“Bullfight critics ranked in rows Crowd the enormous Plaza full; But he’s the only one who knows— And he’s the man who fights the bull.” – Domingo Ortega
The man who fights the bull
Nico Rosberg came in to the Austrian Grand Prix at the top of the F1 drivers champions standings. He had performed well in the preseason testing and then finished 1st or 2nd in every one of the first seven races. His closest competition had been Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, who strung together four wins in races 2 through 5.
Coming in to Austria, though, it finally appeared that the rest of the field was ready to challenge.
Red Bull had finally broken Rosberg and Mercedes at the Canadian Grand Prix, where Daniel Ricciardo staged a late charge to overtake Rosberg for the win. It seemed that would create great momentum for the Red Bull team as they headed to the new Red Bull ring in Austria. Further, four time champion Sebastian Vettel has been locked out of the winners circle all year. He would surely break through at some point… right?
Williams surprises the field in qualifying
Once in Austria, opposition came from an unexpected challenger: the Williams-Meredes team. Felipe Massa and teammate Valtteri Botas took first and second in qualifying to have the first all Williams front line in more than a decade. Massa, released by Ferrari last year and coming off of a late race wreck in Canada seemed to be finally getting the break the F1 community was hoping to see.
Mercedes shakes off the competition
By the halfway point of the race, the Rosberg / Hamilton team had overtaken the Williams pair and separated themselves from the field. In the face of the Red Bull challenge the week before and the Williams challenge at qualifying, Rosberg captured his third win of the season, extending his lead in the drivers championship. Teammate Lewis Hamilton finished second, keeping himself in the running. Williams’ young Valtteri Bottas came in third and found the first podium of his career.
Felipe Massa finished fourth after some questionable pit strategies followed by Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in fifth.
Sergio Periz came in sixth, which was especially impressive considering he started 15th due to a FIA penalty imposed after his wreck with Massa in Canada.
The rookie Kevin Magnussen finished seventh to continue a fantastic rookie run for McLaren.
The Red Bull team that looked so ready to make a run at the Red Bull ring failed to mount a serious challenge. Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel did not finish and red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo finished 8th.
Complete race results
Back in the rotation
By most accounts, the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix was a great success and will return to the calendar in 2015. The drivers referred to the circuit as a throwback to old school racing. The fans delivered as one of the great fan bases in Formula 1. The race itself provided great theater and a memorable race weekend.