Rosberg proved his doubters wrong in Austria, but how was the race won?

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Following the Chinese Grand Prix in April, I wrote a feature explaining how if Nico Rosberg did not change his mindset, the title race with Lewis Hamilton was already over.

Five races later, the German driver has claimed three wins and two further podium finishes to bring himself to within 10 points of his teammate at the top of the drivers’ championship.

And without question, today’s victory in Austria was Rosberg’s best of the season so far.

The race really hinged on three pivotal moments, all of which swung the race in Rosberg’s favor. However, this was then underpinned by a searing pace and good level of control that allowed the German to claim his 11th career victory.

Firstly, we have the start of the race. Pulling away from pole, Hamilton failed to get a clean start thanks to a supposed clutch setting issue that, according to NBCSN’s Will Buxton, has been blighting the Briton since Spain.

source: Getty Images
Getty Images

Rosberg had no such problems, though, getting on the inside for the first corner to force Hamilton to back out and settle for second place heading on the run up to turn two.

The defending world champion had no plans to remain there for long, though, and was side-by-side with Rosberg at the second corner as he tried to hang his Mercedes around the outside. Yet again though, Rosberg was able to hold his line and retain first place, even if Hamilton remained just behind.

Then came the second big moment: Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso’s hefty crash at the second corner. The severity of the incident was made obvious by the finishing position of the cars, and although both thankfully walked away unharmed, the safety car had to be deployed to allow the mess to be cleaned up.

As a result of the safety car, the early battle between Rosberg and Hamilton was curtailed. On the restart, Rosberg had the measure of his teammate and was able to eke out a steady lead throughout his stint, even if his tires did begin to give way before his pit stop.

Finally, we have Hamilton’s mistake at pit exit following his stop for fresh tires on lap 35. The Briton put two of his wheels over the white line on the track, prompting the stewards to hand him a five second penalty that would be added to his final time. By this point, the fight was over.

The third part of this is perhaps the most important, particularly when you consider the worry that Rosberg had at the end of the race with the vibration on his front-right tire. Had Hamilton not needed a five-second lead over Rosberg, would he have pushed to take the lead?

Yes, he would have. But it is another matter entirely whether he would have made it past with relative ease. All weekend long, Rosberg had been the man on top. Hamilton had struggled for rhythm at the Red Bull Ring and failed to really worry his teammate, except for in qualifying when his second time in Q3 was enough for pole.

In reality, it was a flawless display from Rosberg. Hamilton’s penalty certainly eased the pressure at the front, but after the early safety car period, Rosberg never looked too worried at the front.

Rosberg now trails by ten points once again, and with three wins in the past four races, he will be hoping to carry this momentum to the British Grand Prix – Hamilton’s home race – in two weeks’ time.

His mindset has most certainly changed, but can Nico really take the fight to Lewis this year? Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff thinks so.

“Like in 2014, we are seeing the advantage swing from driver to driver across the races, and I’m sure they’ll be battling all the way to the end of the season,” Wolff said after the race.

Even without double points to keep the title race alive, Rosberg’s recent form suggests that he could still be within striking distance come the final race in Abu Dhabi.

Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”