Budapest – Australians all let us rejoice, for Ricciardo has won! To say that the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix was anything less than racing at its finest would be criminal. The 70 lap grand prix began with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton far from his usual place in the first two rows, as he began the race from the pit lane after a disastrous fire brought his qualifying to a close early on Saturday. With him was the unlucky Dane, Kevin Magnussen, who slid off the rather wet track and into the barriers during Q3.
The grid was set as 1) Rosberg, 2) Vettel, 3) Bottas, 4) Ricciardo, 5) Alonso, 6) Massa, 7) Button, 8) Vergne, 9) Hülkenberg, 10) Kvyat, 11) Sutil, 12) Pérez, 13) Gutierrez, 14) Grosjean, 15) Bianchi, 16) Räikkönen, 17) Kobayashi, 18) Chilton, 19) Ericsson, 20) Maldonado.
All began well, save for Daniil Kvyat whose car shut down as the formation lap was just getting under way. In the first lap of the race, Rosberg was able to break away, holding his lead ahead of Bottas and Alonso, who were able to get around Vettel. Hamilton and Magnussen got their race off to a start from the pit lane, Magnussen quickly making up his unlucky starting place to come into 19th by Lap 4. Hamilton did not have quite as good of a starting lap, spinning off the track at Turn 2, just barely bending part of his front wing out of place.
By Lap 3, Jenson Button had made great pace, rising from 7th to 5th, while his former McLaren teammate at last began to move up the grid, who by Lap 8 had made it up to 13th. At Lap 9, Caterham’s Swedish rookie Marcus Ericsson hit the wall quite hard at Turn 3, leading to the first appearance of the safety car for the day. Thankfully, Ericsson was able to get out of his car and walk away.
The safety car period led to Button, Ricciardo, and Hamilton pitting, putting on dry weather tyres as the rain seemed to be clearing. They were soon followed on Lap 10 by Rosberg, Bottas, Vettel, and Alonso.
The safety car was forced to remain on track for a little while longer than expected, as Lotus’ Romain Grosjean crashed into the barriers at Lap 11 on Turn 3. With the safety car on track, the field was led this time by Ricciardo, Button, Massa, Rosberg, and Magnussen leading. Rosberg had some rear-break issues at this point, and there was some worry that they too might catch fire like his British teammate’s car had done on Saturday.
Thankfully, no such event occurred, and by Lap 14, the safety car was happily returned to the paddock. At that point, the racing recommenced, with Button passing Ricciardo to take the lead. Rosberg’s troubles continued, as he began to lose pace to Toro Rosso’s Jean-Éric Vergne, leaving the German down in 5th. Meanwhile, Hamilton continued to ascend, climbing up to 9th.
At Lap 16, Button pitted, his tyres worn beyond use. Ricciardo retook the lead, followed closely by Felipe Massa in 2nd. At Lap 17, the 10 race scoring streak of Nico Hülkenberg came to a sudden end after, as BBC Sport’s F1 team put it, the German was “punted out of the race by his team-mate Sergio Pérez.”
A collision between Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado and Marussia’s Jules Bianchi on Lap 20 led to both drivers returning to the pits for repairs. Likewise, Sergio Pérez found himself in close proximity with the wall just past the final corner, forcing his retirement from the race, resulting in the return of the safety car to our lives. At the same time, Ricciardo continued to lead the field, followed by Massa, Alonso, and unusually enough, Jean-Éric Vergne of Toro Rosso, who from 4th place continued to hold the Mercedes of drivers championship leader Nico Rosberg at bay in 5th.
The safety car remained on the course until Lap 27, at which point, following pit stops by Ricciardo and Massa, the race leaders were Alonso, Vergne, Rosberg, Vettel, and Hamilton. Rosberg and Hamilton continued to have trouble passing their respective Toro Rosso and Red Bull competitors for the next 6 laps. At Lap 33, Rosberg went into the pits, whilst Vettel caught the kerb on the start-finish straight, sending him hurtling into the wall, which due to amazing skill, and a fair amount of luck, the 4-time world champion missed hitting by a hair.
At Lap 34, Hamilton, finally past Vettel, also made a fantastic pass on Vergne, taking second just 5.4 seconds behind Spanish race leader Alonso. At Lap 38, Rosberg passed Valtteri Bottas for 9th, whilst Lewis Hamilton continued to cut Alonso’s lead down quite dramatically. Hamilton took a brief one lap lead from the pitting Alonso, until the Briton also went into the pits for a tyre change on Lap 40. This left the lead with Ricciardo, Massa, and Räikkönen, who also went in to pit, returning to the track to conduct a beautiful pass on Vettel at Lap 42.
At Lap 51, more fuel was added to the rivalry at Mercedes, when Rosberg began to ask the pit-wall why Hamilton wasn’t letting him through, despite the obvious distance between the two Mercedes cars. Soon there after, Hamilton responded to the pit over the radio, “I’m not slowing down for Nico – if he gets closer he can overtake.” At Lap 54, Ricciardo pitted from the lead, as his rear tyres had begun to give way. He rejoined the field in 4th just behind Rosberg. This left Spainard Fernando Alonso once again in the lead at the Hungaroring, with a 2.1 second gap between him and Hamilton in 2nd place. At Lap 56, Hamilton pitted, rejoining the field in 7th with 3 seconds between him and Räikkönen in 6th place.
Rosberg continued to work on getting onto the podium, climbing to 4th with a pass on Massa at Lap 61. At the same time, his teammate was fast being caught by Ricciardo, as the young driver from Western Australia was running only 0.9 seconds behind the Briton. At Lap 62, with 8 laps remaining, the lead was very much still up in the air, as Alonso was only 0.4 seconds ahead of Hamilton, who in turn was only 0.4 seconds ahead of Ricciardo. At Lap 65, Ricciardo attempted a pass on Hamilton at Turn 2, which did not go the Aussie’s way. At the same time, Rosberg continued to press on the top three, with the pace to catch the leaders by the final lap.
At Lap 67, Ricciardo made the pass, and a brilliant one at that, on Hamilton at Turn 2. One lap later he made a similar move on Alonso at Turn 1, taking the lead of the race. To quote David Coulthard, “There’s just one word for that. Brilliant.” With Ricciardo ahead, Alonso and Hamilton now found themselves with another determined driver on their tails, this time in the form of Hamilton’s German teammate, Nico Rosberg. On Turn 2 of the Lap 70, the final lap, Rosberg attempted a pass on his teammate, but to no avail for the German who had to settle for a 4th place finish.
The results for Hungary stand as follows:
1) Daniel Ricciardo, 2) Fernando Alonso, 3) Lewis Hamilton, 4) Nico Rosberg, 5) Felipe Massa, 6) Kimi Räikkönen, 7) Sebastian Vettel, 8) Valtteri Bottas, 9) Jean-Éric Vergne, 10) Jenson Button
11) Adrian Sutil, 12) Kevin Magnussen, 13) Pastor Maldonado, 14) Daniil Kvyat, 15) Jules Bianchi, 16) Max Chilton.
The following did not finish the race: Esteban Gutierrez, Sergio Pérez, Nico Hülkenberg, Romain Grosjean, and Marcus Ericssson.
Formula 1 is heading into its mid summer break, which will last for 3 weeks. I will be back with more on the world’s greatest motor sport in 3 weeks time with the beautiful Belgian Grand Prix at Spa.