By Hannah Taylor, F1 Correspondent
- Button wins his 200th Grands Prix
- Tyre choice ruined Hamilton’s race
- Vettel still leading championship
McLaren’s Jenson Button marked his 200th race in F1, as he stole the show and took the victory at the 26th race around the Hungaroring. The 2009 World Champion achieved his 36th podium finish, ahead of Red Bull driver and polesitter Sebastian Vettel. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso followed closely behind, to take the final step on the podium.
Button described his emotions about winning the race, how it went and marking his special achievement in such a way.
“I want to say a big, big thank you to the team today. The car worked a treat in all conditions, and we made all the right strategy calls. We deserved this win and it felt great to stand alongside my race engineer Dave (Robson) on the occasion of his first appearance on the podium. The race was a brilliantly eventful one… This was the perfect way to celebrate my 200th Grand Prix, and the team can enter the summer a break with a spring in its step”, commented a very satisfied Button.
Before the lights went out to start the race, the heavens opened and rain was pouring onto the track. Luckily, the wet weather conditions did stop, once the on track action did get going. As a result of this, the track drying out over the early laps, deteriorated the grip the tyres had on the circuit. In light of the tricky situation at the beginning of the Grand Prix, the entire field had their cars set up with the intermediate tyre compound.
Although the rain had stopped falling, the initial lap and track conditions were not easy for any of the drivers. Despite this Vettel maintained pole position as they set off after the lights turned to green, and Button’s team mate, Lewis Hamilton, was just about holding onto second place.
Meanwhile, the Ferrari duo of Alonso and his Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa fell off the pace of the top front-runners. Both drivers rapidly lost their original starting grid slots, and Alonso was ahead in sixth place from Massa. While the pair lost out it was the Mercedes’ boys gain. Nico Rosberg jumped into fourth place, which left Michael Schumacher trailing in fifth position. However, Rosberg did have a minor blip on the first lap, as he ran wide and took Button’s third place temporarily. The German quickly gave Button the place back, as he may have been deemed to be at an advantage if he had not done so.
The early happenings on the track also included the first in-team battle. Button was working hard to get on Hamilton’s tail, and at one point his efforts prevailed. Both drivers were lining up side by side, but sadly, Button could not turn the scrap into gaining second place from the 2008 World Champion. With the pressure off Hamilton, once his team mate dropped back from him a little, he was slipping on the track but managed to tackle Vettel for first place. Hamilton successfully made the most of his opportunity, once he had the use of DRS on lap three. Vettel then dropped down to second place and lost the lead into Turn one.
It seemed that Hamilton found his feet as the leader a few laps on, as the Englishman set the fastest time on lap six. He topped the timesheets with a lap of 1:43.736secs. This quick time was shortly followed up at an even faster pace, as Hamilton crossed the line on lap eight with a 1:41.287secs.
As Hamilton seemed to be increasing his lead from Vettel, elsewhere Massa spent time off the track rather than progressing on it. He came off the circuit at the exit of Turn 2, and tried to fight against the car running wide. His efforts to prevent this from happening failed, as he slipped off the track and ended up in close company with the tyre wall. However, Massa seemed to suffer little damage to his car, except for a chunk of his rear wing missing. Nevertheless, he was able to get back racing again. The location of Massa’s mishap already seemed a notorious place for catching out other front-runners early on in the race. Vettel and Alonso had been victims at Turn 2, where they temporarily slipped of the circuit.
Despite getting off to a cracking start as the race got underway, the time came for the famous tyre wear to take effect on Rosberg and Schumacher’s cars. It was a similar situation for current Constructor’s title leaders, Red Bull. It was reported that the team were uncertain, as to which tyres they would put on Vettel and Mark Webber’s cars. After some deliberation Webber was the first of the two to make his stop, he emerged from the pits with the super soft compound on. Unfortunately, the slicks did not settle on his car straight away. Initially, the Australian appeared to struggle for grip, but after a while did get back on track with the pace.
Following Webber’s decision to pit on lap 11, some of the other drivers responded to this. As well as Lotus Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, Massa and Williams driver Rubens Barrichello all met in the pits for a tyre change. Consequently, the trio fell down the field in terms of track position. Button was one of the front-runners though, who was able to rejoin a little closer to the top. The Briton was maintaining sixth place after changing to super soft tyres on lap 12. During the first period of pit stops, the line up did have a bit of shake up. Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi was in seventh place for a while, followed by Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi, and Webber in ninth place. Buemi’s Spanish team mate Jaime Alguersuari was just behind Webber in 10th position, and ahead of Force India’s Paul Di Resta and Team Lotus driver, Heikki Kovalainen.
Hamilton was among those to pit next, and was at an advantage over his Championship rivals. He was lucky enough to have a brand new set of super soft tyres available to him. Vettel and Alonso were next to blink for a tyre change, and were accompanied by Rosberg and Kobayashi as well. This meant that with the normal front-runners in the pits, or others coming back from midfield positions, Schumacher was actually in the lead at this stage. The seven times World Champion and former winner in Hungary, was still on the intermediate tyre, and yet to make a stop. When the German did eventually give in and make a visit to the pits, Hamilton was able to resume his lead at the front. However, his team mate Button was putting him under pressure, as he set the fastest lap with a 1:35.881secs on lap 14. In doing such a solid lap time, Button also took the opportunity to take second place from Vettel, who quickly slid down to third place. It appeared that the McLaren team’s decision to pit Button early paid off with this result. Consequently, it was not long until Massa responded to the times being set up front, even though he was down in ninth place on lap 15. He impressed with a solid lap time of 1:35.361secs, and Hamilton did the same minutes later with a 1:31.634secs. The competition between pace setting seemed to heat up from then on, as Alonso joined the trend on lap 18 and recorded a time of 1:28.622secs, which Hamilton soon improved on with a 1:28.264secs. Button then muscled in on the game, and went one to better their times with a 1:28.154secs.
While it was a game of cat and mouse with the lap times at the front, Webber was having a battle of his own as he fought to stay on the track. He temporarily went via the scenic route as he ran wide on lap 15. Webber managed to get himself out of the situation with ease, but Williams driver Pastor Maldonado was not quite so fortunate. The Venezuelan rookie to the sport this season, was under investigation by the stewards for speeding in the pit lane, on the same lap that Webber went off course. He was then issued with a drive through penalty, and once served he fell down the field losing numerous places. Just a short while later and the stewards had more work on their hands, as Kovalainen became of interest to them. The Finnish driver was under investigation for an unsafe release during his pit stop. It was reported soon after that, no further action would be taken on the matter. To add to the team’s troubles they were about to get worse, when Kovalainen’s Italian team mate, Jarno Trulli was forced to retire from the race on lap 20. It was reported a little while later, that his exit from the race was due to a suspected oil leak.
With some drivers suffering due to problems off the track and technical or pit stop related, the rest of the field continued to battle against each other for position. Schumacher and Massa’s scrap particularly came to the forefront of the action for a few laps. Schumacher had the upper hand as he was the one ahead, and Massa was keen to pass the former Ferrari driver. Schumacher’s strong track record at this race, was being demonstrated very well, as he fought to keep eighth place and not yield to Massa. While this was going on it seemed that Rosberg was also doing well like his team mate. The German was driving a strong race and maintaining sixth place from di Resta on lap 21. Towards the front of the pack it was a similar story, but on this occasion Webber and Vettel were competing against each other, in contrast to Rosberg and Schumacher, who were leading themselves against other drivers. Although Webber was sitting in fourth place on lap 22, he was 6.7 seconds faster than Vettel who was leading. Button did surprise the pair almost instantly though, as he set the fastest lap of the race then, with a blistering time of 1:22.057secs.
Further down the field around this stage of the race, and the midfield drivers were having their own battle for position. The scrap involved Maldonado, who was trailing the others in 17th place. Kovalainen was racing well in 15th position and Force India’s Adrian Sutil was in the middle of the trio in 16th place.
As well as observing the scraps for position towards the end of the field that were getting heated, it was a similar situation for Lotus Renault’s Nick Heidfeld in more ways than one. It was reported in the pits that during his pit stop on lap 25, there was a problem with fitting one of the rear tyres. As a result of the delay and the car being stationary, it seemed that the car had overheated and actually caught fire as he left the pit box. The German pulled to the side of the track just beyond the pit exit, and leapt out of his car as the fire worsened. The engine then blew up which led to an explosion, and this occurred when a marshal was putting out the blaze. Luckily all involved seemed to come out of it unscathed except for the car.
The incident did not hamper the rest of the field completely, as a safety car was not required. The majority of the field did respond though and decided to pit just one lap later. Button and Vettel who were leading the pack, remained out on track for a bit longer while the others made their stops for a tyre change. When the top two did make their essential visit to the pits, Vettel rejoined the race and took the lead, which left Button in third place on lap 28.
Meanwhile, Schumacher sadly did not get to race on like Vettel and Button. Schumacher had to abandon his car off the circuit after spinning, and nearly collecting Massa in the process. In order to avoid possible contact with Massa, he went off the track but lost gear at the same time. This spelt the end of his race, and before retiring from it he had struggled with his tyres as well.
With another retiree from the Grand Prix, the rest of the drivers continued to race on. Trouble was near by for Sauber drive, Sergio Perez though on lap 31. The Mexican rookie to F1 this season, suddenly became of interest to the stewards. He was reported to be under investigation for overtaking Maldonado under a yellow flag, as he already had started his overtaking manoeuvre before he had passed the green flag. On the following lap he was issued with a drive through penalty, and had to serve this within three laps of it being given.
The competitive racing was in full swing at the front of the field, as Webber and Alonso were seen scrapping for position. Webber was leading in fourth place, and Alonso was attempting to tackle him from behind in fifth place on lap 34. Alonso’s team mate, Massa was having his own bit of fun as well. He managed to successfully snatch sixth place from Kobayashi around that time. As a consequence of making a pit stop shortly after, Kobayashi dropped from seventh to 13th place, whereas Alonso and Webber did not lose out too badly track position wise. Alonso emerged from the pits in fifth place just behind Webber. Alonso was the first to make another stop, and Webber followed suit shortly after. However, they had both made a previous stop at the same time working in sync with each other.
While Webber was in the pits on the next occasion the stop did not go quite so smoothly. There was a slight delay in putting on the right front tyre, but he still managed to get back on track in a good place. Likewise, Hamilton also had his fair share of pit stop issues as Webber had experienced. During his stop it was a slightly different problem, as he seemed to have trouble getting into gear. He eventually overcame the issue and still rejoined the race from first to third place. The pit stop dramas seemed to pass on to other front-runners as well. Massa’s rear tyre was slow to go on during his stop, which resulted in a short delay. On the other hand, Vettel and Button appeared to have problem free pit stops.
On lap 47 the rain reared its ugly head again, which was of benefit to some drivers and not others. Button was at the heart of the action as he was leading the race. Hamilton was following closely behind in second place, but spun off the track between Turns six and seven. There was a puff of blue smoke and di Resta was quickly in the mix of this. The Scotsman seemed to resort to driving off the track momentarily, as he had no other way of avoiding possible contact with Hamilton. On lap 54 the incident came to the attention of the stewards, and Hamilton was swiftly under investigation for impeding di Resta. After getting back on course again, Hamilton went head to head with team mate Button.
The pair were on a different set up to each other at the time, which made the scrap interesting to watch. Button opted for the prime tyre during his previous pit stop, and Hamilton chose the option compound instead. It was likely that Button’s would go off first if they lost temperature. The pair eventually got the opportunity to swap positions with each other. Hamilton slipped passed when Button ran wide and went off the track for a moment. In any case Button ran wide once again and had to wait a while to take the lead. At a similar time to this, Webber had just done the same at Turn three, and his team mate, Vettel suffered the same mishap minutes later. He went off the track for a short period at Turn 13, before the reigning World Champion got back to racing again. The slippery slope that was very much felt on the track, seemed to rub off in the pit lane at one point. Marussia Virgin Racing’s Jerome d’Ambrosio spun into his pit box with a handbrake like turn. The rookie F1 racer recovered himself, but startled the pit crew who were in the garage at the time.
Following his time off the track at Turn 3, Webber visited the pits for intermediate tyres, and Hamilton opted for the same compound when he came in on lap 53. As Hamilton had been out of the way for a short while, Button took the lead around this time. Vettel was in second place ahead of Hamilton, Alonso, Webber and Massa.
The stewards announced their decision in between pit stop visits, that Hamilton would have to serve a drive through, as a result of his actions against Di Resta earlier on. This caused a double disadvantage to Hamilton, who it seemed was already on the wrong tyres and would lose time, when he took the drive through penalty within three laps of receiving it.
In response to the changeable weather, Webber decided to make another pit stop and changed to dry tyres on this occasion. Button was also running on the same ones, and these seemed to be working well, as he was maintaining the lead on lap 56.
After serving his penalty on lap 57, Hamilton ended up in a three-way squabble for position. He was holding sixth place at the time, with Massa ahead in fifth position and Webber was one place above that. Alonso then spun at Turn 12, and Hamilton passed Massa with ease to take fifth place between Turns six and seven. In the distance Button was running away with the lead, and setting impressive lap times in the range of 1:23secs.
The final round of pit stops were made around lap 59, which included Massa who had been there four times overall. Webber made five stops for tyre changes, and Alonso held the record between the three of six stops. On the whole there were a massive 88 pit stops during the race, but where Hamilton and Maldonado were concerned, they had one stop each to serve penalties rather than change tyres.
With 10 laps to go until the end of the race, Kovalainen retired on lap 60 to make it a double disappointment for the Norfolk UK based team. He parked his car off the track, which spelt the end to his Hungarian Grand Prix.
In the closing stages of the race, there was an exciting midfield scrap going on. Di Resta was leading the way in sixth place, Kobayashi was next in eighth, Buemi in ninth place, his team mate was just behind in 10th position, and Rosberg was on the tail end in 11th place. Kobayashi was the one who lost out though, as he locked up his wheels at Turn 2 on lap 61. In doing so the Japanese driver swiftly fell from eighth to 11th place. On his way to losing track position, Buemi passed him smoothly, but Alguersuari was not quite so lucky. In eagerness to get a piece of the action like Buemi, Alguersuari attempted to jump ahead as well. Unfortunately, he could not make the move stick as efficiently, and had contact with Kobayashi. The trio did go on to finish the race though. Buemi had an impressive finish in eighth place, Alguersuari was 10th ahead of Kobayashi in 11th position. Rosberg was the only Mercedes to finish and did so in a Toro Rosso sandwich in ninth place.
Around the time of Kobayashi losing positions, Webber and Hamilton were two of the front-runners who got stuck in traffic that he was at the front of. The situation came to benefit Hamilton though, he slipped passed Webber and took fourth place from him on lap 64. The two positions remained the same and Hamilton finished in fourth place ahead of Webber in fifth position.
Massa was outperformed by his team mate Alonso who got onto the podium. Massa then finished a few places down from him in sixth place. Di Resta was next in seventh position, which makes it the best result so far this season for the rookie. The top 10 finish for di Resta, also means that he has got ahead of his team mate once again. Meanwhile, Sutil did complete the race but had to settle for 14th position.
As Heidfeld got blasted out of his car with the flames thrown from it and retired from the race, his team mate Petrov had a bit of a more positive end to his. He missed out on a top 10 finish by a couple of places and came across the line in 12th position. Barrichello completed the race just in between Sutil and Petrov. However, his team mate Maldonado was a little further down the field in 16th place. Perez slipped in the middle of Maldonado and Sutil to come in 15th place overall.
Towards the back end of the field where the newest teams are concerned, Marussia Virgin Racing finished the best of the three. Team Lotus were written out of the fight after both cars retired from the race. As a result of this, Timo Glock finished in 17th place, while his Belgian team mate D’Ambrosio secured 19th place. Daniel Ricciardo for Hispania Racing managed to sneak in between the pair, to take 18th position and beat his Italian team mate who was the last in the line up in 20th place.
Following the final line up in the race classification, the Driver’s title battle is still very much held by Vettel. He currently leads with 234 points, while Webber is in second place with 149 points. Hamilton is a tiny margin off catching Webber, and is just three points behind him. The gap between Alonso in fourth place and Hamilton in third is just one point separating the pair. Despite the race win today, Button remains in fifth place in the Standings, and is 11 points adrift from Alonso. On the other hand, the Constructor’s battle is a lot more spaced out with Red Bull in command. They currently have a comfortable lead with 383 points, while McLaren are in second place with 280 points at present. Ferrari are in third position and are trailing McLaren by 65 points.
After a real thriller of a race, which included drive through penalties, lots of exciting overtaking manoeuvres, and the mix of the weather affecting the tyres, Button was the one who conquered it all to take the victory. The Briton is certain to see it as a special win as he reached a landmark, in terms of Grand Prix races he has taken part in so far. Hungary was also his first victory in F1 just five years ago. The 24 drivers and their teams now have a three week break, until they take on their next challenge in Belgium at the end of August.