The 2016 Austrian Grand Prix presented Nico Hulkenberg with the latest opportunity to score an elusive podium finish. But his dream withered away within first 100 metres of the race as a poor start pushed him down to fifth. Further trouble with tyre degradation meant that he would not have even scored points, had he made it to the chequered flag.
Similarly, Nico Rosberg lost a considerable chunk of his championship lead when he went too wide at turn 2, causing a clumsy accident with Lewis Hamilton that led to extensive damage on his front wing.
At the same time, some drivers thrived in Spielberg. We list down five best drivers from the ninth round of the F1 championship.
Lewis Hamilton made a perfect getaway from pole position, extending a comfortable gap at the front of the pack. With track temperature 25C lower than Saturday, Hamilton was able to extend his first stint until 21 laps - in a bid to complete the race on a one-stop strategy.
The team eventually asked him to come in for a second stop, which meant he had to pass Nico Rosberg to win the race. The Englishman tried to go around the outside of Rosberg at turn 2, having seen him run wide and lose momentum at the previous corner.
But the two drivers made contact, with Hamilton pushed off the track. However, the 31-year old was able to continue and record his third win of the season, reducing the deficit to Rosberg to just nine points in the standings.
Max Verstappen made an excellent start from eighth on the grid, passing both Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and teammate Daniel Ricciardo to move up to sixth. He then dispatched Nico Hulkenberg, who was suffering with heavy tyre graining.
A decision to stop just once proved crucial in scoring his second podium of the season, although he was nearly passed by Kimi Raikkonen towards the end of the race.
Kimi Raikkonen collected another podium finish in Austria to level up on points with teammate Sebastian Vettel, although his performance wasn’t on part with some of the other drivers in the same list.
Starting from fourth on the grid, Raikkonen was always up there with the leading pack, passing Jenson Button to move up to second.
Ferrari were convinced that Verstappen would pit again, which would have promoted Raikkonen ahead. In the end, Red Bull chose not to stop again, leaving the Finn to do the passing on track.
Eventually, he fell three tenths shot of a second place finish.
When the track started to dry out in the dying minutes of qualifying, Jenson Button hooked a blistering lap which was good enough for third on the grid, after taking into account penalties for Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel.
His performance in the race was arguably better as he held on to second for the first seven laps, fending off much faster cars from behind.
He took advantage of the safety car to make his second and final stop, finishing in sixth place. It was perhaps the most convincing display of the McLaren-Honda partnership, given the pace he showed during the race.
Pascal Wehrlein had already proved his mettle by qualifying 132h on the grid on Saturday with a stonking lap that further confirmed his credentials as an emerging star driver.
In the race, he stopped on the wrong grid box and was unlucky with the safety car timing, falling to the rear of the pack. But the German showed supreme pace on his final stint, catching a string of cars to sit right on the cusp of point at the end of the race.
He was close to passing Valtteri Bottas’ Williams before Sergio Perez crashed out with a brake problem, elevating him to 10th and the final points-paying position.
by Rachit Thukral