Hungary epic leaves us wanting more

26/07/2015
NEWS STORY

God forbid that we provoke Messrs Carter and Gastaldi at Lotus, but without wishing to put a total dampener on things, the prospects this afternoon don't look that encouraging. It is highly unlikely that F1 is going to go in to the summer break with the same feel-good factor.

Naturally, the death of Jules Bianchi, the first driver fatality the result of an accident during an F1 race in twenty-one years, had already cast a cloud over the event.

However, in the wake of an interesting, incident-filled race at Silverstone, many claimed the sport had rediscovered the 'wow' factor, that all was good and that the media was responsible for all the negativity anyway.

Nonetheless, the fact remained that at the end of the day, the three men standing on the podium three weeks ago were the same three men to stand on the podium on five previous occasions this year... and guess who fill the first three places on this afternoon's grid.

Year after year we are reminded that this tight, twisty track is difficult for overtaking - even though we have seen some great moves here - this year we are even told that it is too narrow.

With no real threat from the weather gods - although it is decidedly cooler today - we must therefore rely on the determination of drivers to impress existing (And potential) bosses, over enthusiasm and maybe even some unreliability. If not, we could be in for a long afternoon.

After all, based on Q3, it's not as though Nico Rosberg will be able to rise to the challenge to his teammate.

Our main hope, not wishing either of the Mercedes to suffer gremlin interference, is the battle behind on a track which will play into the hands of Red Bull and Toro Rosso since engine power isn't as vital here. Then again, with no upgrades until Sochi, the sister teams need all the encouragement they can get.

Ferrari looks good and in anyone needs a strong performance it is Raikkonen, a previous winner here. Fifth quickest in qualifying, today hopefully gives him a strong chance to impress.

The Williams duo has had a topsy-turvy weekend, hard to equate with that (on-track) performance at Silverstone three weeks ago. Here, where grid positions are so vital, could another 'rocket' start see Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa catch the opposition off guard?

Lotus, another team having a difficult weekend here, looks set to spend the afternoon fighting the Force India pair, the Silverstone-based outfit not quite recovered from Friday's horrific crash, traced to a suspension element damaged by excessive kerb loads.

Despite occasional signs of improvement over the weekend, McLaren is still struggling, even if the team has, albeit unwillingly, provided us with one of the iconic images of the year, that of Fernando Alonso vainly pushing his car back to the pits... and without the Mansell histrionics.

That said, having left Manor in its wake, for this weekend at least, the Woking outfit appears to have the edge on Sauber also.

As the drivers head off for the parade, news filters through that Jules Bianchi's family has arrived in the paddock, having flown in in Bernie Ecclestone's private jet.

Fifteen minutes before the start of the race there will be a minute's silence for the French youngster, however, the family will also draw some comfort from the many tributes from his colleagues, their teams and the fans.

Tyre options this weekend are medium (prime) and soft (option), which have around 1.8s difference.

The fastest strategy for the 70-lap race is theoretically a two-stopper; start on the soft, softs again around lap 29, mediums between lap 53-54. With overtaking difficult, some of the faster drivers might try a three-stop strategy in order to gain track position - but this depends on whether or not they have enough of a speed advantage to overtake.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers make their way to the grid. Not only is it cooler today, there is substantial cloud cover.

There are lots of practice starts indeed, some of these will be with Spa, where the new 'no assistance' rules come in to play.

As the cars finally begin to take their place on the grid, the air temperature is 22 degrees C, around 10 degrees down on yesterday, and the track temperature is 36 degrees, also significantly down.

At 13:45, the entire circuit falls silent as the post pays tribute to Jules Bianchi, the drivers joined by his family. The emotion, as the drivers form a circle and link, is almost overwhelming.

As the field heads off on the warm-up lap, the sun is breaking through the clouds, but it remains cooler.

Winner here last year, Ricciardo is told that it will get hooter as the afternoon progresses.

As they head off, all getting away cleanly, all but Maldonado are sporting the option (soft) rubber.

They're away... or rather they are not. The start is aborted, though it's not clear why, and so the field heads off on another parade lap.

The stewards reveal that Massa was out of position on the grid, hence the aborted start, and is under investigation. He claims he couldn't see the yellow line.

They're away. A blinding start from Vettel and Raikkonen, the German somehow holding off the two Mercedes. All get away cleanly though Maldonado has a big wobble at T5, and Hamilton runs wide into the gravel at T6 and loses a heap of positions.

At the end of lap 1, it's Vettel, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Bottas, Kvyat, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Perez, Massa and Hamilton.

Hamilton blames Rosberg for his off. "Nico crossed over my line, he pushed me wide," he complains.

As the field comes up to the chicane you can see gravel on the track following Hamilton's off.

Hamilton is clearly struggling, as teammate Rosberg is the quickest man on track. That's until Vettel, leading by 1.6s, posts a new fastest lap (28.664).

Massa gets a 5s time penalty for being out of position at the original start.

Feeling that he is quicker than his teammate, who he says is struggling, Ricciardo looks for help. "We're looking into it," he is told. Elsewhere, Bottas is advised his rear tyres have lost pressure.

As replay shows a big moment for Ricciardo at the start, the Red Bull heavily clouted by Bottas, Hamilton complains that Rosberg made two moves at T6. "You're only to move once," he complains.

Kvyat is told not to hold up his teammate. The Russian isn't entirely happy with the instruction.

After 8 laps, Vettel leads Raikkonen by 2.2s, with Rosberg another 2.6 behind, Rosberg (8.7), Hulkenberg (1.8) and Ricciardo, who has passed Kvyat, 0.5s down on the Force India.

Merhi pits after complaining that his headrest is loose.

Far from attacking Massa, Hamilton is now under attack from Sainz.

Ricciardo makes a nice clean move on Hulkenberg at T1, whilst Hamilton and Massa go head to head in the same corner, the Briton barging his way past the Williams as the pair touch. The Mercedes driver is subsequently told that his brakes are on the limit. His next target is Perez.

Massa appears to have a problem as the two Toro Rossos close in. A lock-up for Hamilton also as he hunts down Hulkenberg.

"Don't tell me again, don't tell me again, I'm trying," complains Rosberg when told he needs to close the gap to Raikkonen. The German is currently lapping 1s off the two Ferraris.

As Hamilton uses his DRS to nail Perez on the main straight, Verstappen complains that he is losing time behind his teammate who is unable to pass Massa.

"These tyres are vibrating a lot," says what sounds like a Dalek in Kvyat's car.

Bottas and Kvyat both pit at the end of lap 13, rejoining in 16th and 18th respectively. The Russian switches to primes.

Next time around, Massa, Verstappen, Button and Grosjean all stop, the Brazilian serving his 5s penalty. As they leave the pits Massa, who had problems with one of his wheels, and Grosjean are fighting for position, the Williams driver now down in 17th.

"You're very quiet Bono," says Hamilton.

Sainz, Hulkenberg and Alonso pit at the end of lap 15. Told everything is "Ok", he is advised to "push now".

It's Hammer-time for Vettel as the German posts 27.913, however, moments later Hamilton, now in clear air, bangs in a 27.695.

"Your tyres are in good shape," Vettel is told.

Perez and Ericsson both pit at the end of lap 16.

Kvyat finally gets tired of running behind Maldonado and makes his move to take eighth.

"I've lost some parts, maybe on the front wing," complains Raikkonen after running over a kerb. As he's told the wing is OK, and that it was a small part, it's clear that it was a camera mounting.

Perez and Maldonado have a moment in T1, the pair locking wheels as the Mexican makes a move. He spins off but continues.

Hamilton for softs pits at the end of lap 19, rejoining in 5th he is immediately locked in battle with Bottas, the Briton barging his way through.

"Box, box, box," Rosberg is told, the German duly obliging and rejoining in fourth, on primes, 24.6s ahead of his teammate.

Vettel pits at the end of lap 21, sticking with the options he rejoins in second. Ricciardo also pits, the Australian (primes) rejoining in fourth just ahead of Hamilton.

As Raikkonen pits the stewards announce that Massa and Grosjean are under investigation for unsafe release. The Finn, like his teammate on option, rejoins in second.

As Hamilton hunts down Ricciardo, Grosjean is handed a 5s penalty. They are also investigating the Maldonado/Perez incident.

"If you can keep him behind early, his tyres might struggle later," Ricciardo is told. Moments later Hamilton runs wide in T11 giving the Red Bull driver a little breathing space.

Maldonado gets a drive-through for the clash Perez.

As Massa is told to do what to manage his tyres like he did on Friday, he replies; "I understand but this is a different car to Friday".

"C'mon this is crazy," wails Maldonado as he serves his time penalty. "I did hit him, but..."

After 26 laps, it's: Vettel, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Kvyat, Verstappen and Alonso.

Ericsson passes Massa to take 15th as the Brazilian's day goes from bad to worse. Indeed, the Williams driver is now under pressure from the other Sauber.

Having asked for one more lap in which to do some harvesting, confident he can get him, Hamilton finally passes Ricciardo in T1, but the Australian doesn't make it easy. And why should he?

Massa makes another pit stop, the Silverstone leader down in 17th. No retirements as yet.

"Checo, use everything from this tyre, everything," Perez is told. Claiming that they are "already gone he is told to pit. Emerging ahead of Massa, the Mexican is told that Massa (behind) will try to make his tyres last to the end.

As Kvyat pits, Verstappen is told that his rear tyre temperature is high, his brakes also. The 17-year-old is currently 8th.

At half-time, it's Vettel, Raikkonen (8s behind), Rosberg (14s), Hamilton (8.6s), Ricciardo (9s), Bottas (13.7s), Hulkenberg (3.3s), Verstappen (9s), Alonso (4.5s) and Sainz (3.2s).

Button pits for the primes at the end of lap 36, as Hamilton is told that this stint will be stretched as much as possible in order to spend less time on the primes.

As Hulkenberg also pits, Alonso is told to "push 101 percent", before he too pits.

"We need to find time," Rosberg is told, "Lewis is a second a lap quicker, most of that's from the tyre but we also need to find more space".

It's revealed that Alonso pitted early due to a puncture.

Bottas makes his second stop, from sixth, at the end of lap 38.

Hamilton now just 5.3s down on his Mercedes teammate. However, the German, now in traffic, responds.

Hulkenberg, in seventh, is under intense pressure from Kvyat.

"I think I have an odd sound in the car," says Raikkonen, "and 'm losing power". He loses 2s to Vettel in S1 but only 0.5s in S2.

"What is this issue?" demands Raikkonen, as he is passed by Alonso. "It's MGU-K," he is told, "we're working on it."

A big lock up for Hulkenberg in T1 who spears into the barriers. He is OK and is soon out of the car.

As the Virtual Safety Car is deployed, Rosberg, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Perez and Maldonado all pit.

At the end of the next lap (43), Vettel pits, as do Raikkonen and Grosjean.

Replay shows that Hulkenberg's front wing became detached long before the corner, hence the smoke and lock-up. Indeed, Bottas was lucky not to be an innocent victim. This is the second major failure for Force India this weekend.

The end of the main straight is strewn with debris and as a result the Safety Car proper is deployed.

Poignant that the Virtual Safety Car was introduced following Bianchi's crash at Suzuka.

After 44 laps, behind the Safety Car, it's: Vettel, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Bottas, Verstappen, Kvyat, Sainz, Button, Alonso, Massa, Grosjean, Perez, Maldonado, Ericsson, Nasr, Stevens and Merhi.

Raikkonen is told; "the situation with the MGU-K is that we don't have it. The car will still run, but obviously we have lost a lot of performance". Bitter luck for the Finn.

As the debris is removed from the track, the Safety Car leads the field through the pits rather than down the main straight where the work is going on.

"There is a chance we can win this," Rosberg is told. "You should be able to pass Kimi quickly as he has a technical issue and we know that Ferrari has warm-up issues and pace on the prime tyre".

The lapped cars are finally released, as Hamilton is told: "We're going for the win mate!"

The Safety Car pulls off at the end of lap 48, game on.

Sure enough, Rosberg takes Raikkonen whilst Ricciardo runs wide in T1 as he battles and clashes with Hamilton, the Mercedes hitting the side of the Red Bull. The Briton loses a number of positions as Bottas also has a (right-rear) puncture, seemingly having tripped up over Hamilton.

Bottas pits, the result of his puncture, and whilst the crew is ready, Hamilton opts not to pit having dropped down to sixth. Obvious damage to the bodywork on Ricciardo's car but despite this he passes the hapless Raikkonen.

"There's nothing I can do," says Raikkonen. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," comes the response.

"I think I have some damage," says Ricciardo, "Hamilton hit me pretty hard."

At the end of lap 51, Hamilton pits for a new front wing. An agonising 27.715s later he rejoins the race in 13th.

As Sainz passes Alonso for seventh, the Stewards announce that Hamilton is under investigation.

Raikkonen pits at the end of lap 52, despite his crew leaping into action he kills the engine. Or rather he doesn't, he heads back out.

Elsewhere, phew, Maldonado is under investigation for speeding in the pitlane.

As Rosberg closes to within 0.8s of race leader Vettel, teammate Hamilton is handed a drive-through.

"The problem is still there," confirms Raikkonen.

As Perez is told to retire, so too Raikkonen's race looks to be at an end.

As Massa makes his fourth stop of the afternoon, Hamilton serves his penalty.

Verstappen is handed a 5s penalty for speeding behind the Safety Car as the stewards appear to be working overtime.

After 55 laps, it's: Vettel, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Verstappen, Alonso (yes, Alonso!!!), Sainz, Button, Grosjean and Maldonado.

"I'm so sorry guys," says a dejected Hamilton. "Am I last?" "Don't stress about it Lewis," is the response, "twenty seconds away from some points... let's go get them." Indeed, the Briton is currently 13th.

Another drive-through for Maldonado - probably just for being Pastor Maldonado.

Button makes a great move on Sainz to take 8th, whilst Rosberg's battle with Ricciardo gives Vettel some breathing space.

Maldonado serves his penalty, promoting Hamilton to 12th.

Oh dear, Maldonado is under investigation again, this time for overtaking behind the Safety Car.

Sainz pits having slipped down the field with what appeared to be a power issue. He retires.

Possible problem for Ricciardo now as the stewards are investigating whether he gained an advantage after exceeding the track limits in Hamilton clash. That would be harsh.

Now up to ninth having passed Nasr, Hamilton goes quickest in S1 as he closes to within 0.8s of Button.

Ricciardo makes a bold move on Rosberg in T1 but overdoes it and clouts the back of the Mercedes. Indeed, Rosberg has a puncture. It's more than just a puncture for the German, his tyre has totally delaminated.

Ricciardo and Rosberg both pit, thereby promoting Kvyat to second. However, the Russian gets 10s penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, a misdemeanour originally attributed to Ricciardo.

So, Vettel now leads Kvyat by 5.8s, though the Russian has that penalty. Ricciardo is third, ahead of Verstappen, Alonso, Grosjean, Hamilton, Button, Rosberg and Ericsson.

As the stewards investigate the Ricciardo/Rosberg incident, Hamilton is all over Grosjean. Indeed, the Briton nails the Lotus driver in T1, setting off after Alonso 5s up the road.

Maldonado gets a 10s penalty for something or other... take your pick.

No further action re the Rosberg/Ricciardo clash as the two trade fastest sectors.

Vettel takes the flag, his first win here and possibly one of the most satisfying of his career. Kvyat holds on to second, ahead of Ricciardo, Verstappen, Alonso, Hamilton, Grosjean, Rosberg, Button and Ericsson.

Nasr is eleventh, ahead of Massa, Bottas, Maldonado and Merhi.

On his slow down lap, Vettel switches effortlessly from Italian to French and to English as he thanks his team and pays tribute to Bianchi. What men these are.

To think we thought that this was going to be only slightly more exciting that watching paint dry, that this was going to be another Hamilton/Rosberg/Vettel podium.

This was an epic, action and incidents from lights to flag.

If ever F1 was to pay tribute to a fallen hero, this was the way to do it.

Thankfully, we now have a three-week break until Belgium, just enough time to get our breath back.

Gentlemen, we salute you.

Check out our Sunday gallery, here.

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

Published: 26/07/2015
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