Rencken: 'It's all over, Schumi'
THIRD MULTIPLE GP WINNER: Following his win in Hungary, Lewis Hamilton has become the third multiple race winner in 2012, joining Fernando Alonso (three) and Mark Webber (two).
Author: DIETER RENCKEN
The top five title contenders all headed for Budapest from Hockenheim for the opener of the second half of the 20-round FIA Formula 1 championship with utterly different objectives.
Current leader Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, on 154 points after 10 of 20 rounds, had just one thing in mind, namely to at least consolidate his lead over Red Bull’s Mark Webber (120), who has endured a zero-hero-zero season to date.
Webber aimed to at least smooth the spikes while closing up on the Ferrari driver ahead of the sport’s four-week summer break.
Reigning double champion Sebastian Vettel (110) was intent on hauling in Red Bull Racing team mate Webber, who for two years had driven in the shadow of the Wunderkind, but now had two victories on his 2012 card to Vettel’s one.
Nothing short of victory would appease Vettel, who planned to excise the painful memory of losing second in Germany (to Alonso) after an ill-judged penultimate lap desperation saw him overtake McLaren’s Jenson Button.
For Lotus’ Kimi Räikkönen (98) the mission could not be more simple: score a first victory since returning to F1 after two vagabond seasons in World Rally. His Lotus had, whether in his hands of those of team mate Romain Grosjean, proven to have the pace; now it was simply a matter of stringing it all together on the Sunday afternoon in forecast sweltering conditions.
Then there was Lewis Hamilton (92), McLaren’s star of mercurial recent seasons; he who had been caught clubbing in recent weeks by the British tabloid media, which had in turn done what it does best: assassinate every sports(wo)man to fly the Union Jack.
Hamilton had to prove that partying and driving are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The best way of doing thus would surely be to add victory to his Canadian success. In the end it was Hamilton who could rightly claim “mission accomplished” after dominating every single session on the tight, dusty Hungaroring.
Whether in FPs1-3 (dry or wet) during qualifying or the race, eventually taking a lights-to-flag victory for McLaren in conditions which drove the mercury to a high of 33C, in turn resulting in track temperatures of close on 50C.
Hamitlon said: “I was under a lot of pressure throughout all 69 laps. First, Romain [Grosjean] and then Kimi [Räikkönen] were right behind me, all the way through, and I had to look after my tyres without letting my pace drop, which was pretty tricky at times,”
Did he say 69 laps? We’ll come to that…
Räikkönen came to within a second of achieving his objective, but in this business a miss is a good as a mile. However, after the break the “Silent One” faces two of his favourite circuits, Spa-Francorchamps and Monza on which to continue his quest.
Räikkönen hounded Hamilton over the last 10 laps, having first ruthlessly dispensed with team mate Grosjean, who seemed set to finish second after starting alongside the McLaren and staying there for 40 laps through superb tyre management.
Räikkönen hoped Hamilton’s new medium Pirellis would fail to last the final distance, but was destined to take second to add to his Bahrain runner-up slot.
‘BUMBLING OLD MAN’
Grosjean eventually made it a second two-three for Lotus, having looked comfortable behind Hamilton in the opening stages, but only after thwarting the early attentions of Vettel and Button. Michael Schumacher proved to be his undoing, as Grosjean lost 1.5 seconds while lapping the (once) legendary champion. Those vital fractions meant Kimi was alongside him as he exited the pits after his final stop, who granted him not an inch as they headed into T1 side-by-side.
Having qualified a lowly 17th, at the start Schumacher failed to park up at his designated grid slot – causing an aborted start and an additional formation, in turn reducing the race to 69 laps, then sped through the pit lane after being forced to start from there and was given a drive-through penalty. A puncture added to his weekend’s woes, which included a crash in FP3, and having elected to retire early due to high engine temperatures in his Mercedes, slunk away on a holiday he could put to good use by seriously reconsidering his future in the sport.
He is increasingly being viewed as a bumbling old man in a youngsters’ business and should make way for the likes of Paul di Resta sooner rather than later.
Vettel finished fourth, thus failing in his quest but at least closing the gap on Alonso by two points, so it proved a frustrating race for the German, particularly as the FIA outlawed Red Bull’s engine mapping between the two races after smelling something untoward in Germany. The team stated the map was worth “maybe a hundredth of a second per lap” and on the tightest grid in the history of the sport that makes all the difference.
Alonso was the only other title challenger to achieve his pre-race objective, finishing fifth (from sixth on the grid) to Webber’s eighth (11th) , Alonso being protected from attack by the by Button in sixth and the seventh-placed Williams of Bruno Senna.
Alonso (now on 164) opened his cushion over Mark to 40 points, equal to a win and a third place, as the series heads for the final two European rounds ahead of a long, seven-race fly-away haul.
Any wonder Alonso was grinning broadly as he waltzed off to Andalucía on holiday?
Felipe Massa proved why Ferrari failed to take up the option on his 2013 services by spinning his wheels at the start after qualifying seventh, losing two place in the process and there he stayed for 69 laps as his team mate fought at the sharpish end.
The result? Lotus overhauled Ferrari for fourth in the Constructors’, something the Italian team was clearly miffed about.
The final points’ place went to Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, his Chinese Grand Prix victory in April now a distant memory as his team struggles to get the better of Pirelli.
However, Hamilton had no such problems and will now surely continue his partying while on holiday in a destination he refused to reveal when asked.
Formula 1 action resumes on August 31 - September 2 in Belgium.