In a thrilling lap-last duel, Mercedes teammates and bitter rivals, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg made contact with each other. Until then, Rosberg had appeared a clean winner but the damaged front wing threw him down the order and despite being pushed wide, Hamilton finished winner. Rosberg was thoroughly peeved at the incident and blamed Hamilton for ruining his race. With German taking his time to bring his damaged car on the track, Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen got the next two podium places. Rosberg had to settle for fourth in a race that he controlled for most part. Baku podium winner Sergio Perez of Sahara Force India suffered a crash on the penultimate lap and earned nothing at Austria.
You cannot find another set of two teammates, who have remained sworn enemies while pursuing the same goal of winning Formula-one races for Mercedes as also for themselves. The track history over the last several seasons has been replete with incidences of their skirmishes, when in action and they have carried the bad feelings off the track as well. On current form, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are the two best F-1 drivers but they don’t think twice before spewing venom against each other in their utterances to the media. It wasn’t any different last Sunday at Austria’s Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. It was an absorbing race that saw Rosberg planning his pit-stop strategy to perfection and getting a jump on Lewis Hamilton with a superb performance. But the defending world champion Hamilton came up with a stunning run in the last few laps and tailed Rosberg just before the finish. In the thrilling last lap, Hamilton activated the DRS at turn two. Now what is the DRS? It is a Drag Reduction System in the driver-adjustable bodywork. The DRS is aimed at reducing aerodynamic drag to obtain enhanced speed to promote overtaking. In DRS, car’s adjustable rear wing can move in response to driver commands. By using the DRS, Hamilton went ahead with Rosberg defending tooth and nail. In the process, their cars collided and Hamilton’s car swayed wide off the track. But Rosberg was the worse sufferer since his car’s front-wing got damaged. It was here that he lost the lead to Hamilton and missed even the third place. The end couldn’t have been more dramatic.
Hamilton had won the pole in the qualifying ahead of Rosberg but the 2016 championship leader had to start lower down at sixth because of a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change ahead of qualifying. The seventh grid position for Rosberg became sixth because the fourth-place qualifier Sebastian Vettel had to come down to ninth as the Ferrari driver also earned the same five-place grid penalty for gear-box change in his car. Thus, the starting grid had Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg at second spot, McLaren-Honda’s Jenson Button on third, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen fourth, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo fifth, Rosberg sixth, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas seventh, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen eighth, Vettel ninth and Williams’ Felipe Massa tenth.
However despite Hamilton making a good start at the 71-lap race and leading until lap 22, Rosberg snatched the lead from him, when the Brit went for his first pit-stop. On lap 27 Sebastian Vettel’s race was over with his tyre rubber coming off the car. Rosberg had almost 2-second lead over Hamilton as they entered lap 42. Before Hamilton pitted again after lap 54, he had reduced Rosberg’s lead to less than a second. Then Rosberg went to the pits and came out inside 21 seconds. These two pit-stops sent Max Verstappen into the lead with Rosberg at no.2 and Hamilton following. On lap 61, Rosberg snatched the lead from Verstappen but Hamilton had to remain content at third place. Two laps later, however, Hamilton overtook the 18-year old Red Bull driver and now it was the familiar 1-2 of the Mercedes.
With 3 laps remaining, Hamilton was just half-second behind Rosberg. But the British driver had increased his speed. On the penultimate lap, the race got transformed to a fierce and familiar battle between Rosberg and Hamilton. But Rosberg looked the winner as he led Hamilton by six-tenths of a second as they entered the final lap. At turn 2, Hamilton used the DRS and ran wide, touched his teammate and overtook Rosberg. The incident damaged Rosberg’s car and he took time coming back to the track. The small delay allowed Verstappen and Raikkonen to take the second and third places on the podium and Rosberg finished a disappointing fourth. The German had done his best and if he had won, it would have been branded as a convincing victory but even he couldn’t have read Hamilton’s mind ahead of the chequered flag. Behind the last-lap tussle for the top spot, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was fifth, McLaren’s Jenson Button finished sixth, Haas Racing driver Romain Grosjean was seventh, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz eighth, Williams’s Valtteri Bottas ninth and Austrian Pascal Wehrlein brought cheers to the local crowd with his tenth place in the Manor. It was only the second time that the Manor team has reached the top ten since 2010.
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