‘High on a hill was a Nico Rosberg, laydeo, laydeo, lay – te – tooo’
Huge apologies go to Rogers and Hammerstein there for lifting lines from the classic Sound Of Music but indeed, Nico Rosberg is flying high today after winning the Austrian Grand Prix. It was a well deserved victory for Rosberg, who led from turn one to the flag.
It was a race that both delighted and disappointed as twenty of the fastest men on the planet raced around the Austrian countryside. Some of the passes were excellent, the racing close and the action thick and aplenty. But then there were vast portions of the race where very little happened – as is prone to happen in racing.
The first pulse racer was the start, where Rosberg put his Mercedes in front of Hamilton and held it there until the flag. Then shortly after, we had the huge accident of Alonso and Raikkonen that made everyone sit up and take notice. I was among many who wondered if Raikkonen was okay after Alonso’s McHonda mounted the Ferrari like a happy labrador. Watching the on board from Raikkonen, it was a miracle that he wasn’t hurt further when the damaged floor of the McHonda passed within inches of his head. It doesn’t bear thinking about. When Alonso hopped out and shortly after so too did Raikkonen, we all breathed a sigh of relief as both men returned to the pits for an early shower – and a change of underwear.
Further woes continued for the McHonda duo when Button came in for his 10 second stop/go penalty and a change of tyres and then reemerged with his McHonda sounding like a coughing camel. He returned to the pits and retired, once again to face the questions of the press in the Bull Pen. I feel for JB, I truly do. It must be soul destroying to be in this position – again. Lets not forget that JB went through quite a number of lean years with – you guessed it, Honda – before he chalked up his first win in Hungary in 2006. To be back in this position after being World Champion in 2009 and having some great victories with McLaren between 2010 – 2012, he must be wondering what on earth to do next. My advice would be to finish the year and announce retirement, joining Mark Webber in driving in the WEC, Bathurst (which he said he really wanted to do) and doing triathlons and promoting his trust. JB has more than just a few bob in the bank so he would do more than just fine after F1. And anyway, aren’t they looking for a co-host for Top Gear?
Ferrari had just one charger left in the race by the time the pit stops began, so you’d have thought that by concentrating on just one car, they’d have got it right. Once again, the troublesome captive nuts caught Ferrari off guard and Vettel was sat in the pit box while the mechanic struggled with the back right for what seemed an eternity. After a few thuds from the wheel man, the nut bit, whizzed on and Vettel was on his way – but that issue cost Ferrari a podium, despite Vettel driving like a man possessed and almost catching Massa in the closing stages of the race.
Maldonado had a good race and the save he made of the Lotus was beyond words. Handfuls of opposite lock saved the day as the Lotus threatened to break away from him under power and that, coupled with some great (clean) battles throughout the field showed that Maldonado, when he isn’t driving like he’s on the fairground bumper cars, is a quality driver with a decent set of skills. If he carries on like this for the remainder of the season, I will expect to see the performance of the Lotus improve.
Red Bull had (another) home race that they would like to forget. Early damage to Kvyat meant that he struggled in a car that drove ‘like hell’ and after Ricciardo started near to the back of the grid, had a stop/go penalty and managed to drive most of the race on one set of tyres, he scraped home in 10th – just one point for the weekend’s work. Its well documented that Mr Red Bull isn’t happy – we will cover that in another entry – but he has every right to moan that his team isn’t living up to the potential that it showed when it dominated the sport. However, moaning to the extent that he is does no one any good and makes him look like a poor sportsman – which is potentially more damaging than the damage he feels is being done to his brand by having a poorly competitive team. But hey, there’s always Toro Rosso…
The Playstation Generation once again did good this weekend, Verstappen again out performing both Red Bull cars and Sainz having to retire with an electronics and gearbox related fault. Manor had just the one car finish – in 14th – as Stevens had to retire with an overheating Manor. It turns out that a piece of debris had pierced his radiator and had ruptured an oil line, leading to a baked Ferrari in the back of the Manor.
Force India managed to get both cars into the points, Hulkenberg coming off a great weekend at LeMans the previous week to finish sixth and Perez ninth. Both Force India drivers are looking forward to upgrades that are being delivered to the car for the Silverstone Grand Prix, the ‘home race’ for the team as they are based at Silverstone.
Williams closed the gap with Massa finishing third and Bottas, hampered by a brake issue, managed a respectable fifth. At the end, when the flag dropped, Rosberg took the flag with Hamilton second (despite picking up a five second time penalty for crossing the pit lane exit line) and Massa in third. It was great to see and hear Massa getting a huge roar of approval for his efforts on the podium. Even after all this time, he is still hugely popular and proof that there is life in the old boy yet.
I gave the race a rating of 6.5/10. There have been worse races this year, there have been better.
Driver of the race went to Maldonado for me. His save nailed it and like I say, I really hope he continues to drive as he has done for the last two races and he may just turn a corner. No pun intended.
Next up, it’s Silverstone.