Following a successful weekend which saw him top two of the three practice sessions, Lewis Hamilton won from the front in Hungary.
With expectations of rain surrounding the build up to the race, focus would quickly switch to an aborted race start. An additional formation lap was ran so the idle Mercedes of Michael Schumacher could be pushed back into the pit lane, where the German would have to start his race.
Following disappointing starts in recent races, Hamilton was determined to get away from the lights well in order to develop a lead. He started so well in fact, that he went faster and deeper into turn one than expected, locking his front right tyre, something he later made light of in an interview.
Teammate Jenson Button seemed to start well from 4th and was able to pass Vettel for third in turn two, but Hamilton and Grosjean would both develop their lead over the field. Hamilton was able to build his gap to the Frenchman in the opening laps of the race, cleverly managing to stay out of the DRS zone.
To add insult to injury following his start in the pitlane, not only was Schumacher under investigation for speeding in the pitlane, but had suffered an inexplicable puncture which would force him to return for fresh tyres. He would be handed a drive-through penalty two laps later, damaging his race beyond repair.
Button meanwhile was pulling away from Vettel in fourth, however on lap 16, he suffered with oversteer on turn four which would force his decision to pit for a fresh set of medium compound tyres. Vettel left his pitstop decision for two further laps, allowing Button to push and ensure he remained in front of the German.
With Hamilton approaching the pits on lap 19/69 to change to the Medium compound tyre, a perfect stop was needed in order to ensure he maintained the lead from a pressing Grosjean, but he was held slightly in his getaway from the pitbox.
Thankfully for Hamilton, Grosjean would suffer a similar delay after his pitstop and he would remain in the lead. With the Frenchman on the soft compound tyre however, he would begin to close the gap to Hamilton, but this would only harm the tyres on the Lotus-Renault which would allow Hamilton to redevelop his lead.
Button was still holding the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel as the race moved towards the halfway stage, but Vettel was convinced he could go faster than the McLaren. He was heard desperately urging his engineer “I can go much faster than him [Button] so do something.”
The Williams of Bruno Senna meanwhile was going well, following the Brazilian’s most successful qualifiying session of the season so far. He was running in eighth following the Ferrari of Felipe Massa.
But things were developing in the Lotus-Renault garage, with the team telling Kimi Raikkonen that he had to make this long stint count. Grosjean however had manage to close the gap to Hamilton sufficiently to allow him the use of DRS.
Whilst it didn’t look as though much was happening on the track, certainly a lack of wheel-to-wheel racing, it would be the strategy that would determine the eventual outcome of this race and by the midway stage, both of the McLaren drivers engineers were telling the pair they had to switch to ‘Plan B’.
It appeared that both drivers were being switched to a three-stop strategy, which would ultimately be detrimental to Button. Having changed to the softer tyre, Button had emerged from the pits behind Bruno Senna, but would struggle to find a way past.
Hamilton was having a struggle of his own upfront though, and complained over his radio “Charlie [Whiting, race director] these guys are not getting out of the damn way.” But one lap later, he would pit after a personal best second sector, changing to the medium compound tyre, thankfully emerging ahead of Grosjean.
A flurry of activity in the pits would follow with both Ferrari’s following each other in for simultaneous tyre changes; Alonso able to rejoin in front of Bruno Senna in 7th.
This would not be the last of the activity, Raikkonen’s engineer urging him over the radio to push before pitting for his final stop of the afternoon. The Finn would emerge from the pitlane just as his teammate Grosjean was approaching turn one.
The two came very close to touching, but Raikkonen, probably using some of his KERS, managed to pass his teammate jumping from fourth to second in the process.
Button’s afternoon was not over by any means, sadly not in a positive way. His third pitstop was less than fluid and a problem with his left front saw him held longer than expected in his box. He would later finish in a disappointing sixth.
True to form and providing an unwelcome distraction to proceedings at the front, Pastor Maldonado had a ‘coming together’ on lap 51 with Force India’s Paul di Resta, seeing the Venezuelan issued with yet another penalty. Surely if this poor standard of driving continues, more harsh penalties and even a ban must be considered.
But it seemed that Hamilton, although under pressure from both Lotuses, was in control of the race in the closing laps. Raikkonen was heard over his radio saying that “My only hope of getting past is if Hamilton’s rear tyres go away from him.”
The misery of Schumacher’s afternoon would culminate in him being the first car to retire on lap 60/69. With the German so far refusing to comment on the likelihood of him renewing his contract with Mercedes, is it now time for him to step aside and let a younger driver take his seat? We shall see.
A truly fantastic weekend for Lewis Hamilton then; not only dominating two of the three practice sessions and a great qualifying session, he controlled the race from start to finish.
“I am looking forward to the continuation of the championship. A long way to go and a lot of work to do but we have shown we can compete. It is very, very close but we are going to give it all we can.”
All photographs in this post, including the masthead, are courtesy of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Media Centre, with thanks.
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