5 of the Most Interesting Radio Messages from the Austrian Grand Prix
It was by no means a classic, but the Austrian Grand Prix was one of the more interesting races of the 2015 Formula One season.
Central to that intrigue was an apparent role reversal within the Mercedes garage, as Lewis Hamilton endured one of his least convincing races of recent times while Nico Rosberg, overshadowed by his team-mate for so much of this campaign, produced one of the most assured performances of his life.
Hamilton's quest for a fifth win of 2015 was effectively ended when he committed the cardinal sin of crossing the pit exit line. Although the British driver's penalty eased the pressure on Rosberg, the German's race was not without incident, as late reliability concerns threatened his dominance.
Also suffering reliability concerns at the Red Bull Ring was Marcus Ericsson, whose Sauber C34 switched itself off in the early stages of the race, ruining the Swede's afternoon.
Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, is proving to be increasingly unreliable at Ferrari, and the 2007 world champion responded poorly after being knocked out of the first stage of qualifying.
With a look at Jenson Button's reaction to Raikkonen's crash with Fernando Alonso, here are five of the most interesting radio messages from Austria.
Lewis Hamilton Told of Penalty After Crossing the Line
Lewis Hamilton was comprehensively beaten by Nico Rosberg in the first stint of the Austrian Grand Prix, but the reigning world champion had reason to be positive when he pitted for soft-compound tyres on Lap 35.
In a one-stop race at the Red Bull Ring, Hamilton, who was beaten off the line by Rosberg, had to overtake the German on track to win, and he would have relished the challenge of hunting down his team-mate.
But Hamilton's assault was over before it began when, accelerating out of the pit lane in low-grip conditions, he suffered a bout of oversteer and inadvertently crossed the white line, which separates the pit exit from the live race track, as he rejoined the circuit.
Having broken one of the basic rules of motorsport, a penalty was imminent, and it was left to his race engineer, Peter Bonnington, to break the news.
"OK Lewis, we have a penalty for crossing the white line on exit," Bonnington said on Lap 41, according to the FIA television feed. "It's just a five-second penalty. This will be added to our race time. So that means we need to be five seconds ahead of the car behind to maintain our position."
"Which one did I touch?" asked Hamilton, unaware of his innocent mistake.
"It was pit exit, pit exit. We are reviewing."
Bonnington's step-by-step description of Hamilton's punishment—to the point where he was effectively reminding his driver of the rules of a five-second penalty—was the latest example of Mercedes making a conscious effort to avoid the confusion that cost the two-time world champion victory in Monaco.
It was notable, too, that Bonnington did not identify the car Hamilton had to finish in front of to maintain his position.
With a comfortable margin to Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel behind, did Hamilton's side of the garage believe he, with 30 laps remaining, could catch and pass Rosberg, and then build a lead of over five seconds to win the race?
Almost certainly, which made it all the more bizarre that Hamilton's penalty killed the fight at the front.
Nico Rosberg Concerned by Tyre Vibrations as Victory Nears
On Lap 66 of 71, Nico Rosberg had reached the point of the race where the slightest issue, a mistake or a technical glitch, could ruin a weekend's work.
And having driven superbly throughout the Austrian GP weekend—give or take his final lap in qualifying—he was aching to ensure nothing prevented him from taking one of the most impressive victories of his career.
An increasingly violent vibration on his front-right tyre, however, was causing much concern within the cockpit, and Rosberg reported the problem to the pit wall.
"Vibration getting stronger and stronger on the right-front," the German said, according to the FIA TV feed.
"Copy that, Nico, copy that," replied his ever-impressive race engineer, Tony Ross. "We'll check the metrics..."
Rosberg may have been reassured that his team were on the case. Surely the telemetry would show there was nothing to worry about. The data would no doubt highlight a slight problem that required a little management over the remaining laps.
But the very fact that Ross, with an uncertain tone to his voice, requested further information about the issue only left Rosberg increasingly flustered, convinced that something, somehow, was awry with his car.
"Erm, Nico, is it all the time (or) only on the brakes?" Ross asked on Lap 67. "Just trying—"
"All the time, all the time," interrupted Rosberg. "And it's not a (inaudible), it's just a tyre. Are you sure there's no reliability concern on the tyre?"
"Erm, not at the moment Nico... Information that we're—"
"All eyes on that, OK?" Rosberg ordered. "All eyes on that."
"Absolutely, absolutely, but no concerns at the moment."
Rosberg, of course, survived to take his third win in four races, and the team confirmed the issue was nothing more than tyre graining, with the German later telling ESPN F1's Nate Saunders it was "not a problem" after all.
It was, though, a common case of a driver's mind playing tricks on him when victory is so near yet so far away.
Marcus Ericsson's Sauber Suffers a Temporary Glitch
Marcus Ericsson endured a disastrous Austrian Grand Prix, jumping the start, suffering a drive-through penalty and being forced to make an early pit stop for a new front wing.
Running in 16th, his pace compromised due to a damaged rear wing, it looked as though the Swede was about to be put out of his misery when an electronic problem, as confirmed by the team, resulted in his car crawling to a standstill on the pit straight on Lap 21.
"Engine went down," Ericsson told the pit wall, according to the FIA TV feed.
"OK, copy. Switch-off procedure, full switch-off procedure," replied his race engineer, accepting his driver's fate.
No sooner had Ericsson stopped, however, he was on his way again—albeit over 20 seconds behind the Manor of Roberto Merhi—after the Sauber magically came back to life.
"It's on again."
"OK, try to continue. Try to continue."
As he accelerated through the gears once more, Ericsson, who went on to finish two laps down in 13th, explained how his car suddenly stopped working as he navigated the final two corners of the Red Bull Ring, saying: "It just went black, the whole screen."
"OK, copy Marcus. Continue and standby."
Since the V6 turbo power units were introduced at the beginning of 2014, the sight of cars momentarily stopping on track has been common, with Sebastian Vettel suffering a near-identical situation in last year's Austrian GP.
Although the complexities of the modern engines has made these incidents more widespread than in previous eras, these intricacies mean that even when a driver is going nowhere, ready to jump out of his car and call it a day, all is not necessarily lost.
Kimi Raikkonen Mortified After Falling at the First Hurdle in Qualifying
With the second-fastest car at their disposal, Ferrari simply should not have been at risk of elimination from the first part of qualifying.
But that was what happened to Kimi Raikkonen on Saturday after his fastest lap of one minute, 12.867 seconds was only good enough for 18th place, according to the official F1 website, when he should have been aiming to start from the second row of the grid.
Raikkonen has struggled in qualifying this season—only beating team-mate Sebastian Vettel in Canada, where the four-time world champion was hampered by an engine problem—and, as we noted after the race, it was predictable that he was the front-runner most vulnerable on a damp, if drying, track in Q1.
The 2007 world champion's reaction to the news of his downfall, above, revealed who he thought was at fault, with Raikkonen later telling Sky Sports' James Galloway how Ferrari's lack of organisation cost him a good result.
With a time almost two seconds slower than Vettel, however, there was only one man to blame as Raikkonen's season went from bad to worse at the Red Bull Ring.
Jenson Button Checks Fernando Alonso Is Unscathed After Spectacular Shunt
Formula One drivers are selfish, power-hungry beasts and, dare we say, many would secretly welcome the sight of their team-mate's car resting against a crash barrier.
But Jenson Button is not that sort of driver.
And after seeing Fernando Alonso's MP4-30 perched atop a Ferrari on the back straight following the Spaniard's frightening first-lap crash with Kimi Raikkonen, the 2009 world champion was quick to make sure his McLaren team-mate had emerged unscathed from the wreckage.
As he circulated behind the safety car on Lap 2, Button, according to the FIA TV feed, asked: "Is Fernando OK? Is Fernando OK?"
"Yep, Jenson," said his race engineer. "He's out of the car, he's OK."
Behind Alonso at the time of the collision, Button would have seen the incident unfold before his very eyes, and it is perhaps a little surprising that McLaren didn't take it upon themselves to inform the British driver of the two-time title winner's welfare.
It was instead left to Jenson to prove yet again that he is the ultimate gentleman driver.