Hamilton Enjoys Easy Win at Hungary; Räikkönen Keeps Vettel in Rear View For Second
Lewis Hamilton was able to keep his start in pole position to easily clinch the Hungarian Grand Prix yesterday in Budapest; although Hamilton has begun in the lead four times this season, it is the first time he mirrored race start and finish. It is also his first Grand Prix win for Mercedes since joining the team at the beginning of the 2013 season. Despite Sebastian Vettel breathing down his neck for the last six laps, Kimi Räikkönen was able to keep the 2012 champion in his rear mirrors to finish in second.
The third and final version of Pirelli tires debuted at Hungary, changes that were first sparked by the disastrous and dangerous tire explosions at Silverstone. The new tires feature Kevlar belts rather than the steel ones used previously, but the compounds remain the same. DRS and gearbox issues in qualifying relegated Mark Webber to tenth place on the grid, while Paul di Resta suffered from balance issues and began at a very uncharacteristic 18th place. The temperature in Hungary was pegged in the mid-90s, and was a source of stress before the race even started.
And what a start it was. Felipe Massa collided with Nico Rosberg in the first few turns, damaging the Ferrari driver’s front wing. More than a few cars were forced off the very narrow track while the pack was bunched. Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton pulled away fairly quickly, and his lead over the other drivers climbed along with the lap counter. Hamilton’s lead may have been due in part to the soft tires he started on, in comparison to the more durable but slower mediums that the majority of the grid wore.
The mediums worked well for Webber, however, and he enjoyed a healthy lead by Lap 15 as his tires showed no signs of wearing. Jenson Button also ran near the front, ahead of Vettel, even, due to Vettel’s damaged wing, DRS problems, and cooling issues.
A hydraulic leak in Lap 20 forced Adrian Sutil out of the race for good. Webber finally pitted in 24, allowing Hamilton to zoom past as the rolling train of Vettel-Grosjean-Alonso in places 3-4-5 closed in on Button. Overtaking the second place Brit proved to be difficult for Grosjean, and he hit Button on the inside of the turn. Grosjean was later punished with a 20-second final time penalty, but it did not affect the driver’s 6th place finish.
Lap 28 saw Esteban Gutiérrez retiring due to a gearbox failure. It is just one part of the story of the beleaguered Sauber team, which is rumored to lose Nico Hulkenberg in 2014. Valtteri Bottas also sauntered back to the pits after his Williams suffered from a hydraulic failure in the 43rd lap. A yellow flag warning was the result, which disabled DRS for a few laps.
At the beginning of Lap 51, Hamilton pitted and rejoined the track next to Webber, and the two battled for a few turns until Hamilton forced the Aussie off the track. Vettel led for a few laps, but pitted to throw on a fresh set of mediums, oddly enough, right around lap 55. If he had stayed out for a few more laps and then changed onto the softs, maybe he would have eventually overtaken Räikkönen in the final laps…
Nico Rosberg was unfortunately ousted on Lap 55 when his car caught fire, but teammate Hamilton held a commanding lead to bring points to Mercedes. With Hamilton cruising, the battle for second was where the action was.
There is little more satisfying than seeing an underdog win, and that sentiment was true in Hungary when Räikkönen narrowly beat Vettel for second (as much as Räikkönen can be considered an underdog, of course). The final four laps inspired a spot of déjà vu for anybody who watched the closing laps of the German GP, when a similar situation unfolded for the Lotus and Red Bull racers. In that race, however, the two were competing for first, and it was the German who led the Finn. He crossed the finish line less than two seconds ahead of Vettel, who overcooked a corner when attempting to pass Räikkönen, and rightly fell behind.
The Hungarian GP is the last race for a month as teams and drivers get some time off for summer break. Formula 1 returns on September 2nd from Spa in Belgium.