? Isn’t this why we want them to be allowed to race? Nico tried a ham-fisted move that cost him a podium and a serious chunk of points, he paid the price. Lewis refused to lift or run wide as he was being pushed wide and rolled the dice and won. He did the same thing in Spain when pushed wide. He’s not going to lift and he’s not going to be punted and that’s what I like about Lewis. I also like it when Nico holds his ground and aggressively defends his position instead of being punted by Lewis.

The key for me is that if Mercedes doesn’t like it, they’ll need to institute team orders then. Why they would, given their domination over the field now, is beyond me. We all dislike team orders but we know Lewis is a “racer” and he’s not going to lift for anyone. The difference is, Nico has decided to be that kind of “racer” too and now Merc find themselves with two drivers who won’t play wet-nurse to each other. This is what Ron Dennis faced all those years ago. If I had to put a bet on it, it’ll be Nico who fold like a chaise lounge on this issue. If I were him, I wouldn’t though. Lewis wouldn’t and I would not blame him for refusing to. That’s Lewis and that’s what makes him a fun driver to watch.

Just so I don’t get all the #TeamLH hate mail: Nico’s fault, too much corner taken in his defense of the position and a clumsy move. Not penalty worthy though. It’s a last-lap racing incident between teammates going for the win. Regardless of how much corner he took or not, Lewis could have avoided the incident too and Toto says it takes two to tango, he’s right but going straight at the corner until you reach the back of the corner is a clumsy move. He should have taken a lot of the corner and squeezed Lewis on exit under acceleration. I have no idea how much the brake issue played into the situation but my assessment is discounting any brake issues which may not be fair to Rosberg fans but I’m not on the pit wall.

I also have to offer a WTH moment for Williams, a team who was on the front of the grid at this circuit two years ago and barely managed to score points this weekend. What happened? Brake issues for Massa and tire wear for Bottas they say.

Finally, a WTH for the crowd who booed Lewis on the podium. I hated it when they did it to Nico and I hate it now for Lewis. He doesn’t deserve that at all for anything he did during the race. He drove a terrific race and won. Also, could F1 please get an English-speaking person who does all of the podium interviews? It’s a global sport, I get it, but this is a critical point to interview the drivers right out of the car and it’s important they have Martin or DC or someone who is professional and does the job right each time.

Austrian GP results:

Pos Driver Car Gap
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1h27m38.107s
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 5.719s
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 6.024s
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 16.710s
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 30.981s
6 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda 37.706s
7 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 44.668s
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari 47.400s
9 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1 Lap
10 Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes 1 Lap
11 Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari 1 Lap
12 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1 Lap
13 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 1 Lap
14 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1 Lap
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1 Lap
16 Rio Haryanto Manor/Mercedes 1 Lap
17 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 2 Laps
18 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 7 Laps
19 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 7 Laps
20 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 8 Laps
Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Tyre
Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Ferrari Retirement

Driver’s Championship Points

Pos Driver Points
1 Nico Rosberg 153
2 Lewis Hamilton 142
3 Sebastian Vettel 96
4 Kimi Raikkonen 96
5 Daniel Ricciardo 88
6 Max Verstappen 72
7 Valtteri Bottas 54
8 Sergio Perez 39
9 Felipe Massa 38
10 Romain Grosjean 28
11 Daniil Kvyat 22
12 Carlos Sainz 22
13 Nico Hulkenberg 20
14 Fernando Alonso 18
15 Jenson Button 13
16 Kevin Magnussen 6
17 Pascal Wehrlein 1
18 Stoffel Vandoorne 1
19 Esteban Gutierrez 0
20 Jolyon Palmer 0
21 Marcus Ericsson 0
22 Felipe Nasr 0
23 Rio Haryanto 0

Constructors’ Championship Points

Pos Constructor Points
1 Mercedes 295
2 Ferrari 192
3 Red Bull/Renault 168
4 Williams/Mercedes 92
5 Force India/Mercedes 59
6 Toro Rosso/Ferrari 36
7 McLaren/Honda 32
8 Haas/Ferrari 28
9 Renault 6
10 Manor/Mercedes 1
11 Sauber/Ferrari 0