In reality, it was a damp squib, but it’s not as if Lewis Hamilton cared about that, as he claimed his fifth win of the season and his record-breaking fifth victory at the twisty and demanding Hungaroring circuit.
The relatively comfortable win in the heat of Budapest means that Hamilton leapfrogs team mate Nico Rosberg in the Drivers Championship standings, who finished in second, just over a second behind the Brit. Daniel Ricciardo claimed the final podium spot ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
However, after Saturday’s rain affected Qualifying session, it was Rosberg who was firmly planted in the driving seat, snatching pole away from Hamilton – but the World Champion’s final run of the afternoon was curtailed by a spin from Fernando Alonso that brought out the yellow flags, effectively ending the session. Rosberg passed through the danger zone in question without obstacle, sweeping through to edge Hamilton down to second. There were questions asked about Rosberg’s speed through the double waved yellow flag sector, but the German claimed that he lifted off the throttle enough to make the situation safe. He then went on to add that sector times like that are irrelevant, because of the drying track getting quicker throughout the session.
The British driver wasn’t too concerned however, he was starting on the cleaner side of the circuit and used it to his advantage, getting a better launch off the line than Rosberg and edging through on his inside to seize the lead – he never looked back. Rosberg came under pressure on his outside, Ricciardo dropping him to third, but a bold move from the German helped recapture second place at the long, clumsy Turn 2.
The two Mercedes started to stretch their legs, Rosberg keeping in touch with Hamilton throughout the opening stint. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner claimed that the Silver Arrows were “in their own formula” – something that has become all to familiar for the chasing pack since the arrival of the V6 hybrid era.
Again, some things fail to change. Jenson Button had the same sinking feeling he experienced all throughout last season, as a hydraulic issue led to his brake pedal going straight down to the floor. He was told over the radio to stop shifting through the gears, deemed to be unauthorised by the Stewards, leading to a drive through penalty for the 36-year-old. Was it a punishment? He’d already fallen to last. The veteran eventually called time on his afternoon on lap 63, after an oil leak. He became the first and indeed only retirement in the race.
Throughout the past few races, attention has been solely on the radio ban rules. Nico Rosberg was hit with a time penalty at Silverstone for seeking advice on a potentially terminal car issue. Button retorted over the radio that he failed to understand how a faulty brake pedal is not a safety issue, we’ll wait and see if that remark falls on deaf ears. There are several arguments to be had on the radio communication rules, not many in favour of them though.
No such problems for Rosberg this week, as he closed in on Hamilton during his second stint, who was taking care of his soft Pirelli tyres. That meant that Ricciardo could close in menacingly, scything the gap down to just five seconds, giving the Mercedes strategists a nasty headache.
He couldn’t get close enough though, Hamilton gradually extended the gap to Rosberg after his last stop. He had a nervous moment when the Haas of Esteban Gutierrez ignored three sets of blue flags. Not only did he receive an unflattering gesture from Hamilton, but he incurred the wrath of the Stewards, and was slapped with a five second time penalty for his transgression.
The best battle on track came again between the scrapping Red Bulls and Ferraris. Whilst Ricciardo and Vettel fought for the final spot on the podium, Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen were embroiled in a fascinating and brutish encounter for fifth place. As Raikkonen probed and prodded, Verstappen defended for his life, leading to an incident that could have easily turned into a disaster. Raikkonen took issue with the teenager’s defensive tactics, claiming that the Red Bull was moving in the braking zone, the Finn tried a move into Turn 2, but was caught out and slammed his left front wing endplate into the right rear of Verstappen. The latter was unscathed, despite fears of a puncture and the former could also carry on, somewhat fortuitously without losing performance.
Post-race, Vettel defended Verstappen, saying that his style is exciting and good to see. Although, he did add that he’s “young, and will learn.”
Rosberg knew he was beaten, and accepted it post race, acknowledging that Hamilton was the better man on the day. In the searing heat, the Stevenage man continued his own hot streak, his 48th career victory puts him just three wins behind Alain Prost on the list of F1 race winners. Quite some way yet to overtake a certain former Mercedes driver though.
Follow me on Twitter @therealjeagles for updates on when I post.