The Hungarian Grand Prix delivered unexpected thrills and spills
Take two slow launching Mercedes, two explosive Ferrari’s, add a determined Daniel Riccardo, mix with plenty wheel-to-wheel contact and throw in a pinch of paprika and you have the Hungarian Grand Prix, and without a doubt, the best Formula 1 race of 2015, so far.
At the flag, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel claimed his second victory of this season, and the 41st of his career, with a win in a Hungarian Grand Prix that saw championship leader Lewis Hamilton’s hasty on-track moves relegate him to a fortunate sixth place, 52 seconds behind Vettel, and title rival Nico Rosberg lose a podium and finish eighth after unnecessarily puncturing his tire from contact with Ricciardo just 5 laps from the end.
Vettel headed home Daniil Kvyat in a career best second place, Daniel Ricciardo in a season’s best third place and 17-year old prodigy Max Verstappen in a career best fourth place.
As expected, Hamilton and Rosberg locked out the front row. However, the Mercedes duo’s slow start saw Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen immediately bolt past pole-sitter around Hamilton through Turn One to make it 1-2 Ferrari in the lead. Rosberg was soon dropped to third, however, as hustled past the German in Turn 3. Hamilton’s woes were compounded when, rushing to pass Rosberg, his Mercedes tires’ lack of grip sent him off into the gravel at the chicane, re-joining in tenth place.
The Ferrari pair held the lead through the first tire stops, and looked on course for the Scuderia’s first 1-2 since the 2010 German Grand Prix until a MGU-K failure put the suddenly struggling Räikkönen out on Lap 56.
On lap 41, Nico Hulkenberg’s front wing collapsed on the main straight and the Force India driver speared into the barriers outside Turn One triggering a Virtual Safety car and a flurry of car pit stops for their final set of tyres.
The track was finally cleared at the end of lap 48 and Vettel powered away to hold his lead while Räikkönen lost second to Rosberg. Ricciardo, on the soft tyre, attacked Hamilton around the outside of his Mercedes through the first two corners, but the pair finally came together; the left side of Hamilton’s front wing was shredded on the right sight of Ricciardo’s Red Bull. Hamilton though fell back to sixth.
The order looked set but at the start of lap 64, Ricciardo saw a hole and jammed his Red Bull inside Rosberg into Turn One. He locked his brakes very late and ran wide. As Rosberg slashed in front of him at the exit to retake the position, he clipped the Australian’s front wing, destroying it, and puncturing his own left rear. Rosberg was forced to pit and rejoined eighth, two places behind Hamilton who had fought his way back through the field to increase his championship lead to 21 points.
That elevated Kvyat to second. Ricciardo survived the incident to finish third. Alonso followed Verstappen to claimed McLaren’s best result of the season with fifth, while Hamilton claimed sixth, ahead of Grosjean. Rosberg passed Button for eighth in the closing laps and Ericsson took the final point for Sauber.
Remarkably, the first four finishers of the Hungarian Grand Prix entered racing as part of Red Bull’s young driver program, with Sebastian Vettel’s 41st victory (which now equals Ayrton Senna’s record) underlining the outstanding success of their initiative.
Jules Bianchi is always unforgettable, and so is the 2015 Hungarian Grand Prix.