Lewis Hamilton has kept a fast-closing Kimi Räikkönen at bay to claim his third win at the Hungaroring, a result that has reinvigorated the Englishman’s championship campaign after a run of less-than-ideal results in recent races.
Aside from his visits to the pits, Hamilton led the race throughout. Almost constantly, there was a Lotus of sorts in his mirrors – Romain Grosjean early on, until Räikkönen vaulted ahead of his team-mate during the final stops – and while the black and gold cars were undoubtedly quicker than Hamilton’s McLaren, the Hungaroring is such a tough track on which to overtake that a McLaren win was all but assured.
The main vulnerabilities for McLaren would be in their pit stop, which served as the only realistic chance Lotus had to get by. But McLaren has been a well-oiled machine since their early season pit stop dramas, and Hamilton’s mechanics were always able to turn him around quickly enough for the 2008 World Champion to keep his race lead en route to victory.
The start saw Hamilton – for once – make a decent getaway off the line, and he led the charging pack into the first corner, only to lock up under braking and nearly throw the place away to Grosjean, who sternly dismissed Sebastian Vettel’s challenge on the run into the corner to claim second place.
Vettel was slightly wrong-footed in the move, and running on the outside of Grosjean at Turn 1, the Frenchman cleverly steered the German off the racing line as the exited the corner. The side-by-side action allowed Jenson Button to slip through into third ahead of Vettel.
Hamilton kept just clear enough of Grosjean in the early stages to avoid an serious challenge, while Button was unable to keep pace with the leading duo, leading the battle for third ahead of Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Räikkönen and a fast-starting Mark Webber, who gained four places on the opening lap after starting from eleventh place.
Hamilton and Grosjean opted for two-stop strategies. The McLaren driver switched to the medium-compound Pirelli tyres in this first stop, while Grosjean opted to take another set of the (quicker, but less durable) soft tyres for the middle stint.
That allowed him to turn up the wick on Hamilton in the middle stages of the race, but passing would prove another matter entirely as Grosjean was never able to get close enough through the final corner to have a crack along the start/finish straight.
Behind the pair, Button was switched onto a three-stop strategy – much to his incredulity after the race – and his early second stop released the chasing Vettel, who started his own charge to try and close down the gap to Hamilton and Grosjean.
Ultimately, it was Räikkönen who popped up as the most likely challenger to deny Hamilton victory. The Finn had a KERS issue early in the race, but a quicker first pit stop allowed him to vault ahead of Alonso .
Like Grosjean, he ran on the soft tyres in his second stint, and it was a mammoth stint where he managed tyre wear to perfection. He pumped in some quick laps before his second pit stop, emerging inches ahead of Grosjean as he exited the pits to inherit second place.
There began his chase on Hamilton, and he quickly closed to deficit to less than a second but was unable to find his way past to claim his and Lotus’ first win of the season.
Grosjean settled for third, fending off a fast-closing Vettel to the end, after the German made a quick final pit stop with ten laps to go.
Fifth place went to Fernando Alonso, who claimed the maximum possible result in conditions that weren’t suited to his Ferrari. By finishing ahead of his nearest rival Webber (who finished eighth after also having to switch to a three-stop strategy), he extended his points lead into the five-week summer break to a comfortable 40-point cushion.
Button ultimately finished a frustrated sixth. His second pit stop fed him back onto the track behind Bruno Senna, and he remained tucked up behind the Williams until the Brazilian pitted. Eventually getting some clear air, the Englishman pumped out some quick laps to close down on Alonso, to no avail, while Senna took seventh in his most competitive showing of the year for the Grove team.
Felipe Massa had another quiet day and finished ninth. A poor getaway off the line saw him lose a few spots early on, and the paltry two points will have done little to silence the groundswell of opinion that he won’t be retained by Ferrari at the end of the season. Quite who the Italian team will choose as his replacement is another matter, with some far-fetched paddock speculation suggesting that Button or Räikkönen could be signed.
The final point for tenth place went to Nico Rosberg, which was scant reward for Mercedes after its least competitive showing of the season.
Team-mate Michael Schumacher endured one of the most torrid days in the cockpit since making his comeback to F1. The German switched off his engine on the grid and triggered an aborted start – oddly, he blamed the flashing lights as the trigger for turning off his engine. After being pushed back into the pits as the field went around for another formation lap, his engine was restarted and he then copped a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane as he toured to its exit to join the race. He retired late in the race, having only managed to climb to 18th position.
In all, it was hardly a classic race by 2012 standards. The DRS zone on the front straight did little to improve overtaking up and down the field, and only served to highlight the Hungaroring layout’s deficiencies as a suitable Grand Prix venue.
Indeed, one of the few passing moves of note saw a drive-through penalty for none other than – surprise, surprise – Pastor Maldonado, who was hit with a visit through the pit lane after barging Paul di Resta out of the way with a clumsy move at Turn 11.
2012 Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (69 laps)*:
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||69||1:41:05.543|
|2.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E20||69||+ 1.032|
|3.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E20||69||+ 10.518|
|4.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||69||+ 11.616|
|5.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||69||+ 26.653|
|6.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||69||+ 30.243|
|7.||Bruno Senna||Williams Renault FW34||69||+ 33.899|
|8.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||69||+ 34.458|
|9.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||69||+ 38.350|
|10.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||69||+ 51.234|
|11.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes VJM05||69||+ 57.283|
|12.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM05||69||+ 1:02.887|
|13.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW34||69||+ 1:03.606|
|14.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C31||69||+ 1:04.494|
|16.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||68||1 lap behind|
|17.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||68||1 lap behind|
|18.||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham Renault CT01||68||1 lap behind|
|15.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C31||67||2 laps behind|
|19.||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham Renault CT01||67||2 laps behind|
|20.||Charles Pic||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||67||2 laps behind|
|21.||Timo Glock||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||66||3 laps behind|
|22.||Pedro de la Rosa||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||66||3 laps behind|
|DNF.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||60||Accident|
|DNF.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||58||Mechanical|
|Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||68||1:24.136|
* Race distance reduced by 1 lap following aborted first start