2014 Austrian Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Rosberg Restores The Balance

After Daniel Ricciardo’s heroics in Canada, balance was once again restored this afternoon, with Nico Rosberg taking his third win of 2014, in what proved to be a highly tactical affair. He led home his teammate Lewis Hamilton, as the two were once again glued at the hip throughout the entire race, despite the Brit’s disappointment in Qualifying. Despite failing to convert the front row lockout, Williams are undoubtedly delighted with their efforts, finishing P3 and P4, with Valtteri Bottas claiming his first Formula One podium – perhaps the first of many.

Conspiracy Theories – Conspiracy Theories Everywhere…

A Mercedes 1-2 was perhaps an unexpected result, following their comparatively poor qualifying performance yesterday. However, a determined Lewis Hamilton was evidently not prepared to let his starting position of P9 hold him back. An incredible launch saw him leap up the field to P5 by the time the pack reached Turn Two. Then, a superb opportunistic overtake on Fernando Alonso at Turn Eight saw Lewis settle into P4 by the end of the first lap. The Brit made the move look so easy, on a corner where overtaking is highly improbable. A serious contender for overtake of the afternoon, along with Daniel Ricciardo’s magnificent move on the final lap to displace Nico Hulkenberg at Turn Five. 
While Lewis’ climb to P2 largely hinged on strategy, coupled with an overtake best described as a ‘Hamilton-special’ on Felipe Massa, his race was perhaps lost in the pit-stops – or at least, that is what many fans are suggesting. Both of Hamilton’s stops were unquestionably poor by a usually rapid Mercedes pit crew. With times of 3.5 and 4.0 seconds and considering Rosberg’s winning margin, people have been claiming that the win for Nico was manufactured by the team. Personally, I have several problems with this.
Firstly, Lewis’ race was not lost today – It was lost in qualifying yesterday. Had the Brit qualified higher, or perhaps even ahead of Nico Rosberg, the poor pit-stops may not have had such an influence on the outcome, and we would most certainly not be talking about them now. In addition, to say the team would deliberately hinder one driver, through a pit-stop, for the benefit of the other, seems totally ludicrous. After all, this is the greatest team sport in the world and the team have not once expressed any preference to either driver. The idea that a German team would want a German driver to win is also bizarre as Mercedes are a team based in Brackley – And I for one, did not see Mercedes-Benz executives from Stuttgart changing Lewis Hamilton’s tires. 
Ultimately, luck has once again conspired against Hamilton here. It cannot be expected that a pit crew will perform within an accuracy of 100%. Incidents such as this will happen up and down the pit-lane each and every race, yet when they do not influence the outcome of a race, they do not make the headlines. As such, conspiracy theorists should drop this particular story. Hamilton came second and Nico came first and that is the story.

Podium Finn

Well, now that my rant is over, its time to congratulate Williams on a job thoroughly well done this weekend. After their front-row lockout yesterday, they achieved their first podium of 2014, with Valtteri Bottas finishing P3. With Felipe Massa following him home, Williams maximised their potential today as beating the Mercedes was a step too far. However, they will take great pleasure from the fact that they managed to keep the silver arrows honest at the front of the field. They even looked as though they could challenge for the win while Rosberg was held behind Sergio Perez, who started on the prime compound.
What Williams’ performance does show is that Mercedes are being reeled in by their rivals. The Red Bull Ring is not dissimilar in nature to circuits such as the Hungaroring or even Silverstone and therefore, their rivals pace is perhaps not the flash in the pan performance that it could be perceived to be. With Fernando Alonso challenging Massa towards the closing stages, even Ferrari seemed to be more competitive. Yes, the Mercedes struggled with brake temperatures, but the pace of their rivals is unquestionably food for thought.

Not Good To Be Home

After spending millions of euros to upgrade the A1 Ring, Mr.Mateschitz could be forgiven for feeling aggrieved tonight after his teams suffered an abysmal homecoming. Toro Rosso’s day was unquestionably one to forget, as they experienced their second double retirement of 2014. Daniil Kvyat was the first to fall, as his suspension failed heading into Turn Three, followed later by Jean Eric Vergne who suffered a rather dramatic brake failure after black dust had been billowing out of the left front wheel for several laps. Up until then, the weekend had looked reasonably promising, with Kvyat running solidly in the top ten and Vergne demonstrating decent pace.
Meanwhile, Red Bull’s weekend was far from enjoyable. Sebastian Vettel’s afternoon was eventful for all the wrong reasons, after ANOTHER electrical fault caused an unresponsive throttle pedal. Miraculously he regained power after falling a lap down, but eventually retired to save engine components after a collision with Esteban Gutierrez proved to be the straw that broke the camels back, (although to be fair, it was a rather hefty straw.) Daniel Ricciardo may have managed to salvage P8 after running almost the entire race without the use of his “overtake button” but this weekend has been almost a total write-off for all those sponsored by the famous drinks manufacturer. When your driving an RB10 and you are even struggling in the turns, you know you are in for a tough weekend. Silverstone should be much better, although it really has to be!

Driver of the Day 

Sergio Perez
Ultimately, there were a number of worthy candidates. Lewis Hamilton’s climb from P9 to P2, or Valtteri Bottas’ first podium finish are both deserving of the Driver of the Day tag, but Sergio Perez stood out for me. Starting from P16, after serving a penalty that he felt was unjust, it would have been easy for Checo to cruise through the race and endure a quiet Sunday drive. However, his determination to earn points was evident. Once again, the Mexican demonstrated how tyre preservation should be done and by jumping Jenson Button at the start, he became the lead soft tyre runner. He kept Nico Rosberg at arms length for several laps to lead before his first stop and managed to utilise his super-soft tyres to great effect at the end of the race to pass Kevin Magnussen for P6. Oh, and he recorded the fastest lap as well. An impeccable drive and one which put Nico Hulkenberg very much in the shadow.      

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