Nico Rosberg’s fightback in the race for the 2015 Formula 1 drivers’ championship continued in Austria last weekend in what was arguably his finest win of the season so far.
Rosberg produced a performance that appeared to come straight out of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton’s playbook: start well, take the lead, and don’t look back. The German driver was utterly flawless at the Red Bull Ring, and would most probably have taken pole had it not been for a late error in qualifying. With three wins in the last four races, Rosberg is now firmly back in the running for the title.
Hamilton, on the other hand, was less than impressive in Austria. The last month has seen the world champion suffer ups and downs, with the dizzying high of Canada being tempered by an uncharacteristic error last weekend.
The ability to hunt down a rival and pass him for the lead is a quality of Hamilton’s that Rosberg lacks, yet in Austria, we never got to see it. Hamilton spent most of the race around five seconds behind his teammate, and when he ran wide at pit exit and crossed the white line, the stewards were quick to hand him a five-second time penalty. The moment the notice came through, his charge was all but over.
It was an interesting role reversal that Rosberg now needs to capitalise on. His critics previously exploited the fact that could not chase down Hamilton, and when he claimed after the Canadian Grand Prix that he would have won the race had he started from pole position, most scoffed. In truth though, Rosberg showed in Austria why this belief should have some credence. He was utterly dominant from start to finish, even with a late scare on his front-right tyre.
Behind Mercedes, Ferrari has failed to make up the ground it had been expected to in the past month. The Italian marque arrived in Canada with a major engine upgrade, only to see Sebastian Vettel qualify 18th. He did manage to finish fifth, but the team’s 100% podium record in 2015 was lost when Kimi Raikkonen spun. A slow pit stop ended up costing Vettel third place in Austria, whilst Raikkonen crashed out at turn two after qualifying down in 18th place. For all of the fanfare, Ferrari’s efforts have been underwhelming of late.
Perhaps the biggest F1 story of the last month was Nico Hulkenberg’s shock victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche. The German driver played a pivotal role in the win for the no. 19 car alongside Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber, and was the talk of the town when F1 hit Austria one week later. Quite whether his win will do his chances of a seat with a top team any good remains to be seen, but it was not only an exquisite display of his talents, but also a stark reminder that outside of the F1 bubble, the cream can rise to the top.
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