BUDAPEST: Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel won an action-packed Hungarian Grand Prix for the first time yesterday, while Nico Rosberg saw his chance to catch Lewis Hamilton in the title race disappear with a puncture near the end. Four-time F1 champion Vettel started third on the grid. It was his 41st career win – moving him level with Brazilian great Ayrton Senna – and his first since the Malaysian GP in the second race of this season. Red Bull took advantage of late chaos as Russian driver Daniil Kvyat placed second and Daniel Ricciardo, who clipped Rosberg, took third. Vettel’s win put the German driver back into the title race, as Hamilton finished sixth and Rosberg placed eighth. Vettel dedicated his win to Jules Bianchi, the French driver who died last week at the age of 25 from injuries sustained in a head-on crash at the Japanese GP last October. “Merci Jules, cette victoire est pour toi,” (Thank you Jules, this win is for you),” Vettel said in French on race radio, before continuing in English. “You are always in our hearts, sooner or later we know you would have been in this team.” A poignant minute’s silence was held in honor of Bianchi before the race, with drivers forming a ring and placing their race helmets on the ground. “Mentioning Senna’s record is something incredible. I don’t know how to put this in words. But nevertheless this is for Jules and his family,” Vettel said. “We know it has been an incredibly tough week, and for all of us very difficult, so this one is for him.” Bianchi’s mother Christine and father Philippe, brother Tom and sister Melanie joined them as they all linked arms on the Hungaroring grid. “I gave it everything and I owe my race to Jules,” Ricciardo said. “I gained extra strength today and I owe that to him.” In a thrilling finale, 17-year-old Max Verstappen just missed out on becoming the youngest ever podium finisher when he placed fourth and Fernando Alonso took fifth to give struggling McLaren a muchneeded boost. The race completely changed after German driver Nico Hulkenberg crashed and the virtual safety car came out, with Vettel in total control at that point. With five laps to go and Hamilton well out of contention, Rosberg was catching Vettel. But Ricciardo – the winner here last year – tried a daring overtaking move and instead ran into the back of the German driver, puncturing Rosberg’s left tire. Stewards took no action after investigating the incident. “The laps were ticking down and I had to try something,” Ricciardo said.
“To be honest the move was late but it was clean. Nico saw me and left me room on the entry.” Instead of gaining points from Hamilton, Rosberg slipped further back in the title race. “I’ll just keep going. It was close,” Rosberg said. “There is a good chance I could pass Lewis in the world championship sometime soon.” Heading into the summer break, Hamilton extended his lead over Rosberg by four point to 21 – 202 vs 181 – while Vettel on 160 has clawed back his deficit on Hamilton to 42. It is the first time Hamilton has failed to finish on the podium since the Belgian GP last August, where he was nudged off the track by Rosberg and retired. “Today was weird. Do I deserve any points? I didn’t give up and drove as hard as I could,” Hamilton said, reflecting on “one of the worst performances I’ve put in in a long, long time … it shows we are human.” Starting from pole position for the ninth time in 10 races this season, and 47th overall, Hamilton got away cleanly . But the race was re-started because Brazilian driver Felipe Massa was out of position on the grid. When they restarted, Hamilton got stuck as Rosberg surged past him. With the two Ferraris surging behind them, the four jostled for position going into the first corner.
Vettel got ahead, Hamilton dropped behind, and Raikkonen then got on the inside of Rosberg, prompting delirious scenes in the Ferrari garage. Worse was to come for Hamilton, who found his racing line impeded by Rosberg and went off into the gravel on the side, tumbling down the leaderboard. Ricciardo, the winner here last year, made a poor start and bumped into the Williams of Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas. Meanwhile, Hamilton was pushing his brakes to the limit as he clawed his way back from 10th, passing Massa with a brilliant overtaking move and overtaking Mexican driver Sergio Perez soon after. With Bottas and Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat pitting, Hamilton moved into sixth. Up ahead, the Ferraris were pulling away from Rosberg and Hamilton was still a massive 30 seconds behind Vettel by lap 17. Then, two laps later, Perez went off track after being nudged by Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado – who was given a drivethrough penalty. Hamilton took his first pit stop on lap 20, switching to soft tires, and Rosberg came in on 21 for a different strategy on the less quick but more resistant mediums. Vettel and Ricciardo pitted on 22, then Raikkonen. With one third of the race completed, Vettel had a comfortable lead over Raikkonen and Rosberg. Pushing hard, Hamilton got past Ricciardo on lap 30 and was gaining time fast on Rosberg.
Then everything changed following Hulkenberg’s crash. The German driver was unhurt as his Force India car was towed away by a crane. “Definitely from our point of view there was no need for that (the safety car),” Vettel said. “It obviously made it a lot more interesting in the end.” Once they resumed racing, Vettel held firm, Rosberg surged ahead of Kimi Raikkonen’s fading Ferrari, and Hamilton’s hopes were ended as he made contact with Ricciardo and had to come in for a new front wing. Hamilton’s misery was compounded when he was given a drivethrough penalty. Sensing victory, Rosberg was right behind Vettel with 10 laps to go. Minutes later, those hopes were dashed.—AP