Ros­berg in a league of his own

F1 Racing - - FINISHING STRAIGHT -

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

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