Hamilton fends off Räikkönen for Budapest victory
29 July 2012 – Lewis Hamilton has won his third Hungarian Grand Prix, holding back Kimi Räikkönen for a 19th career victory in Budapest. Romain Grosjean completed the podium as Fernando Alonso put in a calm damage limitation drive for fifth place. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber could manage no more than fourth and eighth.
As the forecasters had suggested, rain poured at the Hungaroring when the Formula 1 community arrived at the venue this morning. Any signs of such weather were long gone by the time the race started at two o’clock, with the crowd – including thousands of Finnish supporters, as is usually the case in Hungary – enjoying blue skies and hot conditions.
The first start was aborted as Michael Schumacher stalled on the grid, but once the red lights did go out it was a clean run down to the first corner. Schumacher and Narain Karthikeyan would later become the only retirements, but the German started from the pit lane as compatriot Vettel attempted to overhaul Grosjean for second place; crucially, he was squeezed out wide by the Frenchman and dropped to fourth behind Jenson Button.
It was a frustrating afternoon for Red Bull, whose cars were modified after Hockenheim for pushing the boundaries of the regulations involving torque maps. Vettel made a third pit-stop in the closing stages but, despite not carrying fresh tyres, narrowly missed out on passing Grosjean. Team-mate Webber took on the same strategy, giving up positions to Alonso as well as Button and Bruno Senna, and was highly disappointed to remain stuck behind the Williams and in eighth spot at the chequered flag.
Grosjean took the fight to Hamilton in the early stages, with the McLaren driver opting for one stint on the Soft tyre and two on the slower - but more durable - Mediums. Lotus, on the other hand, began with two Medium stints before running on the Softs; vitally, these Softs were worn, as all new sets had been used in qualifying whereas Hamilton saved his supplies.
Räikkönen, who had started fifth, suffered a bad start but made up positions at all of his pit-stops, just leapfrogging Grosjean for second on Lap 45. He had already been helped by Button, who plummeted down the order after rejoining behind Senna who was yet to stop. Räikkönen proceeded to catch Hamilton, but the Englishman – despite his tyres being five laps older - controlled the race as Alonso had done in Germany last weekend.
In an impressive drive for fifth, helped by Webber and Red Bull’s decision to make a third pit-stop, Alonso extends his championship lead to a huge 40 points heading into the summer break of four non-race weekends. Behind Button, Senna celebrated his joint second best result of the season – easing the pressure on Williams for seventh in the championship – as team-mate Pastor Maldonado was handed a drive-through penalty for hitting Paul di Resta’s Force India. Felipe Massa was ninth, with Nico Rosberg picking up a sole point for Mercedes on what has been a very dismal weekend for the Brackley-based team.
Lewis Hamilton’s 19th career victory, his second of the year after Canada, moves him ahead of Räikkönen for 14th position in the all-time rankings. His next target is another Finn, Mika Häkkinen, who was McLaren’s lead driver when Hamilton joined the company in 1997. In the Constructors’ Championship, McLaren has reduced Red Bull’s leading advantage by 17 points, meaning the margin is 53 with nine races to go in 2012. Lotus’ second double rostrum result of the campaign moves them back up the order, demoting Ferrari to fourth overall.
Formula 1 now heads into its customary summer break and will continue with the Belgian Grand Prix and legendary Spa-Francorchamps at the start of September