It took ten races to come – Lewis Hamilton’s first victory as a Mercedes driver – and when it came it was a famous one, as he dominated the Hungarian Grand Prix in a manner that surprised all, including himself, having declared just 24 hours earlier that a win at the tight and twisty Hungaroring, in blistering hot conditions, would be impossible. He was wrong.
Next best was Kimi Raikkonen who gave another top notch performance to finish second, in a thrilling late race defence of his position from Sebastian Vettel in all out attack mode. The world champion had to settle for third.
Contrary to predictions Hamilton did not falter at the start, the Mercedes did not succumb to the heat; instead the combination lasted effectively and thoroughly trounced the opposition. Such was the manner of victory, including some cruising in ‘save-those-tyres-mode’ during the final ten laps, that the Silver Arrows must now be considered serious championship contenders.
Hamilton managed a great start, and proceeded to fend off Sebastian Vettel’s early attacks before taking control of the race. The only obstacles he encountered were dealt with swiftly and efficiently – first dispensing of Jenson Button after his first stop, and later after his second stop making short work of overtaking Mark Webber.
When inspired Hamilton has few peers, his need to win almost desperate, and his third victory at the track near Budapest was a product of sheer inspiration. You get the impression nothing would have stopped him on the day as he well and truly vindicated his move from McLaren to Mercedes. The relief was palpable, he even kissed his car!
“It’s an incredible feeling and I’d like to thank all the fans. My team did an incredible job, we studied a lot last night and were hoping the tyres would last. We had no idea it would go that well. I was hungry for it today, I was going all out. Usually I get stuck in traffic and today I was going for every move I could,” declared the 2008 world champion on the occasion of his 22nd grand prix win.
Kimi Raikkonen’s relentless points scoring record continued in Hungary, but more than anything the Finn gave a gutsy drive to take second place after starting sixth on the grid and with the 18 points haul overtaking Fernando Alonso in the championship points table.
The Lotus driver was the only one out of the top six to two-stop, and by the end of the race was down on pace, but still had enough to keep a charging Vettel at bay.
“I keep making my life difficult on Saturdays so we pay the price [on Sunday]. I had a good car, we did two stops, it was tight with Seb at the end but we gained some points in the championship. I felt the tyres were good at the end but I didn’t really have any doubts that I could keep Seb behind me, I had good speed throughout. The team worked well, everything worked well, but unfortunately yesterday wasn’t the easiest day otherwise we could have challenged for the win,” reflected Raikkonen afterwards.
Smart money before the race would have been on Vettel and Red Bull to take top honours, but in the end Mercedes and Hamilton were too strong and the Lotus strategy a lap too cunning.
Nevertheless the reigning world champion keeps a healthy points lead, at the top of the championship table, going into the summer break.
Vettel summed up his afternoon, “It was not the best race. The start was difficult and when Lewis pulled in we thought we could do it on the softs. I damaged my front wing which did not help. I tried to hang in there and tried to fight back with Kimi. I could not get him on the straight. We wanted a little bit more today.”
Any friendship between Vettel and Raikkonen was tested when the Red Bull driver tried to overtake on the outside of Turn 3, but Raikkonen was having none of it by keeping his line and forcing Vettel wide. The champ was not happy and got onto the team radio: “He didn’t give me enough room.”
The team responded: “We’ll inform Charlie [Whiting].”
Nothing came of it and afterwards Vettel commented on the podium, “I told Kimi I was not happy but he was laughing. That’s racing.”
That they might be teammates next year? Interesting times lie ahead if that is going to be the case.
Our man of the match award would have to go to Mark Webber who was dogged by bad luck in qualifying which limited him to tenth place on the grid, but in the race he knuckled down and bounced back impressively to take fourth place, almost treating us to a tussle against his Red Bull teammate – but he was about six seconds short.
After starting fifth one would have expected Fernando Alonso to have made it on to the podium, as this has tended to be the trend in recent races. However, in Hungary the Ferrari seemed out of sorts, and the Spaniard had to work hard to bring it home fifth.
Early in the race Romain Grosjean looked set to contend for a podium spot, as he harassed Vettel and looked feisty in what was clearly a good car. But the Frenchman was again a tad too enthusiastic in his overtaking moves including banging wheels with Jenson Button and going off track to overtake Felipe Massa.
Although the Frenchman never really looked overtly dangerous, his off track excursion versus Massa got him a drive through penalty which ended any hopes of a podium. Sixth was the reward for his toil.
Seventh place went to Button who at least was battling on the right side of the top ten. He proved hard to pass for Vettel, and in the end McLaren would have been happy to have both drivers score points on the day – Button was seventh and Sergio Perez ninth.
Splitting the McLaren pair on the results sheet in eighth place was Felipe Massa who was in the wars, His Ferrari appeared bullet proof as it survived some hard knocks during the course of the race.
Pastor Maldonado rounded out the top ten and thus scored the first point of the season for the Williams team – cue relief all around.
While Hamilton enjoyed the spoils of victory, teammate Nico Rosberg rued a DNF after the engine in his Mercedes blew up as he powered down to Turn 2 on lap 66. A bittersweet day for the three pointed star.
Last word to winner Hamilton: “This is probably one of the most important grand prix wins of my career having moved to a new team. I could not be happier. I hope there is plenty more to come. We have to work hard but if we can make the tyres last here we can do it anywhere.”
Now for the holidays….
Subbed by AJN.
Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring – Sunday, 28 July 2013
|2||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus-Renault||70||+10.9 secs||6||18|
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||70||+12.4 secs||2||15|
|4||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||70||+18.0 secs||10||12|
|5||3||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||70||+31.4 secs||5||10|
|6||8||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||70||+32.2 secs||3||8|
|7||5||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||70||+53.8 secs||13||6|
|8||4||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||70||+56.4 secs||7||4|
|9||6||Sergio Perez||McLaren-Mercedes||69||+1 Lap||9||2|
|10||16||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Renault||69||+1 Lap||15||1|
|11||11||Nico Hulkenberg||Sauber-Ferrari||69||+1 Lap||12|
|12||18||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Ferrari||69||+1 Lap||14|
|13||19||Daniel Ricciardo||STR-Ferrari||69||+1 Lap||8|
|14||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||68||+2 Laps||20|
|15||20||Charles Pic||Caterham-Renault||68||+2 Laps||19|
|16||22||Jules Bianchi||Marussia-Cosworth||67||+3 Laps||21|
|17||23||Max Chilton||Marussia-Cosworth||67||+3 Laps||22|
|18||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||66||+4 Laps||18|
|19||9||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||64||+6 Laps||4|
|Ret||17||Valtteri Bottas||Williams-Renault||42||+28 Laps||16|
|Ret||12||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber-Ferrari||28||+42 Laps||17|
|Ret||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||19||+51 Laps||11|