Hungarian Grand Prix 2015: Winners and Losers from Hungaroring Race

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistJuly 26, 2015

Hungarian Grand Prix 2015: Winners and Losers from Hungaroring Race

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    Prior to Sunday's race, the Hungarian Grand Prix was one of just four events on the 2015 Formula One calendar Sebastian Vettel had never won.

    In his first appearance at the Hungaroring for Ferrari, however, the four-time world champion put that right by taking a surprise victory from third on the grid and the Prancing Horse's first win at the track since 2004.

    F1 was turned on its head in Budapest as those so accustomed to success in 2015, Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, both had bad days at the office.

    Meanwhile, Red Bull and McLaren, who had endured lacklustre seasons until this point, put their troubles aside to claim their best results of the year.

    Here are the winners and losers from the Hungarian GP.

Winner: Sebastian Vettel

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    At Silverstone, Williams were presented with a golden chance to win and let it slip through their fingers, ultimately missing out on the podium.

    Part of the reason for their failure to capitalise upon that opportunity was the fact that the team has no recognised No. 1 driver. With Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas so evenly matched this year, it was difficult for Williams to rely on just one figure to carry them to victory.

    There are, of course, no such problems at Ferrari, who in Hungary were the team in position to control a race with the ever-dependable Sebastian Vettel.

    The German's aggression at the start, where he squeezed Lewis Hamilton aside and left enough room at Turn 1 to avoid being tagged by Nico Rosberg, set the tone for the Prancing Horse's afternoon. 

    With Kimi Raikkonen, his team-mate, nestled behind him, Vettel and Ferrari had the luxury of playing the race exactly how they wanted.

    And as the madness occurred behind him—as Kimi fell back with a loss of power, as Lewis self-destructed, as Daniel Ricciardo hit Nico and as the safety car eroded his healthy lead—Seb, just as he was in Malaysia, remained reliable, composed, tranquil.

    His absorption of the later pressure applied by Rosberg and Ricciardo, who lurked in his wing mirrors, was the mark of a driver who simply knew nobody was going to take victory away from him.

    Previously the subject of criticism from Bernie Ecclestone, who per Autosport's Lawrence Barretto claimed he doesn't do "much" for F1, Vettel not only drove but conducted himself like a four-time world champion at the Hungaroring.

    His tribute to Jules Bianchi was profound and sincere and enhanced Vettel's reputation on an afternoon when he, according to Autosport's Barretto, equalled Ayrton Senna's tally of 41 victories.

Loser: Lewis Hamilton

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    Afternoons such as these were supposed to be a thing of the past for Lewis Hamilton.

    Since winning his second world title in 2014, he has driven flawlessly, with the poise, elegance and assurance of some of the greatest champions in the history of Formula One. 

    Yet his gentle decline in form since June's Austrian Grand Prix took a significant turn for the worst in Hungary as Hamilton endured his least convincing performance for some time.

    After his domination in qualifying, a third poor getaway from pole in as many races saw Hamilton tumble to fourth by the first corner.

    Hamilton's emotional side took over as he launched an immediate counter-attack, but unlike at Silverstone—where he lived to fight another day (and win) after a misjudged move on Felipe Massa at the restart—he became his own worst enemy, skipping through the gravel trap and falling further down the order.

    A string of impressive passes on Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez and Valtteri Bottas saw Hamilton work his way back into podium contention, but again he let his good work go to waste by colliding with Daniel Ricciardo as the race resumed, forcing him to pit for a new front wing and suffer the indignity of a drive-through penalty.

    On a day when he made several mistakes, it felt unjust that Hamilton's sixth-place finish—which ended his 100 per cent record of podium finishes in 2015—actually saw him extend his championship lead over Nico Rosberg to 21 points.

    Despite managing to score healthy points in Austria and Britain, Hungary was where his loss of form finally caught up with Hamilton, and what initially appeared to be a slight blip has become something a little more serious.

    The summer break has come at the right time for the reigning world champion.

Winner: Red Bull

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    Red Bull Racing's struggles with engine partner Renault has blighted their 2015 season, but their troubles were forgotten for one weekend only in the high-downforce environment of the Hungaroring.

    After being prevented the chance to build upon his highly impressive 2014 campaign, it was pleasant to see Daniel Ricciardo finally able to strut his stuff for the first time this year.

    His late lunges on Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton—three of the wiliest drivers on the grid in terms of wheel-to-wheel combat—were carbon copies of the moves he perfected en route to victory in last season's Hungarian GP.

    And while he perhaps pushed his luck a little too far with a pounce on Nico Rosberg in the final laps—which resulted in him requiring a new front wing after locking up, running wide and colliding with the Mercedes as they scuffled over the position—Ricciardo's first podium of the season was a welcome result.

    Daniil Kvyat was among the beneficiaries of his team-mate's tangle with Rosberg, securing his best-ever finish in F1 with second place.

    The Russian's recent good form had deserted him on Saturday, when he qualified three positions behind Ricciardo, and in the early stages of the race, which saw him suffer a huge lock up under braking for the first corner.

    Not for the first time this season, Kvyat was forced to play the team game by gifting his position to Ricciardo, whose imitation of a battering ram ultimately played to the 21-year-old's advantage, so much so that his 10-second time penalty for exceeding track limits had no impact on the overall result.

    Not only did Red Bull's first double-podium since last season's Singapore GP soothe the pain of 2015, it strengthened their position in the constructors' standings, with the team now 57 points ahead of fifth-placed Force India.

Loser: Nico Rosberg

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    If Nico Rosberg goes on to lose this year's world championship, the Hungarian Grand Prix will haunt him forevermore.

    The German had been outclassed by Lewis Hamilton all weekend, qualifying 0.575 seconds adrift of his team-mate per the official F1 website, yet—as these situations often play out—he found himself in a position to make serious gains on the British driver in the standings.

    Despite appearing to make a string start, Rosberg had to settle for second at the first corner and then seemed to be spooked under braking for Turn 3, losing the place to Kimi Raikkonen and therefore costing himself the chance to exert early pressure on Sebastian Vettel.

    His chance to attack the lead Ferrari finally came when the safety car was deployed, yet Rosberg's bizarre decision to remain on the medium-compound tyres rather than the softs—Mercedes and Hamilton took the same route in Malaysia—meant the German was defending, not attacking, in the final stages.

    At one stage, Rosberg's second place would have been enough for him to head for the summer break as the world championship leader, but his desperate defence of the position saw his rear-left tyre brush Daniel Ricciardo's front wing, causing a puncture.

    On a day when Rosberg should have exploited his team-mate's misfortune, he finished two places behind Hamilton in eighth and lost yet more ground in the title race.

    "That is a real pity and sport is really tough sometimes to lose all those points," Rosberg told Sky Sports' William Esler, but he only had himself to blame.

Winner: McLaren

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    Like Red Bull, McLaren's lack of straight-line speed was rendered irrelevant at the Hungaroring as the team enjoyed their best race of the season thus far.

    Fernando Alonso was forced to push his car back to the pits after its latest failure in qualifying, but the two-time world champion was able to push from the cockpit for the first time in 2015, running in the top 10 for much of the race.

    A visor tear-off in the Spaniard's brake duct, as confirmed by the team, proved to be a blessing in disguise as McLaren fitted soft tyres to his car for the final stint, helping Alonso cement fifth place—finishing three seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton, five behind Max Verstappen, per the official F1 website—as chaos ensured ahead.

    Jenson Button, in contrast, was vulnerable in the latter stages after deciding against pitting under safety car conditions yet still managed to come home ninth, just ahead of Marcus Ericsson.

    The many errors and penalties handed to faster cars undoubtedly aided McLaren's quest for points in Hungary, yet there was a sense that the team had made a genuine step forward this weekend.

    And if Honda can make further improvements to their power unit in the second half of the season, there is seemingly no reason why McLaren, now breathing down the neck of Sauber, cannot secure more double-points finishes over the remaining nine races.

Loser: Force India

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    Force India have been a team on the rise in recent weeks, scoring double-points finishes in Austria and Britain.

    The instant success of their B-spec car at Silverstone appeared to give the team a realistic shot of snatching fourth place in the constructors' championship, but Force India were brought back down to Earth with a thump in Hungary on a weekend dominated by incidents.

    Sergio Perez's flip on Friday morning hindered the outfit's progress, with Force India sitting out the afternoon session as they sought to identify the cause of the crash.

    The lost track time would have certainly harmed their preparations for the race, but despite failing to make Q3, they performed relatively well in the race, with Nico Hulkenberg making yet another outstanding start by jumping from 11th to fifth on the first lap.

    However, misfortune returned and Perez was spun by Lotus' Pastor Maldonado before Hulkenberg suffered a frightening incident of his own, with the German's front wing collapsing beneath his front wheels on the main straight.

    As Perez told the team's official website, "brake issues" compounded Force India's misery and the Mexican was forced to retire 15 laps from the end, confirming this was a weekend to forget.

Winner: Max Verstappen

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    As Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Rosberg collided at Turn 1, and Daniil Kvyat was hit with a time penalty, it felt possible that 17-year-old Max Verstappen, driving in just his 10th Formula One race, could claim a podium finish.

    And while the Red Bulls' advantage was big enough for Kvyat and Ricciardo to retain second and third respectively, Verstappen's fourth-place finish was still an outstanding result.

    In a race where established drivers and world champions alike were making frequent mistakes, and in conditions significantly cooler than the previous day—which can transform a car's balance and handling—the teenager was immaculate.

    Despite incurring a penalty for speeding behind the safety car—probably an easy mistake to make when it led the field down the pit lane as the mess on the pit straight was cleared—and a slight brush with Valtteri Bottas, who suffered a puncture, the least experienced driver on the grid was seemingly oblivious to the chaos.

    Much like the race winner, the most successful graduate of the same Red Bull junior program to which Verstappen is currently linked, the rookie was almost robotic in his handling of the race.

    It's true that the boy wonder's performance wasn't quite as spectacular as in previous grands prix this season, yet the Budapest race offered a glimpse at his versatility as a driver and his ability, even at this stage in his career, to grind out good results.

    "I managed to stay out of trouble," Verstappen told Scuderia Toro Rosso's official website, and that was all he needed to do.

Loser: Pastor Maldonado

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    Pastor Maldonado has enjoyed something of a resurgence of late, scoring points in two consecutive races in Canada and Austria.

    But the only points the Venezuelan registered in Hungary were penalty points—three, in fact, according to Sky Sports' Mike Wise—with the Lotus driver involved in a number of incidents during the race.

    Maldonado was handed not one but two drive-through penalties in Budapest: the first for a collision with Sergio Perez on the exit of Turn 1—which, in truth, was almost identical to the "racing incident" between Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Rosberg later on—and the second for speeding in the pit lane.

    Overtaking under safety-car conditions also saw Maldonado handed a 10-second time penalty, with the No. 13 car classified 14th.

    While it may be fashionable to regard Maldonado's performance as typical of a driver accustomed to pushing and breaking boundaries, the effect of Jules Bianchi's death should not be underestimated when assessing his afternoon.

    Felipe Massa's uncharacteristic race, which began with the Williams driver receiving a penalty for something as simple as being out of position on the grid, only served as a reminder that the events of this most difficult of weeks had taken its toll on some drivers.

    And it is possible that Maldonado, among the most emotional attendees at Bianchi's funeral, was deeply affected by the loss of the Frenchman.

    The month-long break will offer him and his competitors a chance to reset.

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