Normal service resumed at the front of the Formula 1 field as Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton battled to win the Austrian Grand Prix. But it was the Williams team making the headlines with its best weekend in a long time.
In a dramatic qualifying session, it was the Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas that locked-out the front row of the grid. Though the Mercedes-powered FW36’s were undoubtedly helped by a significant straight-line speed advantage, the team had clearly made strides in unlocking the pace of the car.
Rosberg lined up third having abandoned his last lap after a mistake. Fernando Alonso was fourth, ahead of Canada winner Daniel Ricciardo. Kevin Magnussen was sixth, the only McLaren in the top ten, Jenson Button starting 12th. Daniil Kvyat dragged his Toro Rosso to seventh, in front of Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari. Hamilton started ninth, having spun his chances away and the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top ten. Reigning champion Sebastien Vettel could only manage 13th in his Red Bull.
Massa led the race away from pole with a fantastic start, while Rosberg briefly reached second before being out-paced by Bottas. Hamilton leapt from row five of the grid to fourth place by the end of the first lap, executing a ballsy pass on Alonso at the tricky Turn 8 in the process.
The race ultimately boiled down to who had the best strategy. As the pit stops played out, the two Mercedes’ were able to jump the Williams’, the order Rosberg, Hamilton, Bottas and Massa. The long-stinting Sergio Perez put in a cameo performance in his Force India leading much of the middle part of the race, having started 15th. He was eventually shuffled down the order to a fine sixth at the finish, after the leading group made easy passes into Turn 2.
It was not all plain sailing for the Mercedes’ out front, both suffering from brake temperature issues while following other cars. Hamilton’s left-front brake went critical, preventing him from mounting a concerted challenge for the lead, but he was happy to cross the line second. Rosberg’s third victory of the season extends his championship advantage to 29 points – he has finished first or second in every race so far this season.
Bottas took his first F1 podium finish in third, with Massa fourth. Alonso finished fifth ahead of Perez, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Raikkonen. Red Bull suffered a torrid day at the Red Bull Ring, Ricciardo suffering a failure on the rear-right of his car, the lapped Vettel retiring to save mileage on his engine and both Toro Rossos pulling out.
Though Mercedes once again came to dominate proceedings in Austria, it was Williams that stole the show. The team has jumped McLaren in the Constructors’ championship, just two points behind Force India in fourth and 13 adrift of Ferrari in third.
The next race is the British Grand Prix on 6 July, 2014 marking the 50th time the race has been held at Silverstone.