He’s consumed plenty of cake to mark his 200th Grand Prix, survived a serious hacking of his website, and now Jenson Button has fended off the rain showers and attacks of other drivers to win today’s Hungarian Grand Prix, an absorbing race that was all about being on the right tyres at the right time.
Tyre strategy was the talk of the Hungaroring, with the mixed weather conditions playing havoc with strategy. In fact, McLaren lost out on securing a 1-2 courtesy of a poor tyre call by Lewis Hamilton, with the result going beyond doubt when he was given a drive-through penalty during the race.
Pole-sitter and world championship leader Sebastian Vettel finished the race in second place, while Fernando Alonso continued his string of podiums to finish third, ahead of Hamilton and Mark Webber.
With the race beginning on a damp track and everyone on Pirelli intermediate tyres, Hamilton repeatedly attacked Vettel in the early laps as everyone scrabbled for what little grip was available on the ice-rink-like circuit.
On the fifth lap, a small slip from Vettel was all it took for Hamilton to snatch the lead, and he quickly set about building himself an early lead before the all-important question of when to switch to dry tyres would have to be answered.
Button, meanwhile, was involved in a lively scrap for third place, with Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg and Felipe Massa all snapping at his heels.
From the tenth lap onwards, the frontrunners all peeled into the pits for dry tyres. Button pitted a lap earlier than Vettel, and quickly made up the five-second deficit to the German to overtake him at Turn 2. Meanwhile, Webber pulled the same move on Alonso to claim fourth place.
The race then settled down as conditions seemed to improve, although it was marked by the retirements of Jarno Trulli, Michael Schumacher and Nick Heidfeld (who went out with a spectacular bonfire on his Renault). Hamilton held a seemingly comfortable lead over Button, while Vettel kept a watching brief in third, seemingly unable to mount a challenge against the silver cars.
Given the race’s conditions the teams were free to use whichever of the two dry tyre compounds were available. Some opted for the super-soft Pirellis, but these were degrading a little too quickly for some, who were forced into the pits for regular tyre changes. Those who stuck it out on the ‘soft’ compound – while slower than its super-soft cousin – enjoyed greater mileage at a slightly reduced pace.
Alonso elected to run three successive stints on the super-soft tyres, making his third pit stop relatively early as well. The strategy seemed to pay off, as the Spaniard found himself running in third place ahead of both Red Bulls after they had pitted, although he was eventually overhauled by Vettel, who proved that he could overtake with a neat move into Turn 1.
While Hamilton tried the same tyre strategy as Alonso, Button elected to switch to the ‘soft’ rubber in the hope that pitting one less time than the sister McLaren could net him the race win.
These tactics became all the more interesting when another show hit the circuit, and Hamilton threw away his lead with a quick spin at the chicane on the 47th lap. In his haste to rejoin the action, his spin-turn forced Paul di Resta off the circuit as the Scot took avoiding action, an incident that would ultimately earn Hamilton his drive-through penalty.
While the stewards deliberated over whether to penalise Hamilton, Button led for four laps until he slid off in the greasy conditions and Hamilton took the lead once more. The pair swapped places twice more over the next lap, until Hamilton made the ultimately unwise choice to pit for intermediates. True to form, the rain stopped and Hamilton was back into the pits for dry tyres, before following that up with his drive-through penalty.
Button now held an assured lead, and despite some late-race pressure from Vettel, he hung on to claim his second race win of the season, a fine result after back-to-back DNFs at Britain and Germany.
Alonso would regain third place from Webber (who also made an unnecessary switch to intermediates), who dropped to fifth behind Hamilton by the chequered flag. Felipe Massa – despite gently backing his Ferrari into the wall early in the race – brought the second Ferrari home in sixth place.
Following on from Adrian Sutil’s outstanding drive at Germany just a week ago, it was now Force India team-mate Paul di Resta’s turn to enjoy a moment in the sun, with the Scot driving an assured race to claim an excellent seventh place. By contrast, Sutil – usually a specialist in these conditions – was never in the hunt after a dreadful getaway off the line, finishing 14th and a lap behind his rookie team-mate.
On their one-hundredth Grand Prix, it was a fine result for Toro Rosso, which saw both cars finish in the points for the second time this season. This time it was Sébastien Buemi who enjoyed more of the limelight, making a scintillating start from the back row of the grid (after a five-place grid penalty for his collision with Heidfeld at Germany) to finish a fine eighth. Team-mate Jaime Alguersuari finished tenth, with the pair sandwiching Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes.
In fact, it wasn’t the most impressive run from the Silver Arrows’. Nico Rosberg – also starting his 100th race – made the costly error of pitting for intermediates when the second shower hit, while Michael Schumacher retired shortly after a spin earlier in the race. The W02 cars showed plenty of straight-line speed, but this seemed to be rather at the expense of downforce and traction in the slower sections of the twisty Hungaroring layout.
Sauber tried its now customary trick of trying to finish in the points by dint of making fewer pit stops than its rivals – the Ferrari-powered cars evidently lacking the overall pace to outsprint their competitors – and it almost worked, with Kamui Kobayashi holding down seventh place late in the race. But the Japanese driver’s tyres were shot, and he was forced to pit for fresh rubber late in the race when they cried enough. It was the same story for Sergio Pérez, who finished well down in fifteenth.
Renault had a weekend to forget, with the podium-getting pace of the start of the season seeming like a distant memory after some wretched form once again. Neither car made the top-ten phase of qualifying, and Heidfeld tooled around at the back of the field after a bad start before his R30 tried to impersonate a barbecue. Team-mate Vitaly Petrov couldn’t muster any pace in conditions where he usually performs quite well, and he finished in twelfth. The team – which is rumoured to be jettisoning Heidfeld soon (although frankly that’s the least of their concerns) – looks a right mess…
And Williams yet again flattered to deceive, with Rubens Barrichello appearing on the fringes of the points, but unable to harness his traditional wet-weather prowess en route to a distant 13th. Team-mate Pastor Maldonado earned a drive-through penalty early in the race, and finished 16th. Typically, wet weather helps to flatter the performance of bad cars, but even it couldn’t help the pedestrian FW33. The team is no doubt counting down the days until 2012, when it gets Renault power and a Mike Coughlan designed car…
Team Lotus was another to talk away from Hungary with its tail well and truly between its legs, after the green cars picked up another double-DNF, this time with both Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli retiring with near-identical water leaks in their Renault engines. Trulli – back from a one-race ‘rest’ and enjoying the new power steering unit fitted to his T128 – was the most motivated we’ve seen him all season, and ran closer to Kovalainen’s pace than he had all year. But kudos to the less-experienced Finn once again, with the former McLaren driver running in the lower midfield – fending off the attacks of Heidfeld, Sutil and Maldonado – until he retired.
This left Timo Glock to finish the best of the ‘sophomore team’ drivers in 17th place, while team-mate Jérôme d’Ambrosio finished two spots back after suffering an embarrassing spin in the pit lane.
Splitting the two Virgins was HRT rookie Daniel Ricciardo, who found the damp conditions very much to his liking. He ran comfortably ahead of team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi all race long; the Australian fulfilling his first goal of beating his more established team-mate as he tries to justify Red Bull’s faith in his innate talent.
And with Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko predicting that his compatriot Webber would retire from F1 at the end of 2012, young Daniel is certainly doing his level best to impress his bosses further up the pit lane…
2011 Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (70 laps):
|1.||Jenson Button||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||70||1:46:42.337|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7||70||+ 3.588|
|3.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F150° Italia||70||+ 19.819|
|4.||Lewis Hamilton||Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||70||+ 48.338|
|5.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing – Renault RB7||70||+ 49.742|
|6.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F150° Italia||70||+ 1:23.176|
|7.||Paul di Resta||Force India F1 Team – Mercedes VJM04||69||1 lap behind|
|8.||Sébastien Buemi||Scuderia Toro Rosso – Ferrari STR6||69||1 lap behind|
|9.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team W02||69||1 lap behind|
|10.||Jaime Alguersuari||Scuderia Toro Rosso – Ferrari STR6||69||1 lap behind|
|11.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber F1 Team – Ferrari C30||69||1 lap behind|
|12.||Vitaly Petrov||Lotus Renault GP R31||69||1 lap behind|
|13.||Rubens Barrichello||AT&T Williams – Cosworth FW33||68||2 laps behind|
|14.||Adrian Sutil||Force India F1 Team – Mercedes VJM04||68||2 laps behind|
|15.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber F1 Team – Ferrari C30||68||2 laps behind|
|16.||Pastor Maldonado||AT&T Williams – Cosworth FW33||68||2 laps behind|
|17.||Timo Glock||Marussia Virgin Racing – Cosworth||66||4 laps behind|
|18.||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT F1 Team – Cosworth F111||66||4 laps behind|
|19.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Marussia Virgin Racing – Cosworth||65||5 laps behind|
|20.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Team – Cosworth F111||65||5 laps behind|
|DNF.||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus – Renault T128||55||Water Leak|
|DNF.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team W02||26||Gearbox|
|DNF.||Nick Heidfeld||Lotus Renault GP R31||23||Fire|
|DNF.||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus – Renault T128||17||Water Leak|
|Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F150° Italia||61||1:23.415|
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