Let the flyaways begin.
German racer Nico Rosberg charged to victory in the Austrian Grand Prix on the weekend. It was not quite a hometown victory but let’s face it, Germany is really just Austria with a hipster neck beard.
A brake lock-up and spin in Q3 denied Lewis Hamilton a lap time, relegating him to ninth on the grid. Overheating brakes brought further clouds to his parade, with a pitstop resulting in a small combustion when the wheel assembly met his smouldering brake discs.
Crossing the line just behind his teammate must be a bitter pill to swallow, but at least another disastrous DNF was held at bay. While the 29-point buffer gives Rosberg an extra mental advantage, one poor weekend could see the lead evaporate.
Hamilton’s dominance in the opening stage of the season, and brake issues at recent Grands Prix, leads me to believe that clear air is the key to further Hamilton victories.
Throughout the race both Mercedes were left with no other option but to pull out of the slipstream of cars ahead, allowing them to feed cool air through their systems.
Renowned for being tougher on his brakes means Hamilton will be less capable when following another car, a skill Rosberg has demonstrated to great effect in the dying laps a few times this year.
Despite a disruptive qualifying effort that saw both cars fill the front row, team Williams found themselves outpaced and outsmarted. Early strategy calls allowed the Mercedes drivers to undercut both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas during the two pitstop phases.
The promise Williams showed on Saturday manifested in a career-best third place for their future world champion Bottas, a popular figure on the podium and bested only by our own Mark Webber when conducting interviews.
Like a two-day alzheimer’s conference, it was a weekend to forget for Red Bull.
Sebastian Vettel’s car crawled to a halt on lap two, but after a few minutes of wound-licking it sprang back to life. Stewards ignoring a minor incident between himself and Esteban Gutierrez was the closest he came to having a highlight from the race.
A few last-minute overtakes from Daniel Ricciardo did little to improve his result, crawling across the line for an unconvincing eighth place.
Both Torro Roso cars retired; Daniil Kvyat with a bizarre and catastrophic rear right tyre failure and Jean-Eric Vergne with a less-catastrophic brake failure.
Fernando Alonso brought his hapless Ferrari home for fifth place, while Sergio Perez tore another page from the ‘what’s a pitstop?’ playbook to get himself among the frontrunners.
Williams leave Austria with a swag of points and having shown their full potential. Like Mercedes last year, it’s highly likely we’ll see them on the front row again this year, even if their race package isn’t as tidy as the main contenders.