If the 2010 Hungarian Grand Prix has shown us nothing else, it’s at least shown that a small and rather insignificant accident can throw a race in unexpected directions.
During lap 15 of the 70-lap race an accident occurred which caused yellow flags and a safety car, and that was the start of a bizarre series of events which culminated in the retirement of three cars (eventually), and in Vettel being given a drive-through penalty that effectively took the race from him and gifted it to Webber.
So what happened on lap 15? No one seems to know, oddly enough. I guess everything that happened after the initial accident was so interesting that people have just forgotten about it or lost interest. I wasn’t there myself so I can’t opine, but one accident occurred which resulted in the end-piece of a front wing being left on the track. As soon as the yellow flag was announced drivers rushed to the pits en masse to try and make the most of it.
It was then that the Mercedes GP crew attempted to change Rosberg’s right rear tire too quickly, or possibly using the wrong airgun, with the result being that the German left his pit and immediately lost that wheel, which zoomed past the Sauber crew, fortunately missing everyone. The tire then hit something a Williams mechanic, bounced 20 feet into the air, and was caught cricket-style by a member of the crew. Rosberg continued three-wheeling his way to the end of the pit lane, and that was the end of his race. No further Mansell-style pit shenanigans for Rosberg…
Immediately after that Kubica, who was in the pits, was released right into the path of Sutil, who was entering the FI pit located right on front of the Renault one. Immediate collision; the front right suspension on Sutil’s car was destroyed so he was out for the day. Kubica’s Renault was restarted and he was sent on his way a lap down, but he was then given a 10-second stop-go penalty, and retired soon after.
Vettel was right behind Webber during the safety car period, but for some reason he was not paying attention to the safety car announcements and was caught unawares when the safety car came into the pits and Webber sped away, so that he ended up a good 100m away from the safety car, which is forbidden by the rules, mostly to avoid a driver using the safety car as a way to build a time cushion for a teammate running in front of him. In this case it doesn’t seem to have been intentional, but he really was infuriated by the drive-through, gesturing at people during his drive-through and pleading his case with the attending steward after the end of the race, even after being told that it wouldn’t make any difference. You can take a driver out of a race, but you can’t take the race out of the driver.
Besides that incident, Red Bull and Ferrari continue to dominate the other teams. The teams split the four top spots; Webber maintained the lead acquired when Vettel pitted for new tires to the finish line, in front of Alonso, Vettel and Massa. The Australian won on a gutsy strategy that involved him staying on the super-soft tires when everyone else was switching to the harder compound. As was found in practice, the super-softs were able to last a long time at the Hungaroring (some pundits even said that you could do a whole race with them, but I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration) and Webber was able to capitalize on the problems experienced by everyone else in trying to get some heat into the more capricious hard tires. By the time he got to his own mandatory pit stop on lap 42 Webber was able to come out still in first place ahead of Alonso, and it was a foregone conclusion from there.
It’s past the first four that the results get, well, a bit weird.
Renault may be smarting from the pit incident that cost them a penalty and a $50,000 fine, but they’re more than happy about Petrov finishing a personal-best fifth. The Russian had the drive of his life in Budapest, and it really showed F1 that he was more than just another rookie among many. That being said he got to fifth place when Hamilton retired on lap 24 with some unidentified drivetrain problem.
Petrov was followed by another newcomer from GP2, Nico Hulkenberg, who also had his best performance so far. There were a few questions about the future of both Petrov and Hulkenberg, but if they can both race like they did yesterday they can stop worrying about that. In Nico’s case the race also proved to be somewhat of a vindication for the Cosworth engine, at least when it’s in the hands of a team that knows the sport inside and out. His teammate Reubens Barrichello finished 10th, providing Williams with their second double point finish.
The Sauber team (technically “BMW Sauber Powered by Ferrari”) also had a fantastic day at the Hungaroring with their first double point finish, with veteran driver Pedro De La Rosa grabbing 7th place and Kobayashi 9th (amazing considering he was 23rd on the grid). Jenson Button came in 8th in what has been the most dismal weekend for McLaren so far this season. Absolutely nothing went right; the team that was heretofore first in the constructors’ championship was moving backwards, and Red Bull is now on top.
Mercedes GP had its worst result of the year so far. With Rosberg out and Schumacher in 11th place it got no points, a fine, a grid penalty for Spa and who knows what else (see below). Truly a weekend to forget. Toro Rosso and Force India also walked away from Hungary empty-handed.
Notably, all 6 cars from the new teams managed to finish this race (for the first time this year); Bruno Senna’s HRT finished ahead of Lucas Di Grassi’s Virgin, and one lap up on teammate Sakon Yamamoto.
Of course this wouldn’t be F1 without some additional controversy coming late in the race. On lap 65 Barrichello’s Williams had been having a look to pass Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes for a couple of laps already, and Reubens made his play on the inside of Schumi on the pit straight. Having opened the door, the 7-time champion decided to slam it shut on the straight by making a very jerky but deliberate move to his right, squeezing his former teammate along the pit wall and coming spectacularly close to causing a very, very bad accident. From the coverage I’ve seen there couldn’t have been more than a couple of centimeters left between the Williams’s wheels and the concrete wall, and the cars were moving at around 300 kph. Reubens held his nerve, but he had to go on the grass inside the pit lane exit to avoid a collision, and if it had been anyone else but the most experienced man on the grid I seriously believe that we might be talking today about the first F1 driver to die on the track since Senna — and, quite possibly, also about the FIA revoking Schumacher’s super-license. That’s not going to happen now, but it could have.
Schumacher doesn’t think he did anything wrong. Ever. So it’s not surprising that he doesn’t think so now either, but we just can’t have that sort of thing going on in F1. Schumacher is a guy whose reputation as a bit of a Dirk Dastardly was entirely based on his having no idea when to stop. He’s already forced the outcome of two WDCs (before you ask, yes, I do believe he deliberately rammed Hill ) by doing things which are completely unsportsmanlike, and he just tried to do it again. As was said on the Beeb coverage the comeback was supposed to put him in a different light, to make him seem more human, and that kind of dangerous maneuver is clearly not helping. If you pulled that on a track day you’d be black-flagged immediately and banned from that track, and the FIA has to at least cast a jaundiced eye on what took place. The race stewards decided to give Michael a 10-place grid penalty for the Belgian Grand Prix but there really should be a stronger caution. Clearly I’m not the only one to think so — there is now an official betting line that Schumacher might earn himself a ban for dangerous driving, and it stands at 10:1 right now, so get your bets in.
There’s plenty of time to do so, of course, because there won’t be a race for almost four weeks, by which time we should know more about this and about what’s going on in Korea.