Rosberg secures Austrian GP victory
2:54pm Sunday 22nd June 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Mercedes played the strategic game to perfection to help Nico Rosberg claim his third victory this season and spearhead a sixth one-two as title rival Lewis Hamilton was forced to settle for second best.
Despite a front-row lock-out from Williams for the Austrian Grand Prix to end Mercedes' domination of qualifying this season, it was the Brackley-based marque who ultimately had the edge.
In another close finish this term, Rosberg took the chequered flag by just 1.9 seconds from Hamilton, who has now fallen 29 points adrift of his team-mate in the race for the Formula One World Championship.
Williams' Valtteri Bottas claimed third spot for the first podium of his F1 career, finishing eight seconds behind mighty Mercedes, with polesitter Felipe Massa down in fourth.
Off the startline and on the opening lap Hamilton was sublime as he vaulted from ninth on the grid - after his mistake-riddled qualifying session - up to fourth.
Once the five red lights disappeared Hamilton scythed in between the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat.
Another place was made up when Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, winner last time out in Canada but never in the running on this occasion, ran wide at turn one.
Hamilton then passed Kevin Magnussen on the run up to turn two, and followed that by diving down the inside of Fernando Alonso's Ferrari at turn eight of the short nine-corner circuit.
On the following lap Sebastian Vettel then reported a loss of drive, and although he managed to get his Red Bull going again just when it appeared he was about to retire, his race remained troubled.
After running into the back of Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez after 30 laps, leading to a front-wing change, soon after the reigning four-times champion was finally told to pull into the garage.
Vettel has now retired three times this season, the same total as he has managed in the previous three years.
With the top four of Massa, Bottas, Rosberg and Hamilton away and clear, that order flipped around in the first round of pit stops.
With Rosberg in initially from third position after 11 laps, the suggestion was Williams should have reacted immediately, but the team opted to keep Massa and Bottas out on track.
Hamilton came in a further two laps later, but with a stop 0.9secs slower than that of Rosberg, whilst Massa followed on lap 14, with Bottas taking on fresh rubber after 15 laps.
The upshot propelled Force India's Sergio Perez into the lead, with the Mexican having started on the more durable soft Pirelli rubber, but at that stage he had yet to pit.
Behind him it was Rosberg who had managed to sneak ahead in the four-car battle, followed by Bottas, then Hamilton, and with early leader Massa having dropped to the rear.
With all four cars possessing Mercedes engines, there was precious little to separate the quartet as they snaked around in a train, with Perez giving nothing away out in front.
Come lap 27, though, with Perez's tyres starting to wear, Rosberg and Bottas swiftly passed either side of turn two, with Hamilton and Massa following suit a lap later.
On lap 30 there was a sniff of a chance for Bottas to claim the lead when Rosberg ran wide at turn one, but the German did a superb job in defending.
It proved to be Bottas' only chance because 10 laps later, through the second round of pit stops, Mercedes performed the undercut that allowed Hamilton to leapfrog Bottas.
That put the Briton in touch with his team-mate, at that stage with the duo behind leader Alonso, who made his second stop on lap 47 to hand Rosberg the lead.
From there, not once did Hamilton come close to making a move on Rosberg over the remaining 24 laps as it was a straightforward run to the chequered flag.
Behind the leading quartet, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was fifth ahead of Perez, Magnussen and Ricciardo, with Force India's Nico Hulkenberg ninth ahead of 10th-placed Kimi Raikkonen.
Unlike in Monaco four weeks ago when Hamilton and Rosberg refused to acknowledge one another on the podium after the Briton felt the German had impeded him in qualifying, there was plenty of champagne spraying between the pair.
With former Red Bull driver Mark Webber conducting the interviews on the podium, Rosberg said: "It wasn't the easiest of races trying to manage certain things that were on the limit.
"But it's so fantastic to win, great to get a one-two for the team, and great to come back to Austria that deserves a race. It's been awesome."
Hamilton, who lost 1.9secs to Rosberg in the pit stops - the exact time between them at the flag - was asked by Webber whether he was happy with how they transpired.
"I have to look at the feedback. Maybe my positioning is not right (in the pit box) so I need to speak to the guys," said Hamilton.
"But it's a great one-two for the team, this track is awesome, incredible for the sport."
Bottas, enjoying his maiden top-three finish, was almost speechless, but said: "I'm really, really happy. It's difficult to put into words. I'm just thankful to the team for giving me this car.
"The race was exactly what we needed - clean, nice, it went as planned - to get the podium I'm so lucky."