Ricciardo wins Hungarian thriller

27/07/2014
NEWS STORY

It would be nice to think that, much like an intermission during a play one is watching, the second half of the season will spring some surprises.

The fact is however, that with just this one race before the summer break, the only things that can spoil Mercedes party, other than the weather gods, is the team itself.

Yesterday, having seen Lewis Hamilton dominate all three practice session, we witnessed him walking back to his garage, chin almost touching his chest, helmet still in place, as his Mercedes smouldered in the background. And while we might think that all of the German team's problems are affecting him only, we know that Nico Rosberg has had problems.

Dismissing entirely the conspiracy theories in terms of Mercedes nobbling Lewis' car, the fact is the W05 Hybrid is vulnerable, indeed, every time one looks at it on race day one expects something to go wrong.

As a result of the damage done to Lewis' car yesterday, necessitating a new chassis, the Briton will start from the pitlane this afternoon, as will Kevin Magnussen who had a close encounter with the barriers after being caught out be the damp conditions at T1. Because the Dane posted a time in qualifying he will start ahead of the Mercedes.

The FIA's weathermen are forecasting a 45% chance of rain by 2pm (start time) rising to 60% by 3pm. But then weren't we getting similar warnings last week. On the other hand, yesterday was meant to be sunny all day but at the start of Q3 we got a shower, as Magnussen will testify.

No doubt Hamilton and Magnussen would love some of the wet stuff in order to improve their chances of rising through the field, while the rest of us want it in order to spice up the action at the front. For whilst there is talk of Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas "targeting" a win, this looks likely to be another Sunday afternoon stroll for Nico Rosberg.

Consequently, a drop of rain - or even an outbreak of fleas (long story) - might liven things up.

Based on the evidence of the practice sessions, it was Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, Williams and McLaren, though this changed a little in the wake of qualifying. Rather than beating Rosberg in a straight fight, Vettel's best hope, and that of his rivals, is the reliability of the Mercedes.

Whilst the removal of FRIC didn't appear to make too much of an impact in Germany its absence has been apparent here, with Force India clearly losing out and Sauber gaining. On top of all its other problems, Lotus also appears to have been dealt another blow.

Putting the question of rain aside, today, as last week it will be interesting to watch Hamilton's progress, likewise Magnussen and Kimi Raikkonen, no doubt all three will be hoping for some silliness at the firs corner resulting in a Safety Car.

The Briton did an astonishing job in Germany to fight his way back through the field but on this notoriously difficult track, in terms of overtaking, he really will have his work cut out.

If Rosberg does a Hockenheim, and disappears into the distance, we should be left with a couple of great scraps behind; Vettel, Bottas, Ricciardo, Alonso and Massa fighting for the other podium places, whilst Button battles the Toro Rossos, Force Indias and Saubers for what is left. Again, the weather or a first lap calamity could see all this turned on its head.

Around an hour before the start, asked if he is expecting rain - never mind praying for it - Sebastian Vettel grins and says "yes", revealing with a grin that it is due at "14.37".

Bad news of sorts for Pastor Maldonado, following a gearbox change he is demoted 5-places on the grid. However, seeing as he didn't post a time in Q1 and was due to start from the back row anyway...

Forty-five minutes before the start of the race the heavens open... and how. The downpour, complete with lightning, is short but very intense.

The pitlane opens but there is no mad rush to get out on track indeed, the big guns want the Marussias, Caterhams and all to clean the track whilst the sun plays its part.

The exception is Vettel who completes a full lap on the wets then another on Inters.

It is very wet out there as proven by Maldonado who takes a long trip through the gravel after going off at T8. Hamilton complains that it is too wet for the Inters.

Many of the cars are very late in arriving at the grid, confusion over the conditions reigns. Seemingly, whilst some parts of the track remain very wet other parts are almost dry, hence the difficulty in terms of tyre choice. Added to this is the serious threat of further rain.

Ten minutes before the start of the race, the mechanics are still working on Hamilton's car. Apart from everything else they are warming up his brakes.

As the field prepares to head off on the warm-up lap the air temperature is 21 degrees C, while the track temperature is 28 degrees.

The uncertain weather conditions mean that the previous tyre strategies have been thrown out of the window.

The two DRS zones, which share a detection point 5m before Turn 14, are 130m after the apex of Turn 14 and 6m after the apex of Turn 1.

All are starting on the Intermediate rubber.

They head off, all bar Kvyat who is left stranded on the grid. The Russian, who complains "I have no engine, I have no engine," is pushed into the pitlane where he will, hopefully, join Magnussen and Hamilton.

Whilst there are rooster tails on some parts of the track other parts appear bone dry. There is standing water at T10.

The grid forms.

They're away. Vettel keeps with Rosberg down the straight but is passed by Bottas who almost gets past Rosberg on the outside at T1. Alonso passes Vettel but the German retakes the position. Further back Hamilton spins off at T2 but is able to continue.

At the end of lap 1, it's Rosberg, Bottas, Vettel, Alonso, Button, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Massa, Vergne and Perez.

Alonso almost hits Vettel in T1 and runs wide but retains 4th. Hamilton, unhappy with his brakes, is struggling. Raikkonen is up to 13th.

Out front, Rosberg already has a 4s lead, while Bottas is under pressure from Vettel. Hamilton closing on Ericsson who has already been passed by Magnussen.

Hamilton gradually begins working his way through the backmarkers, including Magnussen, complains of a vibration.

Vergne, currently 9th, is told to mind his tyres as there will be more rain soon.

Hulkenberg one of several drivers to run wide in these difficult conditions.

As Rosberg extends his lead to 6.7s, Vettel continues to harry Bottas. Hamilton is up to 16th having despatched Bianchi. The Briton, who appears to have damage to his left front wing, subsequently having a big moment in T4.

Rosberg runs wide in T1, the German continuing to set a hard pace out front.

Another interesting battle is that between Button and Ricciardo for 5th.

Hamilton passes Grosjean to take 14th. His next target is Raikkonen.

The Mercedes driver nails the Finn on the pit straight, the Ferrari driver offering no resistance.

A big crash for Ericsson who goes off into the barriers at T3. The Safety Car is deployed. The Swede is out of the car but the car is badly damaged.

Button, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and a whole host of others all pit, the leaders will have to wait. Hamilton also pits.

Perez and Gutierrez are side-by-side as they leave the pits, continuing the scrap into T1 and beyond.

While most drivers have opted for softs, a couple have stuck with Inters. Next time around, the leaders, Rosberg, Bottas, Vettel and Alonso pit.

Behind the Safety Car, Ricciardo leads, ahead of Button, Massa, Magnussen, Rosberg, Vergne, Vettel, Alonso, Hulkenberg and Perez. All are on softs bar Button and Magnussen who are on Inters. Magnussen is the only driver who didn't pit.

Behind the leading ten, it's: Bottas, Gutierrez, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Bianchi, Sutil, Kvyat, Maldonado, Kobayashi and Chilton.

As the Safety Car is about to pull off, Grosjean puts it into the barriers at T3. The Safety Car stays out on track.

With smoke appearing to come from the back of his car, Rosberg asks; "should I stop using the brakes?" He is told to move the bias forward and avoid using them.

Replay of Grosjean's accident leaves us none the wiser as to what happened.

Raikkonen is told that rain is not expected for another half-hour and that these tyres must last 25 laps. Yet the McLarens are on Inters.

The Safety Car pulls off at the end of lap 13. Ricciardo leads down the pit straight but Button nails him in T1, the McLaren driver taking full advantage of his Inters.

However, the Briton is told that there will be no more rain for a while so he must make the most of his current advantage.

Hamilton nails Perez to take ninth and then closes on Vettel.

Magnussen (Inters) makes short work of Rosberg as Vergne also passes the Mercedes.

Indeed, Rosberg loses a couple of places and is now just ahead of Vettel who is under pressure from Hamilton.

Button pits at the end of lap 15, McLaren having made a disastrous strategic call.

Verne nails Rosberg in T1, the German running wide in what is a terrific scrap for 6th. Indeed, Alonso also passes the Mercedes. Magnussen pits.

Hulkenberg goes off into the barriers in the final corner, clouting his teammate in the process.

After 16 laps, Ricciardo leads Massa, Alonso, Vergne, Rosberg, Vettel, Hamilton, Perez, Bottas and Gutierrez. Button is down in 16th and teammate Magnussen in 17th.

As they battle for 18th, Maldonado and Bianchi touch, both subsequently heading into the pits.

In third, and in hot pursuit of Massa, Alonso posts a new fastest lap (30.643).

Rosberg is now in a train of cars, the others are Vettel and Hamilton, behind Vergne.

"Front left brake is starting to get hot," Hamilton is told.

Vettel runs into T1 too deep, Hamilton almost nails him coming out of the corner but the German holds him off.

Now Vettel is told that his "front calliper is a little warm". He needs to move his brake bias to the rear.

A big, big crash for Perez who loses control at the start of the pit straight, veers across the track into the pit wall. Safety Car deployed. He is out of the car and OK.

Vijay Mallya looks on from the pit wall - the other side of it - a costly weekend for the Indian team.

Ricciardo and Massa both pit, as does Bottas. The two Williams drivers switch to prime rubber.

Replay shows Perez running wide and losing grip on the artificial grass and subsequently spearing across the track.

Alonso now leads Vergne, Rosberg, Vettel, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Massa, Gutierrez, Raikkonen and Sutil. Bottas is thirteenth, just behind Button.

Rosberg advises that some cars were not lifting on the pit straight as they passed the scene of Perez' accident.

Kobayashi stops at T12, the Japanese getting directions from the marshals as to how to get back to the pits.

The Safety Car pulls off at the end of lap 26. Vergne is all over the back of Alonso.

Hamilton closes on Vettel but Ricciardo is all over the Mercedes.

Both Caterhams and Force Indias out but both Saubers in the points. The Swiss outfit yet to score a point this season.

Out front, as Verge rides shotgun, Alonso posts a new fastest lap (29.081) as he builds a 1.6s lead. No such luck for Raikkonen who gets it all wrong at the chicane.

Rosberg makes a move in T1 on Vergne but cannot make it stick. Similarly, Hamilton lines up Vettel. No luck in either case.

Button passes Sutil in T1 to take tenth as Ricciardo goes quickest in S1. Another fastest lap from Alonso (28.439).

Kvyat, currently 14th, pits, the Russian swapping to primes.

Ricciardo is told that the cars ahead will be stopping ahead again soon, indeed, most of them twice. Therefore he must manage his tyres carefully.

Rosberg pits at the end of lap 32, the German told to do the opposite of what Vergne does - in other words if Vergne had pitted, the German would remain on track. Meanwhile, Vettel runs wide in T14 and almost replicates Perez' rash. Somehow he keeps it together and continues.

"Did you hit anything," he is asked. "Negative," he replies, "but I flat-spotted the tyres."

Having passed the spinning Vettel, Hamilton is now all over Vergne. His initial advance is repelled but he subsequently goes around the outside of the Frenchman in T4. Brave stuff from the Briton.

Vergne pits at the end of lap 34 as Vettel is told that he will need to go to the end on his current tyres. Vergne rejoins in 12th on primes.

Having had a slow stop, Rosberg is now down in 10th, having rejoined in 13th, whilst Hamilton complains of a hot seat.

Ricciardo posts a new fastest lap (27.355) as Rosberg is told that Hamilton has a pit stop advantage over him. "What should I do," asks the German. "Keep pushing," is the response.

As Rosberg closes on Bottas, Hamilton is told one more lap. Button pits as Rosberg goes on the inside of Bottas in T1, the Williams driver having to run wide.

Alonso pits as Hamilton, now leading the race, says his tyres are good for another couple of laps. "OK, go for it Lewis, go for it!"

Hamilton pits at the end of lap 39, 23.364s later he rejoins the race in 5th on primes. Teammate Rosberg is 6th, on options, 2.6s behind. Sutil and Magnussen also pit.

So, after 40 laps, Ricciardo leads Massa, Raikkonen, Alonso, Hamilton, Rosberg, Bottas, Maldonado, Vettel and Vergne.

Raikkonen pits at the end of lap 41 as Alonso is advised of rival drivers tyre strategies - in Italian of course. Raikkonen rejoins behind Maldonado and just ahead of Vettel. The two world champions are immediately locked in battle. After a couple of mighty close calls the German eases off allowing the Finn to set off after Maldonado again.

As Ricciardo complains of "surging" on the pit straight, Raikkonen makes short work of Maldonado who subsequently pits.

Massa pits at the end of la 45, the Brazilian's lap times having dropped significantly in the last couple of laps. He rejoins in 6th, still on the prime rubber.

Hamilton is told that Rosberg is one second behind but as he has another stop to make he should not hold him up. At which point Twitter comes alive with yet more silly conspiracy theories.

"I can't imagine these tyres lasting another twenty laps," says Hamilton. His team assure him that there shouldn't be a problem.

He's not letting me through," Rosberg complains though he doesn't really appear to be close enough. Hamilton is told to let him teammate past on the main straight. Truth be told, such is the turbulence behind the leading Mercedes, Rosberg cannot get close enough.

"I'm not slowing down for Nico," insists Hamilton, advising that it is up to the German to close in.

"Why is he not letting me through," urges Rosberg. "He's had the message," the German is told.

Elsewhere, Ricciardo leads Alonso by 13.6s with Hamilton a further 2.3s behind. Bottas is fifth, 15.1s behind Rosberg, and 2.8s ahead of his Williams teammate. Raikkonen is all over the back of the second Williams

Ricciardo concerned that his rear tyres are shot. At the end of lap 54 he pits. 22.273s later he rejoins in fourth, behind Rosberg, on options.

Vettel, currently 8th, admits; "if my only chance to beat them is by staying out, that's what we'll do".

At the end of lap 56 Rosberg pits. He rejoins in 7th, behind Raikkonen on options.

"You are racing to the end with 13 laps to go," Rosberg is told. "Push hard, quali laps all the way."

Ricciardo, currently 3rd, 2.9s down on Hamilton, posts a new fastest lap (26.783). Next time around the Australian posts another fastest lap (26.608) to close to within 2.232s of Hamilton.

Rosberg closes on the Massa/Raikkonen battle.

A late stop for Bottas who was running in 7th.

Raikkonen moves aside for Rosberg who sets about Massa. The German keen to close the 22s gap to Ricciardo.

On fresher rubber, Rosberg nails Massa in T1. He has ten laps in which to post some very hot lap times and close the gap to the leading three.

Out front, Alonso, Hamilton and Ricciardo are covered by just 1.120s.

"Use higher RPM and shorter gears," Hamilton is told. "We're good on fuel." The message indicates that there's something we're not being told.

Under pressure, or losing grip, Alonso cuts the chicane, but he doesn't gain anything. Anxious faces in the Ferrari garage.

Rosberg goes quickest (26.019) as he takes 2s a lap out of the leading trio.

As Rosberg posts another fastest lap (24.724), Ricciardo tries to go around the outside of Hamilton at T2, but without success.

As Hamilton locks-up in T2 it allows Ricciardo to close right up. Rosberg continues to take chunks out of their lead.

"Shift beyond the tow, shift beyond the tow, use the revs," Hamilton is told. The Briton is very slow in T1, gets it wrong in T2 and this time Ricciardo nails him.

As Ricciardo now sets off after race leader Alonso, Rosberg is now 5.3s behind Hamilton.

Ricciardo takes the lead in T1, Alonso unable to offer any resistance. The Red Bull driver is a man on a mission.

His tyres shot, Alonso is now under intense pressure from Hamilton. Rosberg closes in.

A masterful drive from Alonso frustrates Hamilton as Rosberg edges ever closer to the titanic scrap.

As they begin the final lap, Ricciardo is 5.1s clear of the scrap behind. Rosberg makes a move in T2 but Hamilton runs him wide, advantage Alonso.

The Australian takes a superb, well-deserved win, whilst Alonso holds on to an equally superb second. Hamilton holds his Mercedes teammate off to take third whilst Rosberg at least maintains the lead in the world championship.

Massa finishes fourth, ahead of Raikkonen, Vettel, Bottas, Vergne and Button.

Sutil finishes eleventh ahead of Magnussen, Maldonado, Kvyat, Bianchi and Chilton.

Possibly one of the best podiums, in terms of racing, we have seen for some time, all three having given absolutely 100 per cent.

There remains a lot wrong with F1, but there is still a lot that it is right and this afternoon, once again we saw much of what we really want... racing. Indeed, looking at the drivers ahead of the podium ceremony they enjoyed it as much as we did.

Amidst talk of Flavio Briatore being brought in to improve the show - a move we agree with - there are aspects that van be improved however, there are aspect that must be left alone.

How ironic that a circuit which has hosted so many processions over the years sends us into the summer break feeling so upbeat.

OK, nothing has really changed in terms of the championship, other than Hamilton keeping Rosberg well and truly in his sights, but at least we are getting some proper wheel-to-wheel racing. And how.

Check out our Sunday gallery, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 27/07/2014
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