TOUGH DAY ON TRACK, BUT RED BULL HOST FAN-TASTIC EVENT
SPIELBERG, Styria, Austria – Infiniti Red Bull Racing endured a tough first home race at Austria’s Red Bull Ring as Sebastian Vettel was forced to retire from the race after 34 laps, while Daniel Ricciardo salvaged some pride by racing to eighth place at the Spielberg circuit to claim four points.
Sebastian’s race went wrong almost from the start. After holding his starting 12th place on lap one, he suddenly slowed at the start of the second tour and reported a sudden loss of power. He pulled over to the side of the track but soon managed to get his RB10 going again.
He battled on despite being a lap down on the rest of the field. However, on lap 28, however, he was involved in a collision with Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez when the Mexican moved over as Seb was attempting pass, with the result that the champion sustained heavy front wing damage. He pitted for a new nosecone but just five laps later he was told to retire the car.
“We stopped because we wanted to save some mileage,” explained Sebastian afterwards. “We were hoping for a safety car but it wasn’t coming. Obviously, it has been a bad first half of the season with a few retirements and other problems, but I guess it is part of the game. Equally we were able to learn a lot today, and it’s good that Daniel got some points for us. It would be bad to say I got used to it, but obviously we have had a lot of problems so far already and I got calmer when the problem occurred. Our pace looked alright and we were able to go quite far on the soft, but we were a lap down so in the end we decided to save some mileage.”
Daniel also had an eventful start. Pushed wide in turn two, he lost four places and dropped to ninth. He then slid to 12th after his first pit stop as those starting on soft tires stayed out on track, but in the latter stages the race began to come back to the Aussie.
When Kvyat exited with suspension problems, Daniel climbed to 11th and when Force India’s Sergio Perez and McLaren’s Jenson Button made their first stops to shed their opening soft tires, Daniel rose to ninth.
From there he consolidated, and on the final lap he completed a brave overtaking move on Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg to claim eighth place.
“It was frustrating today; it’s never nice going backwards on the first lap,” said Daniel. “Off the line, it was actually one of our better starts this year, although I think Kevin (Magnussen) on the inside got a better one. I tried to hang around on the outside, which was the wrong thing to do, because you basically lose too much on the exit. So I then got swamped on the long straight. We already struggle on the long straights as it is, but even more when you get a poor exit. So I was frustrated with myself and I will have to look if maybe I could have cut to the inside and done anything better. From that point on we tried to push and catch the others, but we just didn’t have that much pace. It wasn’t until the last bit that we were able to overtake the Force India. The last lap move put a little smile on my face, but other than that it wasn’t a great race for us – we’ve got a bit of work to do.”
At the front of the field pole position man Felipe Massa Williams held the lead through the opening stint, ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg. The German’s teammate Lewis Hamilton made a barnstorming start to climb to fourth place by the end of lap one.
Massa lost out in the first stop, dropping to fourth as Mercedes profited from a slow tire change for the Brazilian. Rosberg assumed the lead and Hamilton slotted into second before a quick stop for Bottas saw the Finn split the two Mercedes.
The pit lane was again Williams’ Achilles heel later in the race. A sluggish second stop for Bottas saw him slip behind Hamilton and though there was a brief tussle for the lead between Rosberg and Hamilton on the final lap, the top three order remained the same until the flag. It was a first podium finish for Bottas.
Behind the Williams driver, Massa finished fourth, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso fifth. Sergio Perez made his soft, soft, supersoft strategy work to climb from 15th on the grid to sixth by the checkered flag. He finished ahead of McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, with Daniel eighth. The final points positions were filled by Hullkenberg and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen – the Finn comfortably managing to keep the supersoft tire-shod Jenson Button at bay in the closing stages.
Summing up a difficult race for Infiniti Red Bull Racing, Team Principal Christian Horner pointed to a lack of power as a major factor.
“It was a tough day on track – unfortunately Sebastian lost power right from the first lap with an engine electrical issue, which we are yet to understand the cause of,” he said. “Daniel, after getting a bit wide after Turn 1, was never able to really recover. Our lack of straight line speed seemed to really hurt us today, and despite a great move on the last lap round the outside of Turn 5 by Daniel, P8 was probably the maximum today.”
Horner paid tribute, however, to the Red Bull Ring circuit, hailing the first Austrian Grand Prix as a “fantastic event.”
“There’s been a huge crowd, and it’s great for Formula One to be back in Austria,” Horner said. “Congratulations to Mr. Mateschitz and everyone in Red Bull for putting on such a wonderful event and showing how a Formula One event can and should be promoted.”