2015 Austrian Grand Prix
The 2015 Austrian Grand Prix should have been a happy hunting ground for Williams after taking pole 12 months earlier. However, the weather (and Ferrari) decided it wanted to intervene in proceedings, rain affecting the qualifying session.
McLaren started the weekend with a 25-place penalty for each driver on the grid, so despite Button qualifying 17th in Q1 he fell to 20th. Alonso made it to 15th in Q2 but fell to 19th. Manor were thus promoted to row 9, Raikkonen and Perez on row 8. Ricciardo and Sainz would have been on row 7, but Ricciardo was given a 10-place penalty which translated to 18th on the grid, promoting everyone another place bar the McLaren pair. Sainz took 13th, Ericsson 12th and Maldonado 11th. Grosjean then failed to set a Q3 time with technical issues, Nasr the slowest in Q3 behind Kvyat, who also changed his engine so dropped back to 15th. Confused yet? So were the paddock – so much so both Hamilton AND Rosberg failed to complete their final laps, running wide and nearly both crashing into different walls. The eventual grid order was as follows, everyone starting on super-softs except where stated otherwise:
1 – Hamilton
2 – Rosberg
3 – Vettel
4 – Massa
5 – Hulkenberg
6 – Bottas
7 – Verstappen
8 – Nasr
9 – Grosjean
10 – Maldonado [Soft]
11 – Ericsson
12 – Sainz
13 – Perez [Soft]
14 – Raikkonen [Soft]
15 – Kvyat
16 – Merhi
17 – Stevens
18 – Ricciardo [Soft]
19 – Alonso
20 – Button
Off the line it was Rosberg who got the best start, stealing the lead from Hamilton as he nipped up the inside of the reigning champion. Ericsson jumped the start, then tried to compensate and lost ground at the back. The big news of lap 1, however, was the huge crash between Raikkonen and Alonso. The Ferrari seemed to lose rear traction for a moment, before squirrelling and whacking Alonso's McLaren as the Spaniard tried to avoid the erratic Prancing Horse. That there were only two cars involved to any great extent was lucky. Both drivers mercifully walked away, despite the McLaren being parked on top of both the Ferrari and the barrier. Will Stevens parked his Manor shortly after, the Safety Car on track still from the crash. Sadly for Stevens, this breaks his run of never having an F1 DNF. Kvyat, meanwhile, pitted to exchange his options for prime tyres and a new front wing.
Button pitted the surviving McLaren to clear up any debris on lap 3, making the same tyre change as Kvyat. He served the remainder of his grid penalty on lap 7 once the Safety Car was pulled in.
Sainz and Grosjean were in a close battle on the restart, contact between them putting Grosjean wide and Perez ahead of the Lotus as the Toro Rosso ran off into the distance.
Button brought the spotlight back to McLaren's woes again, his car encountering yet more mechanical issues, retiring to save the brand new Power Unit. Shortly after his retirement came the drive-through penalty for Ericsson's jumped start. The Sauber had another moment about 10 laps later, the engine deciding to reboot itself on the pit straight. Merhi was ahead of the Sauber for a while as a result of the combined time loss of the Swede.
Bottas, having cleared Verstappen to retake his starting position earlier, finally climbed to 5th ahead of Hulkenberg – only for this to be reversed at the pit stops when Bottas almost rear-ended the Force India which was benefitting from the newer version of the Mercedes motors.
Sainz was given a penalty for speeding in the pits – a 5 second time penalty. This was rendered moot when he retired with an apparent power loss.
The fight for the lead was finished by Hamilton's pit exit: he crossed the white line that divides the pit exit from the rest of the track, receiving a 5-second time penalty. He settled in behind Rosberg for the afternoon.
A pit stop problem for Vettel promoted Massa, who barely clung on ahead of the Ferrari to complete the podium. Bottas managed to retake Hulkenberg in the fight for 5th, while Maldonado took 7th from Verstappen in an exciting battle. Perez and Ricciardo rounded out the points, while Nasr, Kvyat, Ericsson and Merhi were the only other drivers to finish the race. Grosjean's gearbox gave out on him, Sainz was listed 16th ahead of Button, Stevens, Raikkonen and the flying Spaniard in the other McLaren.
Hamilton is now only 10 points up on Rosberg with Silverstone a fortnight away.