Lewis Hamilton took a dramatic victory in the Austrian Grand Prix after a last lap collision with his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.
The championship leader had led at the start of lap 71 at the Red Bull Ring, but Hamilton got much better drive out of Turn 1 and pulled alongside Rosberg as they approached the uphill Turn 2.
Both Mercedes drivers braked extremely late, but Rosberg forced Hamilton wide and the pair made contact at the edge of the track.
As Hamilton went across the run off area, Rosberg held onto the lead until his front wing disintegrated on the run to Turn 3. Hamilton moved ahead and went on to collect his third win in four races and his 46th Grand Prix win, and in the process claimed the 250th victory for British drivers competing in F1.
Earlier in the day, Hamilton had led away from pole position as his fellow front row starter Nico Hulkenberg fell back to fifth and Jenson Button eased his McLaren into second at Turn 1, ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Hamilton pulled away from Button, who held Raikkonen at bay until lap seven, while Rosberg made his way up to fourth from sixth on the grid.
The German driver passed Button for third with a sweeping move at Turn 5 on lap eight, two laps before he came in for a set of soft tyres.
Up front, the gap between Hamilton and Raikkonen ebbed and flowed as the British driver was able to make his ultrasoft tyres last much longer than expected, while the supersofts on the Ferrari and Red Bull cars did not prove to be as much of an advantage as has been expected before the race.
Hamilton eventually pitted on lap 21 for a set of soft tyres and emerged behind Rosberg in fourth after the German driver had used his fresher tyres to set a series of fastest laps.
Ferrari called Raikkonen in one lap later for his own soft rubber, but the Finn re-joined well adrift of Hamilton and behind both Red Bull drivers, who had discarded their supersoft tyres several laps earlier.
On lap 27, Sebastian Vettel led the race having risen from ninth on the grid. But the four times world champion, who turned 29 today, had been left out a long time on his supersofts and, as Rosberg and Hamilton were rapidly catching him, his left-rear tyre failed spectacularly as he sped down the pit straight.
The explosion pitched him into the pit wall and then back across the track, where he was fortunate to avoid being hit by Manor’s Pascal Werhlein, and into retirement.
The safety car came out for five laps as Vettel’s car and tyre debris were cleared away before the race restarted on lap 32.
Rosberg held Hamilton at bay and for a time it looked as if the German driver would attempt to complete a one-stop strategy in a bid to win his third successive race at the Spielberg track.
But when Hamilton pitted on lap 54, Rosberg came in one lap later and emerged still in the lead after a slow pitstop and messy out lap cost Hamilton time.
The pair stayed close as they made their way through traffic before the final lap collision cost Mercedes an easy 1-2 finish.
Speaking after the race, Hamilton, who became the first driver to surpass 2,000 career F1 points, said: “He made a mistake into Turn 1 and so I had the opportunity to go down the outside into Turn 2. I left a lot of room on the inside and I guess he locked up and crashed into me. I think he had a problem with his brakes potentially. I’m here to win – that’s all.”
Max Verstappen was the main driver to benefit from that crash as he held on to claim second from Raikkonen despite running on soft tyres that were 56 laps old by the finish. It was the Dutch driver’s second F1 podium after his win in the Spanish Grand Prix earlier this season.
Rosberg limped home fourth with his front wing wedged underneath his car, but he was comfortably clear of Daniel Ricciardo in fifth. The German’s lead at the top of the championship is now down to 11 points over Hamilton – had he finished first, Rosberg would have been 31 points in front of his teammate.
Button did well to record his best finish of 2016 in sixth, one place in front of Romain Grosjean, who returned to the points for Haas F1 after four non-scores since the Russian Grand Prix.
Carlos Sainz rose from fifteenth on the grid to claim eighth, ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas.
Werhlein, who qualified a sensational 12th for Manor, came home in tenth to score the British team’s first points since Jules Bianchi memorably finished ninth at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix. The German driver’s day had started somewhat embarrassingly when he lined up in the wrong spot on the grid and had to reverse shortly before the lights went out, but no penalty was applied during the race.
Esteban Gutierrez ended up 11th for the third time this season for Haas F1, just ahead of Renault’s Jolyon Palmer and Sauber’s Felipe Nasr.
Kevin Magnussen finished 14th after a five-second penalty for weaving in his attempts to keep Wehrlein behind early in the race dropped him down the order.
Marcus Ericsson and Rio Haryanto brought up the rear of the field as a number of cars retired late on.
Force India’s Sergio Perez crashed into the barriers at Turn 3 on the final lap, seconds before the Mercedes scrap appeared on the scene, while Fernando Alonso, Hulkenberg and Felipe Massa all came into their garages in the closing stages.
Daniil Kvyat’s race never really got going after he started his Toro Rosso from the pitlane following his huge crash in qualifying, as he pulled off to retire at the exit of Turn 1 on lap three.
Austrian Grand Prix results:
1 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes 1h27m38.107s
2 Max Verstappen, Red Bull +5.719s
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +6.024s
4 Nico Rosberg, Mercedes +16.710s
5 Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull +30.981s
6 Jenson Button, McLaren +37.706s
7 Romain Grosjean, Haas +44.668s
8 Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso +47.400s
9 Valtteri Bottas, Williams +1 Lap
10 Pascal Wehrlein, Manor +1 Lap
11 Esteban Gutierrez, Haas +1 Lap
12 Jolyon Palmer, Renault +1 Lap
13 Felipe Nasr, Sauber +1 Lap
14 Kevin Magnussen, Renault +1 Lap
15 Marcus Ericsson, Sauber +1 Lap
16 Rio Haryanto, Manor +1 Lap
17 Sergio Perez, Force India +2 Laps
Fernando Alonso, McLaren Retired
Nico Hulkenberg, Force India Retired
Felipe Massa, Williams Retired
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari Retired
Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso Retired
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