Monday, July 4, 2016

Lewis Hamilton Wins Intensely Dramatic Austrian Grand Prix

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

For what was a thrilling 71-lap grand prix on the 4.326-kilometer Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, it took the last lap to decide the victor in the 2016 competition between the drivers and teams of Formula 1. For the win, it was an interteam battle between the Silver Arrows appears to reveal a hint at allies in crisis with each other once again.  

Catapulting from a fifth place starting spot to first place late in the Austrian Grand Prix, current Formula 1 points leader Nico Rosberg heading into the race had leapfrogged the Red Bull Racing car of Max Verstappen on lap 62. Verstappen was persevering from a lap 15 pit stop in the late stage as his team elected for a one-stop strategy. Both Mercedes AMG cars were placed on two-stop plans proving to be an advantage late in the grand prix.  

An event Rosberg had gotten used to winning in the past to trips to the Red Bull Ring, the German's final laps were not a pleasure cruise. The use of supersoft Pirelli tires and late-race braking meant Rosberg was unable to built a defining interval over challengers. Snaking past Verstappen on lap 63, Lewis Hamilton began to reel in his teammate's car. Starting the race on pole, Hamilton's first pit stop featured a shaky left rear tire change. While it resulted in no more than a second delay, that stop and Rosberg being on softer tires following the second trip to pit road placed Hamilton behind his teammate on lap 56. As both cars swept past the Red Bull Tag Heuer race car, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were within a second of each other by lap 67.

Starting the final lap, Rosberg flew by the start/finish line with Hamilton close in tow seeking an opportunity to steal the Austrian Grand Prix from his teammate. The moment presented itself into the first turn on lap 71 as the #44 machine of Lewis Hamilton braked late. As Hamilton gained momentum on the outside of Rosberg, the German on the inside line went wide into the corner. Through the block of his teammate for the final lap, the cars of Rosberg and Hamilton made contact with each other. Despite Hamilton being forced to recover into the runoff area outside of the first turn, the #44 car would roar ahead of Nico Rosberg's car as the collision damaged the front wing of the 2014 and 2015 Austrian Grand Prix winner.

Through the remaining distance of the final lap, Lewis Hamilton was left unopposed as he collected his 46th career Formula 1 victory and 1st win at the Austrian Grand Prix. As for teammate Nico Rosberg, the shattered front wing on his Mercedes AMG car resulted in him falling into the clutches of both Max Verstappen and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. Crossing the line fourth, Rosberg would later penalized by stewards for the collision between himself and Hamilton. A 10-second time penalty, the German driver retained the position since he held a roughly 14-second advantage on the fifth place car.

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

The latest of many incidents that have occurred between the Mercedes AMG teammates since the 2014 season, the 2016 season sees both drivers on a perhaps the most equal competitive plane. In the ongoing championship, Nico Rosberg now holds an 11-point lead on Lewis Hamilton following the Austrian Grand Prix.  While Hamilton seemed content to accept the last lap contest as a racing deal, Rosberg without the race win was understandably less accepting. "I had the inside line and we both went into the corner a bit long. I was surprised that Lewis turned in and it ultimately meant that we came together" said Rosberg in post-race transcript. Even the Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff could not ignore the last lap incident. "It was incredibly frustrating for the team to see a one-two finish potentially become a double DNF on the final lap of the race" commented Wolff who realizes he may be facing heated tensions between the Mercedes AMG drivers. "As for the collision, I am not going to try and put blame more on one side than the other; it always takes two to tango and, as we have said before, this should not happen between team-mates. We will now let the emotions settle before we sit down and discuss our next steps." Wolff added.


Max Verstappen's second place finish 5.7 seconds behind Hamilton was an impressive homecoming finish by Red Bull Racing. Narrowing beating Raikkonen to the finish line, Verstappen earned his first podium result since his win at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Besides the chaotic end at the front for the end of the 2016 Austrian Grand Prix, the event was filled with moments that skewed from brilliant to wacky. Among the most alarming incident was a tire failure on the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. Occurring on lap 29, the Ferrari sailed down the Red Bull Ring's front stretch as the rear right Pirelli racing slick shredded apart. A sudden failure, Vettel's car slid sideways briefly before impacting the track's inner retaining wall front end first. Thankfully, the impact with the wall was not severe enough to cause injury to the four-time world champion driver as Vettel climbed out of the Ferrari with the race under a safety car. Having yet to pit on the supersoft tires he started the race on, there was also reports Sebastian Vettel brushed the notorious curbing on the Red Bull Ring. With Ferrari, Pirelli is investigating the tire failure. A podium finish obtained by the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen provided some consolation to the efforts for the Italian team.

Back to the start of the 2016 Austrian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton shared the front row with the Force India race car driven by Nico Hulkenburg in a surprise qualifying result. Unfortunately, Hulkenberg was quickly displaced from the position on the start of the race falling to fifth in the first lap. The German driver of the Force India-Mercedes ultimately had to retire his car with braking issues. While Nico Hulkenberg's race ended in the pits reacting to a brake problem, teammate Sergio Perez crashed on the final lap of the Austrian Grand Prix stopping power on his car was impaired.

Photo Credit: Force India F1 Team

A retirement overshadowed by the Mercedes AMG scuffle on the final lap, Perez's retirement affected the back end of the top-10 running order. As the Force India dropped out of its eight-place position, the major benefactor was the driver running 11th. Pascal Wehrlein, first-year Formula 1 pilot for Manor Racing, scored his first-ever point in competition as he crossed the checkered flag in tenth-place. The 2015 DTM champion German racer collected the first point for the entity Manor Racing since the buyout when it was known as Marussia F1 Team.

Other remarkable finishes in the Austrian Grand Prix included Jenson Button crossing the line in sixth place after a strong qualifying effort by the Honda-powered McLaren. 71 laps at the Red Bull Ring also ended favourably for the Haas F1 Team car driven by Romain Grosjean. After scoring points in three of the first four races for the rookie organization, the American-based Formula 1 team has been brought to reality by the competition of the series. Five races since Haas F1 Team's last top-10 finish, Grosjean collected a seventh place result.

With the 2016 Formula 1 season approaching its halfway point, the British Grand Prix at historic Silverstone is the next round. The 10th race of the 2016 tour is set for July 10th.

2016 Formula 1
Austrian Grand Prix
Race Results

Pos #/ Car #/ Driver/ Team/ Engine

1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG Heuer
3 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
4 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG Heuer
6 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda
7 8 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team Ferrari
8 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
9 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
10 28 Pascal Wehrlein Manor Mercedes-Benz
11 9 Esteban Gutierrez Haas F1 Team Ferrari
12 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault
13 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari
14 20 Kevin Magnussen Renault Renault
15 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
16 98 Rio Haryanto Manor Mercedes-Benz
17 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
18 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda
19 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
20 19 Felipe Massa Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
21 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
22 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari


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