Hungarian GP - Sunday - Race Report
Webber wins Hungaroring and retakes championship lead
Mark Webber scored a tremendous fourth victory of the season in Hungary to take back the world championship lead when an early race Safety Car for debris on the track played out in his favour.
Red Bull Racing team mate Sebastian Vettel was leading comfortably, having converted his pole position, while Webber was trapped behind Fernando Alonso's Ferrari when the offending debris from Tonio Liuzzi's front wing at Turn 11 brought out the official car after 14 laps.
Vettel saw the Safety Car light at the last moment and only just got into the pitlane in time. He was followed in by all leading runners except Webber. Ensuing chaos in the pits eliminated Adrian Sutil, who was hit by Robert Kubica when Renault performed an unsafe release. Nico Rosberg also retired after his Mercedes lost a right rear wheel, which rolled dangerously through a neighbouring pit. Both Renault and Mercedes were fined $50,000.
"We had to do something a bit different with the strategy to get ahead of Fernando," Webber said, "and although it wasn't a massive gamble, there was a risk involved. I had a pace advantage here, so I could build a stop's advantage over Fernando and then had some fortune when Sebastian had his Drive Through penalty.
"I needed a 20s gap to make the stop and I wanted a bit of an extra buffer to take the pressure off the guys in the pits, which worked out, but I still had to get the job done. It was a bit delicate because although the super soft tyres were not too soft here, I still did a 43-lap stint on them and we had no real reference to know how far they could go. I had to keep the pace up and the left front was pretty much finished by the time I put the primes on.
"When I came back out I knew that I was on primes that had done almost 30 laps less than the other guys, so I was pretty safe then. I had a bit of a gift today but not many of my wins have been, so I'll take it!!"
Alonso, after his win in Germany, was happy to come away with second place from a race in which Red Bull showed such superiority. It means he is now just 20 points off the championship lead with seven races remaining. As everyone knows at the Hungaroing though, overtaking is incredibly difficult except into the first corner, and if your opponent has a straight line speed advantage, it is impossible there too. That was the scenario facing Vettel after he served his Drive Through penalty and then caught the Ferrari.
Alonso was making no apologies though. "I think I've still got plenty of credit left for all this year's bad luck so even if I have five or six more gifts, it's not enough," the Spaniard claimed.
"I was side-by-side with Vettel into the first corner on the first lap but I was not able to pass. When the Safety Car came out I was just before the last corner, so there was not much time to react and I was just taking care after recent races that we did a good Sunday with no mistakes or penalties. Mark was incredibly quick today and there was nothing I could do. He was able to do more than 40 laps with a set of soft tyres, which is not normally possible."
Alonso was not the only driver to be surprised by that. Vettel went on the radio to the team asking how Webber had got in front, and fourth placed Felipe Massa also radioed in to ask whether Webber had come out behind him!
Vettel's face betrayed his feelings. At first he was totally bemused at his penalty, which was for dropping more than 10 lengths behind the Safety Car prior to the restart.
The rule exists partly to stop drivers backing others up and allowing a second team car to take advantage. If you didn't know better, that could easily have been seen as the reason why Vettel let such a gap develop between himself and Webber at the restart, as if he'd been told to do it to maximise Webber's chances of building the necessary gap to jump Alonso.
In fact though, as they fight out the championship, assisting Webber was the last thing on Vettel's mind. The simple explanation is that he had momentarily lost radio contact with his engineer and was caught out.
"It should have been such an easy race and win," the disgruntled German explained. "I was sleeping at the restart, relying too much on radio, I lost the connection, didn't hear anything and was waiting for instructions about when the Safety Car would come in. Usually the leader drops back from it and tries to dictate the pace, but Mark was still close to it and I thought we had another lap to warm up the car. Then I noticed it was going in and I was caught out."
During the race Vettel did not understand why he had been penalised and gesticulated in frustration as he served the penalty, coming out behind Alonso's Ferrari but still just in front of Massa's sister car.
"I only found out after I got out of the car what the penalty was for," Vettel said. "It should have been a walk in the park today but the Ferrari was faster than us on the straight so knew it was hard to pass. It was a good result for team but I'm very disappointed."
It was a very good result for Red Bull indeed. Championship leader Lewis Hamilton's McLaren, running fourth at the time, crawled to a halt with a broken gearbox at one third distance. Jenson Button, in the sister car, could not qualify better than 11th, dropped four places at the start and came home an eventual eighth. McLaren's constructors championship score therefore amounted to just the four points, which means that Red Bull's 40 point Hungarian haul puts the team eight points clear at the top of the championship table.
Behind the Red Bulls and Ferraris, Vitaly Petrov drove his best race to date. Having outqualified Robert Kubica he came home fifth, best of the rest, and along with Nico Hulkenberg was the only other driver to remain unlapped.
Pedro de la Rosa delighted Peter Sauber with seventh place, ahead of defending champion Button, while Kamui Kobayashi also got the second team car home in the points.
Nobody would think that Rubens Barrichello had started almost 300 grands prix, such was the commitment he showed in overtaking Michael Schumacher's Mercedes for the final point with five laps to go. Schumacher has always been physical in his defence of position but this time he went too far. He was later given a 10 place grid penalty for the next race at Spa (see separate story).
As the F1 teams now close their doors for a fortnight and head for the summer break, Webber leads the championship with 161 points to Hamilton's 157, Vettel's 151, Button's 147 and Alonso's 141 with seven races remaining. It's anybody's crown.