SPIELBERG, Austria (AP) — Formula One returned to business as usual Sunday as Nico Rosberg led Lewis Hamilton at the Austrian Grand Prix for the sixth 1-2 finish by Mercedes.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo won the Canadian GP two weeks ago and Williams’ Felipe Massa took pole position for Sunday’s race but this had little effect on Mercedes which had missed out on the front row of the grid for the first time this season.
“I was still very confident going into the race and knew I could win starting from third,” said Rosberg, who celebrated his third win of the year and sixth overall as he extended his lead in the drivers’ championship over Hamilton to 29 points – 165 vs. 136.
“I am extremely happy,” the German said. “Extending my lead was the main goal coming into this race.”
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas came third for his first career F1 podium while teammate Massa took fourth. Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel quit the race on lap 36 after overcoming engine problems early in the race.
Rosberg succeeded where his father Keke had just failed 32 years ago, when he came up 0.05 short of Elio de Angelis at the 1982 Austrian GP.
However, Keke Rosberg went on to become world champion that year, a feat Nico Rosberg is reluctant to think about yet.
“29 is a nice gap but it’s still so early in the season,” he said.
Hamilton, who was ninth after qualifying, earned four places from a blistering start and won another place to work his way up to fourth in the opening lap.
“It was a good start, one of the best starts I’ve ever had,” the 2008 F1 champion said. “To get from ninth to second and then pressure Nico shows the pace I had this weekend.”
Rosberg immediately overtook Bottas but lost that position again shortly after the first turn. Massa dropped from pole to fourth after the top four had their first pit stops and never threatened the leaders again.
Sergio Perez remained in the lead until the 27th, overtaken by Rosberg who accelerated for the fastest lap so far to create distance on Hamilton, who got stuck behind Perez.
The Mercedes drivers went 1-2 from lap 47 on but Rosberg kept Hamilton at bay, denying him a chance to overtake. The British driver saw his chances reduced as the two pit stops in the race cost him 1.9 seconds more than Rosberg who relaxed at the end.
“I felt comfortable in the last lap,” Rosberg said. “It wasn’t that close.”
The race once more confirmed Mercedes has best adapted to the introduction this season of the 1.6-liter turbocharged V6 engines with the build-in energy recovery system. Hamilton won four races in a row while Rosberg never finished worse than second.
“That’s super, 1-2 means you can’t do better,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said. “They both made some mistakes under pressure but did well to handle the situation near the end as we had some problems with the cooling system and the brakes.”
Mercedes’ stranglehold on F1 victories was broken by Ricciardo in Montreal, though Red Bull failed to threaten Mercedes again on its home circuit in Austria.
Mercedes dominated practice Friday with Rosberg and Hamilton posting the fastest times, but Williams hit back the next day when Bottas led the final practice before Massa grabbed pole position – his first in six years.
Despite starting 1-2, Williams was not counting on a victory, Bottas admitted.
“From all the data we had from practice we knew it was going to be difficult,” the Finn said. “I am really happy for what we did with the whole team.”
Vettel lost drive in the second lap and had already been doubled by the field by the time he could pick up again. He later damaged the front wing of his Red Bull as he clipped the left rear wheel of Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber and shortly afterward quit the race in lap 36 for his third DNF of the season.
“From the back of the pack there obviously was nothing I could do anymore,” Vettel said. “It’s bitter but we’ve learnt a lot and we still have to learn a lot more from this and look forward.”
The track was new to all but four of the 22 drivers as F1 returned to Austria for the first time since 2003.
At 4.3 kilometers (2.7 miles), the Red Bull Ring is one of the shortest circuits on the calendar, though with just nine turns it features long straights. Situated in Central Austria’s countryside, the track includes inclines of up to 12 percent.
It was the 27th Austrian GP, which has been held on different circuits since 1964, with Alain Prost winning a record three times. Until 1987, the races took place in nearby Zeltweg before Austria first disappeared from the calendar for 10 years.
Spielberg also hosted the race from 1997-2003. Five years after the last race, Red Bull reportedly invested 200 million euros ($270 million) for upgrading the track and its surrounding infrastructure.
The Austrian GP has been one of two new races to this season’s F1 calendar alongside the Russian GP, scheduled for Sochi in October.