Hamilton is the Hungaro-King: Hungarian GP analysis

By on Monday, July 30, 2012

Lewis Hamilton claimed victory in Hungary

For the third time in six seasons, Lewis Hamilton lead home Kimi Raikkonen at the Hungarian Grand Prix to record the nineteenth win of his grand prix career and one that kick starts his title challenge after a disappointing few races.

Prior to the start, Michael Schumacher – who qualified a measly seventeenth – lined up incorrectly on the grid. Subsequently the start was abandoned and another formation lap resulted in the race distance being reduced by a lap. Schumacher then caused further problems for himself when he cut his engine as it was overheating. On being pushed back to the pits, he picked up a puncture and then made too hasty a getaway down the pit lane. His weekend, which had already been utterly dismal, had turned into a farce by the end of the second lap.

It was second time lucky for Lewis Hamilton who led down into Turn One, but for Sebastian Vettel his afternoon took an early, frustrating turn. In trying to pass the slow starting Romain Grosjean, Vettel hung on around the outside of the first corner but was forced onto the runoff. His RB8 only snapped sideways for a brief moment, but it was sufficient enough to allow Jenson Button to demote the reigning world champion to fourth.

Button couldn’t match the early pace demonstrated by his team-mate and slipped back, resulting in a two-car battle at the front. Hamilton had the race under control, but was challenged by the Frenchman in the second stint when Grosjean had a set of used option tyres on his Lotus, while Hamilton remained on another set of prime tyres.

Sebastian Vettel had to be content with fourth

Kimi Raikkonen, who slipped to sixth at the start, conserved his tyres to the extent that when his rivals pitted, he led the race and banged in a series of quick laps. They were sufficient enough to allow him to emerge side-by-side with his team-mate at Turn One, with Raikkonen defending forcefully against his younger sidekick.

Despite a seemingly quicker car and fresher tyres, Raikkonen could do nothing about Hamilton in front and eventually finished just over a second behind the 2008 world champion.

Hamilton was ecstatic with the win that hauls him back into the title fight, but emphasised that his second success of the season was not simple.

“I was under a lot of pressure throughout all 69 laps”, Hamilton said after the race. “First, Romain [Grosjean] and then Kimi [Raikkonen] were right behind me, all the way through, and I had to look after my tyres without letting my pace drop, which was pretty tricky at times.

“It isn’t a static situation when a race goes like that. The feel of the car is changing all the time. You get different messages from the tyres with every lap. But they lasted – I managed to make them last”.

“It was a case of managing the gap behind me, over the whole lap, every lap. In particular, I had to make sure that, every lap, I always had a big enough gap at the last corner, so that I wouldn’t be overtaken in the DRS zone on the pitstraight. And I managed to do that every time.”

Raikkonen appeared to be disappointed on the podium, but was nevertheless magnanimous after the race.

"It’s a shame we couldn’t quite get the win but it’s a good result for the team and we’ll keep pushing to make that final step.” Raikkonen also bemoaned a KERS problem in the early part of the race that left him stuck behind Fernando Alonso.

Felipe Massa took ninth for Ferrari

It was a good result for Lotus, with Raikkonen and Grosjean both gracing the podium, but neither driver appeared particularly satisfied with the result. They knew the win was there, but circumstances meant that both missed out.

Vettel vented his frustration to his Red Bull team over the radio, pleading with them to “do something”, which resulted in a third pit-stop in a bid to overhaul Grosjean. Vettel pushed as hard as he could over the final, short stint but missed the Lotus driver by a second.

Fernando Alonso had a quiet, but methodical race and claimed a handy amount of points that actually extended his championship lead during a weekend where the F2012 was never on the pace. Team-mate Felipe Massa had matched the Spaniard across the weekend, but a poor start – which he suggested was caused by an overheating clutch – resulted in Massa managing only ninth, despite improved pace compared to Alonso.

Button questioned his McLaren team after a three-stop strategy left him down in sixth place after initially challenging for the podium. Button felt that his tyres still had several laps left in them and the early stop left him stuck behind Bruno Senna for the bulk of the race.

The Williams driver eventually finished behind Button, although it was by far the best showing from the Brazilian this season as he took another few points to answer his critics. Mark Webber started outside of the top ten but a strong start resulted in the Australian running seventh during the opening stint of the race. He slipped back courtesy of a three stop strategy that failed to pay off. Nico Rosberg claimed the final point for Mercedes, some fifty-one seconds behind the race winner, while Schumacher’s miserable weekend came to a premature end on Lap 61 when he retired while running a lowly eighteenth.

Force India had a disappointing day with both drivers missing out on the points. Paul di Resta was shoved wide by Pastor Maldonado, a clash that resulted in the Venezuelan picking up a drive through penalty. The actual incident itself probably didn’t warrant such a sanction, although given the driver involved it came as little surprise. The fact that Maldonado didn’t understand why he was penalised will only frustrate his embattled rivals further.

Kamui Kobayashi endured a difficult weekend

It was perhaps Sauber’s worst race of the season. Sergio Perez ran outside of the top ten throughout the event, while Kamui Kobayashi spent most of the day battling the Toro Rosso and Caterham drivers, eventually retiring with a hydraulics leak.

Special mention also has to go to Marussia’s Charles Pic. The French rookie has been improving steadily throughout the season and spent much of the race within eyeshot of Vitaly Petrov, as well as being significantly ahead of team-mate Timo Glock.

F1 now heads into a five week summer break. With heavy upgrades coming for Lotus and the next race taking place in a certain Belgian forest, you might want to bet on a certain Finn…

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