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Hungary 2009: Lewis Hamilton Returns McLaren To Top With Victory

Hungary 2009: Lewis Hamilton Returns McLaren To Top With Victory

Lewis Hamilton has returned the McLaren team to the top of the podium with a convincing victory at the Hungaroring. The race, which saw only nineteen runners, was supposed to be a dual between Fernando Alonso and the similarly powered Red Bull duo. But a good start from the reigning world champion combined with a poorer start from Sebastian Vettel meant the McLaren pilot was able to pressure those ahead of him straight away. It was Hamilton’s first victory since China last year.

The start saw some questionable driving from Kimi Raikkonen, who nudged across on Sebastian Vettel, the Red Bull pilot looking very close to having been knocked by the Ferrari. Vettel feels they did make contact and puts the blame for his retirement squarely on the Finnish champion’s shoulders. Vettel’s front left suspension was damaged, and it finally gave way around the halfway mark, forcing the German to retire.

I had a collision. I made contact in first corner with Kimi. I was on the inside, had a clean run to accelerate and then his car came sideways and yeah, we touched. He crashed into my car, so…

It can happen, but in the end I mean it was the reason why the first pitstop already was bad. And then at some point the front left suspension gave up and we had to retire the car. Sebastian Vettel.

Kimi Raikkonen is under investigation for his actions at the start, and the stewards stated early in the race that it would be looked into once the grand prix had concluded, so we could still see a change in the finishing order.

From the start, Rubens Barrichello appeared to go backwards, and Jenson Button didn’t fare much better. As mentioned, Raikkonen had a great getaway from the line, and Lewis Hamilton was challenging Mark Webber around the first tour.

Adrian Sutil pitted and retired his Force India car on the second lap, the VJM02 apparently suffering from a water pressure failure that essentially meant his car was boiling itself. And while Button was attempting to recover from his poor start by slicing his way pass Kazuki Nakajima, Lewis Hamilton made his move on Mark Webber to take P2 from the Australian.

Fernando Alonso was still out in front and starting to edge out a lead, thanks to his light Renault, the Spaniard was able to pull out a few tenths each lap. However, as soon as Hamilton had cleared Webber, the Briton started to reign in the lead. It wasn’t long until Hamilton was tucked up in the turbulent air of Alonso’s R29, but from here Lewis could do very little. Knowing the double world champion would have to pit much earlier than himself, Hamilton just kept his composure and waited patiently behind Alonso.

On lap twelve, Alonso duly pitted with terrible graining on his right rear tyre, and this freed Hamilton up and gave him a clear track on which to attack. However, instead of the cameras all pointing towards the McLaren pilot, they instead were forced to stay with Alonso. It appeared that the front-right wheel bin – an aerodynamic device that is essentially like a wheel trim – was spinning with the wheel as the Spaniard left the pits. The frisbees, as they are affectionately known as, is not supposed to rotate with the wheel, because that would make it a movable aerodynamic part which is against the regulations.

As the wheel bin was spinning, it apparently undid the nut on the actually wheel, and it wasn’t long before we could all see the tyre on Alonso’s Renault wobbling. Sure enough, it eventually flew off, and thankfully came to rest without hitting anyone or anything. Alonso crept back to the pits with three wheels on his motor and had another set of tyres fitted. After a few more laps, Fernando decided to call it a day, and the Spaniard retired his car on lap seventeen.

Replays of the incident suggest the wheel-man who was in charge of fitting the wheel and tyre to Alonso’s car had not raised his arm prior to the lollipop man releasing Alonso back out into the pitlane. It would seem, upon initially viewing, that the error lies with the lollipop man for failing to check that all the tyres were on safely, indicated by a raised arm and not by one person still in contact with the car as it powers away.

With Alonso out of the race, and Hamilton striding around the Hungaroring in a confident P1, the race was his to lose. It wasn’t just Fernando though who was having issues in the pitstops, as Webber was delayed slightly as the lollipop holder wanted to release his driver before the fuel nozzle had been removed from the car. A twitch from the lollipop is all the drivers need to signal them to drop the clutch, but thankfully Webber quickly backtracked and stopped the RB5 before anybody was dragged to the ground. When the Australian was finally released, he almost came out in to the path of Kimi Raikkonen, Webber being forced to brake again in order to avoid a collision.

It would appear the Webber/Raikkonen pitlane incident is not being investigated because they avoided contact, and also Webber was penalised anyway by having to back out of the throttle, and therefore he lost the position to the Finnish driver.

Nico Rosberg made his pitstop shortly after Webber’s, and upon rejoining the race, he and Webber found themselves fighting for the same bit of tarmac. Webber made a move on Rosberg around the outside of the second corner and reclaimed his position back.

On lap thirty-one, Vettel retired his RB5, shouting down the radio that his car is broken and that he can no longer control it. The German had made a pitstop prior to retiring where the team had a good look at all four corners. The Red Bull appeared to be dragging his rear on the ground, and the team later confirmed it was the front left suspension that had given way following the knock from Raikkonen earlier in the race.

Sebastien Buemi was enjoying a good race until he found himself pointing the wrong way and very quickly went backwards. The Swiss pilot soon found himself behind his rookie team mate, who himself was having a great debut. Admittedly due to pitstops, the second Spaniard in the race got as high as P12 at one point, although Alguersuari would then make his own visit to his garage. Still, Jaime finished his first race, had no problems in the pitlane and also beat his team mate. A solid start for the driver most felt was too young and inexperienced. To compete with lap times similar to those around him is certainly a job well done for the Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie.

Towards the end of the race, it was all about tyres and whether or not the leading drivers would be able to hang on long enough. The leading McLaren’s set of Bridgestones looked pristine as Hamilton toured the track, while those behind appeared to be struggling more. Hamilton has always had a bit of a reputation for shredding up his rubber boots, but today he managed the tyres well and therefore won the race when others were slipping around with graining problems.

The day did not go Jenson Button’s way, but two points is better than zero. The fact that Red Bull did not win is the Briton’s only consolation, and as the Brawn pilot said himself, the team need to look into and understand why the car simply did not perform on Sunday. Toyota collected a few points with both drivers scoring, Timo Glock in P6 and Jarno Trulli in P8, finishing the race with a Trulli-train snaking behind him.

Nico Rosberg and Heikki Kovalainen can be pleased with their P4 and P5 finishes respectively. Although I’m sure Kovalainen would have wanted more, the double points for McLaren will help them immensely. The retirements of Vettel and Alonso made the race interesting, and of course, having another winner only further opens up the championships. Raikkonen finishing in P2 will be a boost for Ferrari, and Red Bull scored with Webber in P3.

Formula One now heads into a four week break where the factories are forced to close down for a minimum of two weeks. Our thoughts are with Felipe Massa, who couldn’t take part in today’s race following his accident in qualifying yesterday. During the race, Ferrari released a statement explaining that the Brazilian driver had another CT scan and again, it shows that Massa is okay, but will remain in an induced coma for another day or two to help with his recovery.

Oliver White

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