Austrian Grand prix: Quite the pomp after a 11 year hiatus! (Mercedes, RBR, Ferrari, SFI and Williams)

The last time before this year the Austrian grand prix took place was way back in 2003. The grand prix was one to remember with something exciting happening each lap. Michael Schumacher who started on pole lead the race until the mid 20 laps after which he had to pit because of the rain which had started to drizzle. The pitstop however failed to go as per plan for when they refuelled his car, a wild fire started after the nozzle caught fire by a spark. After all extinguishing and controlling, Schumacher was sent out again after a 20 second pitstop to join third behind Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen. The thrill of the race however was only after the pitstops when a mix of strategies saw Webber who started from the pitlane finish in the points, Jenson Button who at a point was following 3rd, finish 8th and a sizzling battle for second place between Raikkonen and Rubens Barichello. Staring the grand prix with 2 aborted race-starts and 4 laps under safety car, the 69 laps were the busiest of the 2003 season.

Making it a surprise last minute add in to this season's calendar, the A1 ring, or now known as the 'Red Bull Ring', was bought and renovated by the energy drinks giant Red Bull's CEO Dietrich Mateschitz. And living up to the name of previous other exciting races at the medium-downforce racetrack, the grand prix of Austria 2014, was an exciting, disappointing for some and very conclusive race in many regards.

Mercedes:  A low grip, 9-cornered, medium downforce track like Austria is solely Mercedes' playground. Despite a very shocking 3rd and 9th place qualifying for Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton respectively, both the drivers comfortably finished 1-2 on Sunday. Leveraging the power produced by the Mercedes benz, Hamilton made up 4 places by the end of the first lap. And with a winning strategy, Rosberg jumped to taking the lead from both the Williams cars.

On a track where engine reliance is more than ever and 72% of the time is spent in full throttle, it was not so surprising seeing the Mercedes duo lead the pack at the end of the day. However, even with all the success at Mercedes, the team internally is very gradually falling apart! Its not just the Hamilton-Rosberg war thats going on, adding fuel to the fire is team Mercedes together who've been "choosing their favorite"- from what fans see! From slow pitstops to wrong strategies for Hamilton, the German team look to be favouring the German; Nico Rosberg. It's the beginning of Red Bull-esque situation if Mercedes let it!

Red Bull Racing: Fall of the champions. Who could believe Red Bull Racing were as dominant Mercedes in 2011 or 2013? Where did it all go wrong? Is it the Renault engine solely to take the blame? Sebastian Vettel getting knocked out in Q2 in Austria didn't help the situation one bit. With virtually no speed in comparison to Mercedes, Red Bull's only hope was Daniel Ricciardo who qualified P5. The party lasted only on Saturday for come Sunday, Daniel's run of good results ended with a P8 on the first lap.. and at the end of 71 laps. 

An even more frustrating race was for reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel who after a lightning start to the grand prix looked to be on a charge until an electronics issue on the car left him powerless and with no drive. Luckily he disobeyed an engine turn-off procedure narrated by his race engineer, Rocky only to find drive again by pressing a button of his choice. But by the time he rejoined the race, he was a lap down. Red bull collected enough data from Sebastian's car until lap 28 before retiring him to save engine mileage. 

Ferrari: "Has Kimi Raikkonen forgotten how to drive?" - Many critics would say yes and so would quite many fans if they knew he was a world champion. But what can one prove in a car that simply is horrible to drive? You and I certainly can't, so neither can Kimi (he is no superhuman). This season can easily be rated as Ferrari's lowest point in its long history, where both their drivers have lost their drive to go out on race day and try to fight for points. The team's lone soldier, Fernando Alonso too has given up entirely on this season. Unwilling to put up with another season of Ferrari's below par performance, Alonso is already rumored to have had talks with McLaren for 2015.

The Austrian grand prix was no rare old time for Ferrari. Fernando Alonso who started in P4 finished finished P5. And with all the complaints about "no power", Kimi Raikkonen could only manage an abysmal P10. Ferrari's only podium this season continues to be at the Chinese Grand Prix. Adding fuel to the fire is the ill timed recruitment of Mr. unknown Marco Mattiacci, who is just learning the ABC's of Formula One. So, to conclude the fate of Ferrari, they are an unmotivated and leaderless team trying to hold the name 'Ferrari' up high to support its glorious legacy.

Force India: Despite team principal/owner Vijay Mallya running into financial troubles, his team has been doing extremely well. Being powered by Mercedes is one big advantage. The second being their driver line up for this season: Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. The team started this season with good pace, Sergio Perez eventually getting their first podium in Bahrain after 4 years. His teammate Nico Hulkenberg, who was always considered a great driver in a not-so-great team hasn't steered SFI to a podium, but has been driving very consistently.

Incurring a penalty for a crash with Felipe Massa in Canada, Sergio Perez started the Austrian GP from P15 and Hulkenberg from P10. Starting on the opposite strategy, both the force india's started the race on the prime tires. Hulkenberg moved up a position to finish 9th while Perez, who drove phenomenally, finished in 6th. The key to Force India's success is their ability to manage tires this season. Compromising qualifying, they opt for a daring strategy and make it work. Hopefully they see more from the podium this season!

Williams: The biggest (and happiest) surprise of this season was seeing Williams' pace. Finally dropping the Renault engines for Mercedes benz this season, Williams have returned to their old glory. Recruiting Felipe Massa from Ferrari in place of Pastor Maldonado, their driver line up proved to be one of the strongest.

And the results speak for themselves. Massa, consistently performing with a few collisions - none of which were his fault. And Valtteri Bottas charging through the field with great pace. Observing from FP1 and 2, both the Williams looked great around the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. How good was seen only in the last leg of qualifying where Massa's flying lap put him on pole for the first time since Brazil 2008. And right behind him was his teammate Bottas who helped them lock out the front row.

A bit greedy on undercutting during the pitstop time saw Williams pit 3 laps later than that of Rosberg's Mercedes. It played against both the Williams drivers as they fell off the 1-2 lockout  and spent rest of the race chasing both the Mercedes'. First of the victims was Massa, the leader then, to come into the pits and got out at P5. Second, with a lesser destructive strategy, was Bottas. The Finn too lost a 3 places, but on the way, helping Williams set a new record time for a pitstop. Williams went for points maximization in Austria (not for the win) and thats what they got: A P3 for Bottas and a P4 for Massa.


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