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GP Week : Issue 187
If the Hungarian Grand Prix was a demonstration of Lewis Hamilton’s capabilities when he and Mercedes are on their back foot, it would seem that the Brackley racers have been putting the wrong foot forward all year. By rights, the Silver Arrows had no business winning Sunday’s race. Not only had Mercedes been prevented from taking part in the Young Driver Test that saw their opponents test out Pirelli’s new tyre constructions, but the Saturday-quick W04 is notorious for chewing through its rubber on Sundays, lightning fast on low fuel but disastrous on heavy loads – and much, much worse in the hear. But Lewis Hamilton – who had on Saturday said it would take ‘a miracle’ for him to win at the Hungaroring despite starting from pole – delivered a commanding performance for all 70 laps of Sunday’s race, leading for much of the afternoon, making short work of the men in front after every pit stop, and managing those troublesome tyres for the duration, despite track temperatures exceeding 50̊C. Behind Hamilton the key players at the sharp end of the Hungarian Grand Prix were podium finishers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, while Jenson Button was one of the key actors when it came to shaping the race as a whole. The McLaren may not have had the pace to fight for a podium on Sunday, but a combination of the British driver’s well-honed racecraft – particularly his ability to expand the width of his car while keeping well within the bounds of the Sporting Regulations – and the Red Bull’s lack of straight-line speed meant that Vettel spent countless laps staring at the rear wing of Button’s MP4-28, unable to get past. Without the 12 laps Vettel spent stuck behind Button after his first pit stop, the defending world champion might have been able to challenge for the win at the end of the race. But the German racer lost the best of his tyres in Button’s dirty air, and was eventually asked by the team to pull back from the McLaren to prevent overheating of both rubber and brakes. Despite visible degradation on Button’s front tyres from around lap 20 onwards, with the British driver slowing by tenths a lap, it was lap 24 before Vettel was able to make it past. It was too little, too late – the Red Bull driver was 13.3 seconds behind race leader Hamilton, and the short Hungarian circuit meant that every turn of the circuit led to more lapped cars to overtake, more traffic to slow him down. For chunks of Sunday afternoon, Raikkonen was the hidden threat on track. Despite a comparatively poor qualifying and an average start, the Finnish racer never dropped out of the points. It was a measured and intelligent race from the Iceman, who concentrated on setting steady – but quick – lap times while teammate Romain Grosjean fought for glory, and ended up paying the price. Raikkonen stayed out of trouble, drove hard, and reaped the rewards. The closing stages of Sunday’s race saw a nail- biting run to the finish, with a freshly-shod Vettel closing in on Raikkonen as the pair dipped in and out of DRS range. But the Finnish racer was able to keep the gap where it mattered, extending his lead over the world champion in the second sector on every lap, putting Vettel under the sort of desperate pressure to pass that led to a petulant radio call from the young German on lap 68. Vettel later brushed off the incident as saying it was heat of the moment nonsense, but the cry of ‘he didn’t give me enough room’ followed the Red Bull driver’s only real – failed – opportunity to make it past the E21 for an extra clutch of championship points. Just off the podium, and running a reverse tyre strategy (Soft final stint) thanks to his team’s qualifying dramas and grid 10 start, Mark Webber looked briefly like charging towards Vettel, but had to settle for fourth. From the start ... 32 GPWEEK.com // 32 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> HUNGARY