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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Vettel avoids the madness to secure historic win - Safety car hit Hungarian race topples Mercedes' domination


Remember the days when the Hungarian Grand Prix was a punchline, an annual snoozefest procession won from pole. Over the last 10 years, Budapest has put up several thrilling races, and the rest all seemed to have major significance in the championship fight. That streak continued on Sunday as an intriguing race exploded into a thriller after Nico Hülkenberg’s cruel misfortune, a scary front wing failure costing the German a shot at good points. It brought the field closer together and gave those further back a chance to launch an assault on the cars ahead. Meanwhile, there was little troubling the man at the front.

Vintage Vettel at the Double

Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Ferrari: Started 3rd, Finished 1st

There was just one man that was faultless from lights out to flag on Sunday and that was the four time champion who secured the 41st win of his career to move third equal all time with Ayrton Senna, three ahead of Lewis Hamilton and nine ahead of Fernando Alonso.

After doing all he could on Saturday, qualifying third on the grid just ahead of former teammate Daniel Ricciardo and only a tenth behind Nico Rosberg, Vettel was in the perfect position to launch and lead into turn one as both Mercedes were bogged down once again. A great start was made better as Kimi Räikkönen slotted in behind, meaning that, for the first time in a long time, Ferrari had complete control of the race.

It seems all the more impressive when he does it for the Scuderia
Credit: Ferrari S.p.A

Lewis Hamilton’s first lap off track excursion meant that the Ferrari’s main, and really only threats, were either struggling with setup or traffic. Nico Rosberg simply didn’t have the pace to match them and both Ferrari’s drove away at the front. In the end Rosberg had to pit to dump his worn out soft tyres but by then the gap was 10 seconds. Ferrari now had a complete choice of what strategy to run on each car with no pressure behind and pitted both men to cover the dwindling threat of Rosberg.

It was Vettel’s second stint that won the race. Perhaps Räikkönen was hampered by the early stages of his MGU-K problem but Vettel opened the gap to his teammate from three seconds before the stops to 10 seconds when Kimi's pace dropped off as he lost MGU-K power completely. This would have been the stint that won Vettel the race, preventing any attack from Räikkönen, who has gone well in Hungary in the past. As it happened, Hülkenberg’s debris caused a safety car and Vettel had it all to do again. Räikkönen fell back as soon as the safety car came in, leaving the race leader without rear gunner protection. Nico Rosberg had better pace, but never really mounted a significant attack on his compatriot before squeezing Daniel Ricciardo off the road and causing a puncture that dropped him to an eventual eighth.

It was the type of performance that Vettel is known for, winning in a controlled, undramatic manner as he had Mercedes beaten on pure pace prior to the safety car, but for some reason, it seems all the more impressive when he does it for the Scuderia.

Verstappen Gets Max Out of Car

Max Verstappen, Scuderia Toro Rosso: Started 9th, Finished 4th

Toro Rosso’s best result since the 2008 Brazilian GP
Credit: Getty

Is anything beyond this young boy? While I think that the battle of the sons between Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr is closer than some make out, Verstappen absolutely deserves the plaudits this week. The Flying Dutchman made it into Q3 once again to level the qualifying series, starting ninth ahead of Romain Grosjean, and he was on for some solid low end points before the craziness ensued.

Verstappen struggled at the start and dropped to twelfth in what would become a tight battle with the McLarens and teammate Sainz. His race was made in the first stint as he was given the undercut to jump Sainz and leap up to ninth.

Critically Verstappen was never lapped and so he was in the ‘peloton’ in eighth as the Safety Car withdrew. He did his best to keep his nose clean at the restart but the bunching was near impossible to avoid, as he caught Valtteri Bottas’ right rear tyre going through turn five. In hindsight, Bottas looked the more guilty party. Max was now able to jump up the field as Hamilton and Rosberg caused needless crashes, while Räikkönen retired, and Bottas pitted for a new tyre.

The penalty likely cost him a maiden podium

The big advantage of being unlapped was made clear as his only mistake unfolded; Verstappen was penalised for going too quickly under the safety car but by the time he served his drive through, he still ran fifth, crucially ahead of Hamilton. He then jumped Rosberg as he pitted for a puncture. The only disappointment was that the penalty likely cost him a maiden podium as Ricciardo had to pit for a new front wing. Despite that, fourth was a great result showing magnificent maturity in a drive that puts the Dutchman on the map and secures Toro Rosso’s best result since the 2008 Brazilian GP.

Awesome Alonso ends McLaren Misery

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Honda: Started 15th, Finished 5th

Alonso was fifth with four laps to go and just had to fend off the charge of his former teammate
Credit: McLaren

McLaren’s efforts went unnoticed for much of the first half of the race as Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button worked their way through the field. After a disappointing Saturday where promise wasn’t delivered upon through unreliability to both cars: Button was unable to make it out of Q1 with an ERS failure and Alonso couldn’t post a time in Q2, not for the want of trying.

Alonso ran 13th until the first stops but jumped to 10th past Pérez, Maldonado and Sainz through strong pace around his stops. He dropped to 11th pitting just before the safety car for mediums but decided to move back to softs with a ‘free stop’ to give him all the ammunition he needed to attack those ahead. Of course he was aided by the errors of others too, as Hamilton, Rosberg, and Bottas struggled, whilst Räikkönen and Sainz Jr succumbed to mechanical gremlins. The upshot was Alonso was fifth with four laps to go and just had to fend off the charge of his former teammate, Lewis Hamilton, which he did comfortably. McLaren must have been glad that they could rely on old heads to get the result as they secured their first double points finish of the season with Button coming home ninth.

Red Bull Resurgence

Daniil Kvyat, Infiniti Red Bull Racing: Started 7th, Finished 2nd

The Russian ploughed on unperturbed
Credit: Thompson/Getty

Daniil Kvyat thought his chance of points were over with a big lock up going into turn one, causing a vibration clearly noticeable on the radio. It looked as though he had ruined a great chance of points, having qualified seventh. But the Russian ploughed on unperturbed and once he had pitted, having let Daniel Ricciardo through to attack Hülkenberg and Bottas ahead, his pace was fantastic.

Running in eighth, Kvyat’s race was rescued as Nico Hülkenberg’s wing failed right in front of him, showering him in Force India debris, and bringing out the safety car. Kvyat was now sixth in the queue under the safety car and got a great view of the tussle between Hamilton and Ricciardo ahead.

Kvyat saw an opportunity with Hamilton struggling due to his damaged front wing and went to take the Brit into turn 5. The trouble was both were off track and Kvyat was penalised. Nonetheless he fought on in fourth and greatly accepted a final gift as Ricciardo and Rosberg collided, promoting him to second, even after his penalty.

Kvyat’s illegal overtake appeared to be the impetuousness of youth, but to be fair, there is a good chance he could have finished midway down the points had he not made the move and been boxed in against others. Outcome bias may sway this, but the penalty didn’t impact his result. Take nothing away from Kvyat as he earned his first podium and beat his teammate on a great day for Red Bull & Toro Rosso; Red Bull’s best since the 2014 US GP.

Error-Free Ericsson in the Points

Marcus Ericsson, Sauber F1 Team: Started 17th, Finished 10th

It was looking like another tough weekend for Sauber as they qualified on the ninth row, only ahead of the Manors. Ericsson beat teammate Nasr by a tenth and a half, two tenths off progressing.

Ericsson ran a longer first stint, giving Sauber more options on strategy, staying on the softs before briefly moving to the medium tyres. However, Sauber gambled when the Safety Car came out and moved back to softs after only eight laps.

The strategy succeeded and Ericsson, along with Nasr, worked his way through the field ahead of Massa and Maldonado, before benefitting from others crashing out. With 12 laps to go, Ericsson was ninth and Sauber were on for double points but neither could hold back Hamilton, leaving Ericsson 10th. Marcus was left to monitor a five second gap to his teammate and secure a first point since Monaco.

Sauber gambled when the Safety Car came out
Credit: Sauber AG