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On this day.., August 6th
The 13th race of the F1 season in Hungary would prove to be lucky for some, but not for others.
Jenson Button who qualified in P4 started the race from from P14, having received a 10 place grid penalty for a premature change of engine. His previous engine had given up the ghost during the final free practice session.
Set in a natural bowl in the countryside on the outskirts of Budapest, the Hungaroring can be punishingly hot when the sun shines. Yet this day the heavens opened, to deliver the first wet race in the track’s history.
The circuit – described by some as a street circuit without the houses – is one on which overtaking is very difficult, with tight claustrophobic corners. It is a clockwise circuit, 4.381km long, 70 laps of which made up the race distance of 306.663km.
By L3 Jenson, was up to P8 having overtaken (amongst others) David Coultart, the most recent British driver to have won a GP three years earlier in Australia 2003.
On L26 a crash between Raikonnen and Liuzzi had the safety car out: 5 laps later (during which Jenson decided not to pit for fresh tyres) Jenson was up to P2, behind Alonso. In those days, drivers were allowed to pit for fuel, so Jenson’s challenge for the lead was abated temporarily as he topped up his tank. Alonso pitted for fresh tyres and a loose wheel nut which subsequently detached itself. The result was Alonso losing control of the car and crashing out of the race on L52.
Jenson was now in the lead of the race. On Lap 55 Button pitted for dry tyres but maintained P1. The Brit cruised the final 18 laps unchallenged and lifted the winner’s trophy on his 113th GP.
This was the first win for an English driver since Johnny Herbert won in Italy in 1999 and the first win for a Honda Chassis since John Surtees in 1967, also in Italy.
By the time Jenson was driving for Honda in 2006, it was their third sojourn into F1. Their first outing was in 1964, but withdrew 4 years later after the death of Jo Schlesser, during the French GP. They returned as an engine supplier from 1983-1992, and then again in 2000 as engine supplier to British American Racing, who they subsequently bought out in 2005 and rebranded the team as Honda Racing. The global financial crisis of 2008 put paid to Honda as an F1 team and they were taken over and renamed Brawn GP in 2009, with whom Jenson went on to win the F1 Driver Championship.
One final transformation in 2010 resulted in the birth (via Daimler) of the current Mercedes F1 team we have today. (Honda are now engine suppliers to Jenson’s current team, McLaren.)
Meanwhile, back in 2006, at the end of the year Honda finished P4 in the Constructor Standings and Jenson finished P6 in the driver Standings on 56 points, ahead of his teammate Rubens Barrichello (P7, 30 points.)
Finally, to add to the debate as to whether F1 is sport or entertainment, the BAFTA award in 2007 for the Best Sport was awarded to the Hungarian GP, 2006, won, as we know, by Jenson Button.