Hamilton wins in Austria following last lap clash with Rosberg


Having wasted much of the pre-race preamble for previous races speculating about things that never happened, be it the interference of the weather gods or pile-ups at the opening corners, we'll keep it to a minimum today.

Needless to say, the weather gods are playing up.

At a time most are focussing on the problems faced in terms of the new kerbs around the track, which, it is fair to say, have caused havoc and more than a few nasty incidents, the ever changing weather conditions have also contributed to the lottery that is the Austrian GP weekend.

Having disrupted sessions on Friday and Saturday, the weather gods look to be saving the best to last.

Of course, whether this morning's GP2 race really needed to be started behind the Safety Car is a moot point, but the fact is that although the tramp was damp, the rain had stopped and there was no serious threat from standing water. Previous sessions had been held in much worse conditions.

That aside, due to a combination of factors including gearbox change penalties, yellow flag penalties, those damn kerbs and various other things, the grid has a strange look about it.

How strange? Well Jenson Button starting from the second row just about sums it up.

And, following a great effort, Pascal Wehrlein starts from twelfth, Manor making it to Q2 for the first time.

Despite qualifying second and fourth, Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel will start sixth and ninth following those gearbox changes, with the hapless Kvyat starting from the pitlane in that new Toro Rosso chassis.

Whilst Sergio Perez was a victim of the notorious kerbs, teammate Nico Hulkenberg, like Button, was able to make the best of the situation yesterday and starts alongside Hamilton on the front row today.

We can't help feel, weather and kerbs permitting, that Kimi Raikkonen could be the one to watch today, the Finn looking strong all weekend.

In what could be a brilliant tactical move, while everyone else was qualifying on ultrasofts in Q2 yesterday, the Italian team tried the supersofts, meaning they will start on the red-banded tyres. Seeing the sense in this, Red Bull followed suit, while Mercedes left its call just a little too late.

Other than the ultrasofts and supersofts, the third compound available is the soft. Due to the differing data available from Friday and today, a number of opportunities are open and it is quite difficult to predict the best strategy.

The drivers with two sets of soft tyres available have a big potential advantage. A two-stop strategy looks to be the winning one.

Using the data from Saturday, two different types of two-stopper appear to be best: start on supersoft, change to soft on lap 16, and soft again on lap 44 is the optimal strategy.

If starting on ultrasoft, a change to soft by lap 10 and then soft again by lap 40 looks to be just a few seconds slower.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers head out.

Sadly, despite the promise of a classic race, and the obvious amount of effort the promoters have clearly put into the event, including a demonstration by the legendary BMW M1 Procars, there are huge swathes of empty seats even in the main grandstand facing the pits.

Air temperature is currently 15 degrees C, while the track temperature is 25 degrees, considerably cooler than yesterday. It is overcast.

A late change will see Massa start from the pitlane after Williams found some structural damage to the new front wing and opted not to run it on safety grounds. Consequently, the Brazilian, who was due to start from tenth, will start from the pitlane with the old wing.

In the moments before the field heads off on the warm-up lap, Mercedes reveals: "No rain expected in the near future, skies getting brighter!"

As the field prepares to head off on the warm-up lap officials confirm there is a 20% chance of rain.

A good mixture of compound; Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Button, Rosberg, Bottas, Perez and Kvyat are on ultras, Haryanto and Nasr are on softs and the rest are on supersofts.

The grid forms. However, as the green all-clear flag is waved, Wehrlein is out of position having driven into Massa's slot by mistake. He reverses into the correct slot but he'll be lucky to escape punishment both for being in the wrong slot and reversing on the grid.

They're away and Hamilton maintains his lead in T1 as Raikkonen tries to get between Hulkenberg and Button but the McLaren driver has him covered. Indeed, a poor start from Hulkenberg sees the German lose positions.

No such problems for Bottas who makes up a couple of positions thanks to great traction out of T1, he makes a move on Vettel but the German keeps him at bay..

Further down the field drivers are chopping and changing positions like crazy, but there are no incidents.

Hamilton leads Button, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Rosberg, Verstappen , Bottas and Vettel.

Rosberg makes short work of Verstappen and then Ricciardo in T8 to take fifth.

After 2 laps, Hamilton leads Button by 2.155 with Raikkonen a further 2.5s behind. Vettel is up to eighth, while Verstappen has passed Ricciardo for sixth.

Kvyat stops at T1, his weekend going from bad to worse.

Raikkonen really needs to get past Button in order to make the most of the team's tyre gamble and keep Hamilton in sight, but the Finn is unable to get within DRS distance of the McLaren. Elsewhere, Vettel is all over Ricciardo.

Rosberg nails Hulkenberg on the run to T2, with the Red Bull duo closing in in the process. Still recovering from Rosberg's pass, Hulkenberg loses out to Verstappen also.

Vettel has passed Ricciardo and subsequently nails Hulkenberg to set off after Verstappen.

Raikkonen finally passes Button, the Finn taking full advantage of his DRS.

Consequently, after 7 laps it's: Hamilton, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Button, Verstappen, Vettel, Ricciardo, Bottas, Sainz and Perez.

Check out our Sunday gallery, here.

Rosberg makes short work of Button to take third with Verstappen also passing the McLaren shortly after.

At the end of lap 8, Hulkenberg pits, with Button stopping a lap later, as do Bottas, Sainz and Perez.

Vettel is almost caught asleep as Ricciardo attacks.

Rosberg pits at the end of lap 10, the German rejoining in 14th 21.890s later on the softs.

"We might be stopping soon," Ricciardo is told, "push now, push now."

Massa, Gutierrez and Nasr in a great scrap for 9th in T1, the Mexican making a great move on the Brazilian veteran.

Massa pits at the end of lap 12, ass do Palmer and Ericsson.

"There's some light rain," warns Wehrlein, who is now up to sixth. The German subsequently pits, sticking with the ultras and rejoining in 17th.

As Ricciardo pits at the end of lap 14, Perez makes a bold move on Sainz which sees the two touch to take 15th. Ricciardo rejoins in 7th on the softs.

Verstappen pits at the end of lap 15, rejoining in sixth, just behind Rosberg. The Dutch youngster, hanging on to the back of Rosberg's tail, subsequently passes Grosjean to take 5th.

Again Wehrlein claims he can see rain.

The Haas' are struggling, as Grosjean falls back through the field, teammate Gutierrez is left for dead by Bottas.

Out front, Hamilton, still to pit, leads Raikkonen by 4.1s, the Briton doing a superb job of maintaining his tyres. Note deliberate attempt not to use the words preserving or conserving.

Rosberg posts a new fastest lap (9.929), the German currently lapping around a second quicker than the three drivers ahead of him.

Hamilton pits at the end of lap 21, the Briton, despite a minor problem with his left-rear, rejoining in fourth behind his Mercedes teammate. Gutierrez also pits.

Next time around it is Raikkonen who pits, the Finn rejoining in sixth behind Ricciardo.

Meanwhile, another fastest lap for Rosberg (9.536) as he attempts to close the 6.132s gap to Vettel whilst maintaining the 5s gap to Hamilton.

As he battles Magnussen for 20th, Wehrlein complains that the Dane is "changing direction".

At the end of lap 24, Hulkenberg pits again as does Wehrlein, the German dropping to last place in the process.

As we ponder what's gone wrong for Hulkenberg, who started second, and Wehrlein, the stewards reveal that they are to investigate the Magnussen/Wehrlein incident.

It's over for Vettel, the German crashes on them main straight after what appeared to be a tyre failure. The Ferrari hits the barriers and spins basck across the track into the path of Rosberg.

The Safety Car is deployed.

Button, Grosjean, Palmer and Perez all pit as Vettel remains in his car.

"I went over the debris so check the pressures," warns Rosberg.

Replay shows the German's right-rear tyre explode in a manner similar to that at Spa last year.

Still behind the Safety Car, the field follows it into the pitlane as the debris from Vettel's crash is strewn across the track.

Vettel arrives back at the Ferrari garage, his helmet still firmly in place.

The order behind the Safety Car is: Rosberg, Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Bottas, Nasr, Button, Grosjean and Magnussen.

"Unfortunately, debris on the track caused the tyre problem for Vettel," claims Pirelli.

At the end of lap 31, the Safety Car pulls off, Perez immediately makes up two places, passing Alonso and Magnussen, who has been handed a 5s time penalty for over-aggressive defence of his position when battling Wehrlein.

As Perez not battles with Massa for tenth, Vettel watches from the pit-wall.

A new fastest lap from Rosberg (9.521) as he extends his lead over Hamilton to 2.230s.

Hulkenberg, who is under investigation for speeding in the pitlane, passes fellow miscreant Magnussen to take 13th.

Gutierrez, with the Renault duo in tow, is all over Sainz as they battle for 14th.

Hulkenberg is given a 5s penalty for speeding in the pitlane, as is Grosjean for the same offence.

A great battle between Nasr and Button, the Brazilian doing well to hold off the McLaren driver and 2009 world champion. "Maximum attack," the Briton is told, "maximum attack". The Briton duly responds and passes the Sauber to take 7th.

"Maybe light drops of rain in Turn 2," Ricciardo is advised as Perez and Massa continue their dogfight behind Nasr and Grosjean.

A new fastest lap from Hamilton who stops the clock at 9.010 as he closes to within 1.954s of his teammate.

Check out our Sunday gallery, here.

At the end of lap 41, Gutierrez makes his fourth stop of the afternoon.

A late, late, late bit of braking sees Grosjean nail Nasr to take ninth.

Massa passes Nasr to put some distance between himself and Perez, but soon the Mexican passes the Sauber also. Nasr subsequently pits.

As Sainz makes a dubious move on Hulkenberg, Rosberg runs wide in T2 allowing Hamilton to close in.

"Suspension loads at T9 are critical," Hamilton is told, "so be careful on the kerbs."

TV cameras pick up on a loose bargeboard on the left-hand side of Rosberg's car. There's also some tyre debris from Vettel's car visible.

Button is putting pressure on Bottas, the Finn locking-up as he attempts to hold on to 6th. Elsewhere, Raikkonen is closing in on Ricciardo.

"Guys, I'm thinking of bailing out," warns Hulkenberg, "there's so much vibration."

The German subsequently pits as do Palmer, Ericsson and Haryanto.

Bottas pits, thereby releasing Button, whilst Ricciardo is told to push and Wehrlein warns of rain... again.

Hamilton posts a new fastest lap (8.872) as he closes to within 1.229s of the leader.

"Close that gap as much as you can," Hamilton is told, "it's Hammer-time!"

The Briton subsequently pits... rejoining in third 22.109s later on the softs. Following another 'iffy' stop he's just ahead of Ricciardo and Raikkonen, the Briton wobbling as he tries to keep them at bay.

Next time around Rosberg pits, rejoining in second, still ahead of his Mercedes teammate.

Consequently, after 56 laps, Verstappen leads the Mercedes duo, who are separated by 1s. Ricciardo remains fourth just ahead of Raikkonen.

Massa pits at the end of lap 56, rejoining in 14th.

"The car ahead is on the supersoft," Hamilton is told, regarding Rosberg. "You need to pass him on track. The Briton isn't impressed.

Raikkonen nails Ricciardo in T2 as the Red Bull driver makes a mistake, and though the Australian fights back the Finn is not interested.

Fastest in all three sectors, Hamilton posts a new fastest al p(8.744).

Having started alongside Hamilton, Hulkenberg is lapped by the Briton having slipped down to 17th.

Rosberg is all over Verstappen, he goes around the outside at T2 but the Dutch youngster holds his line. The German subsequently nails the Red Bull driver on the run to T3 allowing himself some breathing space in the scrap with Hamilton. Indeed, the Briton is behind the Red Bull for some time as the two negotiate the back markers.

Making great use of Verstappen's preoccupation with palmer, Hamilton nails the Red Bull driver and Renault to go second. The gap to race leader Rosberg is currently 1.413s.

Raikkonen complains that the back markers are ignoring the blue flags.

"Come on, come on blue flags," shouts the Finn. "He's getting them," he is told. "He's not getting them," comes the snapped response.

Massa stops for the first time at the end of lap 64 and is promptly pushed into his garage, to become the third retirement of the afternoon.

As Hamilton posts another fastest lap and new lap record (8.442), Ricciardo sweep by Button to take 5th. Elsewhere, Massa drives into his garage to retire as does Hulkenberg.

Wehrlein is all over Bottas, the German sensing that a point could be on offer.

Raikkonen is also on a late charge, the Finn now just 1.895s behind the Dutch youngster.

With three laps remaining, Hamilton is all over Rosberg as the two close on the Bottas/Wehrlein battle.

They sweep past Wehrlein in tandem and then close on Bottas. 7.8s down the road, Raikkonen is all over Verstappen.

Hamilton makes his move on the run to T2, having had great traction out of T1, the two touch and Hamilton goes wide. He is able to continue however, though Rosberg has lost his front wing and sparks shower from the front of the car where the errant wing is lodged.

Meanwhile Perez is off, the Mexican crashing out in what looks to be more about another suspension issue than driver error.

However, one man's bad luck is another's good fortune, and Perez' retirement means that Wehrlein takes tenth and the final point.

As Hamilton heads off to take the flag, Rosberg is passed by Verstappen and then Raikkonen.

Told that he has won but that it wasn't the way the team wanted to win, Hamilton replies: "I was on the outside, it wasn't me who crashed.

Replay in the Mercedes garage shows Toto Wolff thumping his desk in anger.

"What happened there?" Verstappen asks Hamilton. "He made a mistake into Turn 1, I got the un and was ahead into Turn 2," replies the Briton. "Whoo!"

Meanwhile the stewards are to investigate the incident.

So, the weather gods never made an appearance, then again they didn't need to. We've had a race that was incident filled, with something happening from start to finish, and now the prospect of the race stewards coming into play.

And what was it Lewis was saying only a week ago, about the relationship between Nico being "really, really good."

Check out our Sunday gallery, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 03/07/2016
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