Lewis Hamilton romped into Sundays race with all the pomp and circumstance afforded to him from the press following a dominant qualifying session. But strip away the dazzling headlines and the superfluous praise from the star struck press and what you have on Sunday is the business end of a Formula 1 race weekend. Sunday is where it matters most, points are gained, reputations are made.
So when the red lights finally went off the on race day Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were expected to fly away from 1st and 2nd on the grid respectively. Both were out sprinted to the first corner by the Ferrari’s which was lead by Sebastian Vettel who began the race in third.
Hamilton had been out dragged by his team mate but Nico Rosberg had also been out dragged by the second Ferrari of Raikkonen who started from fifth. As the Finn battled Rosberg mid corner around turn 1 by turn 2 he was second with Hamilton behind both in 4th.
The Hungaroring is tight and twisty, similar to Monaco but more open, while overtaking is difficult it isn’t impossible and by turn seven Hamilton looked to take third from Rosberg but he misjudged the attempt and slid off into the gravel yet he managed to keep momentum and rejoin the track, dropping down the order as those close behind him on the opening lap streamed past.
Meanwhile Vettel and Raikkonen built up a useful lead with Vettel having an edge over his team mate and also Rosberg who was struggling to muster consistency from his superior Mercedes. Hamilton was stuck behind the Williams of Felipe Massa and it wasn’t until lap 10 that he used his Mercedes to get past in a very closely fought battle for 9th.
Massa was effectively slowing Hamilton down, released from the Williams’ obstinate pace Hamilton then set about trying to make amends for his opening lap errors.
There were many race incidents and most notably Pastor Maldonado showed as much consistency in this area as Vettel did through out the race. But lap 42 the course of the race was altered as the Force India driven by Nico Hulkenberg brought out the safety car.
Hulkenberg was heading down to turn 1 on lap 42 out of 69 when his front wing snapped off and temporarily jammed underneath his car at close to 200mph. The wing instantly shattered into shards of carbon fiber which rained down on the main straight. Hulkenberg applied the brakes and in a cloud of tyre smoke went straight on and into the crash barriers. He was fine, the impact minimal as he scrubbed off a lot of speed.
At first the virtual safety car was deployed then the safety car proper came out to clear up the debris. Vettel’s advantage had been neutralised as the field bunched up by now Hamilton was in 4th with Rosberg 3rd and it seemed the Mercedes duo were back in the race, with Hamilton the biggest threat to Vettel.
With the safety period over on lap 49 the race resumed but with Raikkonen at a severe disadvantage, his KERS system was not working, he was easy prey to any driver and to Rosberg it was like taking candy from a child. Raikkonen’s issue would eventually lead to his retirement but it was the Kimi of old for at least one race.
Hamilton fared less well on the re-start, he seemed to be sleeping when the safety car drove back into the pits and this allowed Ricciardo to slip stream him on the straight. Ricciardo was side by side with Hamilton when he went for position going into turn 1.
Both drivers broke as late as the other, Ricciardo later and Hamilton later still, Hamilton collided with Ricciardo damaging the side pod of the Red Bull but the Mercedes suffered a broken wing which left Hamilton with reduced aerodynamics.
Although the damage to Hamilton’s front wing didn’t look too bad it was and so he pitted on lap 51 to change for a new wing and was seemingly out of the points. Worse still Hamilton was given a drive through penalty on lap 55 for causing the collision with Ricciardo. This dropped Hamilton to 13th and out of the points.
So the race was Vettel’s almost certainly, with Rosberg unable to do anything about it. Behind him was Ricciardo, his Red Bull was suited to the Hungaroring and with Rosberg struggling on medium tyres a battle for second place was beginning to dawn.
And it happened on lap 63, exiting the last corner Ricciardo began to draw closer to Rosberg on the straight and as the two approached turn 1 it still seemed the Red Bull was too far behind. He was but somehow he out-braked Rosberg and managed to eclipse the Mercedes driver into second albeit briefly.
Ricciardo carried a lot of speed into turn 1 and looked to be heading wide but he made it round, Rosberg had the better line and grip and then closed the door on Ricciardo to secure position. It was a mistake by Rosberg because the Red Bull was closing down as the two hurtled out of turn 1. Rosberg’s right rear clipped the Red Bull’s front wing which caused an instant punture.
Rosberg limped back to the pits for new tyres and dropped down the order eventually finishing the race in 8th. Ricciardo’s front wing was damaged and as a result he pitted on lap 65 this allowed his Russian team mate into 2nd but Ricciardo was too far behind with too few laps remaining and had to settle for 3rd.
Hamilton eventually finished 6th a great recovery but expected considering he has the superior machine but he was still too far behind to take fifth which was rewarded to the McLaren of Alonso. With Rosberg in 8th Hamilton actually increased his championship lead the Ricciardo incident cost the German dear and would have seen Lewis with a deficit to make up.
However Sebastian Vettel seemed un-flustered through out, the chaos behind him was in stark contrast to the lack of it at the front in what was a supreme and well deserved victory. The Ferrari and Vettel were a good match for Hungary it remains to be seen if that form can be replicated at the next race in Belgium in three weeks time.
For Hamilton it was a race full of errors to which he admitted to after the race. But crucially he goes away with not too much damage done, it could have been a lot worse what ever way you look at it it was the most entertaining and thrilling race in some years.
Hungarian Grand Prix Race Results, 2015