Nico Rosberg took victory and extended his lead in the Formula One world championship to 29 points this afternoon by beating team-mate Lewis Hamilton into 2nd place by the narrowest of margins.
The two Mercedes men didn’t have an easy ride to their sixth 1-2 finish of the season, but came out on top after a strategy-based duel with the Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, who started from the front row.
In the first stint, Massa and Bottas held the Mercedes at bay much to the surprise of some who had predicted the Anglo-German squad would romp home, but it came undone for the British team when they were wrong-footed by Rosberg and Hamilton pitting for soft tyres at the end of their super-soft runs. Failing to pit Massa and Bottas in immediate response allowed Rosberg to jump Massa for the lead, while Hamilton couldn’t quite make enough time to pass Bottas but managed the feat on track into turn two and took advantage of the Finn’s colder tyres. Massa meanwhile slumped to 4th thanks to that extra lap.
Behind them there was heartbreak for Red Bull at their home circuit, as a torrid qualifying session gave way to an even worse grand prix; Sebastian Vettel came to a halt on the opening lap with an electronic drive failure, while Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat was eliminated from 11th place when a catastrophic suspension failure destroyed the right-rear tyre of his car and left him helpless in the gravel. Vettel managed to get going after losing a lap, but retired his car later following a brush with the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez that saw the German damage his front wing on the Mexican’s car.
At the front Sergio Perez lead at the halfway stage in the Force India having started on the more durable soft tyre compound, and it stayed that way until lap 27 when Rosberg dived up the inside and retook the lead, prompting a flurry of action behind as Bottas, Hamilton and Massa all made moves on Perez in an attempt to maintain contact with Rosberg who was now beginning to break free from their clutches. Hamilton was nursing a break overheating problem, and Rosberg also lost time when his rear tyres became too hot near the end of this second stint before he pitted on lap 40 with a slender margin over Bottas and Hamilton.
Again Williams elected to go a lap further, and again it cost them as this time Hamilton jumped the Finn to go up to 2nd behind Rosberg, with both men cleared to race until the chequered flag. In the end the contest never came to blows, though Hamilton remained within two seconds of his German rival until the race was done.
Bottas took his maiden F1 podium finish in 3rd and the first podium for Williams since Pastor Maldonado won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix. Massa trailed home 4th ahead of Fernando Alonso who had a lonely but solid run to 5th, with Perez passing Kevin Magnussen for 6th in the dying laps after switching late-on to the super-soft Pirelli tyres. Ricciardo salvaged some honour for Red Bull at home with a breathtaking move around the outside of Nico Hulkenberg in the second Force India for 8th, while Kimi Raikkonen picked up the final point for Ferrari thanks to a bizarre strategy call from McLaren when they left Jenson Button out for too long before his final pitstop.
Jean Eric Vergne was the only other retirement after a brake failure rendered his Toro Rosso undriveable; on home soil only Ricciardo of the four Red Bull-branded cars actually finished the race.
CLASSIFICATION – Race – Austrian Grand Prix – 22nd June 2014