F1: 2014 Austrian Grand Prix

Result – Nico Rosberg wins his third of the season to lead the Championship over teammate Hamilton by 29 points.

 

At the end of the day, it wasn’t as joyous and beautiful for Mercedes as it should’ve been. Their drivers—fiercely competitive in the wake of relentless success this season—are barely on talking terms, putting to sword a relationship that dates back to their early teenage days. Once again, one of them drove flawlessly to win a race, and the other was left sputtering and cursing at what could have been. Regardless of qualifying, where both cars struggled, the race was all about a smooth engine that is constructing a season similar to that of Brawn GP back in their debut in 2009. Back then, Button gained from this sudden spurt of magic potion. This time, destiny is conflicted about who to choose—a British ex-Champion at the peak of his career or a German upstart who has never fulfilled his potential to its fullest.

Rosberg started at Austria—the home to reigning Constructors Champions’ engine providers Red Bull—behind two Williams cars that looked quicker than them through the weekend. Massa and Bottas started at 1 and 2, but knew that it’d only be a matter of time before normal service was resumed i.e. the real contenders stepped up. In just a lap, Hamilton fought his way from a disgruntled 9th position to 4th, storming through the traffic and determined to single-mindedly hunt down his blonde partner—who had the good fortune of starting from a podium position. Unfortunately for Hamilton, even though he drove the race of the day, lapses in qualifying cost him a win—a position most unlikely given his qualifying position. He should be more than happy with a second place after the disaster in Montreal that leaves him 29 points behind a man that was not too long ago frustrated with his team’s stepmotherly treatment to him. Well, all that is history now, because Rosberg finished just 1.9 seconds ahead of Hamilton (also the exact time that Hamilton lost in qualifying over his teammate), to win his 3rd race of the season and 2nd in the last 3 races. Meanwhile, the Brit—who won four consecutive races after retiring at Melbourne—is struggling with reliability issues, and this frustration seems to have rubbed off on both sets of engineers.

Team chief Toto Wolff wasn’t the happiest after the race. He reminded his drivers and engineers that hiding data from each other within the confines of his rule is not acceptable behaviour befitting of future champions. There are two teams within one—perhaps healthy competition for viewers—but even with 7 wins out of 9, the team morale is far from chirpy and positive. The Constructors Championship is theirs for the taking, and it is only a matter of time, but there could be bloodshed in the garage before one driver is declared the winner.

There has always been a no. 1 driver in each Champion team (Ferrari, McLaren, Brawn GP, Red Bull), but this time, the championship seems to be heading in the bitter direction McLaren took in 2007—where Raikkonen pipped warring drivers Alonso and Hamilton (again) to the top in the last race of the season. It never ends well for teams with two equally good drivers, and even Vettel is learning the hard way with young new teammate Ricciardo outperforming him in most races already. Another retirement can’t have made the 4-time Champion too excited about future performance, especially when team chief Horner began a blame game with engine-manufacturers Red Bull calling for a desperate turn in quality.

Force India will be happy with Perez’s 6th place, while Massa will feel rejuvenated with a useful 4th after starting on pole position. Teams will come and go, but it is upto Mercedes to make this a fight within closed quarters.

We’re not complaining though. Bring on Silverstone – the land of Hamilton.

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