Vettel Prevails In Hungarian Thriller
A race that we will surely be talking about for many years to come, the 2015 Hungarian Grand Prix was a modern classic. A four-wide duel to claim early pre-eminence on the run into turn one set the tone for a day filled with action, incident and drama. Sebastian Vettel was one of few to have avoided trouble throughout the day, driving imperiously at the head of the field, as Ferrari remarkably kept the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg at arms length, with Kimi Raikkonen shadowing his teammate in second until an MGU-K failure curtailed his progress. Lewis Hamilton, expected by many to win the race at a canter, struggled from the start.
Who says F1 is at all predictable?
The Vettel of Old
During his dominance at the wheel of a Newey-designed Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel became somewhat accustomed to commanding races. Once hitting the heights of first place – a feat usually achieved by the first corner of the first lap – he was almost untouchable. Today saw him demonstrate that he retains the skill-set which saw him masterfully win 38 races at Red Bull.
What was most striking about Vettel’s second Ferrari win, however, was that it was achieved much like his first. Back in Malaysia, Ferrari carried a pace eclipsing even the class-leading Mercedes, which guided them to a well deserved victory. While Lewis Hamilton’s early trip through the gravel track effectively removed him from the battle for top honours, (at least until the Safety Car brought him back into the reckoning for a handful of laps), it is fair to say that Ferrari had a pace to at least match Mercedes today, and after a stunning start, matching Mercedes was good enough to beat them.
Albeit, in the opening exchanges, Ferrari were not just matching Mercedes, as both Vettel and Raikkonen pulled away from Nico Rosberg. His balance issues expressed in qualifying will have likely hampered his race pace, but credit has to be awarded to Ferrari for what was a Merc-beating performance today. Their Friday was hindered by technical gremlins and this could be what concealed their impressive speed until this afternoon. But for the Iceman’s MGU-K failure, a remarkable 1-2 was on the cards for the prancing horse which certainly broke into a gallop when it mattered most.
A sixth place finish for Lewis Hamilton was almost unthinkable heading into today’s race. With Rosberg struggling and Hamilton seemingly unstoppable after a mesmerising qualifying lap, the script suggested that the Briton was set to collect another 25 points en route to his summer break. But, as we should know by now, F1 is never that straight-forward.
Indeed, the precedent for Hamilton’s race to come was set on lap one, as a misjudgement at the turn six and seven chicane saw him bounce across the gravel trap. This was a clumsy race for the championship leader, with the contact while dueling with Daniel Ricciardo proving costly. Hamilton should, therefore, be rather content with a sixth place finish, given the difficulties he faced today. In addition, extending his championship lead as a result of his teammate’s own Ricciardo related dramas, is quite the great escape.
The Red Bull Connection
Not only was it a former-Red Bull driver of the top step of the podium, but he was joined on the rostrum by the team’s current driver duo, with Daniil Kvyat ending a great weekend with his maiden podium and followed home by Daniel Ricciardo, who claimed his first top three finish of the campaign. Meanwhile, a great day for Mateschitz was made even sweeter with Max Verstappen coming home in a career-best fourth place.
Ultimately, Ricciardo seemed to have an edge on Kvyat in regards to race pace and but for his collision with Rosberg, would have finished ahead of his teammate. The Aussie’s move to the soft compound tyre at the second and final stop brought him into play for the victory, with Vettel and Rosberg ahead running the slower medium compound.
Had Ricciardo made a clean move on the Mercedes ahead, he would have had a chance to steal the most unlikely of victories and for a while at least, the closing stages seemed to be following the same storyline as in 2014, with Daniel needing to pass a Mercedes and a Ferrari to secure a win. Alas, his Renault powertrain meant that a move on Nico would need to be made at maximum commitment and I commend Ricciardo for attempting what ultimately was an improbable move to execute successfully. The contact with Rosberg may have been an indirect result of his desperate dive, but it was simply a racing incident.
Driver of the Day
A textbook example of how to manage a race at the front of the field, Vettel had to cope with having his lead destroyed by an untimely Safety Car, but did so in the style of a quadruple World Champion. His pace was electric, his restart was perfection and after the difficulties he faced on Friday, it was an imperious performance on Sunday.
Overtake of the Race
HAMILTON vs Massa
Recovering from his lap one excursion, Hamilton executed an impressive move on the Williams of Felipe Massa, as he negotiated the outside line in turn one, taking the high ground on the exit. A slight connection between Hamilton and Massa’s rear tyres signified just how small the margin for error was and as Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado demonstrated later on, it was a high risk move.
Team of the Weekend
Albeit on the track which best suits their characteristics, Red Bull took their opportunity well this weekend and even had a chance of victory late on in the race. Having waiting nine races for a podium in 2015, two came at once and will provide a massive boost to all those working as hard as ever at Milton Keynes.