Entering the Hungarian Grand Prix, Mark Webber had just taken his first ever career victory, and had entered the title fight. Red Bull were only 19.5 points behind Brawn, while Ferrari were very close to Toyota.
The Hungarian Grand Prix also saw a new F1 driver in the paddock, as Jaime Alguersuari was brought in to replace Sebastien Bourdais, who was struggling against rookie team-mate Buemi. While he was the youngest F1 driver ever at 19 years and 125 days, he was unfazed by criticism claiming he was too inexperienced.
Felipe Massa had just taken the first podium position for Ferrari in 2009. However, all hopes for this race were shot when Massa suffered a horrible accident in qualifying. An errant spring had broken off Rubens Barrichello’s car, and was bouncing right on the racing line. Felipe, who had just qualified into Q3 and was on his in-lap, drove straight into the spring, hitting him just above his right eye at 270km/h. The car went straight on, with Massa unable to stop it, and smashed into the barriers.
Having seen the death of Henry Surtees in F2 only a week before, the paddock held its breath, before hearing the news that Felipe was in a critical but stable condition, with a head cut, bone damage to the skull (possibly fractured) and a serious concussion. He underwent successful surgery after the weekend, and remained in intensive care in an induced coma for 3 days after the accident.
"Strength, Felipe, we are with you". A message for Felipe Massa from the Ferrari team
Once Felipe was taken away, the car removed and the track cleared, qualifying resumed. In Q3, most of the drivers had set their final times, and were heading into the pits to end the session, when the timing screens went blank. The FIA and LG later identified the problem as a broken cable, but nobody had any idea who had taken pole position, with drivers chatting in parc ferme about their respective times, although they did not know each others’. Eventually, the timing screens went to the backup, and a light-fuelled Fernando Alonso was revealed as the pole position winner, while Jenson Button was down in 8th. The reason he was slower was because most of his Q3 was spent repairing the same suspension piece that had broken on Barrichello’s car, as a precaution.
Alonso leads at the start, while Hamilton and Raikkonen make excellent KERS-assisted starts
At the start, Webber and Hamilton made fantastic getaways, while Sebastian Vettel collided with Kimi Raikkonen, dragging him down to 7th. On Lap 4, Hamilton made further progress, making an excellent move on Mark Webber for 2nd place, using his KERS to the max.
After the fuel weights were released, it was clear that Alonso was 3-stopping, and Renault didn’t disappoint, by bringing him on Lap 11 (out of 70), with a 6.6 second stop. However, there was a communications error, as the car was released while the mechanics were still working on the left front wheel. The spinner, or extended wheel cover, was not properly fixed, and was moving around with the wheel. Fernando asked to immediately pit again, but didn’t make it back unscathed. His wheel detached on the way back, and he three-wheeled his car back to the pits. He changed tyres and went out again, miles behind anyone else, but retired soon after.
This left Lewis Hamilton free, and leading the race. He put his foot down to lap up to half a second faster than anyone else on track, and extended his lead from Webber. The Red Bull was struggling for pace, and was being caught by the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. At the first set of pit stops, a slight delay meant that Webber was released alongside Raikkonen, and lost his position. His team was later given a reprimand for an unsafe release.
There were worse problems for team-mate Vettel. After his first-lap tangle with Kimi, he complained on Lap 21 that his car was undriveable, and there was something broken on the car. With signs of smoke at the back of the car, the team opted to stop him, and sent him out with a new front wing and tyres. However, it didn’t fix the problem, and Sebastian soon retired.
From here on, Timo Glock made the most progress, using 2 long stints to leap up from 13th on the grid. He would have got even higher than 6th if he hadn’t been held up by Kimi Raikkonen after the Finn’s first stop, and Glock was low on fuel.
Jaime Alguersuari did well in his first ever Formula 1 race
Jaime Alguersuari, despite all the rumours that a 19-year-old F1 driver would cause the apocalypse, drove very well in the heat of Hungary. He received a little present near the end when team-mate Sebastien Buemi spun twice, allowing Jaime through, and finished the race ahead of Buemi in his first ever race.
Lewis Hamilton desevedly takes the chequered flag for the Hungarian Grand Prix
However, the focus was on Hamilton, as he drove fantastically to take the win in dominant fashion, more than 11 seconds ahead of Raikkonen, who led Mark Webber. Nico Rosberg was an impressive 4th, keeping up his string of points finishes in a row for Williams, and he held off Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock. Jenson Button didn’t make any more progress after Lap 1, and remained 7th ahead of Jarno Trulli.
This meant that Mark Webber was now 2nd in the championship, and now a serious contender to unseat Jenson Button at the top. Jenson said during the race: “How can the car be so bad at the moment?”, which was a clear indicator of his frustration with the car, which was not being developed in the way he would have liked. Vettel and Webber were right behind Webber, while Hamilton doubled his points tally in one go, going from 9 to 19 points, although he was still 8th overall.
It was a very quiet last race for Nelson Piquet Jr, who finished yet another race out of the points for Renault. It was announced after the race that he would be replaced for the rest of the season by Romain Grosjean. However, there was one more incident to be dealt with regarding Piquet, which would be revealed later on in the year.
Next up was the European Grand Prix. The main concern was regarding Felipe Massa, who was later declared recovering, and his replacement for the rest of the season. While Michael Schumacher was initially suggested as the replacement, a neck injury ruled him out. So, a face not seen in the paddock for 10 years was about to take everyone by surprise…