With lots of drama before the lights went out, there was plenty to talk about at the Hungarian Grand Prix. DAVID HOOPER reviews an action-packed race.
THE drama of the Hungarian Grand Prix started even before the lights went out, as Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes in 17th position on the grid had an overheating problem which led to an aborted start.
Race director Charlie Whiting waved the cars around for a second formation lap while Schumacher’s stricken car was pushed off the grid and into the pit lane.
With the rest of the field reformed on the grid Hamilton was on pole, sitting next to Roman Grosjean who had achieved his highest ever qualifying position in Formula 1, demoting Vettel from the front row to sit next to Button who was in fourth. The third row consisted of championship leader Fernando Alonso and his team-mate, Felipe Massa. Australian Mark Webber had only managed to get his Red Bull up to 11th, and the second Mercedes driver, Nico Rosberg was in 13th.
They got away cleanly at the second of time of asking, with all the drivers seemingly wary of their cold brakes and tyres after two slow formation laps. Hamilton got a clean start and led the field to the first corner, but mistimed his braking and ran wide. Grosjean and Vettel were too busy battling with each other to take advantage, Grosjean pushing Vettel wide out to the left, the German having to come off the throttle while he rejoined the circuit, obviously not wishing to incur another penalty from the stewards for driving off the circuit as he did last time out in Germany.
This allowed Jenson Button to come back at him out of turn one, making third place his own.
Webber, who started second in the drivers’ championship, made a cracking start in the other Red Bull, gaining four places, and Kimi Raikkonen in his impressive Lotus was hassling the championship leader Fernando Alonso, but Michael Schumacher’s bad weekend got worse with the stewards handing him a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane before he was forced to make an early tyre stop following a puncture, which effectively ruined an already bad afternoon.
As the race settled down after the opening laps, Timo Glock had a spin, losing two places in the process before he could rejoin.
Jenson Button, in his revitalised McLaren was the first of the front runners to pit for tyres, and after putting in a few fast laps, managed to get the drop on Sebastian Vettel when he made his stop, claiming the place.
Lewis Hamilton pitted for tyres on lap 19 but it wasn’t the quickest of stops, with Grosjean coming in a lap later, but a quick out lap for Hamilton kept him in front.
The hard-charging Alonso in his Ferrari got passed Perez on lap 20, but after Webber and Raikkonen made their stops, Webber was trailing the flying Fin – and Alonso.
Jenson’s afternoon wasn’t going to plan after he got stuck behind Senna who was driving a wide Williams on a Hungaroring track which is notoriously difficult to overtake on, so the team swtiched Button to a three-stop strategy, but Senna delaying Button led to the Brit losing a place to Vettel after Vettel’s pit stop.
Ferrari brought Alonso in on lap 44 for his final stop of the afternoon and slick pit work by the team saw Massa follow him in on the same lap, Alonso only just clearing the box before Massa swept in for his set of new tyres – it was impressive to see, if a little risky for Massa, but this time Ferrari pulled it off.
Webber was now running ahead of Alonso, but as Raikkonen left the pits after his last stop of the day, it looked as though his team-mate Roman Grosjean would just pip the Fin to the first corner, but Kimi, a hard but fair racer, wasn’t letting Grosjean through without a fight. The two cars traded sidewall patterns on turn one as everyone held their breath.
Grosjean had no choice but to run wide and come out of the throttle, giving Raikkonen the place.
Button’s last stop of the day was a slow one after the front left wheel failed to locate on the hub correctly, needing a second attempt by the mechanic, which left him chasing Alonso again back on the circuit.
Maldonado, who had driven a good race, had his afternoon spoiled by a drive-through penalty dished out by the stewards for a clumsy overtake on Di Resta which effectively pushed the Scot off the circuit, although thankfully, neither car was badly damaged.
Michael Schumacher, who had hardly been seen all afternoon then retired his car, adding insult to the injury of a dismal weekend for the German, making Hungary his sixth DNF of the year.
Alonso and Vettel were battling hard, the wily Spaniard trying everything he could to get past Vettel, but the German was having none of it and kept his fellow double world champion at bay.
Out front though it was Lewis Hamilton who, for the last few laps, had done just enough to keep Raikkonen at bay and it was a happy young Brit who took the chequered flag, claiming his second win of the season, with the impressive Lotus duo of Raikkonen and Grosjean close behined, completing the podium. Vettel led Alonso home, followed by Button, Senna, Webber, Rosberg and Massa completing the top 10 finishers.
Formula 1 now takes its summer break before they resume for the second half of the campaign at the fabulous Spa circuit, in Belgium, for Round 12 of the 2012 season. All will bring new upgrades and refinements in the never-ending quest for more performance, but which team’s new bits will work best? We’ll have to wait and see, but don’t forget to keep up with the latest news here at wheelworldreviews.co.uk, and follow our regular reporter Tom Wilkinson at #TWF1 on Twitter.