Hungarian Grand Prix: Race Analysis

We predicted excitement and the tenth round of an exhilarating 2013 World Championship certainly delivered, with Lewis Hamilton claiming his first win for Mercedes and his fourth at the Hungaroring circuit. Following his surprise pole on Saturday, Hamilton suggested that to win would take a miracle yet for the Brit it was a textbook performance; Possibly the best of Hamilton’s fruitful career so far. Kimi Raikkonen pulled off a stunning two stop strategy to claim P2, with pre-race favorite Sebastian Vettel being compromised by what seemed like endless issues, finishing only P3, despite mounting an attack on the vulnerable Finn during the final stages.
Lewis’ maiden victory was a drive which featured everything a World Champion requires. Speed, controlled aggression and a little bit of luck. The race hinged on the three stop strategy which the majority were forced into completing. With Red Bull and Ferrari taking this option, Hamilton simply had to avoid the two stop traffic which would inevitably be a factor and the Brit executed the pivotal overtakes with ease. After the first stop, he managed to pass Jenson Button and extend his advantage over Sebastian Vettel to twelve seconds, while the German could not pass the immovable McLaren. This lead was crucial and was never relinquished by Hamilton.
However, Lewis’ race was far from easy once the second stint had given him the advantage. After emerging from his second and third stop, Lewis has to pass Mark Webber and emphatically demonstrated his determination on both occasions, pulling off two aggressive maneuvers. On older tyres, Webber was powerless to restrain a rampant Hamilton. Meanwhile the threat of the two stopping Raikkonen was tamed early on in the race, as he spent the first stint behind Fernando Alonso, who struggled for pace throughout the 70 laps. However, the Mercedes pit wall could not relax until the checkered flag finally fell, as with just four laps remaining, Nico Rosberg’s engine overheated, ending the German’s race prematurely. Fortunately, Hamilton did not suffer the same fate, winning the race by ten seconds.
At the conclusion an exuberant Hamilton stated; “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 and Mark and I think we had the pace on everyone today.” He concluded by acknowledging the excellent work completed by the team. “I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone at the team here and at our factories in Brackley and Brixworth. Team work achieved this result today and I really couldn’t be happier.”
While Kimi Raikkonen eventually finished second, Lotus will leave the Hungaroring feeling aggrieved. It was a weekend where they failed to capitalize on conditions which ultimately suited their package. Romain Grosjean started the race in promising fashion, as he maintained pace throughout the opening stint and kept Sebastian Vettel well within range. Despite managing to go further than anyone else on the soft tyre at the start, he failed to jump the German in the stops and was consequently compromised by Jenson Button.
However, the Frenchman once again hit the self destruct button. After Vettel impressively scythed past the McLaren into turn four, Grosjean thought to capitalize on Jenson’s lack of momentum when heading into the chicane. While he passed the Brit, he misjudged the length of his car and pulled across on Button while he remained on the outside, leading to inevitable contact. The incident did not damage either car, yet Romain received a twenty second time penalty after the race for the avoidable incident, however, it did not alter the positions.
Soon after the collision, Grosjean was once again under the spotlight of the stewards, following a seemingly exceptional overtake on Felipe Massa around the outside at the fast Turn four. In order to avoid making contact with the Ferrari, Romain left the track by a matter of centimeters, yet the stewards took a dim view of the incident. They handed the Frenchman a drive-through penalty for an illegal overtake; an extremely harsh penalty for a insignificant detail. Immediately after the race, Romain evaluated the incidents. “I haven’t seen the footage yet and I thought it was a good move, but unfortunately the stewards took a different view. I’ve no problem with the time-added for the incident with Jenson and I apologised to him afterwards,” he said. With the superior pace Romain demonstrated on Friday, this race was certainly an opportunity for his maiden victory in Formula One. “This could have been the one for me,” he said, “but we will just have to wait a little bit longer and keep improving like we have been recently to make it happen.”     
Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel was unable to break his duck at the Hungaroring circuit, yet it was not all doom and gloom for Red Bull, as they extended their lead in both championships. Vettel’s race was hampered by seemingly all conceivable issues. He hit the back of Jenson Button into Turn two and damaged the turning veins on his front wing. While in the turbulent air of the McLaren, the team recognised that the car was overheating, meaning that Vettel had to drop back, outside of the slipstream for several laps. Then, due to these overheating issues, Vettel was forced to use lower revs and a lower percentage of KERS, in order to regulate temperatures. Consequently, P3 was an excellent result in terms of limiting damage in the championship, yet Vettel was hoping for much more considering the pace of the Red Bull at the Hungaroring. Sebastian analysed his race, stating; “I would have loved the race to have been a bit longer, as it was fun with Kimi at the end. It’s hard to pass on this track, I got close but I wasn’t in the prime overtaking spot at that point; I was trying to set something up for the next corners, but it didn’t work. The key issue in the race was when I got stuck behind Jenson, there’s no one to blame for that, I lost more time than expected on the way into the first stop and we came out just behind him.” Following his podium, Vettel now leads the championship by a healthy 38 points from Kimi Raikkonen.
On the opposite side of the Red Bull garage, Mark Webber experienced a far more impressive performance after some excellent strategic decisions. After starting on the medium compound, Mark lead the race early on, with the clean air providing him with the opportunity to jump into P4 after his first stop. Despite fitting the option tyres at his final stop, Webber was unable to consolidate the degradation and could not close down his teammate in P3. “I had a pretty tricky car for the first three or four laps,” Webber admitted, “as I knew the option tyres were quite grippy and after that we just got our heads down. I don’t think we could have got much more than that result today. The strategy was pretty solid and you have to pace the option tyres until the end.” Once all of his gremlins from qualifying were accounted for, Webber was able to demonstrate his true pace during the race and would have surly been a contender for the victory, had his Saturday gone according to plan.
Meanwhile, Ferrari seem to be in crisis. Fernando Alonso entered the race with high hopes, after he and Felipe Massa had proclaimed that the hot conditions would favor the F138’s characteristics. However, a brief sign of speed during the second stint was the only positive the team can take from the weekend, as they have slipped behind in the development race. It is now feasible to suggest they have only the fourth fastest car; a fact which will significantly hamper Alonso’s title challenge. “Finishing fifth today, maybe we actually did better than what should have been within our grasp, because Mercedes, Lotus and Red Bull were quicker than us, a fact we had already seen from Friday’s practice,” Fernando stated. “This race ends what’s been a generally difficult month for us and, with Silverstone and Nürburgring, is part of a cycle where we were not up to par. However, looking at the points we have obtained, we haven’t lost out too much and today, Hamilton and Raikkonen helped us to keep the gap from growing too big to Vettel in the lead.”
Elsewhere, Williams celebrated their first point of the season, after Pastor Maldonado drove a consistent race to finish in an admittedly fortunate P10. Despite the team showing signs of progress, Pastor’s point is not truly representative of their current standing, as a drive-through penalty for Nico Hulkenberg for pit-lane speeding promoted the Venezuelan to P11, before Nico Rosberg’s engine failure gifted Williams their illusive first point of 2013. Regardless, scoring will hopefully spur the team on as they look to catch Sauber in the second half of the season. Following the race, Pastor noted the improvements which have already been made to the car; “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. The car felt consistent, maybe not as fast in the second and third stints, but very consistent. I really want to keep scoring points now and be even stronger during the second part of the season.” Unfortunately, Valtteri Bottas was forced into retirement with a hydraulics issue mid-way through the race, but is sure to take heart from his teammate’s success.
So, an exciting Hungarian Grand Prix has ended with a miracle result. While there is a great deal of work to be done, Lewis Hamilton will not wish to concede the championship to Sebastian Vettel just yet, as his fourth Hungarian Grand Prix win has unlocked fresh hope at Mercedes.  

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