The Austrian Grand Prix returned to the Formula 1 calendar this year for the first time since 2003.
The Austrian Grand Prix returned to the Formula 1 calendar this year for the first time since 2003. And despite the track being renamed the Red Bull Ring in 2011, it was Williams who locked out the front row of the grid during qualifying, casting a shadow over the other teams as Felipe Massa earned his first pole position in six years.
Starting on the front of the grid provided a strong sense of hope for the Williams Martini Racing team in the lead up to Sunday’s race. But would they perform? As the lights went out and the race began, Massa cleanly pulled away leaving team mate Valtteri Bottas to battle Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.
Putting Up a Fight
After failing to set a time in Q3 on Saturday, Hamilton managed to work his way up from 9th on the grid to 4th place behind his team mate by the second lap, proving that the sheer power of the Mercedes car is outstanding.
It was expected that Williams would be unable to fend off the dominant Silver Arrows for the entire race, but impressively Felipe Massa managed to keep the lead until a slow pit stop on the 15th lap cost him five places. Bottas’ pit stop on the other hand left him in between the front runners after the impressive stop of 2.1 seconds, compared to his team mate’s costly 3.3 pit stop.
As the race progressed, Bottas managed to keep Hamilton at bay impressively until lap 42 where a pit stop put the Brit in front of him, but he wouldn’t give up without a fight. The race continued with a Hamilton-Rosberg battle for 1st place, as the Williams’ pushed themselves to the limit not far behind, keeping Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in 5th place.
Mercedes gained another 1-2 win with Rosberg dominating over Lewis Hamilton. But up on the podium in 3rd place was Valtteri Bottas, earning his first ever podium in Formula 1, yet remaining his calm and collected self during his interview.
“It’s difficult to explain how I feel right now. Having both cars score good points is what we wanted, we will enjoy this,” he said after his impressive drive.
There were several elements that contributed to Williams’ downfall during the race though – the varying pit stop times, the race strategy that had them pitting significantly later than many other drivers, and most likely the sheer power of the Mercedes team being too much.
Williams admit that they doubted their ability to beat Mercedes, but were still pleased by the outcome.
“We knew it would be difficult,” Bottas explained. “We really nailed it yesterday so we knew maybe Sunday would be difficult, but actually it was a bit better than expected.”
His team mate Massa was of the same opinion. “We had a good fight with the Mercedes but it was clear we were never going to win. It was a positive weekend for the team.”
Onwards and Upwards
Despite failing to get both drivers on the podium and having initial leader Massa lose three positions overall, it’s clear that the team are proud of how they performed this weekend as they earned several points towards the constructor’s championship. They now sit on the table in 5th place, closing the gap on 4th place Force India with only 2 points separating them.
As Silverstone is up next, Williams anticipate their home race as being another where they can continue to prove themselves as a competitive team. Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal at Williams, stated that their Mercedes power unit makes the car well suited to the Silverstone track, hopefully allowing them to once again give the championship leaders a run for their money.
Do you think Williams have what it takes to keep up their pace? Have your say in the comments section below.