Hungarian GP - Sunday - Race Report
Somebody forgot to tell him
The Hungarian Grand Prix is often a procession because it is so difficult to overtake around the tight and twisting circuit. Somebody forgot to tell that to Daniel Ricciardo, however, as he pulled off an audacious pass on Lewis Hamilton and then sliced by Fernando Alonso and went on to score the second victory of his F1 career.
"Winning this today, it honestly feels as good as the first," the Red Bull driver said, referring to his victory in Canada. "It sank in a lot quicker this one, so crossing the line today I knew what was going on a bit more and it's like I could enjoy it immediately rather than it being delayed, it was awesome. To have to pass guys again to win the race, as I did in Canada, makes it a lot more satisfying, knowing that we did have a bit of a fight on our hands - you beauty!
"In this environment now I feel, I am a different driver and in a way a different person, a different sportsman than I was last year. I've got a lot more belief in myself and it's cool, I definitely feel like I belong here now and I've got confidence; obviously we've converted two races into wins this year so far and I think that confidence is showing. I've got some friends from Australia here this weekend, so the plan was to always have a few drinks tonight, so I think we've got an excuse to now!"
Ferrari's Alonso fended off the attacking Mercedes driver Hamilton and beat him to second place by just 0.632 of a second. Both were on worn tires and two stop strategies, with Alonso stopping on lap 38 of 70 for a set of Pirelli's soft compound slicks while Hamilton had pitted on lap 39 for the medium compound tires.
Ricciardo did a three stopper, and pitted on lap 54 for a new set of the softs. He closed in on Alonso and Hamilton and passed them with three laps to go.
"I had the advantage of the fresher tires," Ricciardo said, "but I knew they wouldn't make it easy. I attempted Lewis into Turn Two, I think the previous lap or maybe two before I eventually got him, but just locked up and went too wide. I had a second crack at it and I still locked up but I managed to just hang on and just had a bit more grip around the outside there, so that was that.
"And then, once I got close enough to Fernando, I knew I just had to go for it. Being in that sandwich there, Lewis was still I think in the DRS zone, basically I couldn't waste too much time and that's what I did and then once I got the lead I knew it was just a couple of laps to go."
The race started on a wet track because of rain that had just swept through the area. While the rain had stopped, the drivers still needed Pirelli's intermediate rain tires on their cars. Pole sitter Nico Rosberg took the lead in his Mercedes ahead of Valtteri Bottas (Williams), Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) and Alonso. Ricciardo started fourth but slipped to sixth.
Hamilton, meanwhile, started from the pit lane in a new car after a fire had ruined his car in qualifying the day before. Kevin Magnussen also started from the pits in a repaired McLaren that he had crashed in qualifying.
On lap 8 Marcus Ericsson spun his Caterham into the barriers.
"I was just a bit too eager in the throttle," he said. "The back stepped out and I couldn't catch the car and that was it, I was in the wall. It was a pretty big shunt! I went to the medical centre straight after the crash and they told me it was about 20 G but physically I feel fine."
That brought out the Safety Car. Unfortunately for the top four, they had already passed the pit entrance when the SC signs were shown and so they had to do another lap before pitting. Everybody else except Magnussen headed for the pits and a change of tires. Everybody got slicks expect Jenson Button who got a new set of inters on his McLaren.
Just as the Safety Car was about to come in, Romain Grosjean crashed his Lotus in virtually the same place as the Ericsson shunt.
"The conditions on the circuit this afternoon were very tricky," he said, "and we couldn't get the best out of the tires. We made the right call to move to slicks when the safety car came out - like most of the grid did - but I made a mistake when I was trying to keep the tires warm. Unfortunately, I touched the white line and spun and that was it."
When the Safety Car finally came in at the end of lap 13, the order was now: Ricciardo, Magnussen, Felipe Massa (Williams), Rosberg, Magnussen, Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso), Vettel and Alonso. The track was still damp, which allowed Button on his intermediates to take the lead on lap 14, but Ricciardo re-passed him on the following lap.
McLaren's strategy was wrong, and as a result Button would finish 10th and Magnussen 12th. Ricciardo led laps 15 to 23 and then pitted when the Safety Car again came out - this time after Sergio Perez spun his Force India into the pit wall.
"I went a little wide on the exit curb of the final corner, lost the rear and that was it - I was in the wall," Perez said. "It was a very unfortunate end to our race and I feel sorry for the team because they deserved some points today. Conditions were very difficult, the track was drying and improving, and it made you want to push to the limit, but there were some wet patches that could catch you out."
This time only Ricciardo, Massa and Bottas pitted.
"I knew that the first Safety Car played into our hands," Ricciardo said. "We inherited the lead there, pitting for slicks and then we were looking alright. Then we got the second Safety Car and obviously we pitted again for another set of tires but we obviously lost the lead.
"I wasn't really sure what was going to happen. We were stayed out pretty long that stint and we were leading a fair chunk of the mid-race but then I knew we weren't going to get to the end on that set of tires. So we had to pit again and that put me back out of position. Then we knew we had to overtake to win the race."
Somebody had also forgotten to tell Hamilton that you can't pass at this track. He slashed his way from the pit lane start to second by lap 34.
Alonso led laps 24 to 37 and pitted. Hamilton led lap 38, and then Ricciardo was back out in front until he made his third stop on lap 54. Then, on new tires, he hunted down Hamilton and Alonso and passed them both. Alonso managed to hang on to second place which was his best finish of the year.
"This podium means a lot to me and the whole team," he said, "because after so many difficult races, we managed to get the most out of everything, also taking a few risks and second place seems like a win. To do 31 laps at the end on used soft tires was a great challenge. At that point, the strategy suggested that if we had made a third stop, we could have finished fourth, but we decided to run to the flag instead.
"This race shows that anything is possible when there are unusual conditions like today, with a wet start and the appearance of the Safety Car. We managed to make the most of all opportunities that presented themselves, taking the best decisions even at the most difficult moments. Sure, the characteristics of the circuit, with its limited overtaking opportunities, helped us and that's why we have to be realistic and continue to work on the car, to improve in all aspects."
Hamilton was third and unhappy about all the bad luck he has been having.
"I was just pushing as hard as possible to get as high as I could," he said. "It was obviously damage limitation after what happened yesterday. I can't express the pain I feel when we have issues such as in the last couple of races; it's hard to swallow and difficult to come back the next day and get the right balance between not attacking too much, but pushing to the limit."
Earlier in the race the team had asked Hamilton to let Rosberg pass him as Rosberg was on a different tire strategy. Hamilton said no way.
"The two Safety Car periods helped quite a lot," he said, "but naturally I looked fast and had the pace this weekend, so there was an opportunity for more points. I was in the same race as Nico and if I let him past and he had the opportunity to pull away, then he would have come back and overtaken me. I didn't understand why the team asked me to do that as he didn't get close enough to overtake and I didn't want to lift off and lose ground to Fernando."
Rosberg made his final stop on lap 56 and on new tires he quickly closed in on Hamilton and Alonso. He didn't have enough time to pass them, however, and finished fourth.
"That was a disappointing afternoon," Rosberg said. "A few things didn't work out for me and it was a very up and down race. In the beginning it was all under control. Unfortunately the Safety Car cost me the lead, because I just missed the pit entry and then I couldn't pit. I also had some braking issues after the safety car went in and a difficult period of time with handling this, which cost me some positions.
"Then I was able to push a lot. I had a great last stint and at the end there was one chance to overtake Lewis in the last lap, but it didn't work out. So that is massively disappointing. We need to sit down and analyze internally what went wrong today. I'm still leading the championship, which is a positive thing, and I'll be ready to attack again after the summer break."
Massa took fifth place and his teammate was eighth. "It was a very difficult race with a lot happening," Massa said. "We had many fights and it was difficult to stay on the track. We took some risks with the tires in the pitstops and in the end it was a good result. Now we can look forward to the second part of the season and I'm sure we will score a lot more points than we've scored up until now."
Bottas said: "After three podiums in a row P8 is not that satisfying, but we got some good points as a team. There was more to come today but we were unlucky with the safety car when I went from P2 to out of the top 10. We need to analyze this race then focus on the next one. There are many more good moments for us to come this season, we are getting stronger."
Kimi Raikkonen is getting to grips with the Ferrari and brought it home sixth.
"Today's race was difficult," the Finn said, "but much more fun than the others, as I had a good feeling with the car, the pace was good and I felt I could push. After the way qualifying went yesterday, sixth was the most we could hope for.
"At the start, I got away well but then I lost vital time behind a Sauber and when I caught Massa's Williams, I couldn't get past: here in general, overtaking is not easy and we lack speed down the straights. Sure, this is a good team result, but we must not get too excited, because even if there are signs of improvement, we still have much work to do in a lot of areas to get to where we want to be."
Vettel had a lucky escape on his way to seventh.
"It wasn't a great race," he said. "I spun, which was my mistake, and before that I was unlucky with the safety car in the first stint. The timing meant the first four cars lost positions to those running behind. Unfortunately we were then in the wrong mode for the restart and I lost two positions. It's good for Daniel that he won today, I'm happy for him."
Vergne wound up ninth in his Toro Rosso.
"The team did a fantastic job to call me in straight after the Safety Car and everything worked well," he said. "The race was really nice and I had a lot of fun being in second position for some time. I knew that I didn't have the pace to keep up with the others around me until the end of the race but it was a great moment.
"Obviously I would have liked to finish in a better position to get more points but we still have to improve the performance level of the car. I'm confident that step by step this will come soon, so I'm really positive for the second part of the season."
Button rounded out the top 10.
"I'm glad it was an exciting race for the fans, but it was a tough afternoon for us," he said. "We didn't make the right decisions today. The opening laps in the rain were great: I got up into fifth - which wasn't a bad position for us - but it went downhill from there. As the track started to dry, we thought it was going to rain again - unfortunately, however, we were the only ones thinking that.
"I feel like I did everything right, and in every track condition, which is why it's tough - but we win as a team and we lose as a team, and we'll quickly put this behind us and move on. It's the perfect time for the summer break - obviously, we're not where we want to be, but we've had some positive results, and the whole team has worked incredibly hard throughout this first half of the season. I hope that everybody can get the chance to recharge their batteries before we embark on what we hope will be a better half of the season."
Formula 1 now heads off on its annual summer vacation, so Ricciardo will have nearly three weeks to savor his win. And maybe while he is on holiday somebody will tell him that you can't pass at the Hungaroring.