Race Recap: 2016 Austrian GP is mishaps from start to finish
For the first time this season, Lewis Hamilton converted pole position into a lead through Turn 1, and began slowly pulling away from the field. Teammate Nico Rosberg started from sixth because of a gearbox penalty, but was up to third when he pitted on Lap 11. Mercedes normally pits the lead driver first, in this case being Hamilton, but Mercedes wanted to get Rosberg ahead of the two Ferraris. Hamilton pitted on Lap 22, emerging behind Rosberg because of a slow stop.
Sebastian Vettel led the race for Ferrari on Lap 27 when his right rear tire exploded coming down the start-finish straight – an eerie reminder of the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix. The Safety Car rolled out, yet when racing resumed Rosberg stayed ahead. After the two Mercs came in for second stops everyone expected Hamilton to lead, but Hamilton had messed up his in-lap and lost a cumulative 3.3 seconds during his actual stops compared to Rosberg's pit-stop times. The Brit remained second.
Hamilton chased his teammate for the final 15 laps. At the beginning of the last lap Rosberg messed up Turn 1 and Hamilton closed in. Rosberg took the inside line into Turn 2 as Hamilton pulled up on the outside, then Rosberg appeared to drive straight on as if he simply wasn't going to turn. Hamilton turned in, colliding with Rosberg and driving over the German's front wing. By the end of Turn 2, Hamilton had the lead and Rosberg had a broken car. The Brit won, the German puttered home to finish fourth.
The incident promoted Max Verstappen to second and Kimi Räikkönen to third. Verstappen scored his second podium for Red Bull after his victory in Spain. Conversely, Räikkönen's third place for Ferrari was more gifted scraps for the scuderia. Daniel Ricciardo came fifth in the second Red Bull, Jenson Button delivered a terrific sixth for McLaren-Honda, Romain Grosjean got Haas back in the points, Carlos Sainz, Jr. secured eighth for Toro Rosso, and Valtteri Bottas in ninth for Williams. Pascal Wehrlein finished tenth, scoring Manor's first Championship points since the late Jules Bianchi's tenth place finish for the then-Marussia team in Monaco in 2014.
The Silver Arrow cars went 34 races without colliding, then they crashed in Spain – another close incident laid mostly at Rosberg's feet. Four races later it's happened again. Stewards rewarded Rosberg with a ten-second penalty and two points on his superlicense. Team principal Toto Wolff called the Austrian incident "brainless" but said the idea of team orders makes him "want to puke." There are 12 races left in the season, Wolff has a week until the British Grand Prix to find a middle ground.
We're not sure if team orders would matter, though, because it looks like Mercedes will lose the Championship only if it wants to. The Ferrari challenge remains mostly legend. Red Bull's gotten better but not enough to take command. Even with mishaps Mercedes's been outscored just once all season. The Germans have 295 points in the Manufacturer's Championship, 103 more than Ferrari, 127 more than Red Bull.
Pundit chatter suggests Ferrari's title aspirations are almost over this year. True, Vettel's only 57 points behind Rosberg, but Vettel's suffered more DNFs in nine races this year than all of last season. Ferrari's made suspect strategy calls. The Ferrari still can't reliably challenge the Mercedes in qualifying and the race even when the car works. As for the team standings, Räikkönen lacks that little bit extra to help Ferrari claim every point available. The silly season rumors already have the Finn out of a seat next year, potentially replaced by Sainz, Serio Perez, Nico Hülkenberg, or Ricciardo.
Turbulence continues at McLaren, yet there's progress in those winds, too. The team scored points for the first time in three races, its Honda engine clearly stronger at a power track. The storied team is still in a battle with rookies Haas F1 in the Manufacturer's Championship, however. Haas scored for the first time in five races, and almost got two cars in the points.
Hamilton's third win of the season puts him 11 points away from the Championship lead; Rosberg has 153, Hamilton's on 142. Hamilton's win is also the 250th grand prix victory by a British driver. The UK is the winningest country in F1 by a huge margin, Germany in second with 164. Hamilton would like nothing more than to make it 251 British driver wins at his home grand prix next week. We'll see you then.
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