Hungarian Grand Prix – Sebastian Vettel has won a chaotic and dramatic race at the Hungaroring. The Ferrari driver led home Daniil Kvyat & Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull Racing.
The race start certainly proved to be a dramatic affair as the initial start had to be aborted. On first glance, this appeared to be a technical issue as there was no obvious reason for the flashing yellow lights. With the cars snaking around for a second formation lap, the message from race control came through: Felipe Massa was out of position on the starting grid. This meant the Brazilian started the race under investigation.
When the red lights went out to start the race proper moments later, the Mercs appeared to bog down slightly – just like they did at Silverstone three weeks ago. Instead of Williams punishing them, it was Ferrari who pounced upon Mercedes’ hesitation to take first and second. Vettel engaged in a drag race with Hamilton down to Turn 1, and successfully outbraked him to take the lead around the outside. Kimi Raikkonen, starting from 5th position, made a similarly great start to drag past Hamilton into Turn 1 before engaging in another drag race around the outside of Nico Rosberg. He took the position from Rosberg through Turn 2 to leave Ferrari 1 & 2. Rosberg had successfully gotten past the wrong footed Hamilton in the fuss, before Hamilton made an error at the chicane. Attempting to distract Rosberg, Hamilton put a rear wheel on the gravel on corner entry and had to run wide through the gravel. He fell down the order, down to P10, and got on the radio to complain about how he felt Rosberg was at fault for the incident.
Daniel Ricciardo, having started P4, had tangled with Valtteri Bottas at the first turn and while both continued without issue, Ricciardo fell behind the Williams and teammate Daniil Kvyat. He also fell behind the fast starting Nico Hulkenberg – the Force India driver making a stomper of a start to jump from 11th place to P5. This left the order Vettel, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Ricciardo & Bottas.
Ricciardo appeared to be the faster Red Bull behind Kvyat, and the team asked the Russian driver to let the Australian through. This he did, although he didn’t sound particularly happy about it on the team radio. Ricciardo, once released, started to show pace and overtook Valtteri Bottas with a late braking move into Turn 1.
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) July 26, 2015
Lewis Hamilton started to make moves to recover some of the ground he had lost and successfully overtook Felipe Massa into Turn 1 after a late braking attack on the Williams. Shortly after, Hamilton did the same to Sergio Perez to move up to P8. Illustrating the cost of Lap 1 though, he had fallen to 25 seconds behind leader Sebastian Vettel by Lap 15.
The first pitstops started to happen on Lap 14, with both Williams, Force Indias & Toro Rossos pitting for a fresh set of boots. This freed up Lewis Hamilton to put in a flurry of laps of comparable pace to the leading Ferraris before pitting on Lap 19. He emerged in P5 behind Daniel Ricciardo, who had had to negotiate Pastor Maldonado but quickly closed down the Australian driver to put the Red Bull driver under pressure.
Up at the front, Sebastian Vettel was enjoying a 2.5 second lead over Kimi Raikkonen, who was a further four seconds ahead of Nico Rosberg. Vettel pitted on Lap 21 and had no problems. Raikkonen pitted on Lap 22 and had a marginally slower stop, but emerged in P2 easily clear of Rosberg who had pitted on Lap 20. The Ferraris had opted for another set of Soft tyres for their second stint, while Mercedes had decided on getting the Medium tyres out of the way for Rosberg in the mid part of the race. Hamilton stayed on the soft tyres for his middle stint. On Lap 28, Vettel was enjoying stretching his legs a little over Raikkonen – the gap was up to 6.5 seconds. Rosberg was 11 seconds behind Raikkonen, with Ricciardo 16 seconds behind Rosberg. Lewis Hamilton remained right behind Ricciardo, but sprang past the Red Bull on Lap 29 after the Australian made a small error through the final corner to stymie his straight line speed down the straight.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 26, 2015
Behind the top 5, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Kvyat, Verstappen & Alonso rounded out the top ten. Alonso had worked his way up to P12 in the opening five laps after a good start and benefitted from problems for Lotus & Perez to move up the order. Lotus were hit with penalties – a time penalty for Romain Grosjean due to an unsafe release from his first pit stop. Pastor Maldonado, who had started on the Medium tyres, was attempting to fend off Perez after the Mexican’s pit stop but collided with the Force India while Perez was overtaking him around the outside of Turn 1. This resulted in Maldonado being hit with a drive through penalty.
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) July 26, 2015
The gap between Rosberg in P3 on the Medium tyres and Hamilton in P4 on the Soft tyres was decreasing quite quickly, with Hamilton slashing the gap down to 6 seconds as the race passed the halfway point. Another battle developing was Hulkenberg in P7 & Kvyat in P8. The Russian driver was on the Soft tyres for the middle stint, and was throwing everything at Hulkenberg as the lap counter hit Lap 40.
Problems struck Ferrari on Lap 41. Having just lapped Fernando Alonso, Raikkonen radioed in to report that he was losing power. This was evidenced by the lapped McLaren overtaking him again, and Ferrari informed him that there was an MGU-K failure on his SF-15T. Before Ferrari could even think about how to resolve the issue, the Virtual Safety Car was deployed after a heavy crash for Nico Hulkenberg. The Force India’s front wing appeared to have a structural failure at the end of the main straight, and the car went straight on into the barriers. Lots of pitstops straight away as the teams anticipated the deployment of the Safety Car. Lap 43 saw the deployment of the real safety car and the reduction of the gaps. Ferrari had also pitted just before the safety car came out, and the order after the stops was Vettel, the hampered Raikkonen, Rosberg, Hamilton & Ricciardo. The top four had all taken on the Medium tyres under the safety car, with Ricciardo the only one in the top 5 on the Softs.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 26, 2015
Force India pitted Sergio Perez for a precautionary change of the front wing on his car, as the Safety Car led the field through the pit lane to avoid the debris at Turn 1. Restart looming, Raikkonen in P2 appeared to be a sitting duck as he was informed that he would run the remainder of the race without an MGU-K unit. The Safety Car withdrew at the end of Lap 48.
The restart saw Nico Rosberg pass Raikkonen, as Ricciardo attempted to pass Hamilton around the outside. Hamilton ran wide into Ricciardo, shoving the Red Bull wide, but Ricciardo kept the boot in and overtook the Merc. Kvyat followed his teammate through, before Hamilton fell behind Bottas as well to drop to P7. Hamilton immediately got the position back from Bottas as the Williams got a right rear puncture from contact with Max Verstappen. Hamilton pitted at the end of Lap 52, he needed a new front wing after picking up damage from the contact with Daniel Ricciardo. This dropped him down to P13, with Hamilton & Ricciardo’s incident under investigation. This resulted in Hamilton being struck with a drive through penalty, scuppering any possibility of a points finish.
The shakeup meant Vettel was fending off Rosberg for the lead, with Ricciardo up to P3. Kimi Raikkonen attempted a full reset of his Ferrari by pitting and switching off the car. Restarted 20 seconds later, he came back out on track but his problem didn’t fix itself. He retired on Lap 57.
Up front, the top three were separated by less than two seconds, with Ricciardo on the fastest tyre compound. Daniil Kvyat was just three seconds behind Ricciardo, with Verstappen in P5. The Dutch driver had picked up a time penalty due to speeding under the pitlane. This meant that Fernando Alonso in P6 was looking good for a top five position. Alonso had engaged in a great scrap with compatriot Carlos Sainz, and benefitted when Sainz encountered a late race power problem. Jenson Button wasn’t far behind, sitting pretty in P8, passing the stricken Toro Rosso easily. The McLarens were separated by Romain Grosjean, the Lotus man having recovered from his earlier penalty. Teammate Maldonado had picked up more penalties; the Venezuelan hit with a penalty for speeding under the safety car, and then coming under investigation for overtaking under the safety car.
Lewis Hamilton, having dropped to P13 at one point, had started working his way back to the points, jumping up to P8 overtaking Jenson Button easily.
Lap 64 saw Ricciardo attempt a late braking move on Nico Rosberg, diving up the inside of the Mercedes. Attempting to dip back underneath the Merc, Ricciardo struck the back of the Merc. He damaged his front wing, while Rosberg’s left rear tyre immediately punctured. Ricciardo made it back to the pits, while Rosberg struggled back to the pits for another set of tyres. Rosberg dropped down to P10 due to the clash, with the incident immediately coming under investigation. Ricciardo kept in P3, but it was Daniil Kvyat in P2 after this late race carnage. Kvyat had also picked up a ten second penalty due to exceeding track limits while overtaking Hamilton in the Lap 57 restart. With two laps to go, the Russian driver enjoyed a twenty second gap over Ricciardo, meaning he was able to retain his P2.
Some late race overtakes from the Merc drivers elevated Hamilton to P6, while Rosberg snatched P8. Sebastian Vettel crossed the line to take the win, throwing himself back into the championship hunt. Kvyat claimed P2, while Ricciardo took the final podium position. Max Verstappen took 4th position for Toro Rosso, with Fernando Alonso taking 5th. Lewis Hamilton claimed P6, Romain Grosjean P7, Nico Rosberg P8, while Jenson Button & Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top ten.
On the slow down lap, Vettel paid tribute to Jules Bianchi. Speaking a mixture of English, Italian & French, the race winner said ‘Merci Jules, you will always be in our hearts we know that sooner or later you would have been part of this team’.