General consensus was not to expect too much excitement from the Hungaroring race, the one that is not very fond of overtaking or pole position drivers winning; but the general consensus is also that 2012 is an unpredictable season, when everything can happen. And so, also the Hungarian Grand Prix kept spectators and team principals on the edge of their seats to the very end.
It didn’t start without drama, with the drama queen himself being the anti-hero of the scene: a second formation lap followed the first one, leaving Michael Schumacher alone on the grid – he was the cause of the delay at the start of the race, as the FIA has confirmed, because he had not parked in his designated 17. grid spot. Judging the delay too long, and reportedly fearing his car overheating, the German switched the engine off, and had to be wheeled into the pit lane, which is where he also started the race from. If that wasn’t enough, throughout the race he scored up a puncture and a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit-lane, after which, positioned then in 18. place, he decided to retire after 58 laps.
But Schumacher was not the only star of the afternoon; against general odds, Lewis Hamilton won the race from pole, joining the elitist group of more-than-once winners of the season: Fernando Alonso (3) and Mark Webber (2). This is a much needed reassurance for the British driver who has been reported considering changing colours for the next season, not content with the results, which he blamed on the car or mis-haps in the pit lane, when at the same time, the rest of the McLaren crew highlighted the record-breaking speed of the pit stops or the general supremacy of their MP4-27 over the competitors.
“Looking at the season as a whole, it’s clear that after the mid-season break we’ll have a lot of work to do,” Hamilton told the Official Formula 1 website after the race. “But, for now, let’s celebrate – all of us, family, friends and fans – and put on our Vodafone rocket-red tops, and enjoy the moment. Nobody celebrates like we do,” he added.
Jenson Button, who eventually finished in 2. in the German Grand Prix the previous weekend, urged his team-mate to stay with the McLarens for another season, claiming that this was the best place for him. “Sometimes it is good for you to make that change, and it is up to Lewis, but from my point of view, it doesn’t seem like it would be the right thing to do,” he told AUTOSPORT. However, he might not be the best person to judge, since the team’s changing tactics leave him baffled – and specifically, the three-stop pit strategy saw him finish 6. in Hungary.
The story was similar for other Champions racing that Sunday: Mark Webber, having missed out on Q3 and starting from 11. only managed to move up three grid positions to end up in 8.; the Championship leader, Fernando Alonso finished in a very average 6. whilst Sebastian Vettel came home just outside the podium in 4. struggling over position with the two Lotus’ cars from the very start.
And it was the golden Lotus boys who rose the temperatures on Hungaroring, leaving Hamilton sweating to defend his position, having crossed the finish line only one second ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, whilst keeping other drivers and spectators entertained throughout the whole 69 laps.
The Lotus team is somewhat a black horse of the Championships; always around, regularly scoring points and occassionaly landing a place on the podium. They have been known under different names: Toleman Motorsport, Benetton, Renault; and have a history studded with Formula One greatest names: from Senna to Piquet and from Schumacher to Alonso, the team has a track record of many ups and downs with a few Driver and Constructor titles in the bag also. The present Lotus’ profile captures the ideal of past and future successes with the line-up consisting of a former title winner and a very recent test driver – both contributing to the team’s current 3. place in Constructors’ Championship – only three points ahead of Ferrari.
Although they could be seen as sparks of greatness – after all, after finishing close to each other, and very close to the podium – like in Spain or Bahrain, where they took the same prizes as in Hungary, they then part their ways in the standings, with Grosjean lagging behind or retiring, like in Europe for instance – they do flame up team principal’s, Eric Bullier’s, hopes for a trophy in 2012. They seem to be working fine together to that end, despite hard competition on the track: Grosjean’s exit from the pits on lap 46 and Raikkonen’s aggressive defending of his position in the Hungarian GP nearly ended in a collision between the two. “It was close with Kimi, he did what he had to do,” Grosjean downplayed the situation.
With things looking up the team would most likely hope to keep the two delivering drivers. However, there have been rumours of Ferrari being inclined to offer Raikkonen Felipe Massa’s seat from 2013. Considering the struggles the Lotuses have had with trying to overtake Hamilton with a much less powerful KERS than the McLaren’s, this could be an interesting offer for the Finn, who had won his World title with the Prancing Horse. On the other hand, the sides have parted in 2009 on less than friendly grounds, and the tense relationship with the Ferrari’s boss, Luca di Montezemolo might be a strong deterrent for Raikkonen to race alongside the current season leader, Alonso.
“I always said that I have no bad feelings and I had a good time with the team,” the Finn was quoted by AUTOSPORT. “You never know what happens in the future. I am happy where I am right now. Things going pretty nicely.”
The mid-season break will surely be a time of some hard decisions in the teams for 2013 – who’s contract will be extended and who will be seeking a transfer. And these will be difficult decisions, because, with the way the current season is unfolding, it is hard to pinpoint which team has the biggest winning potential and which driver is something more than a one-off show.