Oops!… We did it again


What will stop Lewis and Nico driv­ing into each other? Team or­ders, that’s what, says Toto Wolff

Some­what like Aus­tria it­self, the Red Bull Ring is small, in­tense, res­onates to the echo of past grandeur and has an agree­able habit of pro­duc­ing things of ex­cep­tional qual­ity. So it was with the 2016 Aus­trian GP – a grip­per with a dra­matic cli­max and a tan­ta­lis­ing coda.

The win (his 46th) went to Lewis Hamil­ton, but only af­ter a last-lap bump-’n’-grind be­tween him and (you guessed it) Nico Ros­berg that gave Lewis the lead and rel­e­gated Nico to fourth.

Their T2 col­li­sion was the lat­est in a se­ries of ‘great­est hits’ that in­cludes Bel­gium 2014, Austin 2015 and Spain 2016. And while Hamil­ton emerged with body­work dam­age in­suf­fi­cient to pre­vent him scarper­ing through Turn 3 to the flag, Ros­berg lost his front wing, then two places, to Max Ver­stap­pen and Kimi Räikkö­nen, as he nursed his crip­pled ma­chine over the fin­ish line.

Opin­ions dif­fered as to whether this was a cruel out­come for Ros­berg, who had bat­tled his way to the lead from sixth on the grid, or whether the ever-ag­gres­sive, in­stinc­tive and op­por­tunis­tic Hamil­ton fully mer­ited the win, hav­ing started from pole, over­come a Safety Car in­ter­rup­tion and then pre­vailed in wheel-to-wheel com­bat when a late pass­ing op­por­tu­nity arose.

Their clash be­gan with the demise of Ros­berg’s brake-by-wire sys­tem on the penul­ti­mate lap. This left him de­fend­ing against a charg­ing Hamil­ton and a mis­take was in­evitable. It hap­pened into Turn 1 on the fi­nal lap: Ros­berg missed his brak­ing point, com­pro­mis­ing his trac­tion on exit and giv­ing Hamil­ton chance to drag along­side on the steep up­hill run to Turn 2.

Ros­berg then ap­peared to brake late into T2 and ran deep into the right-han­der, with no chance of mak­ing the apex. Trou­ble was, Hamil­ton had al­ready edged up on Ros­berg’s left (the out­side line into the right-han­der) and was in no mood to help him ease his way around a wide line and emerge still in front. Con­tact!

Hamil­ton lost aero body­work ex­trem­i­ties and Ros­berg his front wing as both driv­ers gunned it down­hill to­ward T3. Hamil­ton was through and away now; Ros­berg lucky still to be cir­cu­lat­ing. Both were very for­tu­nate to be rac­ing on, for even mi­nor con­tact can mean bro­ken sus­pen­sion, punc­tures, or shat­tered aero parts.

Team boss Toto Wolff was caught on cam­era fist-pump­ing in fury as his pair tan­gled. Pos­trace, his tone was far more omi­nous than when con­fronted with a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion in Barcelona this year. “I need to cool down in a bucket of ice,” he said, “and then we will make a de­ci­sion” –

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