Vettel penalty hands Webber the win in Hungary

Mark Webber took the win in today’s Hungarian Grand Prix, despite a change in strategy after a safety car period. Sebastian Vettel was leading up to Lap 15 or so, but a drive-through penalty ruined his race, and left him 3rd. Fernando Alonso took this opportunity to get into 2nd place, in between the two Red Bulls.

At the start, Vettel finally held his lead up to the first corner. Alonso got past Webber, who was on the dirty side of the track, and pressurised Sebastian, but the German held him off. Once the toughest part was over for Vettel, he put his foot down, and extended his lead at the front by 1 second every single lap.

Vettel manages to hold his lead at the start, while Alonso gets ahead of Webber

Vettel manages to hold his lead at the start, while Alonso gets ahead of Webber

Vitaly Petrov made a fantastic start, getting past Lewis Hamilton to get into 5th place. By Lap 2 however, the McLaren’s tyres were back up to temperature, and easily out-braked the Renault into Turn 2. Jenson Button, on the other hand, dropped down the field to 15th, after he got caught out by the heavy pack into Turn 1.

Up front, Vettel was in a class of his own, 10 seconds ahead of Alonso after 12 laps. This looked like a done deal. But, on Lap 15, Vitantonio Liuzzi lost a piece of his front wing, and it landed near the racing line on Turn 11, a blind-entry high-speed corner, and the safety car had to be deployed. As only a handful of drivers had pitted before this point (Button notably being one of them), the pit lane was going to be very busy. And that’s where things went out of hand.

First off, when Robert Kubica was being released from his box, he clashed with Adrian Sutil, who was entering the box just ahead of the Renault garage. The fault lay at the feet of the Renault lollipop man, but Kubica was able to keep going, albeit a lap down, after having his engine restarted. Sutil was out on the spot, and the stewards were soon investigating the incident.

The mechanics try to clear up the mess after the crash between Sutil and Kubica

The mechanics try to clear up the mess after the crash between Sutil and Kubica

Nico Rosberg, meanwhile, was released from his box while the mechanics were still working on the back left wheel. The tyre detached, flew off and bounced straight through a busy pit lane, narrowly dodging the Sauber pit crew, then knocking down and injuring a Williams mechanic. It was a miracle that he only suffered bruising, and later on took part in Nico Hulkenberg’s pit stop. Meanwhile, Nico stopped at the end of the pit lane to retire.

Every driver on the soft tyres except one went in to pit, while Barrichello and Hulkenberg stayed out, as they were on the hard tyres. The only driver on the softs who failed to stop was Mark Webber, whose team never told him to pit, surely angering him, as while he was in the lead now, he had no gap to the cars behind, and still had to stop.

Nico Rosberg's wheel detaches i the pit lane, and nearly takes out the Sauber pit crew, then knocks down a Williams mechanic

Nico Rosberg's wheel detaches i the pit lane, and nearly takes out the Sauber pit crew, then knocks down a Williams mechanic

At the restart, Mark put his foot down to build a gap, while Vettel in 2nd was caught napping, and held up the rest of the field by too much, and was too far behind his team-mate’s car at the restart. The rules say that you must be within 10 car lengths of the car in front, to stop team-mates bunching the field up. The stewards now had a lot to deal with, as they also had to investigate this incident. Meanwhile, Kubica had been served a 10-second stop and go penalty, and after falling 2 laps down, gave up 10 laps later.

It was now Webber’s mission to get as far away from everyone else as possible. By Lap 24, he was 7 seconds ahead of Vettel, although they were than matched in pace after that. At the moment, he was only aiming to rejoin behind Vettel after he pitted, as Alonso was falling away from Sebastian. But, on Lap 29, the state of the race took another twist, when it was announced that Vettel had been served a drive-through penalty for exceeding the 10-length limit at the safety car restart.

While all of this was going on, Lewis Hamilton was making a very quiet retirement from the Grand Prix, as a transmission failure took him out of 5th place. While he had little impact on the race, his championship battle would suffer significantly as a reault of this retirement.

Once Sebastian served his penalty, he emerged well behind Alonso, but still ahead of a silent Massa in 4th. The focus now switched to Webber, who had to get a 20-second gap to Alonso by the time he pitted. On Lap 31, he was 11 seconds ahead, and the good news was that his super-soft tyres could hold up for another 10 or so laps.

Over the next few laps, we saw successive stunning laps from the Red Bull, as he charged away from the helpless Ferrari. A blistering set of laps ensured that he was an entire second a lap faster, just like all of the other sessions this weekend. By Lap 40, Webber had his 20 second gap, and stopped 3 laps later. The Red Bull mechanics did their job perfectly, and it was high-fives all around, and even Christian Horner applauded the team’s performance.

Once Webber exited in the lead, the focus was back on Vettel to catch and pass Alonso for 2nd place. While he was much faster, he was unable to make the pass in the end, and was held back in 3rd until the end. Further back, there was an excellent battle for 10th place, as Michael Schumacher was under pressure by former team-mate Rubens Barrichello. But, as he tends to do this year, Schumacher made a move that nearly ended in disaster.

Schumacher pushes Barrichello within inches of a huge collision

Schumacher pushes Barrichello within inches of a huge collision

He pushed Barrichello to within centimetres of a concrete wall at over 300km/h. Rubens then ran onto the grass to stay alive, and still managed to get past Michael, despite possibly the stupidest and most dangerous defensive move I’ve ever seen. The stewards have since given Schumacher a 10-place grid penalty in Spa, which is nowhere near enough. A separate blog post will be up about this tonight.

So, Mark Webber crossed the line first, 17 seconds still ahead of Alonso, who managed to hold off Vettel until the end. While the fastest man didn’t win, Webber still drove magnificently to fully deserve the win, and the lead in the drivers’ championship. Jenson Button was completely invisible all race, but still took advantage of the safety car to move up to 8th place, although he was still overtaken by both Red Bulls in the standings.

A shout-out must also be given to Vitaly Petrov and Nico Hulkenberg, who finished 5th and 6th respectively, their best finishes in F1. Hulkenberg made his way up the grid thanks to starting on the harder tyre, while Petrov was just plain fast for the entire race. Kamui Kobayashi was impressive yet again in 9th place, after starting 23rd on the grid.

Red Bull gives you.... an unfair aerodynamic levitation advantage?

Red Bull gives you.... an unfair aerodynamic levitation advantage?

While there were only a handful of overtaking moves, the Hungarian Grand Prix was anything but boring, with plenty of events to keep us talking over the 4-week break. More articles about the race will be up today and tomorrow.

The standings have been updated as usual, you can view them here.

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