Rosberg was on course to score his third victory on the trot at the Red Bull Ring, despite picking up damage to his car when Sebastian Vettel’s tyre exploded right in front of him. But Hamilton attacked him at Turn 2 on the final lap, where the pair made contact.
Rosberg’s car sustained a broken front wing, which lodged underneath his car forcing him to limp home. Despite being punted wide, Hamilton was able to pass his hamstrung teammate and cruise to victory.
Rosberg is now under investigation for not stopping on the final lap with such a damaged car.
After all the rain across the weekend thus far, the race started on a dry track. Hamilton sailed into a strong early lead, but a long first stint coupled with a slow first pitstop dropped him behind Rosberg, who had pitted early.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel briefly led after running a long first stint on supersofts, but his right-rear tyre exploded on the start/finish straight after 26 laps, causing him to spin wildly across the track and bringing out the safety car.
The two-stopping Mercedes had to pass the one-stopping Red Bull of Max Verstappen in the closing stages, and then fought out their own duel for the win. Rosberg was on softer tyres for his sprint to the finish, and his swiftness in dealing with Verstappen initially gave him a buffer to Hamilton.
Story of the race
From pole, Hamilton led into Turn 1 from McLaren’s Jenson Button, Raikkonen, Ricciardo as Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India slipped back immediately from its front-row start to fifth. Hulkenberg then quickly regained fourth from Ricciardo at Turn 2.
Rosberg passed Ricciardo for fifth into Turn 8 on lap one, with Vettel having gained a place on Bottas on the opening tour, too. Having been under pressure from Vettel early on, Verstappen then got past Ricciardo for sixth.
Rosberg passed Hulkenberg for fourth at Turn 2 on lap six, with Verstappen following suit into Turn 3.
Hulkenberg’s tumble continued with Vettel and Ricciardo further demoting him, Vettel having passed Ricciardo at Turn 8 the lap previously.
As Hamilton pulled well clear out front, Raikkonen passed Button for second at Turn 3 on lap seven. Rosberg grabbed third from Button at Turn 5 a lap later, with Verstappen taking fourth a lap later at Turn 3.
Hamilton was already 3.7s clear of Raikkonen, who was lapping quicker at this point on his supersofts compared to Hamilton’s ultrasofts. Despite that, Hamilton eschewed his option of taking the first Mercedes pitstop as Rosberg pitted on lap 11, changing to soft-compound rubber.
Rosberg rejoined in a huge amount of traffic, but once he cleared that was setting a sequence of fastest laps.
Hamilton’s tyres looked in bad shape at the end of his first stint, but he extended his gap to as much as 4.4s over Raikkonen by lap 20 as he managed his rubber. Vettel was another 5s back, with Rosberg a similar distance behind, as the Red Bulls bailed out of their supersoft stint early.
Hamilton pitted on lap 22, but a slow stop, for a sticky left-rear corner, dropped him behind Rosberg. Raikkonen responded, but rejoined behind both Mercedes and Red Bulls.
Vettel briefly led, staying out the longest on his supersoft tyres, with Rosberg 5s ahead of Hamilton, who had Verstappen only 2s behind him.
Tyre explosion ends Vettel’s race
But Vettel’s lead came to an abrupt end when his right-rear tyre exploded after 26 laps on the start/finish straight, spinning into the pitwall, triggering a safety car. “Right-rear exploded, nothing I could do, sorry guys,” he explained.
Rosberg reported: “I went over the debris, so check the pressures.” His car’s aerodynamics picked up a lot of the carcass of Vettel’s tyre, and his sidepod-mounted turning vane was damaged too.
After a five-lap hiatus, at the restart Rosberg led Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Bottas. Hamilton had much fresher tyres at this point, but Rosberg eased out of DRS zone with yet more fastest laps.
By half distance, Rosberg led Hamilton by 2s, with Verstappen another 4s back.
Rosberg went off at Turn 2 on lap 43, outbraking himself and using the run-off. Hamilton got to within a second.
Hamilton was told: “Suspension loads at Turn 9 are critical, so be careful on the kerbs.” He was then told it was “Hammer time” with 20 laps remaining, and pitted before Rosberg on lap 54 rejoining just ahead of the battling Ricciardo and Raikkonen.
Rosberg pitted a lap later – again with a faster stop than his teammate, which negated any chance of an undercut. Hamilton ran softs in the sprint to the finish, with Rosberg taking supersofts, all of which allowed Verstappen to lead.
Frantic final laps
Hamilton got into Rosberg’s DRS range on lap 60, just as Rosberg caught Verstappen. Rosberg DRS-ed past Verstappen for the lead into Turn 3, and while Hamilton toiled to pass Verstappen, Rosberg escaped.
Hamilton passed Verstappen while they lapped Renault’s Jolyon Palmer on the run to Turn 2, but Rosberg was now 1.5s clear.
In the closing laps, as they came up to lap the midfield traffic, Hamilton caught Rosberg, attacking him at Turn 3 with three laps to go – but the German defended his position.
They started the last lap just half a second apart, and Hamilton got a DRS run on Rosberg into Turn 2.
As Hamilton tried to pass him around the outside, Rosberg hit him as Hamilton turned in. Although Hamilton was punted wide, Rosberg had damaged his car and had to limp home with the front wing wedged underneath his car.
Hamilton was able to cruise past and score victory. “I was on the outside, it wasn’t me that crashed,” he said on his in-lap.
Verstappen grabbed second with Raikkonen taking the final podium spot. Rosberg limped home fourth, ahead of Ricciardo.
Raikkonen had been on course for fourth before the last lap, having taken the spot when Ricciardo ran wide at Turn 2 with 13 laps to go. Ricciardo stopped again and passed Button to regain fifth with a handful of laps remaining.
Behind Button, Haas’s Romain Grosjean drove a superb race to finish seventh on the road, despite a 5s penalty for speeding in the pitlane. Sergio Perez had been on course to take that position, but crashed heavily on the final lap at Turn 3.
Carlos Sainz was eighth, after Sainz and Perez had banged wheels earlier in their fierce battle.
Valtteri Bottas took ninth for Williams, ahead of the Manor of Pascal Wehrlein.
The star of Q2 yesterday, Wehrlein bizarrely had to reverse back into his P11 slot on the grid before the start. He beat Haas’s Esteban Gutierrez for the final point.
Renault’s Jolyon Palmer finished 12th, ahead of Sauber’s Felipe Nasr, who started on fresh soft tyres and ran a mammoth first stint that elevated him as high as seventh in the middle stages.
Renault’s Kevin Magnussen changed direction many times to defend from Wehrlein, picking up a 5s time penalty and finishing 14th. Marcus Ericsson was 15th for Sauber, ahead of Manor’s Rio Haryanto.
Hulkenberg, who had a wretched race from his front-row starting spot and complained of vibrations, picked up a 5s penalty for speeding in the pitlane, and retired before the end.
Felipe Massa and Daniil Kvyat started from pitlane, Massa due to structural damage Williams found on his new front wing, and Kvyat in a new chassis after his Q1 crash.
Kvyat was an early retirement with a technical failure, and Massa also exited the race late on along with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
|2||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||TAG||71||1:27’43.826||5.719|
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||TAG||71||1:28’09.088||30.981|
|8||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||Ferrari||71||1:28’25.507||47.400|
|9||77||Valtteri Bottas||Williams||Mercedes||70||1 lap||1 Lap|
|10||94||Pascal Wehrlein||Manor||Mercedes||70||1 lap||1 Lap|
|11||21||Esteban Gutierrez||Haas||Ferrari||70||1 lap||1 Lap|
|12||30||Jolyon Palmer||Renault||Renault||70||1 lap||1 Lap|
|13||12||Felipe Nasr||Sauber||Ferrari||70||1 lap||1 Lap|
|14||20||Kevin Magnussen||Renault||Renault||70||1 lap||1 Lap|
|15||9||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||Ferrari||70||1 lap||1 Lap|
|16||88||Rio Haryanto||Manor||Mercedes||70||1 lap||1 Lap|
|17||11||Sergio Perez||Force India||Mercedes||69|
|19||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||Mercedes||64|
|26||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||Ferrari||2|