WORLD champion Lewis Hamilton blamed a technical fault for a slow start that helped Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg cut the Briton’s lead in the drivers’ standings at the Austrian Grand Prix.
Rosberg overtook pole-sitter Hamilton at the first corner and went on to dominate yesterday’s race at Spielberg, winning by eight seconds to land his third victory in four grands prix.
It means the German is now just 10 points behind Hamilton, who also incurred a five-second penalty for straying outside of the lane markings when rejoining the race from a pit stop.
“I had a problem with the revs,” he said of his poor start. “I took my foot off the gas and the throttle was still on. It was not the best way to start the race but it is something we will work on to improve on my side of the garage.”
Of his infringement, he added: “I don’t think I went over anything, to be honest.”
Hamilton was denied the chance to reclaim the lead on lap one when the safety car emerged following a major crash that saw Fernando Alonso’s McLaren slide over the top of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari. Neither driver was hurt and stewards deemed both men to be blameless.
Felipe Massa held off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to finish third, with his Williams team-mate Valtteri Bottas fifth. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg took sixth, and Pastor Maldonado of Lotus seventh. England’s Jenson Button retired after eight laps, while Will Stevens of Manor lasted just one lap.
“I had a good start and then good pace in the race, that is what I’m most happy about,” said Rosberg, who was frequently out-paced by Hamilton during the Englishman’s 2014 title-winning campaign. “I think I have found what I needed to find last year in terms of in the races and that’s what is really working out for me this year.”