After qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix, signs that the tide was turning appeared increasingly evident as Williams stopped the Silver Arrow onslaught.
Today’s Grand Prix, however, demonstrated that Williams’ actions did not stop Mercedes’ run of superiority, rather simply blemished it.
After a suspect third on the grid for Rosberg, and a spin resulting in a dismal ninth for Hamilton, the Williams duo were tipped by some pundits to convert their starting positions into outright victory.
The air of vulnerability in the Mercedes paddock was however extinguished after another significant 1-2 finish, again in Rosberg’s favour. After a fast start, the German quickly made his way past Bottas, only for Massa’s pit stop woes – combined with Rosberg’s superior pace – to gift the German the lead.
Hamilton began with a lightning start and muscled his way from ninth into fifth in the space of a single lap, in what would prove to be a phenomenal recovery drive, and finished in second position a mere one and a half seconds behind Rosberg – despise the latter benefitting from significantly faster stops. Added to this, Hamilton’s incredible on-track performance was amplified by equally respectable sporting behaviour off-track, as the hot-headed Briton embraced and congratulated Rosberg on his victory immediately after stepping out of his car in Parc Ferme.
The Williams drivers and Force India’s Sergio Perez competed for the title of ‘best of the rest.’
Perez was brought into play after the first round of stops, after which he led the race briefly, only to pit for new rubber 30 laps into the race, and subsequently fall into insignificance. A late resurgence was fuelled by fresh tyres, as he climbed up the field again and battled the McLaren drivers to finish a noteworthy sixth. More significantly, however, such a result would yet again outshine star teammate Nico Hulkenberg’s lukewarm ninth position.
The Williams drivers, on the other hand, could be perceived as suffering a disappointing race. Their dominant qualifying performance led them to a third and fourth place finish for Bottas and pole-sitter Massa respectively. However, more importantly the Finnish rising talent proved Mercedes are not quite invincible as he took to attacking – and almost successfully overtaking – Nico Rosberg at several points in the race, on his way to claiming a career-first F1 podium.
Whilst today’s result echoes much of the same, it also leaves many questions unanswered – not least being the extent of Williams’ newfound pace.
The Arrows are, however, still several steps ahead of their competition – as are their drivers.
The result belongs to Rosberg, but hearts belong to Hamilton.
Drivers of the weekend:
1) Lewis Hamilton
2) Nico Rosberg
3) Valtteri Bottas