Lewis Hamilton finally secured his maiden victory for Mercedes today with his 4th Hungarian Grand Prix victory after a race that saw its fair share of on-track action and mild controversy.
The Briton cemented his pole position advantage by taking an early lead as fellow front-row starter Sebastian Vettel fought off attention from Fernando Alonso and Romain Grosjean, but the German prevailed and was soon on the Mercedes tail in hot pursuit.
Jenson Button had made the best start as he leapt from 13th on the grid to 8th position, and the McLaren driver (and former team mate of Hamilton) was to play a key part in proceedings from this point in as he elected to run a 2-stop strategy, in contrast to his main rivals.
Nico Rosberg’s race went in the opposite direction as contact with Felipe Massa dropped him from 4th to 9th on the opening lap. The Mercedes driver escaped with little damage, but Massa suffered a broken front-wing endplate that Ferrari chose not to replace for the remainder of the Grand Prix, preferring to risk total failure in search of a strong result.
On lap 9 Hamilton dived for the pits to swap his soft Pirelli tyres to the more durable medium compound – followed by Vettel on lap 11, Alonso on the 12th and Grosjean and Raikkonen stacking their Lotuses on lap 13 for their own first stops. Mark Webber, who had started 10th on the medium compound, led the race as Hamilton rejoined in 2nd, but Vettel and Grosjean found themselves behind Button who was mirroring Webber’s strategy in a bid for a strong result after a season of discontent for McLaren.
Contrary to expectation, Vettel could not make a move stick and was lucky to avoid major damage when an attempted overtake went wrong and he tagged the back of Button’s car, urged by his team to back off and cool his RB9 down – a move that dropped him into the clutches of Grosjean and the fast-closing Alonso. The 4-car train continued on its way until Button’s tyres eventually cried enough on lap 25 and the Briton was swamped by his rivals. Vettel finally got his pass, and Grosjean followed suit into the chicane but was cautioned by the stewards after drifting across the braking zone and thumping wheels with Button, who was pushed off the circuit and fell behind Alonso.
Webber had stopped on lap 22, elevating Hamilton back into a 15-second lead over Vettel; the Mercedes driver regained his advantage after his 2nd stop when Vettel made his own trip to the pits on lap 34.
When Hamilton and Vettel made their final stops with just 20 and 15 laps left respectively, the 2-stopping Raikkonen made his customary late-race entry to the party and thrust his Lotus into the podium mix. Hamilton cleared the Finn after his last stop but Vettel was too far behind, and the German was left with just 3 laps to pass as he came up on the rear wing of Raikkonen’s car, ailing on its worn tyres. A late lunge up the outside of turn 4 was all the reigning World Champion could muster and despite his voiceferous protestations to FIA chief Charlie Whiting, he was left in ‘The Iceman”s wheel tracks to finish 3rd; the Hungaroring remains one of the only tracks on the calendar unconquered by Vettel.
Hamilton wrapped up his 1st Mercedes victory on his 4th attempt from pole, while Raikkonen’s 2nd place pushed him up to 2nd in the driver’s championship ahead of Fernando Alonso, who was 5th after what he called a ‘difficult’ race. Mark Webber worked his 2-stop strategy to perfection and was rewarded with 12 points for 4th, while Grosjean faded to 6th after he was awarded a drive-through penalty for passing Massa outside the limits of the circuit at turn 4. Button claimed 7th for McLaren, followed by Massa, Sergio Perez and a relieved Pastor Maldonado in 10th, giving Williams their first point of the 2013 season.
Grosjean was handed a post-race 20 second penalty for his contact with Button, but the time change made no difference to his finishing position so he remains 6th.
Caterham also courted controversy after Charles Pic failed to obey blue flags instructing him to allow Jenson Button to pass him – a repeat of the errors that cost the McLaren driver 5th place last time out in Germany, but no penalty was applied.
Mercedes’ tyre woes failed to materialise, but it was a day of more foul luck for Nico Rosberg who succumbed to his 3rd mechanical failure of the season when his engine exploded with just 4 laps remaining. Rosberg has born the brunt of Mercedes’ technical issues this year much in the manner experienced by Mark Webber at Red Bull. Force India also experienced a nightmare of a race on a day that saw track temperatures reach 50c, their highest recorded level since the 2005 Bahrain Grand Prix; Adrian Sutil was forced out with clutch problems caused by a hydraulic failure, while Paul Di Resta dropped out late on with a similar issue which capped a poor weekend for the Scot.
“The team called the strategy and the pit stops just right and then it was just about managing the gap. I had some racing to do out there, though, with Jenson and Mark and I think we had the pace on everyone today. The team has just done an exceptional job: we have worked so hard to understand these tyres and we got the balance spot on today. I am very hopeful this could be a real turning point for us as we coped with these high track temperatures.” Lewis Hamilton
“It was a good race and a good result for the team. The strategy worked well. We did two long stints on the tyres but they weren’t too bad and the car felt strong so it allowed us to make one less stop. In the last few laps the rears were a bit on edge, but apart from that it was ok. Sebastian got the run on me a couple of times but luckily it was in places that you can’t really overtake. The main positive is that we gained a few points to Seb in the Championship. For sure we could have maybe closed the gap a little more with a win, but anything we can get back will help. We’re only halfway through the season and it will be hard to catch up, but anything can still happen so we’ll keep fighting until the end.” Kimi Raikkonen
“I would have loved the race to have been a bit longer, as it was fun with Kimi at the end. It’s hard to pass on this track, I got close but I wasn’t in the prime overtaking spot at that point; I was trying to set something up for the next corners, but it didn’t work. The key issue in the race was when I got stuck behind Jenson, there’s no one to blame for that, I lost more time than expected on the way into the first stop and we came out just behind him. I couldn’t get past; I tried to force it and damaged my front wing, which was a mistake from my side. I was maybe trying to urge a bit too much. It was close with Kimi and nice to be on the podium again today. “ Sebastian Vettel
“That was a fun race – although I seemed to be a target for other cars! Sebastian tried many times to get past me, and clipped my rear wheel into Turn Two – he may have damaged his wing, but I was lucky not to puncture. With Romain, I don’t know what he thought – unless I took to the grass, it was inevitable we were going to touch! I don’t think he was thinking at that point. I ran almost half the race on the Prime tyre, which was the longest of anybody; it’s good to show we can do that. Our middle-stint pace on the Option was also very good, and I had a blinding first lap, jumping from 13th to eighth. We beat a Ferrari fair and square, and we’d also have beaten a Mercedes if Nico hadn’t stopped – we can take a lot of positives away from here. Seventh position might not look too exciting – particularly after we fought for fifth at the last race – but we’ve done a good job this weekend and taken a step forward – and that’s a nice little boost to send everyone off into the summer break.” Jenson Button
“I made a good start and was very aggressive on the opening lap. I think I was up to about P12, but from there on it was difficult because I was struggling with the balance and tyre performance. Without the speed we did not have the flexibility to make the strategy work and points were looking out of reach. Towards the end of the race the team called me to the pits because it seems we had picked up a hydraulic issue, similar to the problem with the other car. Over the summer break we will regroup, analyse things properly and take a fresh approach into the second part of the year.” Paul Di Resta
“A really tough day today for the whole team and easily the hardest race of my career. The track is challenging enough at the best of times, with little or no respite the whole lap – and there are 70 of them. Compounding things further for us was a real balance shift on the Medium tyres, which we started the race on, and this eased only for a short while when we ran on the Soft tyre for the second stint. This made it really difficult to drive the car for most of the race and at the same time try to manage the tyre degradation, so it really took every ounce of concentration and energy.” Max Chilton
“The start was okay and the first sector was very good, I was able to put a bit of pressure on Kimi and then we just settled in. I had a pretty tricky car for the first three or four laps, as I knew the option tyres were quite grippy and after that we just got our heads down. I don’t think we could have got much more than that result today. The strategy was pretty solid and you have to pace the option tyres until the end.” Mark Webber
“For sure this is one that got away, but I’m very happy with my race and I honestly don’t think I could have done much more. Maybe the strategy didn’t quite work how we wanted, but the car felt really good and it was the traffic that cost us. Without this maybe there would never have been a drive-through penalty which for sure didn’t help. I haven’t seen the footage yet and I thought it was a good move, but unfortunately the stewards took a different view. I’ve no problem with the time-added for the incident with Jenson and I apologised to him afterwards. This could have been the one for me, but we will just have to wait a little bit longer and keep improving like we have been recently to make it happen.” Romain Grosjean
“I got a good start but then Felipe and I came together on the first lap which was unfortunate as I was in front and had left some space for him but his front wing hit my rear tyre. That cost me a lot of positions and it’s really difficult to make the places back up on this track. Then my day came to an early conclusion with the engine failure. However there are lots of positives for us to take as a team from this weekend and now I really look forward to the upcoming races as we know that we have a quick car and we made the new tyres work for us this weekend.” Nico Rosberg
“Today’s race was difficult from start to finish, because right from the first lap, at turn 5, after making contact with Rosberg, I lost the left part of the front wing. At that time, stopping to change the nose would have lost valuable time, so we decided not to come in, but from then on, the balance of the car was never the same and I lost a lot in terms of performance, suffering a lot with understeer and oversteer and my tyres degraded more than they should have done. I definitely can’t be happy with eighth place, because both in the race and in qualifying, we lacked the pace to fight for the lead. For various reasons, this track doesn’t suit our car, but it’s precisely because things can change from track to track that we must absolutely stay focused now. “ Felipe Massa
CLASSIFICATION – RACE – HUNGARIAN GRAND PRIX
|4||Webber||AUS||Red Bull||12 (Fastest Lap)|
|14||Van Der Garde||NED||Caterham|
|18||Di Resta||GBR||Force India||Hydraulics|