HeÂ hung his RBR10 out over the kerbs at T2. He held on like a matador in a bull-fight, muscling Hamilton out through the inner racing line of T3. Next up was the Spaniard in the red Ferrari, who has takenÂ to ‘bullfighting’ of late, but this time around, was easy meatÂ for the Aussie onÂ fresh soft tyres. Nothing now, could denyÂ the smiling Daniel Ricciardo a second Grand Prix win in 2014.
But while he was sealing his victory, behindÂ the trail of Alonso and HamiltonÂ â€“ aÂ charging RosbergÂ wasÂ eating away into all three of them’s race at nearly 3secs per lap! And with 9 laps remaining in the 70-lap race, the Hungarian Grand Prix instantly became theÂ season’sÂ classic!
Hamilton, the Safety Car andÂ wet-weather conditions ultimately denied pole-sitter Rosberg, a podium place. He crossed the start-finish line in P4, his lowest points finish of this season so far. But it wasn’t without controversy and drama.
When the lights went out at Hungary, Rosberg blitzed away from the pursuing pack at a storming pace. Posting fastest laps in rapid succession he was almost 9 seconds ahead in the lead when the first Safety Car was brought out. AÂ crashing Caterham of Marcus Ericsson, left debris scattered all over the track withÂ the car and driver in a dangerous position.
In a dramatic twist however, the top four of the leading packÂ had crossedÂ the pit entry and caught the Safety Car after the pit exit. This meant they had to complete another full lap at a slower pace before switchingÂ to fresh rubber whileÂ the rest of the field pitted. Including Lewis Hamilton, who started from the pit lane!Â He saw his entire disadvantage of starting from that far behindÂ wiped out clean.Â When the racing was resumed, Ricciardo led from Button’s McLaren andÂ Massa’s Williams.
Rosberg, Magnussen, Vergne, Vettel and Alonso trailed behind them followed by Hulkenberg, Perez, Bottas, Gutierrez and Hamilton.
Romain Grosjean spun at T3 and crashed out forcing the Safety Car to stay out longer. At the restart, Alonso began to pounce on the cars in front of him getting past Vettel, Vergne, Magnussen and Rosberg! Demoting the Championship leader to P6.
Hamilton dismissed Perez,Â Hulkenberg, Bottas and Gutierrez all in aÂ single lap, leavingÂ just Vettel sandwiched between him and his title rival, Rosberg!
On Lap 23, at the final corner, Sergio Perez ran over the outside kerb and got caught out. His VJM07 spun around violently crashing into the main pit wall. The crash saw theÂ Safety Car intervene again! Race leader Ricciardo and the two Williamses dived into the pits. And Alonso was now leading the race. Vergne held off all attempts of passing, by Rosberg, while Vettel, Hamilton and the fresh-tyre shodÂ Ricciardo,Â chased.
Mercedes called in Rosberg for freshÂ tyres as well, as he was making no progress on the Toro Rosso. His strategy now wasÂ to be a three-stopper while HamiltonÂ running on primes was always on a two-stopper. It seemed, the strategy for the car starting last was more about damage-limitation than for a win. Vettel in his RBR10, almost carbon-copied the accident of the spinning Force India in the last corner. But he managed to hold on toÂ a dramatic 360Âº spin, just narrowly missing the wall, but flat-spotting all four tyres. His challenge for a podium spot vanished at this point. Another mistake for the four-time champion, while his rookie team mate raced away in the distance.
It was Hamilton’s turn, while in hot pursuit of Alonso, to deal with the Toro Rosso of Vergne. Having attempted to pass on the straight, the Briton kept the momentum going through to T4 on the outside of the Frenchman. It was an amazing take, with his right rear wheel flicking up dirt!
Ricciardo was in P3. On Lap 38, Alonso pitted followed by Hamilton the next lap. The Red Bull, now leading, had to pit again andÂ thereforeÂ required to build a gap of about 22 seconds to rejoin ahead. The lead was now about 16 seconds. And on Lap 54,Â Ricciardo tookÂ hisÂ final stop. He joined ahead of Rosberg but behind Hamilton and Alonso. Crucially he was on new faster, soft option compounds.
Meanwhile, Rosberg who was going to swap tyres once more found Hamilton in front of him. The team asked Hamilton to move over for Rosberg because ‘he was on a different strategy’ they explained. A modified strategy to win from pole position, originally.
Hamilton refused to budge. And in doing so, held onto valuable track position even after RosbergÂ rejoined the fight with new tyres that were faster thanÂ Ricciardo’s,Â on Lap 61. Hamilton secured P3. An astonishing feat given that he started last from the pit lane.
HasÂ he denied Mercedes AMG Petronas another win this season? Or has heÂ lived up to their public image of allowing both their drivers a fair shot at the title?
The end of the summer break has never ever been so eagerly anticipated. Bring on Spa!
P1 Ricciardo â€“ Red Bull Racing 1hr Â 53m 05.058s
P2 Alonso â€“ Scuderia Ferrari
P3 Hamilton â€“ Mercedes AMG