Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Next race: Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai
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.

Homecoming Hülkenberg puts old machinery to good use // Le Mans winner adjusts back to F1 in style


In a revised 2014 car, Hülkenberg finishing sixth is no mean feat
In a revised 2014 car, Hülkenberg finishing sixth is no mean featCredit: Sahara Force India

After diverting my attention to the sports car variety of prototype for a week, F1 was back on my mind as the sport returned to the European grind with a trip to the hills of Austria. Mercedes were striving for a year of pole positions, having slipped up in Spielberg this time last season. Oddly on their way to completing the year of Saturday dominance, not only did Lewis Hamilton spin (again) but Nico Rosberg had an off himself at the final corner on both of their final runs but this time neither Ferrari nor Williams were anywhere near close enough in terms of raw pace to take advantage.

What did appear evident was that this race was viewed as critical for the championship by both Mercedes drivers. From Hamilton struggling to get a balance right all weekend, particularly in the middle sector of the lap, to uncharacteristic Q3 errors by both, a rare poor start by Hamilton right through to his amateurish error leaving the pits, all but ending the Brit’s slim chance of victory – though Nico very nearly cost himself victory as he struggled to slow sufficiently on entry to the pitlane for his stop. Neither Mercedes driver was faultless with the pressure on while others behind got the best from their machinery.

Short afternoon’s work for Hülkenberg

Nico Hülkenberg, Sahara Force India F1 Team: Started 5th, Finished 6th

Buoyed by his success in Northern France, Hülkenberg was right on form in Austria. It wasn’t the most spectacular result of the German’s F1 career but in a revised 2014 car, finishing sixth is no mean feat.

Hülkenberg admitted he struggled through the first laps in Austria as he got used to single-seaters again but in no time he was back up to speed. The German was fifth fastest in tricky conditions in Q1, beating Sergio Pérez by 1.2 seconds as the Mexican was eliminated. The Hulk cruised through Q2 comfortably before a "small miracle" landed him fifth on the grid – ahead of Valtteri Bottas’ Williams. His 1:09.278 was less than a second off pole and by far the most impressive effort on Saturday.

Hülkenberg will be desperate for the B-spec car to bring more pace to Force India

Having lost out to Bottas with a great move around the outside of turn three, Hülkenberg pitted on lap 24 for fresh tyres to attempt the undercut. The lap made all the difference and Nico was back up to a net fifth place. It took Bottas another nine laps to get back past and from then on, Hülkenberg easily had the pace to protect a fantastic sixth place, his best result of the season.

Having finished within sight of a Williams and ahead of Lotus and Toro Rosso, Hülkenberg will be desperate for the B-spec car to bring more pace to Force India after a great weekend saw them leap Lotus and Sauber in the Constructors’ Championship.

Williams’ revival continues

Felipe Massa, Williams Martini Racing: Started 4th, Finished 3rd

Felipe Massa’s love affair with the Austrian GP continued as he outclassed young teammate Valtteri Bottas over the course of the weekend. In a fascinating first qualifying, the Brazilian got the crucial last lap right to secure passage in eighth, beating Bottas by half a tenth before the Finn responded with a stronger Q2 time, beating Massa by a tenth. But when the chips were down, Massa once again had the edge and qualified fourth ahead of Nico Hülkenberg and Valtteri Bottas by over a tenth of a second.

Massa put on a fantastic defensive performance to hold Vettel back for the final 35 laps

Massa’s qualifying performance gave him a great chance of equalling his season’s best finish, though beating Ferrari to a podium seemed unlikely. The Brazilian made a cracking start and only a brutal chop by Sebastian Vettel prevented Massa from taking third into turn one. Through the first stint the Williams man stayed within touching distance of Vettel, lying around six seconds behind before he stopped on lap 34. Two laps later, Vettel pitted and calamity struck as his right rear wheel nut was cross-threaded. The slow stop cost the German third on the road but with a faster car, surely he could get past Massa, right? Wrong. The Brazilian had no intention of doing his former team a favour and put on a fantastic defensive performance to hold Vettel back for the final 35 laps, preserving his lead as it eroded from 4 seconds to six tenths, but Vettel only had half chances and Massa never looked flustered as he secured a well-deserved first podium of the season.

Verstappen hushes Renault critics

Max Verstappen, Scuderia Toro Rosso: Started 7th, Finished 8th

The Flying Dutchman was spectacular all weekend, particularly late on Saturday morning. In hindsight that may have been partly down to a gamble on setup that ultimately didn’t pay off. The Toro Rossos hoped for rain in qualifying and the race which had disappeared by the end of Q1.

That said, Verstappen’s pace all weekend was great, even with the relative downforce (and power) disadvantage. The youngster jumped Valtteri Bottas at the start, holding him back comfortably for much of the first stint before his tyres started to wear. Once Sergio Pérez and Pastor Maldonado had ended their long first stint, Verstappen was back in seventh until his tyres started wearing again, creating a great battle for the final laps with Pastor Maldonado on fresher, softer tyres with more power. After a few lairy moments, the Venezuelan won out but Verstappen was able to hold on to secure the best result for the Red Bull stable.

Verstappen's pace all weekend was great, even with the relative downforce disadvantage
Verstappen's pace all weekend was great, even with the relative downforce disadvantageCredit: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Ricciardo recovery secures unlikely point

Daniel Ricciardo, Infiniti Red Bull Racing: Started 18th, Finished 10th

I didn’t acknowledge the performances of those coming through the field in Canada, perhaps unfairly, as I felt that the Ferrari and Williams genuine pace played a big part. In Austria however, making the finish was nothing short of a miracle for Red Bull’s Renault power, let alone earning points from the back of the field.

Making the finish was nothing short of a miracle for Red Bull’s Renault power

As one of four to receive a grid penalty, Ricciardo’s weekend started terribly as he was forced to start from 18th.

The Aussie jumped to 14th by the time the safety car came in before setting up a test of endurance, running the soft tyre to its limits before pitting on lap 50. The stint saw Ricciardo jump 10 places to eighth but now he had it all to do again as he came out in 11th. He dispatched Felipe Nasr with ease on lap 60 before tracking down Pérez, eventually finishing just three seconds behind, and would likely have caught the Mexican and finished ninth had he not had an in-race penalty for his engine change.

Buy from Amazon - Pocket F1 Handbook: Guide to the 2015 Grand Prix Season

365 F1 stories

What was the infamous excuse McLaren gave, when they confirmed on this day in '05 that Montoya would miss a race?

F1 team launches
Sauber F1 TeamOnline20 Feb
Renault Sport F1 TeamTBC21 Feb
Sahara Force India F1 TeamSilverstone, England22 Feb
Mercedes AMG Petronas MotorsportSilverstone, England23 Feb
McLaren HondaTBC24 Feb
Scuderia FerrariFiorano, Italy24 Feb
Williams Martini RacingTBC25 Feb
Haas F1 TeamTBC26 Feb
Red Bull RacingOnline26 Feb
Scuderia Toro RossoBarcelona, Spain26 Feb
F1 test schedule
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain27 Feb
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain28 Feb
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain1 Mar
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain2 Mar
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain7 Mar
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain8 Mar
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain9 Mar
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain10 Mar

On this day in F1 history