Nico Rosberg saw off a spirited fight from his Mercedes team-mate and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas to win the Austrian Grand Prix, the first to be held at the newly refurbished Red Bull Ring.
Rosberg produced a sterling drive to see of the challenge of Hamilton, who recovered to second from ninth on the grid, to win his third race of the 2014 season, in doing so securing the all-dominant Mercedes team’s fifth 1-2 finish of the year. Valtteri Bottas, who ran as high as second at one stage, was third for Williams, the Finn’s first podium finish in Formula One.
As the lights went out to mark the start of the Austrian Grand Prix it was Felipe Massa that converted pole into an early lead, while behind him both Mercedes cars vaulted off the grid, Rosberg taking a run down the inside of Bottas’ second place Williams on the run down to turn one, while Hamilton sliced past Daniil Kvyat and Kimi Raikkonen.
As Massa lead the field up the hill into turn two, Bottas swept back past Rosberg into second, while behind the pair Lewis Hamilton tucked into fifth behind Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari, before passing the Spaniard for fourth with a move into turn eight.
There was drama on lap two as Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull ground to a halt at the exit of turn two, the four-times champion seemingly out of the race, only for the car to suddenly kick-start into life, the German peeling back into the leading pack, but a lap down.
Out front Massa headed a train of four cars, followed by his own team-mate and closely shadowed by the two Mercedes cars in third and fourth, throughout the opening phase of the race.
Rosberg was the first of the front runners to stop on lap 11, ducking into the pits from third, in an effort to use the undercut to pass the leading Williams duo, with Hamilton in for his first stop two laps later in the sister Mercedes.
With Rosberg flying on fresh tyres, Massa was in on lap 14, the German’s successful use of the undercut seeing the Williams man rejoin third on the road behind the lead Mercedes.
Temporary race leader Valtteri Bottas made his stop a lap later, a blistering 2.1 second pit stop seeing the Finn slot out between the two Mercedes cars, Hamilton having passed Massa on the run into turn two on the previous lap as the Brazilian struggled on cold tyres.
This handed the long running Sergio Perez the lead, with Rosberg, in second, tucked up behind the Force India and shadowed by Bottas and Hamilton, as Massa started to drift from the leading back in fifth and into the clutches of Fernando Alonso.
Rosberg and Bottas were soon past Perez, followed a lap later by Hamilton, as the Mexican made his opening stop on lap 29, promoting Felipe Massa back into fourth.
Hamilton kicked off the second round of stops at the end of lap 39, pumping in a fastest lap of the race to successfully use the undercut to clear Bottas’ Williams in second, who stopped two laps later, to hand Mercedes a provisional 1-2 finish once Alonso made his final stop.
While Hamilton, promoted into second, shadowed his team-mate throughout the final phase of the race, his earlier brake issues now under control, his pursuit of Rosberg ultimately proved fruitless, as the German crossed the finish line 1.9 seconds ahead to win his third race in 2014, stretching his championship lead to 29 points from his title rival in second.
Behind the Mercedes pair Valtteri Bottas came home in third to claim his maiden podium finish in Formula One and Williams’ first podium of the year.
Pole man Felipe Massa came home a disappointing fourth, just 1.1 seconds ahead of former team-mate Fernando Alonso at the chequered flag, who ran a long middle stint.
Sergio Perez was sixth for Force India after running an alternative strategy, the Mexican passing McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen late on, relegating the Dane to seventh, but still his best finish since the season opener in Australia.
Daniel Ricciardo passed Nico Hulkenberg for eighth on the last lap, the German losing a position on the final lap of the race for a second consecutive weekend, while Kimi Raikkonen had a quiet run to tenth, the last man in the points.
The two Red Bull teams suffered an ignominious race, with Sebastian Vettel retiring his car at the half way mark to conserve his engine after his early issues, while both Toro Rossos similarly failed to finish, Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne both forced out with brake issues.
Austrian Grand Prix – Provisional Classification
1. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes 1h:27m54.967
2. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes +1.932s
3. Valtteri Bottas – Williams-Mercedes +8.172s
4. Felipe Massa – Williams-Mercedes +17.358s
5. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari +18.553s
6. Sergio Perez – Force India-Mercedes +28.546s
7. Kevin Magnussen – McLaren-Mercedes +32.031s
8. Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull-Renault +43.522s
9. Nico Hulkenberg – Force India-Mercedes +44.137s
10. Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari +47.777s
11. Jenson Button – McLaren-Mercedes +50.966s
12. Pastor Maldonado – Lotus-Renault -1 lap
13. Adrian Sutil – Sauber-Ferrari -1 lap
14. Romain Grosjean – Lotus-Renault -1 lap
15. Jules Bianchi – Marussia-Ferrari -2 laps
16. Kamui Kobayashi – Caterham-Renault -2 laps
17. Max Chilton – Marussia-Ferrari -2 laps
18. Marcus Ericsson – Caterham-Renault -2 laps
19. Esteban Gutierrez – Sauber-Ferrari -2 laps
Jean-Eric Vergne – Toro Rosso-Renault – 59 laps
Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault – 34 laps
Daniil Kvyat – Toro Rosso-Renault – 24 laps
Image courtesy of Daimler