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Austrian GP 2015: Race round-up

Mercedes continue their domination with yet another 1-2, while Ferrari misses out on a podium with Felipe Massa of Williams finishing 3rd.

Nico Rosberg (C) celebrates his win with a disappointed Hamilton (L) in 2nd and Felipe Massa of Williams in 3rd 

This was a race for quite a few upsets, some very predictable happenings, a couple of crashes and some continuing Mercedes domination. Only 14 drivers of the 20 finished today’s race, with crashes and retirements aplenty. The Mercedes 1-2 trend continued.

Nico Rosberg, who started second, won the race. Reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who is still top of the table in the drivers’ standings was polesitter this Grand Prix, but was unable to convert this to a win, much like the Monaco Grand Prix. Teammate Rosberg had won that race as well. Felipe Massa of Williams finished third after a 4th place start on the grid. 

Ferrari, which has found itself on the podium 6 times of this year’s 8 races, was not as lucky this race. In one of the unexpected incidents in the race, Raikkonen crashed out, with teammate and four-time world champion Vettel outpaced by the Williams of Massa, himself a former Ferrari driver. 

Rosberg made up his gap behind Hamilton early on, straightlining Hamilton in the first lap and maintaing that lead through the entire race. Not long after, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso attempted to overtake Kimi Raikkonen on the outside, but clipped the Ferrari driver instead, sending both Alonso and Raikkonen careening into the barriers. Both drivers were out out of the race inside of the first five laps, which also saw the safety car deployed following the crash. Retiring from the race seems to have become routine for former double World Champion Alonso, for whom it is the 5th retirement of 7 races driven this year. 

Teammate Jenson Button also retired from the race, his third of this season from 8 races so far. The reason was the same as every previous retirement – Button suffered engine problems which led to his pit crew calling him in. Manor driver Will Stevens also retired from the race. Button and Alonso both faced penalties this race, but it seemed not to matter, with Alonso’s crash and Button being called back to the pit.

Lotus had a mixed bag at the Grand Prix today – while star driver Romain Grosjean retired with gearbox issues an hour into the race, his teammate Pastor Maldonado started in the middle of the grid at 11th, but made his way up to a points finish, ending the race in 7th. It is Maldonado’s highest finish this season.

Williams were stars today, with Felipe Massa on his first podium of the year, which is Williams’ second after the Canadian Grand Prix, where Valtteri Bottas was third instead. Mercedes’ mid-season engine upgrades appear to have paid off for all teams on their power units, with both Williams and Lotus showing significantly improved performances this race, a trend that has been building up. 

Force India, who are also on Mercedes motors, have not performed exceedingly well this season, but well enough to maintain 5th in the constructors’ standings. Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg, who is fresh off a resounding victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, did well at both qualifying and on race day. Starting in 5th on the grid, Hulkenberg finished in 6th position, with teammate Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez in 9th at the end. Team bosses, who had expressed their desire prior to the race for a 5th place constructors’ finish will be pleased with the results.  

Red Bull, on Renault engines, have had a lot of trouble this season,  but faced no retirements this race for the main team. Daniel Ricciardo, who began the race in 14th, managed to complete the race with a single-point finish in 10th, while teammate Daniil Kvyat, who had started ahead of Ricciardo on the grid, finished with no points in 12th.  Verstappen’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr was not so lucky, however, and was one of the 6 drivers who retired. It is Ricciardo’s second year in Formula One, and the talented Australian has been plagued by constant engine issues, in the absence of which he is likely to have had a significantly better race record this year.

Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen is a definite name to watch out for. The Dutch teen, who is the youngest driver on the grid, has already presented a massive challenge to several old hands on the grid – and today was no different, as he showed immense skill overtaking the Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat. Verstappen finished today’s race in 8th. The race is his second points finish of the year, which is his debut Formula One season.

Mercedes continue their absolute domination this year. They remain resoundingly on top of the constructors’ standings, where they look poised to remain until the end of the season. At a current 328 points, they are 126 points ahead of their closest competitor, Ferrari, who like Mercedes had mid-season engine upgrades. Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene has said he personally thinks Mercedes have a significantly stronger power unit than his own team. 

The gallop of the Prancing Horse may have slowed to a quick canter, but the team and fans need not worry, as both drivers are in the top 5 among the drivers’ standings, Vettel in 3rd behind Rosberg, followed by teammate Raikkonen in fourth. Williams’ might is being shown by Finn Valtteri Bottas, who rounds up the top 5. 

Hamilton’s lead over Rosberg in the drivers’ standings continues to dwindle, with the German only ten points behind the Briton, who is reigning World Champion and at the start of the season looked poised to successfully defend his title. Hamilton is on 169 points as of the end of the Austrian Grand Prix, with Rosberg on 159. Vettel trails behind the two with a 39-point gap at 120. The German has had 5 podiums and one win this year.

The next race will be the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in two weeks’ time. Last year’s British GP bore many similarities with this Austrian GP, with the safety car then deployed in the first lap following Raikkonen’s crash, this time with Massa.

Silverstone is the home venue for former teammates Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. The Mercedes driver won the race last year, although teammate Rosberg was then the polesitter.

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