Nico Rosberg dominated at the Red Bull Ring to win his third Grand Prix of the season, after beating pole-sitting teammate Lewis Hamilton away from the startline to reduce the championship lead to 10 points.
Hamilton was already a distant second when he received a 5s time penalty for crossing the white line at the pitlane exit, but in truth the race was already lost.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was never in the hunt for victory, and lost a dead-cert podium finish with another tardy pitstop. He battled back on terms with Williams's Felipe Massa, but couldn't find a way past in the closing stages.
Story of the race
Rosberg outdragged Hamilton off the startline, with Vettel covering Massa for third – the pair getting very close to colliding on the run to Turn 1.
Hamilton got into Rosberg’s tow exiting Turn 1, and drew alongside into Turn 2 but locked up, so Nico covered him. Hamilton attacked at Turn 3 too, with a similar outcome.
The race was quickly neutralised, however, as Fernando Alonso’s McLaren became wedged atop the nose of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari after the Finn got a bizarre tankslapper on the exit of Turn 3, and he took Alonso with him into the barrier.
The two cars rattled along the Armco, with Alonso’s sidepod getting perilously close to Kimi’s head and hands on the steering wheel. Both were unhurt.
“I got some wheelspin and it suddenly went left,” reported Raikkonen.
Also in trouble was Daniil Kvyat, who hit Marcus Ericsson, requiring a new front wing on his Red Bull. Annoyingly for the Russian, the Sauber man had jumped the start to get ahead of him.
Following a lengthy safety car, Rosberg led Hamilton, Vettel, Massa, Nico Hulkenberg, Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Nasr and Carlos Sainz Jr.
Sainz banged wheels with Romain Grosjean at Turn 3 over ninth, with Grosjean the loser as Sergio Perez also jumped him.
Rosberg extended a 2s lead by lap 14, with the gap extending by another 2s 10 laps later, while Vettel fell away to the tune of over 10s off the rear of Hamilton.
Bottas passed Verstappen for sixth with a locked-up outbraking move at Turn 2 on lap 16, and then drove around the outside of Hulkenberg for fifth at Turn 3 on lap 25.
Hulkenberg pitted immediately to switch to the soft-compound tyres. Sainz did likewise, but his Toro Rosso fell off the front jack, dropping him to 14th. Sainz compounded the drama by then speeding in the pitlane, costing him a 5s penalty.
Bottas pitted and had a near-miss with Verstappen, and Hulkenberg managed to pass him at the pit exit to regain track position.
Verstappen passed Kvyat for 10th at Turn 3 on lap 30, and Kvyat soon reported a loss of power, as Grosjean passed him for 11th two laps later.
Rosberg manages his lead
Rosberg pitted with a huge lock-up from a 2.2s lead at the end of lap 33 with a 2.7s stop and 21.768s spent in the pitlane. Hamilton stayed out for a couple of laps and pitted at the end of lap 35 with a 3.1s stop that cost 21.869s in the pitlane.
Rosberg extended his lead to over 5s, but Hamilton crossed the white line at the pitlane exit – effectively ending any hopes he had of winning unless Rosberg hit trouble with a 5s time penalty.
Although Rosberg reported a vibration from his right-front tyre in the closing laps, he won by 3.8s.
Vettel, who led briefly, suffered a 13s stop due to sticking right-rear wheel, dropping him to fourth behind Massa. Vettel chased hard after Massa, and got within half a second as the race entered its final five laps.
Bottas got ahead of Hulkenberg again to finish fifth.
Maldonado – who started on the soft tyre – Nasr and Perez (who also started on the softs) passed the tardy Kvyat, who ended up 12th after running a two-stop strategy. Ricciardo ran a super-long 51-lap first stint on the softs, and had to battle past Nasr to score a solitary point in the team’s home Grand Prix.
Maldonado caught Verstappen for seventh in the closing laps, but almost binned his Lotus on the exit of Turn 1. He then got alongside at Turn 3 with three laps remaining, but Verstappen clung on.
Maldonado finally got past after a wild moment on the approach to Turn 1, and Verstappen then overshot the corner. The Dutchman finished eighth, ahead of Perez.
Grosjean suffered a gearbox problem that caused him to run off track briefly and retired, and Sainz was also forced out.
Ericsson had a strange moment when his Sauber cut-out exiting the final corner on lap 22, but managed to reboot his electronics and continue.
McLaren registered another double retirement, as Jenson Button was forced out soon after the safety car restart. “It’s been a pretty bad weekend for all of us,” rued Button.
Will Stevens was a first-lap retirement with an oil leak.
|6||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||+1:04.075||71|
|7||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus||+1 Lap||70|
|8||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||+1 Lap||70|
|9||Sergio Perez||Force India||+1 Lap||70|
|10||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+1 Lap||70|
|11||Felipe Nasr||Sauber||+1 Lap||70|
|12||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull||+1 Lap||70|
|13||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||+2 Lap||69|
|14||Roberto Merhi||Marussia||+3 Lap||68|
|16||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||DNF||35|