Race Recap: 2014 Austrian Grand Prix is old-school front row, new-school racing
The return to an old-school Formula One track – now called the Red Bull Ring – after 11 years away put an old-school team on the front row, Felipe Massa in a Williams getting his first pole position since 2008, followed by teammate Valtteri Bottas. Behind them came Nico Rosberg in the first Mercedes AMG Petronas, Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari, Daniel Ricciardo for Infiniti Red Bull Racing, Kevin Magnussen for McLaren, Danil Kvyat in his Toro Rosso, Räikkönen in the second Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes way back in ninth – he'd spun on his final timed lap after having his previous effort disqualified for going wide at Turn 8 – Nico Hülkenberg in the Force India in tenth after opting not to set a time at all in Q3.
It's a shame the well of nostalgia wasn't deep enough to give us some proper old-school racing.
Everyone got off the line without incident but the award for the best start goes to Hamilton, who bolted through the gap between Kvyat and Räikkönen right off the line then passed his way into fourth position by the end of the first lap. The Williams duo were up-and-at-'em, too, Massa leading from Bottas, Rosberg, Hamilton and Alonso after the first lap.
The only sluggish runner in the pack was, yet again, Sebastian Vettel, whose Renault power unit lost drive due to an electrical issue. He limped around through a few corners and then it came back, but his race was a shambles: he got into a 'fender bender' with Sauber driver Esteban Gutiérrez and needed a new front wing, then retired for "tactical reasons" – drivers are allowed five power units per year, Vettel is now on his fourth.
Beyond that, the race played to the gameplan McLaren predicted of races for the entire season: "An opening charge to establish position; a consolidatory middle-stint as engines, fuel levels and temperatures are managed; and a final burst as drivers with the machinery and confidence to push, press on to the finish." Both Mercedes had to manage brake and fuel issues, the drivers coming out of the slipstream on the main straight to cool their brakes at various points, while Massa was instructed to care for his tires with short shifting and gentler throttle out of slow corners. Less than 20 laps from the end, all four frontrunners were told to go for it.
The passing at the front of the pack happened in the pits, with the Mercedes and Williams pairs running together on track, the former getting by the latter because of different strategies. Pit-timing and tire choices are also what allowed Sergio Perez, who had started 16th after serving a five-spot grid penalty for his accident in Canada, to lead the race for a stretch before Rosberg passed him. Alonso also got time at the front, something the commentators said he hadn't done since Monza last year.
The top five at the finish were established on Lap 40 of the 71-lap race, when Hamilton came out of the pits behind leader Rosberg but ahead of Bottas. Compared to his teammate, Hamilton had suffered two slow pit stops, losing a total of 1.9 seconds to Rosberg, which happened to almost exactly match the 1.932 gap between them as they crossed the checkered flag.
The result was the sixth Mercedes one-two out of eight races. Bottas collected his first-ever F1 podium for third, Massa disappointed to finish behind him in fourth after starting on pole. Yet another lonely race for Alonso brought him home in fifth; it looked like the Ferrari was going to make some magic with a charge on Massa in the final stages of the race, but Alonso said that once he got close and Williams let Massa race to the finish, the Williams just took off. The Spaniard said this was his best race all season but that there's no way Ferrari will catch Mercedes this year. With 11 races to go in the season, he's already looking to next year.
Perez came sixth after a great drive to claim ten spots from his grid position, followed by Magnussen, Ricciardo – in eighth following a last-lap pass on ninth-placed Hülkenberg, the second race in a row that The Hulk's been passed on the last lap, and Räikkönen capping the top ten. Räikkönen still hasn't got comfortable with the F 14 T and lingering brake issues had his team tell him to slow down to cool his stoppers after just two laps. When he was then told, later in the race, to catch up to and pass Jenson Button, Räikkönen told his engineer, "Give me more power, then!"
Rosbergs's win gives him 165 points in the Driver's Championship, 29 ahead of teammate Hamilton's 136, Ricciardo in a distant third with 83. Mercedes AMG Petronas leads the Constructors' Championship by a massive 301 points to 143 for Infiniti Red Bull Racing. The next four teams, Ferrari, Force India, Williams and McLaren are only separated by 26 points. Barring something monumental, this will be a doubly golden year for The Silver Arrows.
The next race is in Silverstone in two weeks. We'll see you then.
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