Lewis Hamilton is back in contention for the title after a brilliant drive in Hungary. photo: DaveWilsonPhotography

Hungarian Grand Prix: a review

After claiming his third consecutive pole for Mercedes on Saturday at the Hungaroring, Lewis Hamilton said it would be a “miracle” if he could win the race on Sunday.

Hamilton seemingly thought that the team’s lack of knowledge about the new Pirelli tyres would send them backwards in the sweltering race temperatures against the likes of Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen.

This followed the German outfit missing out on the three day Young Drivers test at Silverstone as punishment for “Tyregate”, in which teams completed in excess of 300 vital laps learning about Pirelli’s new rubber.

In the end though, Hamilton was imperious. He drove calmly, managing the temperatures of tyres, engine and brakes, to take his first win of the season and for Mercedes.

Having kept the lead into the first corner, Hamilton made his first stop for fresh rubber under threat from Vettel and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean.

He was unlucky to rejoin just behind the McLaren of Jenson Button who started on the harder of the two tyre compounds and was running a long first stint.

Hamilton passed his former team-mate into turn one after just a lap. However, when Vettel and Grosjean rejoined behind Button, they were stuck for 12 laps, allowing Hamilton to build a ten-second cushion at the front. From there, he cruised to the win. 

Vettel would eventually finish third after falling behind the two stopping Kimi Raikkonen and being unable to re-pass the Finn in the closing laps. The German’s teammate Mark Webber raced well to finish fourth after qualifying only tenth due to a KERS failure, making good use of being able to start on the prime tyre.


The result does not suggest Hamilton is the better racer: I believe that Red Bull’s car philosophy lets them down at a circuit like the Hungaroring


Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso made the best of an off-the-pace Ferrari to come home fifth, finishing narrowly ahead of Grosjean. The Frenchman will probably feel disheartened after looking to be capable of fighting for victory all weekend. He was given a drive-through penalty that dropped him out of contention when he was deemed to have driven with all four wheels off the track in a sensational pass around the outside of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa at the 160mph turn four. 

Grosjean was also given a 20-second time penalty after the race for a collision with Button, who eventually finished seventh. Button was followed by Massa, teammate Perez and the Williams of Pastor Maldonado; the latter scored his and Williams’ very first point of the season.

This will presumably be little compensation though, as they continue to have the worst season in their history, just two seasons after their previous worst season in history!

It seems incredible to think that this very team dominated much of the 1980s and 1990s with nine constructors and seven drivers’ championships. Indeed, as an F1 fan, it saddens me to see them scrapping over the final point week in week out.

However, this weekend Williams did outperform Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso who all failed to score.

Most surprising of this collection is Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo who started eighth on the grid, but would eventually finish behind teammate Jean-Eric Vergne, who started 14th.

This is not good timing for the Australian, with Red Bull set to decide which driver will replace the retiring Webber for the start of the 2014 campaign. Whilst he continues to put in strong qualifying performances, he has been outscored by his teammate so far this season, as he was last year.

If he is to receive the call to the senior squad (Toro Rosso are owned by Red Bull), he will have to show he can score consistently, so vital for a team like Red Bull chasing the constructors’ championship.

So what did we learn going into the summer break? In my opinion, not a lot. I feel that Vettel would have mounted a much stronger challenge to Hamilton had he have been able to pass Jenson Button sooner.

The result does not suggest Hamilton is the better racer: I believe that Red Bull’s car philosophy lets them down at a circuit like the Hungaroring.

Watching the on-board, Hamilton simply coasts by with a combination of KERS, DRS and his Mercedes excellent straight line speed. However, Red Bull tend to run a high downforce set up, making them incredibly strong in high speed corners but creates a lot of drag on straights, making overtaking very difficult.

This will work if Vettel starts from pole and gets out of the DRS range of those behind quickly, as he demonstrated so crushingly in 2011. However, when he is consistently being outpaced by Mercedes in qualifying, one has to question whether it is always the right policy.

They will certainly need to think about their approach carefully for the high speed circuits of Spa and Monza coming up after the summer break. Betting against Mercedes at those tracks would certainly be a bold move.


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