Formula One

Rosberg takes victory in the ‘Red Bull’ Ring

Nico Rosberg edged a tight battle with Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to win the Austrian Grand Prix and extend his Championship lead.

Valtteri Bottas claimed his first podium in Formula One as Williams took the fight to Mercedes, whilst Red Bull faltered at their home race in the mountains of Spielberg.

The first Williams front row lock out in eleven years witnessed Felipe Massa convert pole into the race lead as Bottas initially lost out to Rosberg off the line, before re-passing the Mercedes driver heading into Turn Two. Meanwhile, a stunning first lap from Hamilton saw him recover from ninth on the grid following a spin in qualifying.

A lightning fast start saw him up to fifth by Turn Two, before a brilliant pass on Fernando Alonso for fourth through Turn Eight left the Brit on the tail of his Mercedes team-mate, despite starting six places behind him.

Defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel suffered from a loss of power as he slowed to a brief stop on the run down to Turn Three just two laps in, before a sudden reset allowed him to continue one lap down on the rest of the field.

The German driver was then involved in a slight altercation with the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez whilst battling for last place, before retiring for the third time this season on lap 36.

Massa lost out in the first round of pit stops, dropping from first to fifth as Rosberg jumped ahead of Bottas with Hamilton in fourth – with all four trailing the Force India of Sergio Perez who was on a different tyre strategy.

Perez kept Rosberg at bay until lap 27, when Rosberg overtook the Mexican into Turn Two, with Bottas following suit down the next straight.

Two seconds separated the top three drivers heading into the second pit window, with Mercedes deciding to stop Hamilton first on lap 39. A successful attempt to undercut Bottas allowed Hamilton to trade places with the Williams driver when he in turn pitted two laps later.

Rosberg pitted on lap 40, re-joining in second behind Alonso until the Spaniard stopped on lap 47, this was the first time a Ferrari had led a race this season.

Alonso re-emerged in fifth and five seconds behind his former Ferrari team-mate Massa, as he set about closing the gap. There was nothing he could do however, against the much faster Mercedes-powered Williams on the straights.

Behind Alonso, Perez used a late super-soft stint to his advantage as he swept past Kevin Magnussen for sixth following a mistake from the Dane on lap 66.

It was a frustrating race for Red Bull, with the Austrian backed side unable to reproduce the winning performance seen in Canada just two weeks prior.

With Vettel already out at the Red Bull Ring, Daniel Ricciardo placed a fantastic move around the outside of Nico Hulkenberg for eighth place on the final lap, to restore some pride into his team at the end of a poor weekend.

Team Principal Christian Horner was left angered by engine suppliers Renault, firing another stinging attack as he branded their current performance “unacceptable” following a disappointing start to the season.

Back at the front and with both Mercedes managing their breaks, Rosberg held off Hamilton’s charge to win his third race of the season by 1.9 seconds. The impressive Bottas came home just 8 seconds behind the duo with his Williams team-mate Massa further down the road.

After the race, Rosberg admitted: “It wasn’t the easiest of races trying to manage certain things, but I had a very fast car and it’s great to win.

“I thought I would get Valtteri at the start, but they are so quick on the straights and he went straight past me. We had a bit more pace and less tyre deg [degradation] than the Williams so we could go aggressive on the stops and that’s what we did.

“I generally felt comfortable in the last laps. The tyres started to drop away on the last lap but after I got past the first couple of hairpins I knew I would be fine.”

Bottas meanwhile, revelled in delight at his maiden F1 podium and thanked his team for the result: “I’m really, really happy. It’s difficult to put into words. Thank you to the team for giving me this car. The race was exactly what we needed, clean, nice. I’m so happy.”

The result leaves Rosberg 29 points clear in the World Championship standings, ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Hamilton. The Englishman will be looking to bounce back with a win at Silverstone in front of his home fans at the British Grand Prix on July 6th.

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