Daniel Ricciardo took his second victory of the season for Red Bull in a thrilling Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday that saw the Australian strike for the lead just three laps from the finish of the seventy lap race.
Ricciardo had led the race early on in damp conditions, but was forced to pit with thirteen laps to go after a myriad number of strategies were played out across the field, mixing up the order on an afternoon when Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was forced to come from the back of the field after starting from the pitlane, thanks to his mishap in qualifying on Saturday.
All drivers started on intermediates with the circuit still wet from a rain shower forty minutes before the green lights, but it didn’t stop pole-sitter Nico Rosberg leading off from Valterri Bottas – who passed Sebastian Vettel out turn one – Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, who fended off Ricciardo once he’d got the jump on the Australian in the tricky conditions. Hamilton’s race didn’t get off to the best start as the Briton exited the pitlane and promptly span off the road at turn two before continuing, though he again blamed brake problems for the mistake.
The field was beginning to become strung out by the time Marcus Ericsson buried his Caterham in the wall on the outside of turn three and brought out the safety car, but it was too late for Rosberg, Bottas,Vettel and Alonso who had already passed the pitlane entrance and consequently had to drive a full lap at cruising speed to get back for fresh dry tyres. It fell perfectly though for Button and Ricciardo and those following, who dived in for fresh rubber; in Ricciardo’s case it was dry super-softs, while Button elected to fit a fresh set of inters after McLaren became convinced more rain was on the way.
Button’s stop was held up by a slow left rear that dropped him behind Ricciardo, before the Englishman – previously the only man to win in the wet in Hungary – questioned the pitwall’s decision to fit wet-weather tyres while everyone else chose dries. McLaren reinforced their reasoning after the debris from Romain Grosjean’s crash behind the safety car was cleaned up, and appeared vindicated when Button breezed past Ricciardo to take the lead at the restart.
It didn’t last as Button’s team immediately admitted the promised rain would not in fact come, forcing the 2006 and 2011 race winner and team-mate Kevin Magnussen to stop again for dry tyres as the field surged ahead. It was effectively the end of their afternoon, though Button scraped a consolation point for 10th with a muted comeback drive.
It left the stage clear for Ricciardo to do his bit, avoiding a second safety car on lap seventeen when Nico Hulkenberg made a rare error of judgement and hit Force India team-mate Sergio Perez before retiring with damage. Felipe Massa was now 2nd ahead of Alonso, with Rosberg and Hamilton separated by Vettel – who had again lost his qualifying advantage over his team-mate – in 5th and 7th.
Lap twenty three brought more drama and indeed a second safety car when Perez smeared his Force India along the pit wall after spinning out the final corner, giving Ricciardo the chance to pit for fresh soft tyres and handing the lead to Alonso. The Spaniard enjoyed a healthy lead at the restart with 2nd placed – and yet to stop – Jean Eric Vergne holding up his rivals for a considerable number of laps. Vettel got in a spin in the same place as Perez on lap thirty three but somehow kept his Red Bull out the wall and continued, before Vergne pitted two laps later and released the mob after the leading Alonso. The Spaniard was still in the lead when he pitted seven laps later, followed a lap afterward by Hamilton from 2nd.
With the second round of stops shaken out of the system, it became clear Rosberg – on the faster, softer tyre and with a stop still to make – was gaining rapidly on Hamilton – on the hard tyre and hoping to make it to the finish. The Briton refused to yield when asked to make way for the German, leading to some heated questioning for the Rosberg pitwall from their irate driver who appeared too far back to make a pass without a significant lift from Hamilton.
The situation was the same on lap fifty four when Ricciardo made his final pit stop from the lead and emerged 4th, though Rosberg eventually lost patience and pitted for his own fresh tyres two laps later, seemingly out of the action and now over twenty seconds down on new leader Alonso. In fact, with Ricciardo charging toward the ailing Alonso and Hamilton, the race was set for a grandstand finish as the German was able to match Ricciardo’s pace and rapidly closed on the leaders.
Ricciardo made two forceful attempts to pass Hamilton who had in turn failed to get past Alonso, eventually getting around the outside at turn two with four laps remaining before making a brave lunge up the inside of the leading Ferrari into turn one to secure the victory.
Rosberg was by now upon Hamilton, but couldn’t get by after the Englishman abruptly ran his team-mate off the circuit on the exit of turn two, no doubt mindful after his earlier defeat by Ricciardo in the same place.
The result narrowed Rosberg’s lead over Hamilton to eleven points in the title race, while the minor points positions were filled by Massa (5th), Raikkonen, Vettel, Bottas, Vergne and Button.
CLASSIFICATION – Race – Hungarian Grand Prix – 27th July 2014
|1||Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull||25 Pts|
|7||Vettel||DEU||Red Bull||6 Pts|
|9||Vergne||FRA||Toro Rosso||2 Pts|