Hungarian GP 2015
JULY 27, 2015
Race Report - Not the usual suspects
BY DAN KNUTSON IN BUDAPEST
If you look at the lap chart of the Hungarian Grand Prix it appears to be like just about any other Formula 1 race this year with one car leading almost every lap. But a closer inspection reveals that it is the number 5 of Sebastian Vettel that led all but one of the 69 laps (his teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the other lap) rather than the usual suspects - Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Furthermore, the podium wasn't filled with the usual mix of Mercedes and Ferrari drivers but with Red Bull teammates Daniil Kvyat (his first F1 podium) and Daniel Ricciardo.
Then there is Max Verstappen who took fourth place in his Toro Rosso - his best finish yet in F1 - and Fernando Alonso who brought his McLaren home fifth for the team's best result - by far - this season. Hamilton was way down in sixth and not a podium visitor for the first time this season.
This was a wild and chaotic race for many of the participants. Vettel experienced almost none of it as he grabbed the lead at the start - nearly hitting pole sitter Hamilton in the process - and then went on to win while things got crazy behind him.
"Incredible day but this victory is for Jules (Bianchi who passed away on July 17)," Vettel said after earning his 41st grand prix victory to match Ayrton Senna's tally. "We know that it has been an incredibly tough week and it's for all of us very, very difficult. So this one is for him and especially all the people in Ferrari. We knew that sooner or later he would have been part of our team, part of this family."
Ferrari had struggled to find a good pace on Friday but turned the car around by Sunday.
"It makes a difference if you find yourself in clean air, dictating the pace rather than following the top two cars," Vettel said. "In some races we didn't really see them for long. In other races we were sort of stuck behind them and you cannot really show your true pace. But then again, I think the whole race the pace was really, really good."
Raikkonen's pace was good as well until his MGU-K failed, robbing his engine of power and eventually he retired.
That second place ended up in Kvyat's hands even though he had been as far down as eighth, and even though the officials gave him a 10 second time penalty for gaining an advantage by going off the track to pass Hamilton.
"It was a race where everything happened for me," Kvyat said. "After the start I thought my race was over, because I had a massive flat spot. We were discussing with the team whether we should box straight away or not, but we decided to stay out. Then we had a decent stint on the prime (medium compound Pirelli) but still it wasn't feeling great through the race.
"But then something picked up and it was going in the right direction in the second half of the race. The rivals were fighting and I found myself in second place. Today I definitely learned never to give up, whatever happens."
Ricciardo certainly had plenty of fights, and he had collisions with Valtteri Bottas (Williams) at the start, then Hamilton later in the race and then Rosberg near the end of the race. It was that last entanglement that set up the final finishing positions. Rosberg was second and Ricciardo third.
"The laps were ticking down," Ricciardo said. "I had to try something and I got a pretty good run out of the last corner. I said 'I'm going for it this lap, no matter what,' and I went for it. To be honest, the move, it was, for sure, late but it was clean. Up until the apex it was fine.
"Obviously Nico saw me and left me room on the entry and then, just the exit, from what I recall he just came back across and just basically didn't give me enough room. I don't know if he thought he'd cleared me yet - but we made contact and that was when he earned a puncture and I got the front wing damage."
Rosberg saw things differently.
"For me, the incident with Daniel was pretty clear," Rosberg said. "I was on the ideal line; he braked too late and went wide. I then stayed on the racing line, so it was my corner, but he still had his front wing there and hit me and I got a puncture. That destroyed my race, which is a real shame as I could have gained a lot of points on Lewis (Hamilton)."
Rosberg limped back to the pits for new tires and would finish eighth. Ricciardo pitted for a new front wing, and that allowed Kvyat to take over second place.
Meanwhile, Verstappen was on his way to a fabulous fourth.
"Unbelievable, a P4!" the teenager said. "What a great result, I have no words! I didn't expect that at all after a bit of a bad start. However I managed to stay out of trouble and during my second stint everything was going well, I felt comfortable in the car and the guys behind me were not catching me up.
"When the race restarted after the Safety Car period there was a lot going on, with cars crashing in front of me... I also damaged my front wing a bit and was given a drive through penalty (for speeding during the Safety Car period). So with a few laps to go I was asking my engineer in what position we were in, and when he said P4 I just couldn't believe it!"
The Safety Car came out so that the marshals could clean up the debris from the front wing which disintegrated on Nico Hulkenberg's Force India as he started lap 42.
"I didn't have much warning that there was a problem with the front wing," he related. "There was a harsh vibration just before it broke and after that I was heading straight into the barriers. The final impact was not too bad because that part of the track is well protected and it absorbed the energy nicely.
"Up until the accident, things were looking very positive: I had made a great start and was racing with the Red Bulls, which shows the step forward we have made with the B-spec car. The good news is that we have time over the next week to analyze what happened today."
Things sure looked positive for Alonso and McLaren teammate Jenson Button who finished fifth and ninth giving the team its first double points haul of the season.
"After the Safety Car the team kept telling me people were dropping off almost in every lap so at that rhythm in another ten laps I would have finished in the podium!" Alonso said. "It was a complicated race for us too: we had a puncture at one point, in the second stint, a visor tear off also got inside a brake duct, so a lot happened but the final result paid off."
Button was on a different tire strategy.
"Fernando did a great job today," he said. "Fitting the option (soft) tire for the final stint was the right decision for him; I didn't stop for tires under the Safety Car whereas pretty much everyone around me did. That decision made it very difficult for me, because my used primes (medium compound) were pretty old by the end of the race, and there were plenty of faster cars around me running fresher options. Still, it was a fun race."
Hamilton ended up sixth. He had started from the pole, but Vettel, Raikkonen and Rosberg all go by him just after the start. He then went off the track and finished lap 1 in tenth place.
"That was a very tough afternoon," Hamilton said. "The team did everything right and the car clearly had the pace. I just had a very bad day at the office. It was one of the worst races I think I've had and I don't really have any explanation for it at the moment.
"My start wasn't ideal and the Ferraris were really quick off the line, so suddenly I was under attack from both sides. It was tight with Nico later in the lap where I locked up and went off, and then of course there was the incident with Daniel. It wasn't deliberate but it was my fault. He took a tight line around the outside and I just lost grip, ran out of road and understeered into him. That meant a drive through which dropped me right back again after all that work to make it back through.
"From there I just had to tell myself to calm down and not give up so I could fight back for some points. You could see in that phase that the pace of the car was really strong and the pace was really there all weekend. I just made too many mistakes today."
Romain Grosjean brought his Lotus home in seventh place.
"Today was an incredible race; it was an incredible weekend," he said. "Being in the top ten in qualifying yesterday was a miracle and today was actually beautiful; we really pushed hard and it was good, we deserved some points. I had a terrible start, lost a lot of spaces and I was pushed into the gravel by Carlos Sainz on the first lap. Then I came back on track and couldn't pass the McLaren. Then there was a penalty for an unsafe release and then the Safety Car. But we got the strategy right and, after all that, we ended up in P7 fighting with the Mercedes."
Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top 10 in his Sauber.
"The start of the race was not ideal," he said, "so I lost one position. After that I felt comfortable in the car straight away. On the strategy side the team made the right calls at the optimal times, and I think overall we did a good job. I am pleased to bring home at least one point before the summer break."
The trials and tribulations of the top 10 finishers, many of whom were not the usual suspects in the usual positions, were just part of the all-out action in this fabulous race where things happened from start to finish and to almost every driver.
Formula 1 now heads into the three-week shutdown, leaving us to savor and remember a fantastic grand prix.