Hamilton wins in Hungary
Lewis Hamilton finally got his 2009 world championship defence back into top gear by claiming a first victory of the year for McLaren with a crushing display in the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Already buoyed by his performance leading up to the opening lap in Germany a fortnight ago, and again by McLaren sweeping free practice in Budapest, the Briton made the most of his KERS system to move into an early second place, and then be best placed to capitalise on polewinner Fernando Alonso's problem with a loose wheel.
The Spaniard led through to his early pit-stop, but lost his right-front wheel on the subsequent out-lap and, despite taking on a replacement, was forced to retire shortly afterwards. Having got around Mark Webber on lap four, Hamilton assumed the lead and, with his McLaren able to use its tyres better than the majority of its rivals, was able to cruise to victory, coming home eleven seconds clear of the field.
Kimi Raikkonen likewise moved into second spot, surviving an opening lap brush with both the world champion and Sebastian Vettel to claim Ferrari's best result of the season, while Webber emerged as the leading Red Bull driver, having got ahead of Vettel on the opening lap and then made the most of the German's suspension-induced retirement.
Once Timo Glock had made a late single stop, Nico Rosberg claimed another fourth place for Williams, coming home ahead of 2008 race winner Heikki Kovalainen - who confirmed McLaren's improvement in fifth. Glock slotted back into sixth, ahead of championship leader Jenson Button - who struggled with tyre woes all day - and the second Toyota of Jarno Trulli.
Hungarian Grand Prix – Race results
1. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes 70 laps 1hr 38m 23.876s
2. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Ferrari-Ferrari +00m 11.5s
3. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault +00m 16.8s
4. Nico Rosberg Germany Williams-Toyota +00m 26.9s
5. Heikki Kovalainen Finland McLaren-Mercedes +00m 34.3s
6. Timo Glock Germany Toyota-Toyota +00m 35.2s
7. Jenson Button Britain Brawn-Mercedes +00m 55.0s
8. Jarno Trulli Italy Toyota-Toyota +01m 08.1s
9. Kazuki Nakajima Japan Williams-Toyota +01m 08.7s
10. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Brawn-Mercedes +01m 09.2s
11 Nick Heidfeld Germany BMW Sauber +01m 10.6s
12. Nelson Piquet Jr Brazil Renault-Renault +01m 11.5s
13. Robert Kubica Poland BMW Sauber +01m 14.0s
14. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Force India-Mercedes +1 lap
15. Jaime Alguersuari Spain Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
16. Sebastien Buemi Switzerland Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
Rtd Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault 29 laps completed
Rtd Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault 15 laps completed
Rtd Adrian Sutil Germany Force India-Mercedes 1 lap completed
Dns Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari qualifying accident
Alonso grabs pole but Massa takes a knock in Hungary
The qualifying session for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix will likely go down as one of the oddest in recent memory, with an accident for Felipe Massa caused by an errant piece of rear suspension from the Brawn GP of Rubens Barrichello hitting the Ferrari star on the helmet – and a first pole position in 32 races for double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso, though due to a timing failure, the man himself didn't actually realise he had done it.
In cooler conditions than the previous day during practice, and with strong winds blowing, the all-important top ten shoot-out got underway without Massa, still in the Hungaroring's medical centre following his blow to the head and hefty impact with the circuit's tyre barriers [see separate story – click here].
The men on the move to begin with were Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen, Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton – seeking a consecutive hat-trick of Hungarian poles – and the in-form Red Bull Racing pairing of German Grand Prix winner Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, but with the lap times continually tumbling, it could have gone one of a number of ways.
Confusion then swiftly set in, however, as F1's official timing system went down, leaving drivers, teams, spectators and commentators alike all in the dark as to who was going quickly and who wasn't. With chaos reigning in parc fermé afterwards, the drivers knew what times they personally had done – but not how fast any of their rivals had been. Alonso approached every one of his Q3 competitors to enquire about their lap times, and even as he stood on the scales to be weighed the Spaniard still seemed unsure that he had clinched the top spot.
Delayed celebrations they may have been for the Oviedo native and his Renault crew, but celebrations they nonetheless were, as the news was confirmed amidst a farcical ending to a qualifying hour that had endured for almost an hour-and-a-half. Alongside Alonso on the front row of the grid will be Vettel, with the sport's youngest-ever grand prix-winner ably backed up by team-mate Webber in third, though the Australian arguably has the better position for the start, being on the grippier inside line.
The top ten was completed by Hamilton, Rosberg, Kovalainen, Kimi Raikkonen – who spoiled his initial effort with a scrappy end to the lap – Jenson Button, the improving Kazuki Nakajima for the third time in the last five races and the luckless Massa, though whether the latter will be able to take the start of the race remains unclear. The world championship leader only ventured out for a single run towards the end of the ten-minute segment, following suspension checks to his Mercedes-powered BGP 001 in an effort to ensure that he would encounter no similar failure to that of Barrichello.
The Red Bulls had swiftly proven to be on the pace in Q2, and Webber would wind up in P1 at the end of the 15-minute session, with Hamilton and the impressive Nakajima separating the New South Wales ace from the sister RB5 of Vettel in fourth. The reigning world champion, indeed, survived an off-track moment at turn four en route, but there would be far greater dramas in the same corner later on for Massa, who was hit on the helmet by a piece of flying debris, shot off-piste and embedded his Ferrari firmly in the tyre barriers. Though the Brazilian was eighth-quickest, behind team-mate Raikkonen, Button and Kovalainen, it took some time to extract the concussed São Paulista from his car, and the 28-year-old would take no further part in the action.
Alonso and early pace-setter Rosberg completed the Q3 graduates, with Sébastien Buemi narrowly missing out in the upgraded Scuderia Toro Rosso STR4, and Toyota duo Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock similarly falling at the second hurdle. There they were accompanied by birthday boy Nelsinho Piquet – confessing to having pushed a bit too hard in the upgraded Renault R29 for the first time – and, most surprisingly of all, Barrichello, the nine-time grand prix-winner blaming his broken rear suspension for not making it into the top ten for the first time all year. Brawn GP, indeed, looked to be far from the force they had been earlier on in the campaign, with Button only hauling himself to safety in sixth right at the end.
Raikkonen, too, at one stage appeared to be in perilous waters, with both of Maranello's drivers struggling for grip throughout and enduring a number of grassy moments, whilst Kovalainen's expected form was not overly apparent, with the defending race-winner making it through to the top ten shoot-out – but only just.
Hungarian Grand Prix – Qualifying times
1. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault 1m 21.569s
2. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault 1m 21.607s
3. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault 1m 21.741s
4. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes 1m 21.839s
5. Nico Rosberg Germany Williams-Toyota 1m 21.890s
6. Heikki Kovalainen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 1m 22.095s
7. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 22.468s
8. Jenson Button Britain Brawn-Mercedes 1m 22.511s
9. Kazuki Nakajima Japan Williams-Toyota 1m 22.835s
10. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari no time Q3
11. Sebastien Buemi Switzerland Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m 21.002s
12. Jarno Trulli Italy Toyota-Toyota 1m 21.082s
13. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Brawn-Mercedes 1m 21.222s
14. Timo Glock Germany Toyota-Toyota 1m 21.242s
15 Nelson Piquet Jr Brazil Renault-Renault 1m 21.389s
16. Nick Heidfeld Germany BMW Sauber 1m 21.738s
17. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Force India-Mercedes 1m 21.807s
18. Adrian Sutil Germany Force India-Mercedes 1m 21.868s
19. Robert Kubica Poland BMW Sauber 1m 21.901s
20. Jaime Alguersuari Spain Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m 22.359s