Hungarian Grand Prix – The Race

Hungary is a lot like Monaco. It may not throw up an exciting race very often but when it does, they are truly magnificent spectacles. I warmed up for Sunday’s race by watching (and therefore making the poor husband watch as well but he owes me big time for the entire month of televisual viewing of the World Cup) the awesome Hungarian Grand Prix of 1998 (one of my favourite races of all time) which I stumbled across while channel-hopping late last Saturday night. Rock ‘n’ roll baby.

Unusually we watched the race (as if live) in the evening after a frantic and fraught (and possibly another f-word) day in Bluewater getting last minute stuff for our holiday. We are now on the open seas heading towards Bilbao in the most heavenly weather. Without question this is the most gorgeous setting that I have ever blogged from (to be fair the other venues are my kitchen, Center Parcs and rainy Ireland so not much to beat). Usually it is around this point on our holiday that we realise some crucial thing has been forgotten or we have booked accommodation for the wrong dates but for now I’m in a happy place, especially when I think back to last Sunday’s race. Quite simply the Hungarian Grand Prix of 2014 joins the pantheon of great F1 races. IMHO the best race of the season so far (and this deceptively excellent season has offered up some fantastic races so far).

Before I delve into #MartinsGridwalk, its eat-my-hat time – I have to say how well I think Simon Lazenby has grown into his role as frontman/presenter. Back in his first season (which was also Sky’s first season – important to remember) I was very unsure he was the right man for the job (and at times I’ll admit I was a bit critical, okay quite scathing) but credit where it’s due he has improved leaps and bounds and is building up a great rapport with the rest of the presenter team. 

So what did Le Brundle have for us? First up it was Paul Hembery (head honcho at Pirelli). You may remember Paul as dead man walking last year when all the tyres were disintegrating after 5 laps (greatly vexing the likes of Christian Horner). These days Paul is a new man full of joie de vivre while Christian Horner is dating Geri Halliwell. Funny how fortunes can change so much in a year. Anyhow, the heavens had literally just opened all over the Hungaroring and Paul thought it was a 50/50 call between inter conditions and wets. The cars were still going round and round trying to decide with a mere 20 minutes until the start of the race. Nervous times.

Martin then tried to make his way over to Sebastian Vettel who was having A Very Serious Chat with his engineer and instead ended up getting a curt brush off from David Coulthard (who does a good line in curt). The lovely Tanja from German Sky TV who was wafting past was much friendlier to Martin. The F1 equivalent of Dawn and Tim from the Office (yes, I’ve been drinking!). Martin had a very quick chat with Jenson Button and Danil Kvyat both of whom said it was wet and interesting out there (certainly a prescient comment by Kvyat who ended up stuck on the grid during the formation lap). So folks, show time!

Lights out and Go Go Go! A very surreal start to a F1 race seeing the cars racing flat out along the first long straight to turn 1. A numbers of cars were wobbling out on track. Lewis was reporting problems with his front right brakes and Alonso’s Ferrari was twitching all over the place. After things settled down, the front order early doors shook out as follows: 1. Rosberg, 2. Bottas, 3. Vettel, 4. Alonso, 5. Button and 6. Ricciardo. But the Weather Monitor of Doom predicted rain within 5 minutes. Rosberg and Hamilton (rapidly climbing up through the field) were looking very raggedy and Bottas was driving brilliantly to keep Vettel at bay. To recap, a Williams was holding off a Red Bull. How quickly the F1 landscape can change!

Safety Car Klaxon!!! Ericsson was the culprit with a monumental smash on lap 9. Most of the cars all bolted into the pits to whack on some slicks except Jenson Button who went onto inters. That’s a mighty big gamble by McLaren. It takes some doing to crash under safety car conditions but Grosjean was the man to rise to the challenge so having just been called in, the safety car was told to stay out. Rosberg was complaining of ‘something in the brakes’. Meanwhile the 20 million dollar question (especially for Jenson Button) was when is the rain coming?!

Lap 14 and racing in anger resumed once again. Button almost immediately passed Ricciardo to take the LEAD of the race and was then told that rain was looking a lot less likely. Bugger. Not McLaren’s finest hour ever. Poor old Jenson. Hamilton was now doing a Senna-esque charge through the field and managed to take FOUR PLACES in one sector to move up to 9th. We were told it was clearly now Hammertime – a phrase that has been recently adopted by the media which irrationally irritates me. In a contrast of Mercedes fortunes, Rosberg was going backwards. Having tried and failed to take Magnussen, he was passed by Vergne and now found himself in a 3 way battle with Vettel and Hamilton (now up to 7th) for 5th place. Not where he would have wanted to be AT ALL. Even more calamitous was Jenson’s race – after that suicidal pitstop decision, he dived into the pits on lap 16 to get the slicks he should have had put on 5 laps earlier. Bugger.

Ah a Maldonado crash (into Bianchi). Another tick on the F1 race bingo. Quite amazingly the fastest laps were now being set by Fernando Alonso. We hadn’t seen that from a Ferrari for a very long time. The leading cars were now 1. Ricciardo, 2. Massa, 3. Alonso and 4. Vergne. Yes, Vergne was miraculously STILL ahead of Rosberg. ‘Curiouser and curiouser’ said Alice. Actually the real Alice was actually saying on loop “I want the red car to win”. Ah those were the days. Or did she know something I didn’t?!

Yet another Safety Car Klaxon (for the second time in this race) after a mahoosive crash by Perez. Cue pitstops galore and the main point I noted (not necessarily the key point but the only one I noted!) was that Hamilton was now sandwiched between the two Red Bulls. Given his race started in the pit lane in LAST place this represented stunning progress. Vergne was STILL defying all the odds and keeping the Silver Arrows of Rosberg firmly in his rear mirrors. Vergne’s brilliant defensive driving was holding up a train of cars allowing Fernando Alonso to increase his narrow and precious lead lap by lap. Eventually on lap 33, Rosberg pitted from 3rd and to compound his bad luck had a slow stop before rejoining back in 13th. 

Hamilton (unlike his team-mate it has to be said) wasted no time in passing Vergne in a brilliantly clinical move on lap 34 and so at the halfway point, the top order was 1. Alonso, 2. Hamilton, 3. Ricciardo (going very nicely on fresh tyres), 4. Massa and 5. Kimi. Alonso was now getting all sorts of radio messages in different languages – always a sign that things are afoot at Ferrari! After the next round of pitstops, Ricciardo was leading the race on lap 45 and fragments of seconds split Alonso, Hamilton (who was now complaining of a hot seat…ouch!) and Rosberg. Well game bloody on.

Grandstand finish here we come and best of all we had the prospect of a mouthwatering Ros v Ham duel for the first time in a good few races. In a baffling intervention from Mercedes over the radio, Hamilton was told not to hold Rosberg up. Hamilton’s response? “I’m not slowing down for Nico“. Cue much complaining from Nico. Well a few points here in Hamilton’s defence (please take note – you know who you are!):

1. Rosberg was no way near close enough (ie. not even in DRS range!) to Hamilton to warrant the imposition of team orders.
2. Rosberg still had to pit again (with all the variables that another pitstop brings) and Hamilton couldn’t be totally sure that he himself wouldn’t need to pit.
3. Ricciardo probably also had to pit so Lewis could not afford to give away 2 seconds in slowing for his team-mate. Oh and Alonso (still in front of Lewis and eminently catch-able in an inferior Ferrari) was not going to pit again so every second was vital.

Slam dunk as they say.

And sure enough on lap 55, Ricciardo came into the pits (as did Rosberg just two laps later). Alonso was now leading the Hungarian Grand Prix. How long has it been since Ferrari were in with a real shout of winning a F1 race? With an agonising 8 laps to go (if you were sat in the the Ferrari/Mercedes/Red Bull garage or in my house!), the first three cars (Alonso, Hamilton and Ricciardo) were separated by just hundredths of seconds. You simply could not call it and for good measure Rosberg had decided to join the party by putting in some blistering laps to slash the gap between himself and the leading three.

With a couple of laps to go, it was Ricciardo who seized the opportunity to go for glory by passing Hamilton and then Alonso (who had been clinging onto the lead for the last few laps by deploying every ounce of his tremendous racecraft) to take the LEAD of the race and then serenely pull away from the chasing pack. We were then treated to a stunningly exciting final lap as Alonso heroically battled to keep the mighty Silver Arrows at bay, ultimately succeeding to bring a very average Ferrari home in a truly magnificent second place behind race-winner, Daniel Ricciardo.

Hamilton took 3rd spot (ahead of Rosberg) which was simply a phenomenal performance of immense skill and tenacity given that he started last. Oddly he seemed dejected after the race. Lewis needs to learn how to be kinder to himself. He came home ahead of his team-mate (the pole sitter) after the aberration of qualifying which is more than he could possibly have hoped for (and Nico would definitely have to consider Hungary as 13 points lost). The remaining points were taken by Massa in 5th, Kimi in 6th, Vettel in 7th, Bottas in 8th, Vergne in 9th and Button in 10th.

Hamilton is now just eleven points behind Rosberg in the championship race which sets us up for a thrilling second half of the season. But first we have the summer break which almost cruelly interrupts the ferocious battle at the top of the championship just as it reached fever-pitch once again. But we can all draw breath, go on holiday (we have literally just disembarked in Bilbao and the 7 year old is already planning his visit to the Nou Camp once we make our way across to Catalunya!) and prepare ourselves for the return of hostilities at the Greatest Track in F1, the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit. Could the opening of Act II have a more befitting and majestic stage?!

Happy holidays everyone.


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