Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Button stars in changeable conditions one last time // Mixed up grid and unknown tyres keep everyone guessing until the final lap

Published

Another fascinating race in 2016. Who knew that not having the fastest cars at the very front would spice up the action, with a Mercedes and a Ferrari starting further back and a Force India, McLaren and Manor further forward than expected? And even despite cars being out of position on the grid, the strategies came together in a scintillating climax. Rosberg tried and failed to prove a point, while others capitalised on their opportunity to secure an unexpected result.

Jenson on the Button to secure morale boosting result

Jenson Button, McLaren Honda: Started 3rd, Finished 6th

Jenson Button is the man to turn to when the going gets damp
Credit: McLaren Honda

There’s a reason that Jenson Button is the man to turn to when the going gets damp. The Brit knew the opportunity was there from the moment he could see a cloud outside the McLaren motor home window. After a season of disappointment, being consistently on the brink of Q3 but always on the outside looking in, Button finally made the shootout with a great lap to scrape into tenth place. Perhaps he was fortunate as the rain meant that no one could improve their time late in Q2 but Jenson has had plenty of misfortune himself through a variety of circumstances in similar situations at the end of Q2.

Once in Q3 with the rain falling, it was clear that there was a real opportunity for Button, as well as several others to land a surprise result. The times tumbled and it was a case of nailing your final lap, as well as hoping you could be on the track at its driest. This is when Button truly delivered, putting in one of his best ever qualifying performances to qualify fifth, with penalties elevating him onto the second row.

Off the line Button made a great getaway, launching past Hülkenberg and able to get into turn one in second. After that though it was a bit of waiting game, knowing that faster cars were coming and that he’d struggle to hold them back. To be fair, Button held on manfully and was composed in his defence for seven laps at which point the first signs that the McLaren was higher than it should have been appeared. His tyres were finished, quickly dropping down the field to seventh by the time that he stopped.

This is when Button truly delivered, putting in one of his best ever qualifying performances to qualify fifth, with penalties elevating him onto the second row

When the stops had cycled through it appeared that the chance of a big points haul had disappeared, but the McLaren Honda was kinder on its soft tyres, although the Woking squad knew that early stops for both cars had locked them into a two stop strategy.

As it happened, McLaren gambled with the safety car after Sebastian Vettel's tyre blowout. They opted to ditch their half-assed soft tyres for a fresh set that would last until the end. Had they decided on a tyre allocation similar to Nico Rosberg, their strategy would have been scuppered, perhaps explaining Mercedes' decision not to pit Rosberg.

The strategy was a great one: while Button was stuck behind Felipe Nasr’s Sauber for nine laps after the restart, it put the British driver in the perfect position to play the long game. Ricciardo and Bottas had to pit later on, unable to make their one stop strategy work. Their pitstops launched Button back up to the worldly heights of fifth again and although Ricciardo was able to get back past with seven laps to go, sixth was a stunning result, delivering more than what seemed achievable, even after starting third. There’s life in the old dog yet as Button displayed all of his best attributes over the course of the weekend.

Wehrlein’s promise delivers rare point for Manor

Pascal Wehrlein, Manor Racing MRT: Started 12th, Finished 10th

Suddenly Pascal Wehrlein is a household name as one of the stars of the future. The young German has shown potential in his rookie year, beating Haryanto in every race, although the Indonesian has been far more comparable on Saturdays. That wasn’t the case in Austria. In tricky dry conditions anything was possible and Wehrlein took advantage, posting a stonking lap for 10th in Q1, just before Daniil Kvyat crashed. What’s more, with Pérez and Sainz progressing before hitting their own troubles, it guaranteed 14th on the grid. Wehrlein didn’t play it safe though and put in another great lap for 12th before the rain started in earnest, showing that the youngster can perform over one lap when the chips are down.

The German did get a little greedy though and tried to line up in tenth on the grid alongside his compatriot Sebastian Vettel in the space vacated by Felipe Massa. Despite the mental lapse Pascaln was incredibly quick-witted to reverse back into position to avoid a penalty, hitting his marks just in time. The error did cost him a place off the line to Sergio Pérez but it was far better than the alternative.

Despite the mental lapse Pascaln was incredibly quick-witted to reverse back into position to avoid a penalty
Credit: Manor Racing

Manor decided to run a long first stint, pitting on lap 13. The undercut, as well as clear air for the faster cars behind, dropped Wehrlein down to 17th. But Manor had gone aggressive, fitting a second set of ultrasofts (having already chosen to start on them), pitting on lap 23, three laps before Vettel hit the pit wall. The move worked, even though the German dropped to last, he made up the time under the safety car and could run to the end comfortably. While Gutiérrez and Nasr pitted, Wehrlein got past his teammate into 17th on lap 44.

By lap 52 however, Wehrlein was up to 12th, as the Renaults, Hülkenberg, Ericsson & Bottas all pitted. The Finn would get back past a couple of laps later, but it put Wehrlein in the perfect position as others fell by the wayside. Massa and Alonso retired before Pérez's brakes failed with two laps to go. The German passed the incident with the leaders as two Mercedes works cars limped home. In the melee, Wehrlein had to make an aggressive block on Gutiérrez into turn five but he was more than willing to secure his maiden point and Manor's first for over two years.

Like Button he displayed all of his best qualities and put himself in the shop window with a great high profile drive.

Grosjean gives America reason to celebrate

Romain Grosjean, Haas F1 Team: Started 13th, Finished 7th

The Frenchman secured a fourth points finish for Haas, as once again he performed when there was a chance of finishing in the top ten. Retirements for Vettel and Massa may have improved his result but as the American team have reverted to the mean, Grosjean has continued to get the maximum out of the car.

Grosjean’s ability to run two long stints saw him climb up the order and deliver another great result for Haas

Gutierrez has been a match for Grosjean once his reliability improved so it was important for the Frenchman to get another good result.

In the race Grosjean started 12th and dropped to 14th. By running long to lap 26, he ran as high as seventh, before his stop for soft tyres, after a very long ultrasoft stint.

The stop dropped the Frenchman to tenth but Grosjean’s ability to run two long stints saw him climb up the order and deliver another great result for Haas, their best since Bahrain.