In one of the most dramatic F1 show, the main characters didn’t finish as winners. In a thrilling finale, Australian Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo emerged the winner but the proceedings were largely dominated by two sworn adversaries, who represented the same team. The entire race looked like an unending story of a classic rivalry between Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg even though Ricciardo recorded a brilliant victory in Budapest on July 27, 2014. And the second-placed Spaniard Fernando Alonso was not even talked about as the event was drowned in discussions on the sanctity of Mercedes’ team controllers preferring Rosberg over Hamilton during mid-race instructions.
Misery chased Lewis Hamilton from Germany, where he had a brake disc failure during the free practice sessions. In Budapest’s Q1, Hamilton had a leaky fuel tank that set his car ablaze. With a completely damaged chassis, he was out of the qualifiers without setting any time and had the double handicap of having to use a hastily assembled car and staring from the pit lane on race day. Without a challenge from Hamilton, Rosberg claimed the pole with Sebastian Vettel in second place. Third grid spot in qualifying was taken by Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, fourth by Red Bull’s Ricciardo, fifth by Ferrari’s Alonso, sixth by Williams’ Felipe Massa, seventh by McLaren’s Jenson Button and eighth by Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne. Force India’s Nico Hukenberg and McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen finished on ninth and tenth places on the grid.
On Sunday, heavy rains delayed the start of the 70-lap race at the 4.381-kilometer Hungaroring track near Budapest and even as the race began, the track was still too wet. With the top pole position with him, Rosberg sprang out ahead of everyone else. On the first set of turns, Bottas overtook Vettel and Alonso passed Ricciardo and for the first two laps, 20 seconds separated these five drivers with Rosberg in the lead. Poor Hamilton had another bad luck, when starting from the pit lane, he spun off the track at second corner in the first lap and touched the barrier which resulted in a damaged left side front wing. He also suffered from cold brakes because he did not take part in the formation lap. At the end of the second lap he called up his team saying that the new chassis could be having brake problems. Despite such odds, Hamilton recovered smartly and manipulated his way through the field. In an amazing run, Hamilton was 13th by Lap 8 as he passed Kimi Raikkonen, who had also improved by four places by then.
On Lap 9, Marcus Ericsson drove into the barriers just out of Turn 3 that brought the safety car. Luckily, the top four – Rosberg, Bottas, Vettel and Alonso – had already gone by the pit entry and they couldn’t pit until the next lap. The whole race changed at this point as Button and Ricciardo took advantage. Nearly the same thing happened in the Lap 12, when Romain Grosjean used another injudicious throttle application to bring the safety car back that stayed until 14 laps. After the resumption of the race, almost every driver had changed to slicks as the track had dried up. However, McLaren drivers Button and Magnussen continued with the same tyres. The error cost Button as he dropped to the 18th place and his race was ruined. Maintaining his gallant efforts, Hamilton had improved to the ninth place. Hamilton also ignored team instructions to make way for Rosberg, who complained to the team management.
Alonso and Hamilton went to pits at 38 and 39 laps respectively and this allowed Ricciardo to take the lead that continued until he stopped for the pit on lap 54. Ricciardo trailed behind Alonso, Hamilton and Rosberg on the fourth place but he kept cutting the gap. On turn 2 of lap 67, Ricciardo made a smart move around the outside of Hamilton and a while later, also crossed Alonso to take the front place. Somehow Alonso managed to stay ahead of Hamilton, who, in turn, did his best to fend off Rosberg. Marcus Ericsson’s crash and the introduction of the first safety car badly hurt Rosberg’s chances at Budapest but even so he fought valiantly to finish fourth. However, the race belonged to Lewis Hamilton, who overcame all sorts of odds to make it to the podium. In spite of beginning from the pit lane and using a car that had been built overnight, Hamilton’s performance was truly magnificent after Saturday’s fire nearly ruined his race. Of others, Felipe Massa was fifth; Kimi Raikkonen sixth; Sebastian Vettel seventh; Valtteri Bottas eighth; Jean-Eric Vergne ninth and Jenson Button tenth.