After making their second pit-stops, it was Nico Rosberg ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, with just under 1 second separating them as they headed into the 71st and final lap of the Red Bull Ring. At T2, attempting to go round the outside, Hamilton was pushed wide by his defensive teammate, who seemingly ran him out of road. The impact lost Rosberg his front-wing and he limped home to fourth whilst his teammate took his 46th Formula One victory.
Behind the drama at the head of the field, Max Verstappen took his second podium for Red Bull, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen completing the podium, both overtaking the damaged Mercedes in the final sector of the final lap. A late pit-stop saw Daniel Ricciardo claim fifth ahead of the impressive Jenson Button, who hauled eight points for McLaren. Romain Grosjean, Carlos Sainz, and Valtteri Bottas finished seventh-eighth-ninth. For just the second time in their history, and for the first time since the magnificent P9 the late Jules Bianchi took in Monaco 2014, Manor scored a points finish, with Pascal Wehrlein taking P10.
After an exciting, thrilling race it will not be the numerous overtakes that will be remembered, but a overtake that wasn't. For the fourth time in the season, the two Mercedes collided, after just three times in the previous two seasons. After seeming to be all set to extend his lead to 31 points, Rosberg saw it cut to just nine.
Tyres and strategy dominate
As Felipe Massa (who eventually retired) started from the pit-lane due to a front-wing spec change, was out of position, Wehrlein had to reverse back to his P12 grid slot, after overshooting to P10, he did not get a penalty. For the first time this season, Hamilton got a clean getaway from pole and led Button, Raikkonen, Ricciardo and the slow-starting P2 man Nico Hulkenberg.
Rosberg and Ricciardo were soon going in opposite directions, with the German moving up the field, whilst the Australian lost places to Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel. Hulkenberg's afternoon was going from bad to worse, with excessive tyre wear being his problem.
Up front, Hamilton was cruising, effortlessly pulling a gap to Button, who was overtaken by Raikkonen on lap 7. The Finish driver seemed, at that point, to be in the best position to take the win. Despite Hamilton being on the less durable Ultrasoft tyres, the gap to Raikkonen remained around 4s, with Ferrari making yet another strategy faux pas. Hamilton made the switch to Soft tyres on lap 22, with Raikkonen a lap later. This would later prove crucial as the Finn emerged behind the two Red Bull's and the lap 11 stopper of Rosberg.
After the first stops, it was Rosberg who headed Hamilton with the one-stopping Vettel leading on his 29th birthday. However, on the start/finish straight on lap 26, the right rear tyre on the Ferrari exploded, causing a retirement and the only appearance of the Safety Car. A disappointed Vettel over team radio told his team "there was nothing I could do, sorry guys". Pirelli assigned the blame to debris. Rosberg also radioed in to ask his team to check for damage after he ran over the rubber. Carcass was caught underneath the Mercedes and his right bargeboard was damaged in the aftermath.
A 71 lap race, there was doubts whether Rosberg could make his tyres go 60 laps, and Hamilton 50. At the restart, Rosberg led Hamilton who headed Verstappen, Ricciardo, and Raikkonen. With 20 laps remaining, Mercedes made the second pit-stops.
Verstappen took the lead, whilst the Mercedes, managing "critical suspension loads" on Hamilton's car and brake issues on Rosberg's car, switched the world champion to another set of Soft tyres and Rosberg to faster SuperSoft tyres. When he asked why this was, he was told that he was on the better tyres for the 18 lap showdown.
The final showdown
Hamilton clawed himself back into DRS range with 11 laps remaining, all while the two leaders came up against the fight for the lower points positions. Slicing through the backmarkers, Rosberg eeked a slim lead, whilst Hamilton tried to find a way past the then second placed man Verstappen. This was with 2 laps remaining. Lap 71 was started with just 0.5 separating them. Something was going to happen, and at T2 it did.
A brake-by-wire issue for Rosberg caused a mistake in T1, and up the hill, Hamilton slipstreamed the sister W07 and at the tight right hander of T2, they collided. Around the outside, Hamilton was forced wide by the late turning Rosberg, who lost his front wing in the drama. Despite overtaking the limping Rosberg under yellow flags, something he was allowed to do as he had serious damage, caused by the T3 spinner of Perez, Hamilton eased home. Rosberg remains under investigation for causing a collision and not stopping a seriously damaged car.
Ricciardo overtook Button for a slightly disappointing fifth late on, whilst the Brit was jubilant with his equal best result of the McLaren-Honda partnership.
Haas return to the points
Grosjean returned Haas to the points with an assured drive to P7, even with a five-second penalty for pit-lane speeding. Sainz ensured his growing reputation grew even more with yet another drive to the points, whilst Bottas secured a below par P9 and the elated Wehrlein, P10.
Esteban Gutierrez drove his most complete race since his comeback, just missing out on the points in P11 while Jolyon Palmer a content P12 for Renault, with teammate Kevin Magnussen the recipient of a five-second penalty for excessive weaving whilst defending against Wehrlein. Felipe Nasr took 14th for Sauber, teammate Marcus Ericsson P15 whilst Rio Haryanto came home P16.
Hulkenberg and Perez both retired in a disappointing race for Force India, Daniil Kvyat's season went from bad to worse with an early retirement, along with Vettel, Massa and the tactical retirement of Fernando Alonso.
Spa 2014 was the first time the two Mercedes hit each other, and after a relatively well-behaved 2015, T2 was the fourth time they've collided in just nine races, after Australia, Spain, and Canada. Team boss Toto Wolff was apoplectic after the race and suggests team orders could be imposed in the future.
On the podium, Hamilton was booed by some sections of the sparse crowd, something he couldn't understand why.
Ferrari yet again threw away the win, as they didn't look behind them when Raikkonen was chasing Hamilton, which led to the jump of the two Red Bulls. This would later be crucial as Raikkonen probably could've overtaken Hamilton after the collision.
Next up for Formula One is the British Grand Prix from Silverstone next weekend, and a championship battle that is hotting up race-by-race, lap-by-lap.