Button wins Hungary thriller

By on Monday, August 1, 2011

There were various milestones to be celebrated ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix: it was the 25th anniversary of their first event in 1986, the 100th race for V8 engines, Nico Rosberg and Toro Rosso, the 850th championship race for Formula One and the 200th race for Jenson Button. Yes, there really have been 200 races since a fresh faced Button arrived on the scene in 2000, running as high as 4th in his debut race before his BMW engine blew. Via a few seasons of awful cars, followed by a championship, Button arrived in Hungary desperate to overturn a series of bad races, with a poor showing in Valencia preceding two retirements, neither of which were his fault. Five years after his famous maiden win, he did it again in similar conditions, beating Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and claiming his 11th career win.

The F1 community woke up to a wet day in Hungary, which very few forecasters predicted. Support races were run in wet conditions and continuous rain left the track not too wet, but extremely slippery at the start. Felipe Massa ran off on his installation lap, whilst Nico Rosberg did the same on the formation lap.

At the start, Hamilton attacked Vettel, with the track offering virtually no grip and leaving the drivers sliding all over the place. Both Mercedes made good progress, although soon slipped back. The only casualties were Sergio Perez and Adrian Sutil, who slipped down the order.

Hamilton continued to attack, the DRS helping him to close Vettel down but not overtake. When Vettel ran wide on Lap 5, he gifted Hamilton the lead. The McLaren driver pulled out a lead over Vettel and when the track was dry enough for slicks on Lap 11, most of the leaders came in. Button pitted one lap earlier than Vettel and this extra tour gave him greater confidence to overtake Vettel, thus leaving McLaren first and second.

The race remained fairly static for a significant period of time as Hamilton held a seven second lead over Button, who was five seconds ahead of Vettel. Webber and Alonso continued to scrap over 4th place another ten seconds further back.

Alonso made an early third stop for more super-softs, and his burst of pace forced everyone to pit. The leaders took the harder compound, although Hamilton took another set of the softer compound. Alonso’s pace began to fade and he was passed by Vettel around the outside of Turn 1.

The race was turned on its head when a quick shower hit the back of the circuit on Lap 47. Hamilton spun exiting the chicane and picked up a drive through penalty for forcing Paul di Resta to take avoiding action when Hamilton tried to recover. Button took the lead, although ran wide, thus starting a McLaren scrap that continued for several laps. Neither driver wanted to be running second, in case the rain intensified and they had to stack in the pits. McLaren called Button in for Intermediate tyres, but he ignored them. Hamilton, who could hear the team on the radio but they couldn’t hear him, pitted for Inters, which proved to be the wrong call. He came in again a few laps later for slicks and his penalty dropped him to 6th.

Mark Webber also made the incorrect decision for Inters, a move that dropped him significantly behind Alonso. The Spaniard survived a late race spin to take the final podium spot. Late race traffic helped Hamilton pass Webber as the long time race leader recovered to 4th.

Kobayashi tried a two stop strategy but the tyres just wouldn’t co-operate, leaving him down in 11th. Both Toro Rosso drivers finished in the points, whilst their fellow Red Bull junior driver Daniel Ricciardo beat his team mate, Tonio Liuzzi, for the first time.

One of the most spectacular incidents of the day came on Lap 24, when Nick Heidfeld’s Renault caught fire following a pit stop. Heidfeld quickly jumped out of his car and then seconds something on the R31 exploded. It was astonishing that the race director, Charlie Whiting, did not deploy the safety car as cars continued to race whilst marshals were trying to deal with a large fire. Meanwhile, Jerome d’Ambrosio spun approaching his pit box and thankfully the HRT mechanics were not in the pits, for it was their pit box that the Belgian spun through.

Vettel now leads by 85 points with 200 on offer. The title race is probably over, although Button won't care. And to think, they said he might never win a grand prix...

Pos  Driver        Team                       Time
 1.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           1h43:42.337
 2.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +     3.588
 3.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +    19.819
 4.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +    48.338
 5.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +    49.742
 6.  Massa         Ferrari                    +  1:17.176
 7.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +     1 lap
 8.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +     1 lap
 9.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +     1 lap
10.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +     1 lap
11.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +     1 lap
12.  Petrov        Renault                    +     1 lap
13.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +    2 laps
14.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +    2 laps
15.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +    2 laps
16.  Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth          +    2 laps
17.  Glock         Virgin-Cosworth            +    4 laps
18.  Ricciardo     HRT-Cosworth               +    4 laps
19.  D'Ambrosio    Virgin-Cosworth            +    5 laps
20.  Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth               +    5 laps

Fastest lap: Massa, 1:23.415

Not classified/retirements:

Driver        Team                         On lap/reason
Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault                56 - Mechanical
Schumacher    Mercedes                     27 - No 6th gear.
Heidfeld      Renault                      24 - Fire, explosion. Rather dramatic
Trulli        Lotus-Renault                18 - Oil leak. Rather less dramatic

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