Rosberg wins Austrian GP as Hamilton is hit with penalty

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Nico Rosberg produced a flawless display to win the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday as Mercedes teammate and rival Lewis Hamilton finished second after being hit with an in-race time penalty.

Rosberg took the lead from pole-sitter Hamilton at the first corner and never looked back, losing first place for just two laps through the pit stops.

WATCH REPLAY: 2015 Austrian Grand Prix

Hamilton spent much of the race a few seconds behind Rosberg, and his hopes of winning in Austria were ended when he was penalized for crossing the white line at pit exit, resulting in five seconds being added to his final race time.

The start saw Rosberg make a lightning getaway from second place on the grid, moving up the inside of Hamilton to take the lead at the first corner. Hamilton continued to harass his teammate through the first lap, but his charge was soon halted when the safety car was deployed due to a scary accident involving Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.

Fighting for position further back, the two drivers made contact coming out of turn two, causing Raikkonen’s car to pincer Alonso’s towards the wall. Alonso’s car sat on top of Raikkonen’s nose as they moved along the wall before coming to rest, but both drivers escaped the crash unharmed.

When the race resumed on lap seven, Rosberg managed to retain his lead and open up a gap to Hamilton just behind. Further back, McLaren’s day went from bad to worse as Jenson Button retired after just nine laps with his Honda engine sounding very sick indeed, whilst Marcus Ericsson was handed a penalty for jumping the start in his Sauber.

Rosberg continued to eke out a gap to Hamilton throughout the first stint of the race, with his lead extending to as much as four seconds at one point. However, as the German’s tires began to fade, his pace fell dramatically. By the time of his first pit stop on lap 33, Hamilton had managed to close to within one second of his teammate.

With his tires holding up okay, Mercedes opted not to pit Hamilton immediately, instead waiting two laps after Rosberg to bring the race leader in. This gave the German time to warm his tires up and put in a quick lap to regain the lead when Hamilton pitted, enjoying an advantage of over four seconds once again.

Hamilton’s hopes of a fifth win of the year were all but ended on lap 39 when the stewards confirmed that he had crossed the white line at pit exit after making his stop. As a result, they had given him a five-second penalty which would be added on to his time at the end of the race. With Rosberg already five seconds down the road, the race looked all but over.

In the battle to complete the podium behind the Mercedes drivers, Felipe Massa moved into the pound seat after Ferrari hit trouble with Sebastian Vettel in his pit stop on lap 36. The team was unable to attach the right-rear tire properly, forcing the German to sit stationary for 13 seconds. Although he did head back out in fourth place, he now had four seconds to make up if he was to beat Massa to third place.

Within laps of being informed of his penalty, Hamilton appeared resigned to his fate, easing his pace and falling to around six seconds behind Rosberg. With a 20-plus second buffer to Massa in third, the Briton was now focusing on nursing his car home and ensuring all parts remained fresh for the British Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

This gave Rosberg the freedom to monitor the gap to Hamilton and a front-tire concern in the closing stages before crossing the line to win the Austrian Grand Prix, enjoying an on-track advantage of 3.8 seconds over the Briton. Factoring in Hamilton’s time penalty, this gap rose to 8.8 seconds.

Vettel was unable to claw back third position by the end of the race, allowing Felipe Massa to cross the line in third place. His Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas brought his car home in fifth, meaning that the British team had made inroads on Ferrari’s points advantage in the constructors’ championship.

Le Mans winner Nico Hulkenberg continued his good form by finishing sixth for Force India, marking a double-points score for the team as Sergio Perez finished ninth. Max Verstappen was unable to fend off Pastor Maldonado for P7 at the end of the race, forcing the Dutchman to settle for eighth. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top ten at the team’s home race.

Felipe Nasr and Daniil Kvyat narrowly missed out on points, finishing P11 and P12 respectively. Marcus Ericsson bounced back from his drive-through penalty to finish 13th, whilst Roberto Merhi was the last classified finisher in P14.

The 2015 Austrian Grand Prix was far from being a classic, but it will go down as being another important point in the championship battle. Hamilton may have been hindered by his penalty, yet this should not detract from the fine display produced by Rosberg, who is now just ten points behind his teammate ahead of the British Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.