Sunday 31 July 2011

Hungarian GP Report: Jenson rains on Lewis's parade

Jenson Button won today's Hungarian Grand Prix, and it may not surprise you that rain was involved. He put in the sort of performance he seems to have been producing in these sort of conditions since the dawn of time. Smooth, error-free and rapid, accompanied by strategy calls that made you wonder if Jenson has some kind of early warning system of what the weather's about to do and the resultant effect on track conditions (you wonder why in these situations his rivals don't just conclude to do whatever Jenson is doing on the strategy calls?). All sounds terribly familiar, but no less impressive for that.

Jenson Button took another fine win in mixed conditions
Credit: Alex Comerford / CC
For the most part though it looked like Lewis's race to lose, having taken the lead from Vettel in the wet early part of the race and seeming to have not a care in the world as he retained it. But a variety of occurrences upon occurrences from lap 40 through to lap 57 ensured that he did lose it and then some.

First off, Lewis in his third tyre stop put on super softs, when most directly behind him (including Jenson) put on softs with a view to running non-stop to the end. This seemed to ensure Lewis would have to stop once more than those behind him, and it never seemed likely he'd have that sort of pace advantage to retain his lead after the extra stop. It seemed very odd that they should paint themselves into a corner on strategy like that when leading comfortably. Then on lap 47 rain gathered at the back of the circuit, and Lewis hit a wet kerb at the chicane and spun, letting Jenson lead. But worse for him was that in recovery he spun turn to face the right way without heed of Paul di Resta approaching, who had to leave the track to avoid him. This earned Lewis a drive-through penalty, which was just about fair enough in my view as the move risked a side impact collision which would have been very dangerous. Though it's possible that Lewis didn't see him, in his defence. But worst of all for Lewis, as the rain intensified, he made the wrong call to pit for intermediates (or rather someone made the wrong call) only to have to change back to slicks a handful of laps later. He eventually salvaged fourth place, passing Webber in traffic late on in a move reminiscent of Nigel Mansell's pass on Ayrton Senna here in 1989.

Sebastian Vettel finished second
and extends his championship lead
Credit: Alex Comerford / CC
And while all this was going on around him, Sebastian Vettel stayed out of trouble and made the right calls to come home second, even making a nice overtake on Alonso (though with much fresher tyres) as he did so. His championship lead is now 85 points, bigger than it's ever been. As crises go it must be a very nice crisis for him. Yes, the McLarens now clearly have the legs of the Red Bulls in all conditions, but on the evidence of today Vettel is doing everything required to bring home the championship with a minimum of fuss. Some of the 'it's all the car' talk about Sebastian Vettel is ridiculous, frankly. The guy is top drawer.

Fernando Alonso completed the podium
Credit: / CC
Fernando Alonso completed the podium, with a bit of a frustrating and scrappy run, wherein he spent much of the race behind slower cars (usually Webber), on the wrong tyres or sliding off the road (particularly in the wet early stages). Once again though, the pace of the Ferrari was there for all to see in clear air and when his tyres were up to temperature, and their downforce levels in high speed corners look to be the class of the field (how that would have been an absurd thing to say a few weeks ago). Ferrari must think they've done something to upset the weather gods, with three damp, cool races in July when they really needed the ambient to be warm. The next race after the break, at Spa, will suit them but it often rains there as well.

Paul di Resta took a timely seventh place
Credit: Alex Comerford / CC
And Paul di Resta recovered from his Lewis contretemps by bringing it home in a worthy and timely seventh place. This also continues Force India’s recent good form, wherein they're leapfrogged even the Mercedes to arguably be best of the rest. Sebastien Buemi in his Toro Rosso put his fresh tyres to good use by coming in eighth having started last.

And Nick Heidfeld briefly provided a distraction with a fiery exit from the pits and the race (don't those forward facing exhausts so close to the cockpit look dangerous in that situation?), followed by an explosion. Renault principal Eric Boullier sought to blame Heidfeld for the incident, which seemed to beggar belief, and with Bruno Senna getting a run instead of Heidfeld in Friday practice and Boullier publicly talking up the race seat qualifications of Romain Grosjean it seems that driver/team relationship has broken down there. You wonder if Heidfeld will even complete the season in that seat, even if Kubica doesn't return this year.

But the big stories are another entertaining F1 race, and another fine wet-dry performance by Jenson. It would be getting boring to say that if it wasn't so much fun to watch.

Race result


  1. Hamilton had to wait to see how much rain and what other pilots moves to the changing tyres because he was first

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