The Hungarian Grand Prix can often be a bit of a snooze. The twisty nature of the track, coupled with the vast deposits of dust found offline, make passing very difficult. Near impossible, in fact.
Today’s race was no different in terms of passing, as overtaking moves were kept to a bare minimum. But boring? Not a bit of it. The 2010 Hungarian Grand Prix saw an exhibition of full tilt, flat-out driving from both Red Bull drivers, with Mark Webber eventually triumphing in a race that looked to be beyond him in the early stages.
There’s no question that the quickest man didn’t win this grand prix. Sebastian Vettel- who topped two practice sessions, took a comfortable pole and posted the fastest lap today- could only come home third, a drive through penalty costing him a shot at victory.
But that’s not to say Mark didn’t deserve this win- or the championship lead he now has. He put in some stunning laps when they were called for, and was second only to Vettel in terms of raw pace. And when the Aussie stood atop the podium none of that mattered- he had won.
As the lights went out both Red Bulls made decent starts, but were immediately under pressure from Fernando Alonso, the Ferrari driver having made a superb getaway. Alonso was immediately past Webber, and challenged Vettel in to turn one. The German was able to squeeze him, and Fernando had to settle for second, ahead of Webber. Meanwhile Vitaly Petrov had made a great start from 7th, leaping up to 5th ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren, whilst Jenson Button had dropped deep in to the pack.
Vettel immediately set about building a lead, setting fastest lap after fastest lap in the early stages. His pace was breathtaking, and by lap 12 he’s build a lead over 10 seconds over Alonso, who was himself under little pressure from Webber’s car. Vettel already also lapped his first car of the day, crusing past the Hispania of Sakon Yamamoto. This was going to be easy.
But the race was turned on its head on lap 15, as an errant Force India front-wing brought the safety car out. Vettel immediately made for the pits, and was followed by much of the field- though teammate Webber stayed on track.
The sheer number of cars in the pits was bound to cause problems, but what happened today was particularly nasty. First we saw a pitlane collision- something that’s long been a worry in F1- as Renault released Robert Kubica in to the path of Adrian Sutil. Fortunately no one was hurt, though Sutil’s day ended there whilst Kubica would call it a day 10 laps later.
And whilst all this was going on there was an even more worrying threat on pitroad, as a wheel bounced in amongst the Sauber and Williams mechanics. It belonged to Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, and missed the Sauber boys by mere inches. That the worst injury was to a Williams mechanic- who only suffered bruising- is near miraculous.
By lap 18 the safety car was gone and the race was on again, with Webber leading from Vetttel, Alonso and Hamilton. Webber’s race seemed to have been badly compromised, as he still needed to make a stop. Surely he would now struggle to make the podium?
But on the super soft tyres, and in clear air, Webber was able to go long and produce some superb laps, and started to drop Vettel- and more importantly Fernando Alonso. By lap 24 he led Seb by nearly 7 seconds, though his teammate was now matching him. This wasn’t all that important though, as Webber was never likely to be able to beat Vettel. His aim was to leapfrog Alonso, and make this a Red Bull 1-2. That same lap Lewis Hmailton pulled off the road at turn 2, his McLaren’s gearbox having given up the ghost. The championship lead was seemingly not going to be Lewis’ for long.
And on the next lap there was more drama. Vettel was under investigation for failing to stay within 10 car lengths of Webber behind the safety car. Four laps later Seb was handed a drive-through penalty, and the race was suddenly wide open. With an 11 second lead over Alonso Webber only needed to pull around 7 seconds over the Spaniard to be sure of returning to the race in the lead after making his pitstop- and Webber quickly set about the task.
When Vettel exited the pits he found himself a few second behind Alonso, and the race appeared to have swung definitively in Webber’s direction. The Aussie was now setting a blistering pace, dropping Alonso at between 0.5 and 1.5 seconds a lap. By lap 40 Webber had achieved his goal. Another fastest lap saw him over 20 seconds ahead of Alonso. A clean pitstop and Mark would have this one sewn up.
Three laps later he made his stop. No problems, and scenes of celebration among the Red Bull mechanics. Even Christian Horner- usually sat with jiggling leg and grimace- managed to applaud.
So as Webber exited in to a clear lead the race was no longer about him- it was about his teammate, sitting third behind Alonso’s Ferrari. Vettel quickly pegged Alonso in, and was now running around half a second behind the Spaniard.
As the race ticked down it began to become clear that Vettel simply couldn’t get close enough to the Ferrari to make a pass. Webber’s lead was up to 20 seconds as the final ten laps drew near, and the podium appeared settled.
But further back there was excitement, as Rubens Barrichello closed in to 10th placed Michael Schumacher. Rubens had run 5th for much of the race, not pitting under the safety car. However, unlike Webber, he’d dropped back in to the pack. Now he was on his old teammate’s tail, and primed for a move.
It came four laps from the end- just. Rubens got a run on the pit straight and slipped up the inside of Michael. The German squeezed Rubens very close to the wall, causing the Brazilian to kick up dust as he scythed past. Brave stuff from Barrichello, but dangerous on Michael’s part- and he’ll likely face punishment for it.
Out front things were serene. Webber was cruising home, with Alonso now dropping Vettel slightly. Fourth placed Felipe Massa was under 5 seconds behind the Red Bull, but never really looked like getting on his back. After cutting through some last lap traffic Webber came home to win his fourth race of the season from Alonso and Vettel, with Massa fourth.
Fifith went to Vitaly Petrov, the Russian producing his best drive of the season after a weekend in which he’s impressed from first practice. Behind him was another young man who’s had a standout weekend: Nico Hulkenberg. Both achieved the best result of their F1 careers, and both will feel a little more secure in their drives when they leave the Hungaroring.
The top ten was completed by Pedro de la Rosa, who enjoyed a fine day in the Sauber, Jenson Button, who was invisible in the McLaren, Kamui Kobayashi and Rubens Barichello.
So Mark Webber leads the Formula One world championship as we enter a four-week summer break, though only twenty points separate him from 5th placed Fernando Alonso. It’s tight, and this title is far from over, but Mark Webber today showed he has the three most vital elements to becoming champion: a fantastic car, ability behind the wheel and a little bit of luck.
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