Not for the first time in 2015 this was an F1 race that simmered but didn’t quite come to the boil. Not over the matter of victory at any rate. But don’t let that fool you, the Austrian Grand Prix despite appearances had a lot new about it.
And not just because it was won by Nico Rosberg and not the guy expected to in Lewis Hamilton. It was that for what a few thought was the first time Nico won without a strange or self-inflicted major impediment for his English team mate. Aside from in the madcap conclusion to qualifying indeed he appeared all weekend to have Lewis’s measure.
Rosberg reigns over the race
Pole-sitter Lewis we thought was best-placed, especially as for various reasons opportunities for switches in position between the two Mercedes are few, particularly here. But we forgot to factor in the start – Nico’s was better which meant he led from the off and the day was never the same again. Yet it wasn’t all about that.
Nico immediately scampered clear and then looked to have an answer to whatever Lewis tried behind, in the way that we’ve grown accustomed of Lewis doing to Nico. Then when Lewis got a five second penalty at around mid-distance for crossing the pit lane exit line it shifted Nico’s victory from a strong likelihood to a certainty. Therefore he has now one way or another won three from the last four as well as is but ten points shy of Lewis at the drivers’ table top.
Once again it was a private Mercedes affair for first. Ferrari’s weekend had spooky parallels with Canada last time out: Friday practice promise which then fades as the Mercedes-engined cars turn things up when it matters; come the race running in third – this time in Sebastian Vettel’s hands – but unable to keep up with the Mercs, then losing third place to Williams (this time Felipe Massa) thanks to an error around its pit stop, in this case a tortuously slow one when Seb’s right rear wheel refused to go on.
The start of a title fight?
Nico is known for his analytical approach, to the point that some think it a curse as much as a blessing. But perhaps it was noteworthy that he commented after the race: “I was very happy to have the race pace today because race craft is what I needed to work on a little bit from last year and this year it’s really coming good.”
Has Nico indeed found a missing piece? The next few races will offer more clues. To be brutal too there have been false dawns with him before. Lewis also was heard commenting after the race about a new clutch he’s had since after round four, which he’s not been happy with especially for his starts. It was after round four that Nico’s run began.
Whatever is the case while for much of the spring all thought this title was a cruise for Lewis Hamilton, now that we’re at the height of summer few are quite so sure. We may not be getting thrilling races right now, but a thrilling championship battle could be just beginning.