Returning to Austria for the first time in 11 years, the Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix set records along with entertaining a crowd estimated at 100,000 on Sunday, June 22. Mercedes again took one-two in positions with German driver Nico Rosberg securing the top step on the podium and team-mate British driver Lewis Hamilton placing second after climbing from back in the pack following a problematic qualifying session on Saturday. Taking the third spot was Valtteri Bottas of Williams who set his own personal record that weekend.
According to Formula 1, Bottas won his first-ever Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria -- after 27 career attempts. The weekend was much about the British Williams F1 team in fact in that the team took the front row in qualifying (Felipe Massa on pole) and finished three-four at the end.
The storied Williams team has not had a podium finish since 2008, and the achievement this weekend shows at least one team gaining ground on the blow-out Mercedes team this season. Tellingly, both teams use Mercedes power units.
Rosberg's third win of the season set an important milestone in his career as well. With the win in Austria, he now has six career grands prix victories, one more than his father, 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg achieved in his.
Fastest lap of the race went to Mexican driver Sergio Perez of Force India, according to F1. Qualifying 11th but having to start back five places on the grid as a penalty from a ruling on an incident in the Canadian Grand Prix, Perez charged past nine positions to finish sixth in the race.
Unfortunately, Red Bull had a lackluster showing at its own newly reborn home race. Defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel retired his third time this season, a record of the negative kind -- he has not had this many retirements in one season since 2010. Daniel Ricciardo, fresh off his own inaugural career grand prix win that happened in Montreal, still finished in the top ten at eighth.
Coming in second again in the tight intra-Mercedes competition, Hamilton was asked about a pit stop that was slower than his team-mate's and whether the team had explained the difference to him as yet. He responded, according to Formula 1: "They haven’t yet. I didn’t even know I lost that much time, they didn’t feel that fast. Could be my positioning. I don’t know. I’ll obviously investigate... obviously it is frustrating when you lose time because you’re constantly doing everything you can to gain a tenth here, a tenth there, so when you lose quite a chunk... two seconds over two pit stops it’s tough but the guys... at least we haven’t really made any mistakes. If we step back a little bit and look, we’ve had so many one-twos this is just incredible this year so I’m hoping in the future we won’t have those problems."
Asked about the 29-point lead he has over Hamilton now in the championship, Rosberg replied, "Well 29 points, yeah, for sure it’s a nice gap but it’s still so early in the season. I really like to concentrate on each weekend and keep on trying to make the most of them and enjoying the moment, also with the car that we have. It’s so great to come to the next race at Silverstone, our home race, with the best, knowing that if I do a good job I can do pole and win the race. So I’m more taking it step-by-step and every weekend my aim is to extend the championship lead which I managed to do this weekend."
Bottas was asked to speak about his first podium finish and doing it with Williams. He said, "Yeah, I think overall the best-ever weekend. So, really happy. Really happy for us as a team. We were really strong the whole weekend and that’s down to all the hard work. Of course it was a good track for us. You never know what’s going to happen in the next race but overall we are making progress. Step-by-step we are getting there, getting closer to the positions where we belong. I’m really happy. The race today: it was really nice to have a really nice, clean race. Good points for the team. We’ve had some issues lately, been a lot of talk, not maximizing car we had but I think today we showed what we can do."
Interestingly, former Formula 1 Red Bull driver Mark Webber made an appearance back on the F1 podium after his recent stint driving for Porsche at Le Mans. In a different role on Sunday interviewing the podium winners, he commented to Bottas, "Congratulations Valtteri - first podium. It’s an incredible feeling up here isn’t it?"
Finally, Nico Rosberg, who now increases his lead in the championship, was asked from the floor in the FIA post-race press conference if he wins the whole season if he will grow a mustache like his father Keke Rosberg did. He replied, "Maybe. Yup."
The rest of the field in the Austrian Grand Prix after the podium finishers placed this way: 4th Massa (Williams); 5th Alonso (Ferrari); 6th Perez (Force India); 7th Magnussen (McLaren); 8th Ricciardo (Red Bull); 9th Hulkenberg (Force India); 10th Raikkonen (Ferrari); 11th Button (McLaren); 12th Maldonado (Lotus); 13th Sutil; 14th Grosjean (Lotus); 15th Bianchi (Marussia); 16th Kobayashi (Caterham); 17th Chilton (Marussia); 18th Ericsson (Caterham); 19th Gutierrez (Sauber). The rest of the field retired.
According to Formula 1, Nico Rosberg now has 165 points; Hamilton 136, and Ricciardo 83 for the season. In the constructors' championship, points standings at the top are: Mercedes with 301; Red Bull 143; and Ferrari at 98.
The next contest will be the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on July 6.