Lewis Hamilton held off Kimi Raikkonen to claim victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix to immerse himself back into the F1 driver’s title battle.
Hamilton will hope that this will revitalise a title campaign that had begun to look exceedingly unlikely since the McLaren driver’s last win in Canada.
Hamilton led the majority of the race, but had both Lotus drivers close to him for most of the distance. Initially the chasing pack was lead by Romain Grosjean, who made a strong defensive move to stop a challenge from Sebastian Vettel at the first corner, Vettel’s failure to get by Grosjean allowed Jenson Button to get by the Red Bull to take third through Turns 2 and 3.
Button could not match his team-mate Hamilton and Grosjean’s early pace, so the McLaren and Lotus pulled away in a two-car lead fight. Hamilton seemed to have the race under control, although Grosjean did close up on the Briton to put him under some pressure in the middle stint of the race as both men had differing two-stop strategies. Grosjean staying on the on soft compound and Hamilton having moved to the medium Pirellis during the second stint.
When Button made an early second of three stops, Vettel was free to chase the leading pair, but ultimately it was Raikkonen who emerged almost from nowhere to become Hamilton’s main challenger.
Raikkonen had been sixth in the opening stint, then passed Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari in the first stops. His strong late-stint pace on a long run on the soft compound tyres in his second stint allowed him to take the lead for a spell and jump from fifth to second. He pushed aside his team-mate Grosjean firmly as he emerged from the pits after his final stop.
Raikkonen soon closed in on Hamilton and they were nose to tail until the chequered flag. In a largely processional race due to lack of overtaking opportunities; there was nothing the Lotus could do to pass the McLaren. Grosjean held on to third ahead of Vettel, who made a third pitstop without losing a place and charged back to attack the Lotus making full use of his fresher tyres.
Fernando Alonso was in damage limitation mode and tried to do the most he could to protect his championship lead. He’ll go home happy having actually extended his championship lead over main title rival Mark Webber to 40 points. The Australian jumped from 11th to seventh on lap one, then got ahead of Alonso at the second stops. But making a third tyre stop cost Webber dearly and he fell to eighth.
Button’s who also tried a three-stop plan was also to find the strategy did not work out as planned, as his second stop left him trapped behind Bruno Senna for a spell. He got back in front of the Brazilian in the final tyre changes then chased Alonso home in sixth.
Senna who had one of his most impressive weekends to date resisted moves from Webber to take seventh place. He delivered a measured drive and was mightily impressive as his Williams team-mate Pastor Maldonado lost ground at the start then received a drive-through penalty for barging Paul di Resta’s Force India aside in one of the race’s few genuine passing attempts.
Felipe Massa was 9th for Ferrari, four places behind team-mate Alonso in a weekend where his future has been put to much speculation. Rumours of a return to Ferrari for Kimi Raikkonen for 2013 have been gathering pace. Massa will no doubt be happy that we was just 11 seconds behind team-mate Alonso. Nico Rosberg salvaged a point for Mercedes on what’s been a nightmare weekend. His team-mate Michael Schumacher endured one of his most depressing races in Formula 1. The seven-time champion was left on the grid in an aborted initial start, joined the race from the pits, received a pitlane speeding penalty, then retired from 18th late on.
There’s five weeks until the next Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium. It’ll be an interesting wait for racing to recommence as F1 enters it’s own silly season where we may see numerous drives for 2013 decided. Alonso has a massive 40 point gap to protect for now. Can anyone catch him? We wait with baited breath to see.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1h41:05.503
2. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 1.032
3. Grosjean Lotus-Renault + 10.518
4. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 11.614
5. Alonso Ferrari + 26.653
6. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 30.243
7. Senna Williams-Renault + 33.899
8. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 34.458
9. Massa Ferrari + 38.350
10. Rosberg Mercedes + 51.234
11. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 57.283
12. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 1:02.887
13. Maldonado Williams-Renault + 1:03.606
14. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 1:04.494
15. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
16. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
17. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
18. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 2 laps
19. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 2 laps
20. Pic Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps
21. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 3 laps
22. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth + 3 laps
Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:24.136
Driver Team On lap
Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 63
Schumacher Mercedes 61