Nico Rosberg extended his World Championship lead over Lewis Hamilton to 29 points by heading a Mercedes one-two at the Austrian Grand Prix as they battled Williams for race victory, with Valtteri Bottas taking a career best third place – his first Formula One podium.
It is the sixth victory of Rosberg’s career, his third of 2014 and the sixth 1-2 of the season for Mercedes.
“I have to thank the team for a great car and a perfect strategy, ” said Rosberg. “We chose the aggressive way to pit earlier and to overtake the Williams that way and that worked out quite well. We had to look after our brakes, which was a big job for the whole race. Also this worked out perfectly for me. Before the weekend, my target was to extend the lead in the championship, which I achieved.
For Hamilton it was a missed opportunity, as he paid the price for two errors in qualifying which meant he was in damage limitation mode. He clearly felt he was the faster Mercedes driver this weekend, but he came away with a greater deficit to his team mate.
If the results have a familiar feel, the way the win was attained was less dominant than others; the Red Bull Ring proved a tougher challenge as the Williams pair of Bottas and Felipe Massa had terrific pace in qualifying and the race.
The men from Williams maintained their qualifying positions throughout the first stint, keeping Rosberg and the fast-starting Hamilton at bay for the first stint of the race.
From ninth on the grid Hamilton looked set for a tricky day around the tight circuit with minimal overtaking chances. A quick start saw him exit the first corner in sixth place, before using the tow of Kevin Magnussen to take fifth place and begin his pursuit of Fernando Alonso, which was a short one.
After attempting the move in to turn three, the Briton was able to make the move at the penultimate corner and immediately find himself on the tail of his team-mate.
The top four remained unchanged in the opening stint and with Rosberg holding Hamilton up as the Williams duo edged away Pirelli’s super-soft tyre was coming to the end of its life on the hottest day of the weekend.
With Rosberg the first to pit for a change to the soft compound tyre on lap eleven and Hamilton following suit a lap later their order remained unchanged, but the same could not be said for Williams. Instead of shadowing Mercedes’ strategy they opted to stay on the super-softs for a further two laps before pitting race leader Felipe Massa.
The Brazilian exited the pits behind Rosberg and was quickly demoted one more as Hamilton tried to keep on the back of his team-mate. When Bottas pitted a lap later, with a stationery time of 2.1 seconds, the Finn was able to return to the circuit ahead of Hamilton and Massa.
As the group looked to continue their battle, they closed in on new race leader Sergio Perez, who started the race on the soft tyre and was running a longer first stint as part of a counter strategy which took him from 15th to 6th at the end.
The Mexican maintained the race lead for a further fifteen laps with little pressure coming from Rosberg, but when the Championship leader finally made the move on lap thirty-three he was able to put some distance between himself and his pursuers.
With the move made at turn two, Bottas quickly made his was past the Force India also and the race for victory began.
Rosberg initially pulled a 1.5s lead and looked set to power away as Hamilton could not pass Bottas, only for a mistake by Rosberg to close the three together, with Massa dropping back.
With Rosberg’s composure regained he re-established his cushion over Bottas as the race passed the halfway stage and the second set of pit stops approached.
Hamilton was the first of the leaders to pit in the hope of under-cutting Bottas and creating another Mercedes one-two. A slow stop of four seconds seemed to hamper his chances of doing so as Rosberg pitted a lap later and had extended his lead. As Bottas made his second and final change on lap fourty-two, two after Hamilton, second place was snatched from his grasp after Hamilton set a new fastest lap and took the position.
Now within the final thirty laps of the seventy-one lap Grand Prix, the race was in a more familiar scenario. The Mercedes pair matched each other lap-by-lap, Rosberg maintaining a 1.7s lead over his team-mate as the pair steadily increased the margin to Bottas.
As the final two laps approached Hamilton turned the screw and got within the DRS zone of his team-mate but was unable to challenge for the victory. Mercedes’ fifth one-two of the season puts them 158 points clear of Red Bull, who had a frustrating day when they most needed a strong one.
Eighth place for Daniel Ricciardo was the only points paying position achieved at their home Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel ran in to trouble early on. The German slowed to a halt on the second lap and after pressing a few buttons a system reboot saw him on the move again, albeit a lap down.
As he closed up to the back of second to last placed Esteban Gutierrez the two made contact with Vettel damaging his front-wing. Sensing that it was not going to be their day the Milton Keynes squad opted to retire Vettel’s RB10 two laps later.
Along with a close battle for race victory, there were many others further down the field.
Massa dropped off the pace of the cars ahead to finally finish a lonely fourth, ahead of Ferrari’s Alonso, once again making the best of the equipment beneath him and even briefly leading the race at the second set of pit stops played out, the first time he has led a race since Monza last year.
A strong contender for driver of the day was Sergio Perez, starting from fifteenth and opting to start the race on the soft, prime tyre whilst all but two others started on the super-soft. Holding the race lead for fifteen laps, he pitted for super-softs in the closing laps and was able to make use of their superior grip to climb up the field and take sixth place.
Ahead of Ricciardo, Kevin Magnussen took seventh place with Nico Hulkenberg and Kimi Raikkonen completing the top ten.
Austrian Grand Prix, Spielberg, Race, 71 Laps
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1hr 27m 54.976s 71 laps
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +00m 01.9s
3. Valtteri Bottas Williams +00m 08.1s
4. Felipe Massa Williams +00m 17.3s
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari +00m 18.5s
6. Sergio Perez Force India +00m 28.5s
7. Kevin Magnussen McLaren +00m 32.0s
8. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +00m 43.5s
9. Nico Hulkenberg Force India +00m 44.1s
10. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +00m 47.7s
11. Jenson Button McLaren +00m 50.9s
12. Pastor Maldonado Lotus +1 lap
13. Adrian Sutil Sauber +1 lap
14. Romain Grosjean Lotus +1 lap
15. Jules Bianchi Marussia +2 laps
16. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham +2 laps
17. Max Chilton Marussia +2 laps
18. Marcus Ericsson Caterham +2 lap
19. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber +2 laps