Hamilton wins Austrian GP after last-lap contact with Rosberg


Lewis Hamilton has won the Austrian Grand Prix following a race-long battle with Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg that ended in contact on the final lap of the race.

Hamilton dropped behind Rosberg after a slow first pit stop, before spending the majority of the race staring at the rear diffuser of his teammate’s car.

Hamilton carved into Rosberg’s advantage in the closing stages before the two made contact on the final lap, leaving Rosberg with damage and forcing him to slow, ultimately finishing fourth.

For Hamilton, the result sees him reduce the gap in the drivers’ championship to just 11 points, but there will undoubtedly be an inquest into the clash by Mercedes after the race.

Off the line, Hamilton managed to hold onto his lead with a clean getaway as Nico Hulkenberg lost places from second on the grid. Jenson Button was quick to take advantage, moving up into a lofty second place as Kimi Raikkonen settled into third. Rosberg gained places after his grid penalty, sitting fifth ahead of the Red Bulls early on.

Button and Hulkenberg both appeared to be fighting losing battles, having started out of position by virtue of the damp qualifying on Saturday. The better pace of the cars behind soon shone through, with Rosberg, Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel all picking their way through. Button and Hulkenberg pitted early in a bid to get the undercut, with Rosberg following suit, lifting Verstappen up to third behind Hamilton and Raikkonen at the front early on.

With drivers reporting light rain, Hamilton and Raikkonen continued to exchange quick lap times at the front of the pack. Hamilton had expected his ultra-soft tires to last just five laps, but they held up until he ultimately pitted on lap 21, enjoying a four-second advantage over Raikkonen in P2. The Finn followed suit one lap later.

Hamilton had emerged from the pits behind Rosberg on track, but was in a position to make his soft tires last to the end of the race. With five seconds in hand, Rosberg hoped to open up the gap and try to make his two-stop strategy work as he chased a third straight victory in Austria.

Rosberg’s advantage over Hamilton was wiped away when the safety car was deployed after a frightening tire blow-out for new leader Vettel. The German’s right-rear tire let go on the main straight, causing him to spin into the wall. Ferrari was left crestfallen, while Rosberg now found himself leading with Hamilton latched to his rear diffuser for the restart.

Rosberg was quickly able to open up a gap again, though. After nailing the restart and warming up his tires quicker, the German found himself two seconds clear of Hamilton as the race passed half distance, with Verstappen running third for Red Bull.

Hamilton soon began to turn up the wick and cut into Rosberg’s advantage, halving it to just one second 25 laps from home. Rosberg began to soak up the pressure, his tires 11 laps older than Hamilton’s. He was also now contending with a loose bargeboard, while Hamilton was told to avoid the kerbs at the final corner for fear of damaging his suspension. Despite being clear of the chasing Red Bulls, Mercedes felt the race was far from won.

In a bid to give Hamilton the chance to push late on, Mercedes brought him in at the end of lap 54 for another set of soft tires. Rosberg followed suit one lap later, making the switch to super-soft tires and emerging ahead of his title rival. Verstappen now led for Red Bull, but with a lead of just three seconds, his advantage did not look set to last.

Hamilton immediately questioned why Rosberg was running on a softer tire than him, being told by his engineer that the soft compound would be the best to finish on. Fired up, he carved into Rosberg’s advantage, leaving the front three separated by just two seconds with 10 laps remaining.

Rosberg found a way past Verstappen with the help of DRS, leaving the Dutchman to contend with Hamilton behind. Although he ultimately battled past Verstappen, Hamilton lost precious time to Rosberg at the front, leaving him out of DRS range once again.

Hamilton dug deep in a bid to cut the gap once again. He produced back-to-back fastest laps to whittle Rosberg’s advantage down to just 1.1 seconds with five laps to run. The gap fell further, leaving Hamilton crawling all over the back of his teammate’s car heading onto the final lap of the race.

Heading up to Turn 2, the two drivers made contact, causing damage to Rosberg’s front wing and forcing him to slow. Hamilton was able to move back onto the track and move ahead before crossing the line to take a tenuous and thrilling victory.

Max Verstappen crossed the line second to score Red Bull’s first home podium in Formula 1, with Raikkonen finishing third ahead of the fallen and furious Rosberg. He was left to settle for P4, 10 seconds shy of Hamilton at the front, acting as the latest chapter in Mercedes’ intra-team tension.

The stewards also confirmed soon after the checkered flag that Rosberg is under investigation for causing a collision and failing to stop his car when damaged, meaning his P4 finish could be in jeopardy.

Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth for Red Bull ahead of  Jenson Button, who came home sixth for McLaren after some quick thinking under the safety car allowed him to go to the end of the race without stopping again.

Romain Grosjean ended Haas’ points drought by finishing seventh ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Valtteri Bottas, while a late retirement for Sergio Perez saw Pascal Wehrlein finish 10th, marking just the second points finish in the history of Manor.

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”