Lewis Hamilton won Sunday’s Grand Prix in Spielberg in dramatic fashion after passing Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg for the lead on the very last lap. The pair made contact in the move, leaving Rosberg to trail home fourth, as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen completed the podium in third.
After a stewards' investigation, Rosberg - whose brake-by-wire system went into passive mode on the penultimate lap - was handed a 10-second penalty for causing a collision, but kept fourth place. He also recieved a reprimand for failing to stop with a seriously damaged car.
Behind Hamilton, Verstappen drove another superb race to take second, 5.7s behind and only three-tenths of a second ahead of a charging Raikkonen. The Finn’s partner Sebastian Vettel had looked comfortable in front after early leader Hamilton had stopped to switch his ultrasoft Pirelli tyres for softs, but the Ferrari suffered a violent right-rear supersoft puncture on the 27th lap and crashed into the pit wall. Pirelli say they will investigate the cause fully.
Hamilton had led at the start as McLaren’s Jenson Button kept fast-starting Raikkonen at bay until the eighth lap. Rosberg was the first pit stopper, on lap 10, but Hamilton made his ultrasofts last until the 21st lap. A delay with his left-rear tyre enabled Rosberg, who had started sixth, to get ahead, however, which set up their epic fight.
Hamilton’s stop dropped him to fourth as Raikkonen led for a lap before his own stop, and that put Vettel ahead from Rosberg and Hamilton, as Raikkonen dropped behind the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.
The safety car was deployed as Vettel’s debris was cleared up - for two laps cars were diverted through the pits - then Rosberg took up the lead from Hamilton as racing resumed on the 32nd lap. The gap between the battling Silver Arrows was rarely more than two seconds as Hamilton bided his time. Rosberg seemed to have things nicely under control, though, despite carrying some rubber debris from Vettel’s tyre and damage to his left barge board, and as they chased one another, single-stopping Verstappen firmly established himself in third place as Ricciardo kept Raikkonen under control.
Hamilton got the gap down to 0.9s on the 44th lap, before Rosberg eased it up again, then the Englishman pitted on the 54th lap to get the undercut. He had no new supersoft tyres left, so had to go to another set of softs; Rosberg pitted a lap later and took his remaining supersofts, and came out still in the lead. He maintained that at just over a second for a long time, as both caught and passed Verstappen, who had taken the lead during their stops. But on the 67th lap Hamilton really went on to the attack and sliced the gap to 0.7s, then 0.4s for two laps. But Rosberg was unflustered until making a mistake in Turn 1 on that last lap and letting Hamilton get a big run on him going down to Turn 2. He got inside Rosberg in the preceding gentle left curve, but that left him on the outside of Turn 2. Rosberg appeared to let his car run wide until contact was made, and Hamilton was eased into the run-off area. The stewards later said that the German had failed to leave 'racing room'.
The pair nearly collided again as Hamilton kept his foot in, rejoined the track and swept past Rosberg's ailing car on the approach to Turn 3. Rosberg’s wing was damaged in the contact, and as he was slowing Sergio Perez complicated the issue by going off the road in a big shunt at Turn 3 after a brake failure, putting the final touch to a brutally disappointing race for Force India.
With Rosberg hobbled, Hamilton sped on to his 46th career victory, as Verstappen just kept Raikkonen at bay and the second Mercedes limped home for fourth.
He still holds the championship lead on 153 points, but Hamilton is now only 11 points behind on 142. Vettel and Raikkonen each have 96, with Ricciardo on 88 and Verstappen on 72.
Front-row starter Nico Hulkenberg faded quickly and failed to finish thanks to brake concerns on his Force India, but it was a great day for McLaren in their best race thus far in the turbo-hybrid era, and Button was delighted with sixth after a feisty drive.
Romain Grosjean took seventh for Haas despite a five-second time penalty for pit-lane speeding, and finished ahead of Carlos Sainz who rescued what at one stage looked like an awful race for Toro Rosso, and Pascal Wehrlein hounded Valtteri Bottas’ Williams to the flag to score a hugely valuable point for Manor - and the first of his F1 career. He was only six-tenths ahead of Esteban Gutierrez in the second Haas by the end, however.
Jolyon Palmer brought his Renault home 12th ahead of Sauber’s Felipe Nasr, who was mighty at times after starting on softs and doing a 43-lap stint on them, as Renault’s Kevin Magnussen was also penalised five seconds for pit-lane speeding and took 14th ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and final finisher Rio Haryanto in the Manor.
Besides Vettel, Hulkenberg and Perez, Williams’ Felipe Massa failed to
finish due to rising brake temperatures, having started from the pits because
of a front wing problem on the formation laps. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat also
began his afternoon from the pit lane after an overnight chassis change but was
the first retirement, while the energy store battery pack system on Fernando
Alonso’s McLaren let him down with just a handful of laps remaining.
First Grand Prix - 1970
Number of Laps - 71
Circuit Length - 4.326KM
Race Distance - 307.02KM
Lap Record - 1:08.337 Michael Schumacher (2003)
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