Lewis Hamilton has won the Austrian Grand Prix after a controversial last-lap crash with Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.
The silver cars were locked in a battle with each other in the final stint of the race after their strategies converged, but issues aboard Rosberg’s Mercedes made him vulnerable to a resurgent Hamilton.
After slicing through traffic the battle culminated on the final lap. Rosberg led over the line, but he cut too much apex off the first turn and unsettled the car, causing poor traction out of the corner.
Hamilton pounced on the run to turn two and put his car on the outside of the corner — but Rosberg’s car had suffered a break-by-wire failure after the first turn, supposedly causing the German to sail into the side of his teammate.
Hamilton was forced off the track while Rosberg’s front wing collapsed. The Briton cruised past the championship leader, controversially in the yellow-flag zone as it was thrown for Sergio Perez’s crashed Force India at turn three ahead.
Hamilton maintained the lead from there, while Rosberg trailed home in fourth.
“Absolutely gutted for sure, it’s unbelievable,” said Rosberg. “I was sure to win that race, then lost it at the last lap. That’s pretty intense.
“We were battling, and I was struggling a little bit with my brakes — they got a little bit hot at the end — and that gave Lewis a chance.
“Nevertheless I was confident. I had the inside position … I went a bit deep into the corner … and I was a bit surprised Lewis turned in. That caused the collision.”
The stewards soon put Rosberg under investigation and, almost four hours after the race, concluded that he was at fault, penalising him 10 seconds, which didn’t change his result, and handing him two penalty points.
The stewards also investigated Rosberg for continuing the race with a damaged car that was dropping debris on the track, again finding him guilty and handing him a reprimand.
Hamilton had cause to feel aggrieved for being put in a position to pass his teammate in the first place after starting from pole — five places ahead of Rosberg in sixth.
Both cars started on the ultrasoft tyre and Hamilton led the opening stint. Rosberg mad up three places on the start, but was pitted on lap 11, significantly earlier than Hamilton, for a new set of softs.
The German took just five laps to make it back up to fourth on what was the day’s preferred race tyre, and along with the supersoft-shod Ferrari between him and Hamilton began closing the gap on the tyre-limited Mercedes in the lead.
By the time Hamilton stopped on lap 22 his advantage had shrunk sufficiently to drop him behind Rosberg, where he remained until the final lap.
“What an incredible race that was,” Hamilton recounted. “It was incredibly tough.”
“[Rosberg] made a mistake into turn one, so I saw an opportunity to go on the outside to turn two.
“I left a lot of room on the outside, and he locked up and crashed into me.”
“I’m here to win. That’s all.”
What little Hamilton said on the podium was met with boos from the Austrian crowd, but the Briton refused to be drawn further.
“I don’t know [why they’re booing], but it’s not my problem; it’s their problem,” he said.
Behind the contentious victor finished Max Verstappen for Red Bull Racing’s first podium around its home circuit.
Verstappen executed an ambitious one-stop strategy the required him to complete 56 laps on the soft tyre.
Critical to his second-place classification was passing teammate Daniel Ricciardo on the second lap, Sebastian Vettel’s dramatic retirement after a tyre failure, and Ferrari dropping the ball with Kimi Räikkönen’s strategy.
“It’s a real honour to finish second with a Red Bull car at the Rd Bull Ring,” said the teenager. “I enjoyed it a lot, it was an exciting race.
“Thank you to my guys to give me the car to finish second.”
Räikkönen was able to salvage third for the ailing Ferrari team with a one-stop strategy comprising a slightly shorter opening stint on supersoft tyres than teammate Vettel, whose own tyres failed after 29 laps of wear — four more than Räikkönen’s endured.
“I felt that we didn’t really get what we could’ve had, but I did the best with what I had,” said Räikkönen. “We had a chance to overtake Max, then there was a yellow flag [for Perez] — that’s fair enough, that’s how it goes sometimes.
“The car’s been feeling good all weekend. We started the race well, we tried to come back, [and] the speed was fine.
“With the speed that we had I feel we didn’t get what we deserved. That’s racing, we go next weekend again and try to do better.”
The final standout of the race was Pascal Wehrlein, who turned his sensational twelfth-place qualifying result into a tenth-place finish for his first F1 point.
His race was almost undone before it began, however, when the German stopped in the wrong grid box, which had been vacated by Felipe Massa’s Williams, which started from the pit lane.
Wehrlein realised his error and reversed his car into the correct spot — luckily for him before red light sequence had been triggered, which meant he wasn’t eligible for a penalty.
The Manor driver ran the final stint in P11 behind Valtteri Bottas, but Sergio Perez’s crash on the last lap promoted him into the top 10.
“I hoped, I didn’t know, but I really hoped,” he said. “We were a bit unlucky with our second pit stop because we needed to box earlier than the other guys.
“I was last, and I even didn’t close the gap to the second-last guy. To finish the race in the points from there is incredible.”