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Rosberg on right track as he closes gap at top

By David Tremayne

Published 22/06/2015

Easy does it: Nico Rosberg cruises to victory in Austria, with Lewis Hamilton behind him
Easy does it: Nico Rosberg cruises to victory in Austria, with Lewis Hamilton behind him
Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg believes he has found the missing ingredient after closing to within 10 points of the world championship lead with a commanding victory in Austria that, for once, left team-mate Lewis Hamilton firmly in his dust.

Hamilton, the world champion, was slow away from pole position, enabling Rosberg to snatch a lead that he only surrendered for three laps after making his sole tyre stop on the 33rd lap. That enabled Hamilton to take the initiative until his own stop on the 35th lap, and all Rosberg had to worry about after that was a severe tyre vibration over the final laps.

"It's great to win again here," said Rosberg, having claimed victory last year when this circuit returned to the calendar. "I don't know if there's a trend on this track or anything, it's just today was a great day. Good start and then good pace - and that's what I'm most happy about.

"The car felt good, I was able to push from the first lap onwards all the way, so that's cool. I think this year I found what I needed to find last year, in terms of just doing a little bit better in the races, and that's really working out for me.

"The start was the key to my race. I managed to defend in the first couple of corners, then just tried to push flat out all the way. I was happy to see the gap opening up to Lewis."

Hamilton added five seconds to his race time when he was penalised for crossing the white line on the pit exit, something he said he had not noticed doing, but though he kept pushing hard he had no answer to his team-mate. "I made a bad start and that lost me ground," the Briton admitted. "I had a problem with the revs and when I took my foot off the gas the throttle was still on, so I just had to dump the clutch like that and had lots and lots of wheelspin.

"Nico did a fantastic job today, and at the end of the day he was quicker in the race. At first I could keep up with him, but in the second stint he generally had better pace. I pushed as hard as I could, but for me that second stint became just about making the distance - that was all I could do."

Of his tyre worries in the final laps, Rosberg said: "It was just a vibration on the right front and I was telling them [ the engineers] to keep an eye on it. It came from tyre wear rather than from a flat-spot, and it just feels uncomfortable when that happens."

If Hamilton could not hold a candle to Rosberg this time, at least nobody else could challenge Mercedes.

On Father's Day, Felipe Massa was delighted to fulfil his young son, Felipinho's prediction that he would finish third, but his first podium place since Abu Dhabi owed everything to Sebastian Vettel's misfortune. The German grabbed third place at the start but lost it when his Ferrari's right rear wheel stuck during his pit stop on the 36th lap. That dropped him behind Massa's Williams, and his chase after the Brazilian was one of the race's highlights. Over the final laps he was within striking distance, but Massa held on by six-tenths of a second.

"I'm very happy that my son was correct." Massa smiled. "As I had expected, Sebastian got very close with 10 laps to go, and it was possible he could have overtaken because Ferrari manage very well the tyres. I expected him to be strong and he was, but you never know. I had to defend myself. I was trying hard and managed not to let him overtake."

Ferrari lost their other car in a violent accident on the opening lap, which brought out the safety car until lap seven after Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso collided on the exit to the second corner. Neither driver was hurt.

Before the race, Ferrari's chairman, Sergio Marchionne, welcomed the possibility of providing engines for the Red Bull team, amid increasing speculation that the Austrian team could leave the sport.

Red Bull's exasperated owner Dietrich Mateschitz has threatened to pull out of F1 unless their French engine supplier, Renault, improves the performance of its ailing power unit.

"I have a lot of respect for Red Bull," Marchionne said. "I think they will find their way again and if we can help them get there, we'd be more than glad to do it."

In one of the most exciting battles of the race, Pastor Maldonado headed Max Verstappen home by just eight-tenths of a second after a wheel-to-wheel fight. But the Venezuelan, often the guilty party when making contact with other drivers, criticised the 17-year-old rookie.

"He was, let's say, not aggressive but he wasn't really respecting the rules," he said. "You must leave some space for the other car and he was not respecting that. But when I saw him doing this I said I need to be more careful, but more aggressive. If the stewards don't say anything, then I say OK - they allowed us to race and that's great."

The stewards did not see anything wrong in the welcome excitement of their battle, and Verstappen simply said, "I was enjoying it."

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