Rosberg in a league of his own
Austria could be a turning point for Nico as he outclasses team-mate and championship leader Hamilton
Twelve months ago, Nico Rosberg won round eight of the 2014 championship at the Red Bull Ring. His team-mate Lewis Hamilton came second and a Williams took the nal podium spot. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose…
At this stage last year, Rosberg held a comfortable 29-point advantage over his teammate, but now he is ten points in arrears. The difference in 2015 is that his latest win in Austria could actually signify the start of a charge for the world championship.
All weekend Rosberg was quicker than Hamilton – except in the dying seconds of qualifying. Rosberg pushed too hard on the steep run down through the Turn 8 Rindt Kurve, caught the wet AstroTurf, and slithered his Mercedes towards the barriers.
Bizarrely, Hamilton also went off the track on his nal lap: braking hard from 200mph into Turn 1, his Mercedes snapped around and his session was also over. He wasn’t too perturbed; his rst Q3 run netted him his 45th pole position, thereby putting him level with Sebastian Vettel in third place in the all-time list of pole-setters.
Despite menacing black clouds swirling around the peaks of the Styrian mountains, race day remained dry. Hamilton didn’t react to the ve red lights extinguishing as quickly as his team-mate alongside him and Rosberg got past him as they headed into Turn 1.
“I had a problem with the wait revs,” said Lewis after the race. “I took my foot off the gas and it was still on – like the throttle was still on – and then I dumped the clutch and just had lots and lots of wheelspin. It’s something we will work on to improve on my side of the garage.”
Rosberg later revealed that his engineer had been working on his clutch settings, which is why his starts over the past few races have been much more consistent. Having delivered the rst blow to Lewis, he now had to set about extending a gap to break the DRS activation.
All too soon the eld was neutralised following a frightening-looking accident coming out of the Turn 2 hairpin, when Fernando Alonso’s McLaren rode up over the top of Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari. Thankfully Kimi was able to walk away, despite the oor of the McLaren coming worryingly close to his exposed head.
The pair were dicing at the back of the eld following problems in qualifying. Räikkönen had failed to get out of Q1 after he mistimed his run and was stuck behind the Force India of Sergio Pérez and Alonso’s McLaren on his quick lap.
McLaren were enduring one of their most dismal weekends ever. Both Alonso and Jenson Button were given grid penalties of 25 places each for a multitude of engine and gearbox changes and on-track time was limited. It was an embarrassing display, especially with Honda president Takahiro Hachigo visiting.
On Sunday, Kimi lined up in 14th while Fernando was 19th – and having made one of