ROUND 10 – Hungary, 28 July 2013, Budapest
1st: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 1hr 42m 29.445s (av. race speed 179.506 km/h)
2nd: Kimi Raïkkönen (Lotus Renault), gap: 10.938s
3rd: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Renault), gap: 12.459s
Fastest Lap: Mark Webber (Red Bull Renault), 1:24.069 = 187.603 km/h on lap 61
Pole Position: Hamilton, 1:19.388 = 198.664 km/h
“I THINK YOU COULD TELL I WAS HUNGRY FOR IT”
Lewis Hamilton signed off the first half of his first season with Mercedes with his maiden win in a Silver Arrow, calling it “one of the most important Grand Prix wins of my career”. The 28-year-old Englishman set the victory up with a pole position – his 30th – that surprised even him. He then took full advantage, pitting on laps 9, 31 and 50 of the 70-lap race as he claimed the 22nd victory of his career and his fourth on the demanding Hungaroring.
“I think you could tell I was hungry for it,” Hamilton told podium interviewer Martin Brundle. “What a great weekend! We really didn't expect this when we came here this weekend and I said last night that I would need a miracle to win today. Well, just maybe they do happen. The team called the strategy and the pit stops just right and then it was just about managing the gap. I had some racing to do out there, though, with Jenson [Button] and Mark [Webber] and I think we had the pace on everyone today.” The Mercedes joy was slightly tempered by Nico Rosberg’s late-race engine failure after a trying weekend for the two-time 2013 winner.
Kimi Raïkkönen racked up his fifth second-place finish in Budapest, the Lotus-Renault calmly resisting a late challenge from Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull Renault to move back into second place in the Drivers’ Championship ahead of Fernando Alonso, who could manage only fifth for Ferrari. “I keep making my life difficult on Saturdays and we pay the price,” said the rueful Finn, who qualified sixth then produced a minor miracle by stopping only twice, squeezing a 28-lap final stint out of Pirelli’s Medium tyres. “We’re only halfway through the season and it will be hard to catch up,” added Raïkkönen, “but anything can still happen so we’ll keep fighting until the end.” His sixth podium of the season will have done nothing to harm his chances of joining Vettel at Red Bull next year.
As usual, Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean claimed some of the headlines, but this time mostly for the right reasons. A strong run to third in qualifying set up the Frenchman for a typically aggressive race which faltered when he made contact with Button’s McLaren at one-third distance and was forced outside the race track. The stewards imposed a drive-through penalty which he served after 38 laps and ruined Grosjean’s day with a 20-second time addition. Sixth place in the end was poor reward for an entertaining drive. “For sure this is one that got away, but I’m very happy with my race and I honestly don’t think I could have done much more,” he said. “Maybe the strategy didn’t quite work how we wanted, but the car felt really good and it was the traffic that cost us.”
Vettel complained on team radio that his potential partner Kimi had not left him enough room as he tried desperately to claim second place on lap 68, but the German – still winless in Hungary – shrugged that off as a “heat of the moment” comment when the two joked together on the podium. Pipped to pole by Hamilton, Championship leader Vettel saw his chances compromised by two moments with McLaren’s Jenson Button. The first was after the first round of pit stops, when Vettel damaged his front wing in his attempt to overtake the Englishman; when he pitted for the second time on lap 34 he again rejoined behind Button and lost priceless time trying to rectify the situation. “It was not the best race,” he mused, but he actually extended his title lead over Alonso and conceded just three points to Raïkkönen.
If Hamilton’s triumph was set up by Mercedes’ qualifying effort, Mark Webber’s race was totally compromised on Saturday when another KERS failure and a gear-shift glitch meant he could achieve only 10th place on the grid. “Stupid and embarrassing” was Webber’s reaction, but he drove another storming race to come home fourth, starting on the primes, pitting three times and trying to salvage a podium with a late run on the softer option tyres that yielded his 17th career fastest lap. Webber managed to pass Hamilton as the Englishman emerged from the pits on lap 50 but could not resist his attack, running off-track as Hamilton forced his way past. “I don’t think we could have got much more than that result today,” said the Australian who now prepares for his final nine races in Formula 1.
The McLaren mini-revival continued with seventh place for Jenson Button and ninth for Sergio Pérez. Two-time Budapest winner Button complained jokingly of being a target for other cars after being tapped by both Vettel and Grosjean but stressed the upside of his weekend. “I ran almost half the race on the Prime tyre, which was the longest of anybody; it’s good to show we can do that,” he said. “Our middle-stint pace on the Option was also very good, and I had a blinding first lap, jumping from 13th to eighth. We beat a Ferrari fair and square, and we’d also have beaten a Mercedes if Nico [Rosberg] hadn’t stopped – we can take a lot of positives away from here.”
McLaren are now just two points adrift of Force India, who will want to forget Hungary and get on with the second half of the year. Celebrating his 100th start, Adrian Sutil was out after 19 laps with a hydraulic leak; Paul di Resta was classified 19th but posted a DNF as the hydraulic problem became contagious. “Over the summer break we will regroup, analyse things properly and take a fresh approach into the second part of the year,” said the Scot after his second straight no-score.
Our preview highlighted the fact that Williams went to Budapest still pointless. They left the Hungarian capital with their first score in the bag, albeit a single point for Pastor Maldonado’s 10th place. “I had a really good start from P15 and made a few overtaking manoeuvres during the race which were on the limit, which is especially pleasing as at this track it is very hard to overtake,” said the Venezuelan. The Williams glee was also lessened by a first retirement for 2013 newcomer Valtteri Bottas.
Dan Ricciardo failed to build on a fine qualifying effort, coming home 13th behind Toro Rosso teammate Jean-Eric Vergne (see ‘Dan the Man’). He remains two points behind the Frenchman in 14th place overall.
Next race: round 11, Belgium, August 25
Webber’s last crack at the glorious Spa-Francorchamps circuit – and the place where Red Bull will probably announce who’s to replace him next year. Catch our full preview right here…