Brought to you by TheJudge13 ‘on track correspondent’: James Parker
Under the searing Hungarian heat, which saw track temperatures as high as 52°C, Lewis Hamilton finally claimed his first victory for the season and for Mercedes, in a very controlled fashion. Completing the podium was a magnificent Raikkonen who managed to achieve a final 28 lap stint to take 2nd place, ahead of the hard charging Vettel in 3rd, who pushed the Finn close in the final 10 laps due to committing to a 3 stop strategy but not finding a way past.
Off the line, Vettel had a terrible getaway on the dirty side of the grid, coming under pressure from both Grosjean and Rosberg behind. Squeezing Grosjean on the left hand side of the circuit into turn 1 both drivers maintained position.
Behind however the action was kicking off. After settling down behind Grosjean, Rosberg found himself passed on the outside of turn 2 by an opportunist move from Alonso. Massa tried to follow his team-mate through, and both he and Rosberg were side by side going through turns 3 and 4. As the pair approached turn 5, Massa held the inside line, and as Rosberg turned in there was inevitable contact which sent the Mercedes man off the circuit and rejoining 12th place.
Other notable good starts were made by race leader Hamilton who controlled the race from the front on lap 1, and Jenson Button who was sitting 8th after starting in P13.
Up front the leading three were scampering away from the Ferrari’s of Alonso and Massa. Hamilton was the first to blink for his first stop, and he came in on lap 10 to exchange his used softs for a set of new mediums – rejoining behind Button in 8th.
Afraid of losing time to Vettel however, the Mercedes man made a bold move the following lap down into turn 1 to gain some clear air with the aid of KERS and DRS.
This move meant Vettel was forced to react to Hamilton’s pace, and he came in on lap 12 to cover the early stop. However not only did Vettel come out behind Hamilton, he slotted right in behind the medium shod and longer running Button who he would not be able to get past for 12 laps.
Alonso pitted on lap 13, also on to fresh mediums, and this meant it released the two Lotus cars at the front to make headway in what was thought to be a longer first stint. However to a lot of people’s surprise, the Lotus duo could only manage to get to lap 14 before both pitted for the medium compound. Stacking in the pitlane, Grosjean rejoined behind Button and Vettel, whilst Raikkonen behind Massa once again.
By lap 17 Vettel was clearly getting impatient behind the McLaren driver and watching Hamilton disappear into the distance. Trying an ambitious move in turn 2, Vettel dived up the inside and touched the rear of Button’s car causing slight wing damage but positions were not lost.
Further back, Force India’s miserable weekend continued as on lap 21 Adrian Sutil was forced to retire with a hydraulic leak during his first pitstop and the German’s day was done.
Lap 24 was a pivotal moment in the race however. Button was starting to struggle on his first stint, and Vettel was keen to make the most of it. Gaining a good run out of turn 3, he took Button into the ultra fast turn 4. Grosjean was keen to follow through and attempted a pass into the turn 6 chicane, however when coming back across the track appeared to make contact with the McLaren car – both drivers escaping damage. Alonso followed through into turn 8 and this signalled Button’s time to come into the pits for soft tyres.
After the contact, Lotus were keen to bring Grosjean in for an early stop on lap 26, however this dropped him from 3rd down to 7th and behind Massa. On lap 29 however, the Frenchman got a good run coming out of turn 3 and attempted an ambitious outside overtake on Massa into turn 4 – something he managed to pull off with some style for P6.
His joy was short lived however, as on lap 36, the race stewards announced that the Lotus man was to receive a drive through penalty for leaving the track limits when overtaking Massa, whilst the incident between Button and the turn 6 chicane was to be investigated after the race.
Other drivers who the stewards were keeping an eye on included Nico Hulkenberg who faced a drive through on lap 39 for speeding in the pitlane.
By that point in the race, most of the 3 stoppers had made their second stops, with Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso settling back down, whilst out the front the longer running Raikkonen was eyeing up a different two stop strategy – eventually pitting on lap 43 for the medium compound with Webber also on to mediums the following lap from 3rd place.
As the race entered its final stages, there were two distinctive races going on. Hamilton was enjoying a 12 second lead over Vettel who had lost all of that time behind Button earlier on in the race, but was under threat from a two stopping Raikkonen. Further back, a recovering Grosjean was keen to retrieve some of that lost ground thanks to the drive through penalty.
Hamilton made his third and final stop on lap 51 bolting on a set of medium compound tyres, coming out directly in the firing line of Webber in 4th place. Webber was slow to navigate turn 2 thanks to the Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg blocking the apex and Hamilton seized his chance to jump up the inside into turn 3 almost instantly.
Lap 56 saw Vettel bolt on a set of fresh medium compound tyres for his final stint, and rejoined back into a provisional 3rd place behind the two stopping Raikkonen – who was aiming to make his final stint last a full 28 laps.
Webber then released Raikkonen into 2nd on lap sixty when he came in for a set of the softer compound tyres to finish the race on. He rejoined in 4th behind his teammate, while Alonso in P5 had Grosjean breathing down his neck for the final 10 laps.
The race was now on, with Hamilton over 10 seconds in the lead, could Vettel on much fresher tyres catch the Finn in 2nd, and could Webber on brand new soft tyres and low fuel catch the pair of them?
With only 5 laps left, Rosberg’s afternoon came to an end when his Mercedes’ engine blew as he turned into turn 3. With engine temperatures being a concern all weekend for the Mercedes team, this got the pitwall worried over the health of his teammates’ engine who was currently leading the race.
Vettel was clearly a lot faster than Raikkonen, cruising up to the back of the Lotus man in the final 5-6 laps, however could not make an impression once he had got there. This all changed on lap 68, when the 3 time World Champion saw an opportunity into turn 4 after getting a good run up the hill. Raikkonen however slowly moved into the middle of the track and Vettel was left with nowhere to go and ran wide – holding 3rd place where he would stay for the final two laps.
Up front, a faultless Hamilton claimed his first victory of the season, in a race which no-one thought the Mercedes would be able to compete in – especially for victory. It marks his 1st win of the season and his 4th victory at the Hungaroring, a result which brings him only 10 points off 2nd place man Raikkonen in the championship.
A hard charging Webber claimed 4th, yet again pulling off a great recovery drive from 10th place on the grid. 5th was a disappointed Alonso who simply did not have the pace of the top 3 today, just fending off a recovering Grosjean in 6th. 7th was a solid drive from Jenson Button, the McLaren showing improved pace. 8th was a rather anonymous Massa whilst Button’s team-mate Perez grabbed 9th to give the team their second consecutive double points finish.
10th, with a solid performance, was Pastor Maldonado, claiming Williams’ first points finish of 2013, finally end the drought they have endured thus far in the season.
It was a strategically intriguing race, and the Hungaroring offered us some great overtaking on a circuit which is not famed for that.
It just leaves me to say… what are we going to do for the next month?
|12||Vergne||Toro Rosso||14||+1 lap|
|13||Ricciardo||Toro Rosso||8||+1 lap|
|14||van der Garde||Caterham||20||+2 laps|
|RET||di Resta||Force India||18|