• Hungarian Grand Prix

Button wins thrilling wet/dry race

ESPNF1 Staff
July 31, 2011

Jenson Button won a thrilling Hungarian Grand Prix in wet/dry conditions after a strategic error cost Lewis Hamilton a very good shot at victory.

Button eventually led Sebastian Vettel over the line by 3.5s, who in turn had a lead of 16.2s over Fernando Alonso in third. But those gaps don't do justice to how close this race was, with Hamilton, who finished fourth, looking nailed on for victory until the third pit stops when he took on supersoft tyres instead of softs.

Rain also played its part and saw Hamilton impede Paul di Resta as he completed a donut to recover from a spin at the chicane. The stewards did not look kindly on Hamilton's antics and slapped the McLaren driver with a drive-through penalty which put an end to his podium chances.

Mark Webber had a tough race and also made some bad tyre decisions to finish fifth ahead of Felipe Massa's Ferrari in sixth. Di Resta came through to take the best finish of his career in seventh with Sebastien Buemi putting in a fine performance from 23rd on the grid to finish eighth.

Nico Rosberg recovered from a difficult race to finish ninth ahead Jaime Alguersuari in the final points position in tenth.

Morning rain left the track damp and further drizzle greeted the start of the grand prix, with all of the cars starting the race on intermediate tyres. Vettel got a strong start from pole while Button challenged Hamilton for second but had to slot in to third place after Hamilton held on around the outside of turn two. Webber had a poor start but Rosberg and Michael Schumacher made great getaways to take fourth and fifth places.

Hamilton kept in touch with Vettel and looked quicker, pressuring the leader in to an error at turn two when he ran wide. From there on Hamilton pulled away and Button was close behind Vettel but unable to make a pass. Alonso was quick but a couple of errors dropped him behind Schumacher and Rosberg before the first round of pit stops, while Felipe Massa spun and damaged his rear wing against a tyre wall.

A dry line soon appeared around most of the track and attentions turned to who would pit for slick tyres first. Webber, Massa and Button were the first three in to make the change and it proved to be a crucial move as they got their tyres up to temperature. Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso were in a lap later and as Button had better performance from his tyres he was able to pass the Red Bull for second in to turn two. Schumacher found turn two a bit trickier, spinning to avoid Massa and then losing a gear as a result, causing him to retire.

Webber passed Alonso for fourth while Hamilton extended his lead to nine seconds over his team-mate. A strange incident then forced the front runners to pit again as Nick Heidfeld's engine blew following a long pit stop. The front-exiting exhausts then caused a fire in the side of the car - which was parked on the inside of the pit exit - before the a small explosion blew off part of the side of the car. Fearing a safety car, Webber, Alonso and Massa all pitted for another set of tyres, with Hamilton and then Button following suit in consecutive laps. Vettel stayed out the longest and lost further time as he rejoined just ahead of Webber and Alonso.

Vettel soon pumped in some quick laps to pull away from his team-mate who was holding up Alonso, so the Ferrari pitted for a third time after a short stint in order to try and jump Webber. With Alonso so quick on supersoft tyres, Webber pitted a few laps later for prime tyres as he had already lost too much time, and Vettel did the same. The face of the race change when Hamilton put on supersoft tyres when he pitted, and Button stayed out for two more laps before putting on the prime tyre.

Hamilton was then forced to try and pump in fast laps before a final pit stop, but the soft tyre proved to be quicker and Vettel passed Alonso before joining Button in catching the leader. A rain shower then further mixed things up, as Hamilton spun exiting the chicane and lost the lead to Button. In recovering from the spin he also forced Di Resta off the track. Having regained the lead as Button ran wide in turn two Hamilton then followed Webber in pitting for intermediate tyres.

That call would cost him any chance of winning the race, and then his hopes of challenging Alonso for third evaporated as he was handed a drive-through penalty for his incident with Di Resta. The rain stopped too, so Hamilton first pitted for slick tyres and then took a drive through which dropped him behind Webber and Massa. He and Webber soon dispatched the Ferrari though - Hamilton's move up the inside in to the chicane particularly impressive - and then Hamilton passed Webber in to turn 12 as he took advantage of backmarkers to secure fourth.

At the front, Button and Vettel were close on pace, but as the stint went on the McLaren eased away as Vettel appeared to settle for second, holding a 15 second lead over Alonso. A slow final lap closed the gap considerably, but Button was good value for the win as he celebrated his 200th start with the 11th victory of his grand prix career.