Ricciardo's Hungaroring blitz: Hungarian GP review

By on Sunday, July 27, 2014
Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

In the lead up to qualifying, Formula 1 team principals held a meeting with Bernie Ecclestone to discuss ways to improve the show. They decided to hire Flavio Briatore to a new working group, set-up to look at ways of making the spectacle more popular. After a thrilling 70 laps in Hungary, the focus should be on anything but the on-track action as Daniel Ricciardo passed two world champions in the last five laps to claim his second Formula 1 victory, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

Rewind 70 laps and the outlook wasn’t exactly bright for either three. Ricciardo had been displaced by Alonso in the battle for fourth, while Hamilton was facing the wrong way at turn two, the latest dollop of misfortune in a weekend which was going from bad to worse.

Hamilton had been the form man all weekend until a fuel leak sparked a fire in his Power Unit, causing the back end of his car to turn a charred shade of Silver. The net result was a Pit Lane start, from which Hamilton locked up into turn two and glanced the barriers. The Brit urged his Mercedes team to check his car and fortunately he was able to continue on his way, although somewhat agitated after his error.

While one Silver Arrow began its recovery task, the other scampered away with ease at the head of the field. Nico Rosberg claimed pole position and drove into the distance, despite making a few errors on the damp circuit. Rosberg soon had a lead of almost 10 seconds over Williams’s Valtteri Bottas, who jumped ahead of Vettel on the first lap, with Alonso lingering ominously and the duo of Jenson Button and Ricciardo a little further behind.

Red Bull//Getty Images

Red Bull//Getty Images

So, what could halt Rosberg’s progress? As ever in Formula 1, it’s all about timing.

Marcus Ericsson was hanging onto the back of Lotus’s Pastor Maldonado, who himself had explored the scenery on his treacherous drive to the grid, when the Venezuelan’s car snapped sideways at turn three. Ericsson saw a chance but was too enthusiastic on the throttle and lost control of his Caterham, which speared into the wall. Ericsson was unharmed in the impact, which registered at around 20g, but it was another blow for the struggling Caterham squad, which now has (another) re-build job on its hands.

The leading quarter had all passed the pit entry by the time the Safety Car was deployed, which meant they had to tour around at a slower speed before their change to switch tyres a lap later. Fifth placed Button, though, was still rounding the penultimate corner. However, was it time for slicks? McLaren thought not, especially as their radar indicated that more wet weather was set to hit the track. Ricciardo thought otherwise and switched to Options, emerging ahead of Button after the Brit had to wait in the pits to allow others to pass.

Ricciardo thus led Button, Felipe Massa – who also stopped one lap before the early leaders – Rosberg, Kevin Magnussen – still on Intermediates after his pit lane start – Jean-Éric Vergne, Vettel and Alonso. Bottas tumbled to 11th after a slow stop, while Hamilton was by now lurking in 13th.

The restart was delayed by a couple of laps as Romain Grosjean dropped out of contention when he slid into the wall at turn three. It was an ignominious end to the first half of a horrible season for one of 2013’s bright talents.

Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

Ricciardo led away into the first corner but on Intermediate tyres, Button briefly seized the initiative. However, McLaren’s forecast was woefully inaccurate and Button soon had to join the others on Options, effectively losing a whole pit stop worth of time and track position in the process.

Rosberg tried to get ahead of Magnussen at the restart but erred and slipped behind Vergne and Alonso (who soon swapped positions), while simultaneously Hamilton carved through the midfield and was hanging onto the tail of Vettel’s RB10. The two title contenders were now, despite starting at opposite ends of the grid, separated only by the outgoing champion.

It was getting a little messy further down the order. Nico Hülkenberg was lining up team-mate Sergio Pérez at the final corner as the Force India duo squabbled for position. Pérez had taken a wide line on the previous lap, so Hülkenberg lined up his move, only for Pérez to adopt a slightly different approach. Hülkenberg hit Pérez and was helpless to avoid sliding into the barriers, ending his run of top 10 finishes. Meanwhile, at the back Maldonado hit Jules Bianchi at the first corner, spinning himself and puncturing the Marussia, in the process robbing Bianchi of whatever little balance the MR-03 had in the first place.

Pérez continued but his race lasted only a few more laps as he dipped his rear tyre onto the grass and the back end of the car stepped out before violently impacting with the pit wall. Pérez clambered out of his wreckage as the Safety Car was called for a second time.

Scuderia Ferrari

Scuderia Ferrari

Crucially, Ricciardo pitted for fresh Options while Massa also dived into the pits for new Primes. Alonso thus led the race for Ferrari ahead of the impressive Vergne, Rosberg, Vettel, Hamilton and Ricciardo. It was starting to look extremely good for the #3 Red Bull.

Alonso stretched his lead at the restart as Vergne held up the cars behind. Rosberg had several looks at the Toro Rosso but was unable to make a move, so pitted on lap 32 for a fresh set of Options, just as Vettel channelled the spirit of Pérez and put his rear wheel onto the wet kerb.

Astonishingly, Vettel spun a full 360 but kept his car out of the wall and continued on his way, albeit now behind Massa and on destroyed tyres. He pitted the next time around for Mediums, while Hamilton took advantage of an ailing Vergne and put in a bold move around the outside of turn four to move into second.

Alonso pitted for the final time on lap 38, with Ferrari adopting an aggressive approach and hoping that the Spaniard would be able to go to the end on Options. Mercedes responded a lap later by bringing Hamilton in and had a similar intention, albeit with their man on Primes.

Ricciardo held a lead of around 15 seconds – but needed to stop once more – ahead of Alonso, Hamilton and Rosberg, who cruised up behind his team-mate.

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Mercedes AMG Petronas

This created a tricky conundrum for Mercedes. Hamilton was to go to the end of the race on Primes, while Rosberg required one more stop for another set of Options. Hamilton was holding up Rosberg. The call came to Hamilton to allow Rosberg through on the pit straight. He didn’t.

“I'm not letting him past me, if he gets close enough to overtake he can overtake,” came the Brit’s fair and measured response.

Hamilton had his own race to consider – he was in a straight fight for the victory with Ricciardo and Alonso, while Rosberg was still potentially a threat. Furthermore, Rosberg was still around a second back. Losing a second in a close fight for victory? Unthinkable, and that’s without considering the world title permutations.

Rosberg vented his frustration on the radio, although he later insisted that it was a team decision. He pitted on lap 56, having been unable to extract the maximum pace on Options, but he was not done. Not yet.

Ricciardo’s final stop came on lap 54 and he emerged from the pits five seconds behind Hamilton, who in turn was four seconds down on Alonso. The leading trio, though, were bunching together.

Alonso’s pace on very used Options was such that they even had Rosberg to think about, who on fresh rubber had carved past Kimi Räikkönen, Massa and Bottas and was scything the gap to the lead duo at a rate of three seconds a lap.

Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

With 10 laps remaining the leading trio were strung together around the circuit. Alonso, on used Options, desperately hoping to hang on and end Ferrari’s 15 month victory drought. Hamilton, on used Mediums, eyeing up a win but equally wary of Ricciardo, on new Options, who was gunning for it.

Alonso skated wide at the chicane and gave Hamilton a sniff at the lead but the Brit soon had to defend against Ricciardo, who had a look at turn two on lap 65.

Two laps later and the Australian tried again and he made it work by going around the outside of turn two and keeping his foot to the floor.

Ricciardo cruised up behind Alonso and braked later for the first corner to snatch the lead during the closing stages. His next lap was three seconds quicker, leaving them in no doubt as to who would win the race.

Alonso and Hamilton walked a tightrope for the final few laps as their pace dropped off, while the Brit soon had to contend with team-mate Rosberg. Such was Rosberg’s speed on fresh Options that he was on Hamilton’s rear wing as they began the last tour. Hamilton made a mistake exiting turn one and gave Rosberg a chance, but he edged him wide at turn two and their positions remained the same. Hamilton's decision not to let Rosberg through earlier suddenly looked extremely clever in the context of the title battle.

Scuderia Ferrari

Scuderia Ferrari

Ricciardo eventually claimed his second career victory by 5.2s, with Alonso registering Ferrari’s best result of the season, ahead of title contenders Hamilton and Rosberg. Massa was a fine fifth for Williams, ahead of the recovering Räikkönen, who did well after a dismal qualifying result.

Vettel made his Mediums last for almost half the race to take seventh, ahead of Bottas, Vergne and Button. Adrian Sutil came agonisingly close to the points for Sauber, while Magnussen was 12th, ahead of Maldonado and Daniil Kvyat, whose Toro Rosso shut down before the formation lap. Bianchi and Max Chilton rounded out the finishers, while other retirees included Esteban Gutiérrez and Kamui Kobayashi, who suffered mechanical gremlins.

Meanwhile, an elated Ricciardo reflected on his second Grand Prix win.

“It honestly does compare to Canada,” he said. “Obviously the first victory is special but it definitely leaves you wanting more. I was just as hungry for this second one and it feels just as good - I won't say better but you realise it a bit more so if feels like you can enjoy it a bit more. And when I crossed the line, everything felt a bit more real, so I guess I took in a bit more of this one today.”

Alonso praised his second place, although when quizzed about birthday wishes – the Spaniard turns 33 on Tuesday – he recalled his ill-advised 2013 comment in which he asked for a Red Bull RB9 and received a public rebuke from Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo.

Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

“Well last year it was a very big understanding of what was my wish,” he said. “Especially in Italy. So, this year, I will not wish anything about the car and I will wish a happy day to everyone in Italy.”

Hamilton, who revealed he went for pizza and red wine with Niki Lauda after his qualifying woes, was one of the day’s biggest winners as he closed the gap in the championship to Rosberg to just 11 points, an astonishing achievement considering their respective fortunes 24 hours previously.

“The fact that I'm managed to come back through obviously is a showing of just how great this car is and how great this team is - but ultimately we've worked, I've worked hard for it so it feels probably better than perhaps a win, gliding from the lead,” he said. “It feels definitely much more satisfying when you come back through. And, as I said, to be ahead and to win the fight is really encouraging.”

13Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing-Renault70Winner425
214Fernando AlonsoFerrari70+5.2 secs518
344Lewis HamiltonMercedes70+5.8 secs2215
46Nico RosbergMercedes70+6.3 secs112
519Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes70+29.8 secs610
67Kimi RäikkönenFerrari70+31.4 secs168
71Sebastian VettelRed Bull Racing-Renault70+40.9 secs26
877Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes70+41.3 secs34
925Jean-Eric VergneSTR-Renault70+58.5 secs82
1022Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes70+67.2 secs71
1199Adrian SutilSauber-Ferrari70+68.1 secs11
1220Kevin MagnussenMcLaren-Mercedes70+78.4 secs21
1313Pastor MaldonadoLotus-Renault70+84.0 secs20
1426Daniil KvyatSTR-Renault69+1 Lap10
1517Jules BianchiMarussia-Ferrari69+1 Lap15
164Max ChiltonMarussia-Ferrari69+1 Lap18
Ret21Esteban GutierrezSauber-Ferrari+38 Laps13
Ret10Kamui KobayashiCaterham-Renault+46 Laps17
Ret11Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes+48 Laps12
Ret27Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes+56 Laps9
Ret8Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault+60 Laps14
Ret9Marcus EricssonCaterham-Renault+63 Laps19

F1 Grand Prix of Hungary

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