The words ‘Hungaroring’ and ‘thrilling’ are not usually used in the same sentence – but they were at this year’s Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix.
The weekend began with everybody expressing confidence and caution in equal measure.
“Last year is a little bit of a form card, but clearly McLaren and Ferrari aren’t hanging around. Qualifying has tightened up a lot in the last few events and so have the races.”
Mark Webber – Red Bull
“I think it’s a great time for F1, to have three top teams fighting at the front. We’ve had four different winners from the last four races… we all love the challenge and hopefully we will get the chance to fight for it here.”
Jenson Button – McLaren
Friday practice saw McLaren demonstrate that their pace in Germany wasn’t a flash in the pan with Lewis Hamilton topping the timesheets in both sessions.
“It’s a great feeling to start the weekend on a high. We had a much smoother Friday here than we did at the Nürburgring, so I’m pretty happy.”
Lewis Hamilton – McLaren
But with Red Bull having pulled an all-nighter, Sebastian Vettel took pole ahead of the two McLarens. Ferrari were behind them, with Felipe Massa finally out-qualifying Fernando Alonso. Mark Webber was a disappointing sixth with an intermittent KERS problem.
“I think they [the garage crew] got back to the hotel around five o’clock – but I felt much more comfortable in the car and back to where we have to be, so I am very happy.”
Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull
“I think it’s a good day, I can’t complain. It’s very similar [here] to how competitive we were in Germany. It’s also a positive to have Jenson up here with us, and I think we can hopefully challenge Sebastian tomorrow.”
“Unfortunately Mark picked up a KERS issue in Q2… nonetheless we know Mark’s a great racer and I’m sure he’ll make good progress from there in tomorrow’s race.”
The race started on a wet track, though the rain had stopped when the lights went out. Everyone started on the intermediate tyres.
“The first stint on the inters in the wet, it felt like there was no grip at all.”
“[At the] start of the race I was struggling a little bit on the intermediates. I tried to keep Lewis behind but most important was to move away from the pack behind and build up a gap. I tried to defend and ran a little bit wide into turn two.”
A dry-line developed and Webber was the first man to take on the slicks. He immediately started running 9-10 seconds faster, prompting a stampede for dry tyres. Vettel was jumped by Button when exiting the pits on cold tyres. After everything shook out, the order was Hamilton, Button, Vettel, Webber, Alonso.
“Arguably we should have come in a lap earlier.”
Meanwhile, just to provide a little more drama, Nick Heidfeld’s Renault caught fire. Nick nimbly leapt from the car shortly before the sidepod exploded.
“My second pitstop was longer than expected, the car overheated and I noticed smoke coming from the rear. It worsened, and then I noticed the flames, so I had to pull over at the end of the pitlane and cut my race short… I really felt the temperature. It was a bit scary.”
Nick Heidfeld – Renault
With around 35 laps to run, Button, Vettel and Webber took on the soft tyres, Hamilton and Alonso opted to stay on the supersoft. The implication was that Hamilton and Alonso would have to make another stop, whereas the others are trying to get to the finish.
“Yeah, looking now, after the race, maybe the soft tyre was better than the supersoft.”
Fernando Alonso – Ferrari
Then the rain started to fall again. On Lap 47 Hamilton spun from from the lead, letting Button through to take the place, though the two McLarens had a no-holds-barred scrap over the next lap with the lead changing several times. Hamilton would, however, receive a drive-through penalty for recovering from his spin dangerously into the path of another car.
“I’m disappointed in myself for spinning. I had to do a doughnut to get myself facing the right way and that forced Paul [di Resta] onto the grass, which is why I got the drive-through penalty. I’ve apologised to Paul and I’ll put the penalty behind me and move on.”
Hamilton and Webber both decided to gamble and pit for Inters, losing their chance of an unlikely victory as they have to pit again for more dry tyres. It takes the tally up to a record-breaking 88 pitstops. It later emerged that McLaren had originally wanted to call Button in, but changed their mind – though Button claimed to have no intention of coming in regardless.
“I was never really going to come in for inters. I didn’t think it was the right choice personally. We were struggling on the tyres, it was difficult keeping the car on the circuit, but we weren’t that slow, it wasn’t inter pace really.”
“I made the right call to go for the slicks at the right time, but when the rain came I thought it was going to be heavier – so I went for the intermediate tyres, but it didn’t come. I’m fine with the decision I made, it’s on my head and the team did a good job this weekend.”
“You have to toss the coin in the air and gamble: whether to choose the dry tyres or the inters. And it depends only if the next cloud brings some more rain or if it stops.”
Meanwhile, down the field Toro Rosso recovered from 16th and 23rd on the grid to finish eighth and 10th in their hundredth grand prix.
“From a strategy point of view, the team did an excellent job in difficult and changeable conditions, while the drivers made the most of that, delivering faultless drives without making any mistakes. Congratulations to everyone in the team at the track and those who work so hard at our factory and in the wind tunnel.”
Franz Tost – Toro Rosso team principal
Up top, Button had an untroubled run to the flag. Winning on his 200th appearance, at the track were he scored his first win. Vettel was second and Alonso third. More than half of Button’s 11 wins have come in wet conditions.
“I would like to win one in the dry please.”
“I’m not a hundred per cent happy. The target is to win and not to come second. Still, I know it’s good points today, everyone except Jenson finished behind us…”
“I’m happy with third, having started fifth. We were able to jump on the podium for the fourth consecutive race. This is good again for us.”
- Jenson on the Button at the Hungarian Grand Prix
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