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Hungarian GP 2016

JULY 25, 2016

Race Report - Ten Crucial Seconds

Lewis Hamilton, Hungarian GP 2016
© The Cahier Archive


By Dan Knutson in Budapest

The 2016 Hungarian Grand Prix lasted one hour, 40 minutes and 30.115 seconds, but the outcome of the race was decided in the first 10 crucial seconds, and in the first two corners.

Lewis Hamilton qualified second but his tailor-made start put him into the lead by the second corner, and from then on he was able to control the race on his way to victory.

"The start was everything," Hamilton said. "I got a good start. I had one of the Red Bulls on the inside of me, so I was pressured quite a lot into Turn 1."

Nico Rosberg had won the pole in a wild and wet qualifying session that ended in controversy as officials investigated if he had slowed sufficiently in the yellow flag zone created by Fernando Alonso spinning his McLaren. In the end, Rosberg was exonerated, and so he started from the pole.

But that pole advantage did not last long as Hamilton changed the face of the race in those first moments. Rosberg tried hard but second was the best he could do.

"It was down to the start in the end," Rosberg said. "I lost out a little bit and then into Turn 1, with Daniel (Ricciardo) on the outside, Lewis (Hamilton) on the inside, I ran out of space, so I had to bail out of it. That was it really. I was happy to take Daniel back in Turn 2 and from then I was trying to put all the pressure possible on Lewis but of course it's not possible to pass on this track."

Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo qualified third and finished third. That brought an end to the string of races where things have worked against him.

"It's great to have another podium this year," he said. "Obviously the first one (in Monaco) was a bit bittersweet, but this one I can definitely enjoy and for sure the smile's back. Super happy to be here today. It's three years in a row I've been on the podium at this circuit."

When the red lights went off to start the 70 lap race, Hamilton beat Rosberg into Turn 1 to take the lead. Ricciardo briefly got into second place and then first, but fell back to third ahead of his teammate. Max Verstappen. Hamilton was on the move, and after two laps he had a 1.4 second lead over Rosberg.

Sebastian Vettel qualified his Ferrari fifth and stayed fifth while Alonso passed Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) to take sixth place.

While things settled down at the front, further back Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) was moving on up. He started 14th and was soon in 11th behind the Haas of Esteban Gutierrez.

Meanwhile, officials gave Jenson Button a drive through the pits penalty for receiving an unauthorized radio communication. The McLaren crew had radioed him and told him not to shift gears.

"So the brake pedal going to the floor isn't classed as a safety issue? That's quite interesting. I think someone needs to read up on the regulations," Button said over the radio.

Hamilton was easing away from Rosberg. The gap was 2.5 seconds on lap 12. Rosberg in turn was 3.3 seconds ahead of Ricciardo who in turn was 1.5 seconds in front of Verstappen.

Vettel pitted at the end of lap 14, switching from the super soft to the soft Pirelli slicks. He came out just in front of Raikkonen. Ricciardo pitted one lap later and did the same. He came out ahead of Vettel who was eighth.

Hamilton stopped at the end of lap 16 as did Verstappen. The latter came out behind Raikkonen.

Rosberg led lap 16 and pitted at the end of lap 17, and Hamilton retook the lead. Ricciardo was back in third, but now Vettel was fourth ahead of Raikkonen and Verstappen. Raikkonen, who had started the race on the soft Pirellis, had yet to make his first stop.

Ricciardo was lapping half a second to a second a lap quicker than the Mercedes drivers, and he was 5.8 seconds behind Rosberg on lap 21. Vettel, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Perez, Palmer, Magnussen and Alonso rounded out the top 10 at this stage.

Several laps later, however, the Mercedes duo picked up the pace and started doing the same lap times as Ricciardo. Vettel was putting in quick laps as well.

While other drivers who had started on the soft tires started to make their stops, Raikkonen stayed out on track and ahead of the frustrated Verstappen. Raikkonen made his first stop at the end of lap 29. He got a set of the super soft Pirelli tires.

On lap 32 Hamilton was in traffic. His engineer told him to speed up and get past the cars as soon as possible. Ricciardo stopped at the end of lap 33 for a set of the soft compound tires. That dropped Ricciardo to fifth as both Vettel and Verstappen got by.

"It's an unknown how long these tires are really going to last," Hamilton said. "We have a target which we need to get to, so once I got into the lead, I was able to just manage my tires, my car and manage the gap and react only when I needed to."

Verstappen pitted at the end of lap 38 and had another set of the softs fitted.

Lap 40 of 70: Hamilton led Rosberg and Vettel. Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Alonso, Sainz and Valtteri Bottas (Williams) rounded out the top nine. All had made just one stop except for the Red Bull teammates.

One lap later, however, Hamilton and Vettel pitted. Rosberg came in at the end of 42 and Hamilton was back in front. Ricciardo was third ahead of Raikkonen, Vettel and Verstappen.

Rosberg started to close in on Hamilton. The gap stood at 1.7 seconds on lap 47. The order on lap 49 was: Hamilton, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Vettel, Verstappen, Alonso, Sainz, Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg (Force India). All had stopped twice and were on the soft tires except Raikkonen who had pitted once and was now of the super softs.

Then Raikkonen came in one lap later for another set of the super softs. That dropped him down to sixth place.

Hamilton got stuck behind Gutierrez, and that allowed Rosberg to get within 0.6 of a second, yet Hamilton quickly started to pull away again and got the gap out to 1.2 seconds and then 2.9 seconds by lap 56.

"For sure, I think the back markers caused a little bit of trouble towards the end," Hamilton said, "but generally I was able to keep the buffer to the right amount.

"The whole race I was thinking, this has been great, I've not made any mistakes and in one moment. I can't remember if I was behind someone but I locked up one or two front wheels and I went slightly wide and Nico then was all of a sudden on my tail which wasn't exactly a moment. But then after that it was just head down and increase that lead."

Raikkonen was flying on his super softs, and now started to attack Verstappen. They ducked and weaved, and Raikkonen's left front wing clipped the rear of the Red Bull.

"He pulled off to the right and then back to the left as I was going there!" an angry Raikkonen radioed as he continued to chase after Verstappen who continued to defend robustly.

Out in front, Hamilton held a 1.3 second lead over Rosberg with less than five laps to go.

"Behind Lewis it was impossible to overtake on this track," Rosberg said. "I had great pace in the race, which is very positive, but unfortunately I wasn't able to make the most of it. It's great that my second home race is coming up so soon. I look forward to Hockenheim and will be pushing flat out to repeat the win from 2014."

Ricciardo was third and coming under attack from Vettel in the closing stages.

"In the first part of the race we looked quite competitive," Ricciardo said. "But then it looked like Mercedes had a bit more in their back pocket and were able to improve the pace as the race went on. In the end the fight was then with Sebastian (Vettel).

"It got pretty close at the end; did quite a long stint on those tires. It wasn't easy. The last lap, I'm sure he had DRS and, at least in my mirrors, it looked like he got quite close in Turn 1. So, yeah, bit of a fight. So it was a bit of a relief actually coming across and keeping third."

Vettel, who finished fourth, had hoped for more in the race.

"I had a good start," he said, "maybe too good, because the run into Turn 1 is very long, so I had to get out of the tow a bit too early. It was bit of a shame because I was stuck in fifth position from then onwards. Then I knew everything would have to go through strategy and pit stops and so we overcut Verstappen.

"We were much stronger at the end of the race, maybe a couple of tenths, but unfortunately not quick enough to pass. If I had been able to, I would have done more, but I tried everything until the end. We were on a good strategy, we had more pace at the end but this is one of the most difficult tracks for overtaking. With a better position yesterday, I think we could have finished P3 without any problem."

Vettel's Ferrari teammate Raikkonen wound up sixth.

"Today my car was really good and behaving well," Raikkonen said. "We had the speed, but obviously this is not the easiest place to overtake. Unfortunately, after yesterday's qualifying, today we were not in a position that would allow us to get the result we deserved, and this is the most disappointing thing.

"Regarding the battle with Max, it's not for me to decide but I think that his maneuvers are questionable. The first time he started to move on the right and I went left, but he moved back there too, so I had to try and get out of it because I was hitting him hard on the rear and I lost my front wing, which didn't make it easier to attack again.

"Then later, every time I managed to make a move and I was committed to somewhere he decided to turn afterwards, and at that point I had nowhere to go. It's not my job to determine if he was correct or not, but I have seen people being penalized for much less."

Verstappen, who finished fifth, was not penalized.

"The pace was there for a podium today," Verstappen said. "I felt like I had a good start and got close to Lewis (Hamilton) into Turn 1 but then ran out of track and couldn't brake late. After the first stop it was very frustrating to be behind a Ferrari at the start on the fresher tires.

"It was a shame because at the beginning we were quick and I tried to create a gap to the Ferraris which lead to me having to back off as I got too close to the car in front. This meant when I pitted I got out behind them both and that was pretty much my race done. Being behind meant I destroyed my tires trying to find a pass so the opportunities went away as the race went on.

"Regarding my battle with Kimi (Raikkonen) I was simply protecting my position. I drove hard and just made sure I didn't lock up or make a mistake."

Alonso finished seventh and scored points for the third time this season.

"Well, P7 has been my position all weekend!" he said. "It's a pity we couldn't improve this afternoon but still I think we were best of the rest today. Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari are out of reach at the moment for everyone - they're on another level - so, in the other mini-championship we're racing in, we were quite competitive and I feel we delivered the maximum we could today."

Hamilton certainly did his maximum as he went on to win the Hungarian Grand Prix for the fifth time, and he took the lead in the world championship for the first time this season.