Nico Rosberg has sharpened up his racing skills, as he promised.
1. Rosberg revved up on race days
The German regularly beat Lewis Hamilton in qualifying last year but said he had to become stronger on race days. This year Hamilton has beaten Rosberg 7-1 in qualifying and still has the edge when it comes to wheel-to-wheel action. Rosberg, however, is now clearly a more committed adversary on Sunday afternoon and he surprised the world champion in Austria by jumping him just after the start.
2. F1 fights back
It is peak season for trashing Formula One, with the most critical voices being the sport’s CEO, Bernie Ecclestone, and a list of highly regarded drivers. In Austria, though, the sport showed signs that it was ready to fight back. The crowd at Spielberg on Sunday was only 57% of last year’s attendance but it should be remembered that in 2014 it was a holiday weekend. In the Mercedes motorhome an hour before the race Toto Wolff, the team’s motorsport director, made an impassioned defence of his sport, telling everyone that, despite some of what the old drivers are saying, the modern cars are still very difficult to drive. Other teams, frightened of losing more sponsorship, are also in punchy mood.
3. Midfield and at the back is where real action is
Forget the frontrunners and concentrate on the also-rans if you want to see some proper racing. The real action is at the back or in the midfield these days. The best scrap at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday was that between the Williams of Valtteri Bottas and the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg. After a sluggish start Force India are once again punching above their weight and Nico – fresh from his win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans – gave a reminder of how good he could be with a top team in F1.
4. The Raikkonen question
Kimi Raikkonen moves further towards a future out of the sport. The Finn started the weekend angrily denying rumours that Ferrari would want him to take a pay cut for next season. Then he failed to get out of Q1 in Saturday’s qualifying and finally made it through just two corners in the race before crashing. The champion of 2007 may soon be looking for an enhanced pension instead of a new pay deal.
5. McLaren’s problems continue
Even the presence of Honda’s new CEO cannot inspire troubled McLaren. The new man was in place at the Red Bull Ring but things do not get any better for the team and their Japanese power unit. Fernando Alonso crashed out just after the start and Jenson Button was forced to retire on lap nine. At least the new Honda chief executive had plenty of time to get to know his drivers.
This article was written by Paul Weaver, for theguardian.com on Monday 22nd June 2015 17.44 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010