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Hamilton sees off Lotus for Hungaroring victory
29 July 2012
Lewis Hamilton saw off the challenge of Lotus pair Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen to secure victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix – and bring himself firmly back into contention for the 2012 F1 title.
Proving himself to be the dominant force at the Hungaroring, Hamilton topped every session bar one in Budapest to snare his second victory of the season and go some way towards making up for the recent disappointments in Valencia and at Hockenheim.
At the start, Hamilton was able to hold the lead with a perfect getaway while behind, Grosjean found himself under pressure from defending champion Sebastian Vettel into turn one. Managing to keep his position from the German, Grosjean then set about trying to keep pace with the Briton out front while Vettel found himself shuffled back to fourth by Jenson Button out of turn three.
The early part of the race saw Hamilton and Grosjean pull away from the closing pack although the Frenchman was unable to get close enough to try and make a move for the lead. An opportunity presented itself when Hamilton was ever so slightly delayed during his first pit-stop after stopping before his rival, but Grosjean was unable to complete his own in-lap quick enough to emerge out front when he stopped a lap later.
It was at that point that Lotus elected to go a different way to McLaren with strategy, with Hamilton swapping his soft tyres for mediums but Grosjean electing to go with a second set of softs. Lapping quicker than the leader, Grosjean closed up on Hamilton only to then undo his hard work when mistakes on consecutive laps dropped him back from the McLaren.
Hamilton was able to keep the lead through to his second stop where he stayed on medium tyres but behind, it was suddenly the second Lotus of Raikkonen that was his closest challenger.
Raikkonen had run sixth at the end of the opening lap but was able to make up a position in the opening round of stops when he got ahead of Fernando Alonso and – like team-mate Grosjean – elected to go with a second set of the softer compound tyres.
A strong second stint, where the Finn went longer than most of his rivals, allowed him to make up further places so that when he then pitted to swap to the medium compound rubber, he emerged from the pits almost level with team-mate Grosjean.
Going into turn one side-by-side, Raikkonen took his chance to move into second place and then set about chasing down Hamilton for what would have been his first victory since Spa 2009.
Raikkonen managed to get onto terms with Hamilton but without seriously being able to challenge for the lead, allowing Hamilton to clinch his third victory in Budapest – putting him level with Ayrton Senna in terms of wins in Hungary and just one behind the record currently held by Michael Schumacher.
Raikkonen had to settle for his third podium in the past four races and has now dropped a place in the overall standings behind Hamilton as a result, while Grosjean rounded out the podium to give Lotus a 33 point haul – enough to move it ahead of Ferrari into third in the constructors' championship.
Grosjean was left to be glad that the race ended when it did, as Vettel was closing in rapidly at the finish having gambled on making a third pit-stop for fresh soft tyres in an attempt to secure a spot on the podium.
Like the Lotus drivers, Vettel had run soft tyres through the first and second stints before swapping to the medium rubber but he we was unable to make the strategy work in the same way as Raikkonen or Grosjean, which led to his late gamble that fresh softs would allow him to overhaul his French rival.
Although lapping noticeably quicker at the finish, Vettel simply ran out of laps as he took the flag a second away from the podium.
Points leader Alonso produced a perfect race of damage limitation in a race where he expected to struggle for outright pace to secure fifth, which also allowed him to extend his championship advantage over Mark Webber's Red Bull.
Alonso ran in the top six throughout but looked like losing some of his lead to the Australian, who had jumped from eleventh to seventh on lap one and then got ahead of Alonso in the pits. A third stop late on failed to work however and saw Webber drop down to eighth – allowing Alonso to extend his points lead up to 40 points, with Vettel two further back.
Three stops also failed to work for Jenson Button, who ran third for the opening half of the race but then found himself bottled up behind the Williams of Bruno Senna after making his second stop. Although he was able to get ahead of the Brazilian when both stopped for the final time, Button found himself half a minute down on his team-mate in sixth spot at the chequered flag.
Senna and Webber behind were followed by Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari while Nico Rosberg salvaged a point for Mercedes from a wretched weekend with tenth spot.
There was disappointment for Force India as Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta finished outside the points in eleventh and twelfth, with Pastor Maldonado losing out on a potential score when given a drive-through penalty for contact with di Resta while battling for position on track.
Sergio Perez in 14th was the final driver on the lead lap for Sauber, ahead of Toro Rosso duo Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne and the Caterham of Heikki Kovalainen – the Finn finishing ahead of the second Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi.
Only two drivers failed to make the finish, with Michael Schumacher and Narain Karthikeyan both retiring in the closing stages. Schumacher had suffered a race to forget when he was left on the grid when the first attempt at a start had to be aborted and then picked up a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit-lane as he attempted to join the race at the back of the field.
The German failed to make any impression on the race from that point onwards before pulling into the pits to stop with less than ten laps to run.
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