The race that had it all as the Hungaroring delivered an absolute thriller before the summer break. A Ferrari win in the first race after Jules departed was just, but one nobody could have predicted. Moreover, the double podium for the Red Bulls was extraordinary given the extra pit stop for Daniel Ricciardo and penalty for Daniil Kvyat.
Cooler conditions than we had previously seen this weekend, with higher winds that upset the balance on many a car. As we would soon find out, it was the Ferraris that would benefit from the changed environment. The 30th edition of this race was going to be far from routine.
Felipe Massa, on an occasion that must have been difficult to contain his emotions, stopped short of his grid position and, consequently, caused an aborted start. One more formation lap meant a 69 lap race.
A poor start from Lewis Hamilton meant he emerged from the 610m run into the first corner in fourth place, his teammate Rosberg third and the two Ferrari drivers, Vettel and Raikkonen, 1-2 respectively. Ricciardo started poorly and found himself clashing with Bottas at the exit of the first corner, allowing his teammate through as well as the fast starting Nico Hulkenberg.
Behind that it was pretty much status quo and as you would expect, with the notable inclusion of Pastor Maldonado playing bumper cars with those around him. Felipe Nasr damaged his front wing and body which would hamper him for the rest of the afternoon.
As Hulkenberg made it through the much slower Kvyat the team orders from Red Bull soon ensued; lap 7 saw Ricciardo waved through the Russian. It was a similar story at the sister team, as a poor start from Verstappen meant he found himself behind Sainz. The young Dutchman clearly feeling he could have been going much quicker. He was not afforded the same privilege so opted to dive for the pits, as did Bottas and Kvyat on lap 14.
As everyone else soon followed suit and ditched the race boots they had started on special mention must be made to Marcus Ericsson, who managed his soft tyres well to still find life from them 16 laps in. With staying out he was running as high as 7th, the first time that high for a while, but points would not evade the Swede as we would find out later.
The settling period soon followed as the drivers got to grips with their new tyres, but not before a familiar face sent pulses racing in the Force India garage. Perez and Maldonado collided as the Venezuelan refused to give up on his position into the first corner. The bump sent Perez into a spin and damaged the right rear floor of the Lotus. Maldonado was penalised for causing a collision, but both drivers paid the price by losing track position eventually.
Hamilton pitted on lap 20 after charging back through the field, still some way off his teammate though who was now running in third place. On lap 21 it was the turn of Rosberg, who opted for the alternative strategy of running the medium (prime) tyre during his middle stint – different to the traditional strategy of continuing on the soft (option) tyre which Raikkonen and Vettel ahead elected for.
An afternoon which will be remembered for the remarkably busy stewards as sanctions were given out like they were going out of fashion. The three week break clearly affecting the judgement of drivers and pit crews alike, as Grosjean was handed a 5 second penalty for an unsafe release – though this did allow him to duel with and better Massa through his pit exit.
Vettel now on fresh rubber was flying, as he set the fastest lap 23 into the race. For the next few laps Lewis Hamilton struggled to make it past Daniel Ricciardo. He was made to wait until lap 29 to take fourth place with a move around the outside at turn 1
Felipe Massa’s horror race continued, after his penalty for causing the aborted start and poor getaway he battled with the Saubers for 15th position, eventually losing out to Ericsson, but fending off Nasr.
Hamilton now in clear air set about reducing the deficit further to Rosberg, who was struggling on the slower tyres. By lap 34 the gap was down to just 10 seconds, though the great unknown was just how much life Hamilton had been taking out of his tyres. In the end, we were left ignorant to this as first Rosberg encountered traffic, then Hamilton followed in slower pursuit.
Ever the unlucky driver Kimi Raikonen then saw his race and podium chances effectively taken away as he reported a strange sound from the powertrain. His fate was sealed when his race engineer reported it was an MGU-K failure, leaving him down on power for the rest of the race and making him a sitting duck on the long home straight.
Shake Up Shards
The reliability of the VJM-07.5ish was once again called into question as the front wing of Hulkenberg’s Force India disintegrated near the braking zone for turn 1. The 2015 Le Mans Champion sent into the barriers with a trail of brake smoke behind him, Daniil Kvyat having to enduring a shower of carbon fibre. This on lap 42, there was still a long way to go in the race.
This first brought out the Virtual Safety Car, which sent the entire field into the pits, then a full safety car as the drivers needed to be guided via the pit lane in order to clear the dirtied track. Lap 46 saw the lapped cars unlap themselves which, though some are not a fan of, proved to enhance the racing when the safety car came in two laps later.
Carmen Jorda made the obligatory FOM appearance before Daniel Ricciardo made a scintillating restart, getting extremely close to Hamilton in front. The ensuing overtake damaged the Aussie’s floor and Hamilton’s front wing. Two laps later the Briton was forced to pit and return to soft tyres. Max Verstappen the next to be penalised, this time the infraction was speeding under the safety car.
With Hamilton now a pit stop down, the ensuing drive-through penalty for causing the collision left him 20 seconds away from the top 10. His quest for points was aided though by the retirement of Kimi Raikkonen, as well as Sergio Perez being forced into retiring his car. Fernando Alonso now flying as he found himself in an unexpected 6th.
The Final Twist
Another penalty for Max Verstappen, as he was given a drive through after catching Valtteri Bottas’ rear wheel with his wing. This, as Lewis Hamilton set about charging through the field setting the fastest lap on his fifty-seventh tour. A penalty for Pastor Maldonado as he had been speeding in the pit lane.
Jenson Button rose to 8th position as he passed the ailing Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard forced into retiring two laps later, as Pastor Maldonado completed the hat-trick of penalties as he had passed under the safety car.
Just when we all felt the race was calming to a low-key close, with Ricciardo seemingly looking stuck behind Nico Rosberg, there was one final twist in the tale. The German now in second place looked like he could be taking a lead in the World Drivers’ Championship into the summer break. This all changed with a daring lunge down the inside of turn 1 from Ricciardo which forced the Aussie to run wide on the inside of Rosberg. The Mercedes driver took a much tighter line and cut back ahead he clipped the wing of Ricciardo – perhaps slightly too aggressively, though the stewards adjudged it a racing incident.
A punctured left-rear on the Silver Arrow and a broken front wing meant both would need to visit the pits once more, though Rosberg’s return was far slower. This elevated Kvyat into second place, where he stayed until the end of the race to become the second youngest podium finisher ever – even though he was awarded a 5 second penalty as well.
Rosberg managed to pass both Saubers and Button, but was held off by Grosjean. The two points this cost could prove vital at the end of year!
The final lap saw Will Stevens retire, though he remains classified after completing over 90% of the race. The final act of the day was Daniel Ricciardo taking the fastest lap in clean air – it pretty much summed up Red Bull’s day.
1 Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari 1:46.09.985
2 Daniil Kvyat – Red Bull +15.7
3 Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull +25.0
4 Max Verstappen – Toro Rosso +44.2
5 Fernando Alonso – McLaren +49.0
6 Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes +52.0
7 Romain Grosjean – Lotus +58.5
8 Nico Rosberg – Mercedes +58.8
9 Jenson Button – McLaren +67.0
10 Marcus Ericsson – Sauber +69.1
11 Felipe Nasr – Sauber +73.4
12 Felipe Massa – Williams +74.2
13 Pastor Maldonado – Lotus +85.1
14 Valtteri Bottas – Williams +80.2
15 Roberto Merhi – Manor +2 laps
16 Will Stevens – Manor +4 laps
R Carlos Sainz – Toro Rosso 9 laps
R Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari 14 laps
R Sergio Perez – Force India 16 laps
R Nico Hulkenberg – Force India 28 laps
Winner and Losers
Vettel, Kvyat, Verstappen and Alonso will leave Budapest in jovial spirits after gaining results they probably did not expect. Jenson Button will also be pleased by the points finish, even if his teammate stole the limelight today.
Williams will not be happy with their day which involved both misfortune and driver error. Sauber will be disappointed with their performance on a day when points were definitely there for the taking; they now have McLaren breathing down their necks.
Force India will leave knowing there is still a lot of work to do. They may have a quick car now, there is nothing to show until you complete the racing on Sunday.
The real loser this week was evident – the sport and community of Formula One. If this was his farewell then what a way to remember him by – how fitting that it was a Ferrari win.