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” –