SPIELBERG: Nico Rosberg won the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix in a Mercedes one-two finish on Sunday to stretch his championship lead over team mate Lewis Hamilton to 29 points after eight races.
Williams drivers Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, who had started on the front row, finished third and fourth respectively on a sunny afternoon at the Red Bull Ring in the southern Styrian hills.
The victory was Rosberg’s third of the season and his team’s seventh. It was also their sixth one-two finish of the year and came after Massa had ended their run of seven successive pole positions.
Rosberg now has 165 points to Hamilton’s 136 in the drivers’ standings with 11 rounds remaining.
“It was not the easiest of races, trying to manage certain things which were right on the limit on the car. But in the end I had a very, very fast car again,” said Rosberg, interviewed on the podium by former Red Bull racer Mark Webber.
“It was fantastic to win today. It was great also to get a one-two here in Austria. It’s been great to come back here,” added the German.
Rosberg’s sixth career victory was also a personal milestone since it took him past his 1982 world champion father Keke’s tally of five.
In the first Grand Prix held in Austria since 2003, champions Red Bull were eclipsed at their own track with quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel retiring and Australian Daniel Ricciardo finishing eighth.
Vettel slowed to a cruise after the opening lap, complaining of a lack of drive, and although he got the car going again his race was over and he retired to save the engine while 20th and a lap down on the leaders.
“It was all unfortunate, we would have loved to have given the local fans a lot more love here today,” said Ricciardo. “We tried to do all we could but unfortunately we couldn’t really get much more from the race today.”
Mercedes have 301 points to Red Bull’s 143 in the constructors’ title battle, with double points on offer for the final race in Abu Dhabi.
Sunday’s outcome was decided in the pitstops, with Rosberg starting third and Massa leading smoothly away from pole while Hamilton sliced through the field from ninth to fourth at the end of lap one.
Bottas, celebrating his first Formula One podium, led briefly after Massa’s first stop that saw the Brazilian drop down the order. The Finn was ecstatic with his team’s best performance since 2012.
“It’s been a long way for us since last year and many many years at Williams. Now it’s so much better,” said Bottas, who scored just four points in all of 2013.
“The race was exactly what we needed at this point, clean, nice, everything went like planned. The car was good for a podium this time and I’m so happy.”
Mexican Sergio Perez, who started 16th after a five place grid penalty, also led the field after a long opening stint for Force India until Rosberg hit the front on lap 28.
Bottas was then caught in a Mercedes sandwich but made it hard for Hamilton, who had got in front of Massa at his first pitstop, to overtake. The Briton moved up to second at his following stop.
“We have been working very hard on the starts and the team have done a great job,” said Hamilton, who is now further behind Rosberg than he has been all season.
“That would have been great if I had started where I should have started, but (it was) damage limitation, to get from ninth to second and pressing Nico showed the pace I had this weekend.”
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso finished fifth, after also briefly leading, with Perez sixth and Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen seventh for McLaren.
Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg was ninth for Force India after being overtaken on the final lap by Ricciardo. Kimi Raikkonen took the final point for Ferrari in a disappointing afternoon for the Finn. (Reuters)