Mark Webber took full advantage of a bizarre set of circumstances to claim his fourth grand prix victory of the season and move to the head of the Formula One world championship standings.
The Australian, starting second on the grid, suffered from the Hungaroring's infamous 'dirty side' and dropped to third on the road behind Red Bull team-mate Sebastian and Fernando Alonso, who made the most of lining up first and third to duel over top spot into the opening turn. However, when the safety car appeared just 15 laps into the race, things turned Webber's way.
Vettel appeared set for a comfortable afternoon after bolting away in the opening laps, running nearly a second faster than Alonso to build up a sizeable gap over the Spaniard, who had Webber contained in third and attempting to keep his Red Bull cool on another hot Hungaroring afternoon.
Felipe Massa, who had lined up behind the Australian was already being dropped in fourth, while championship leader Lewis Hamilton had to find a way past a fast-starting Vitaly Petrov on lap two to remain in the hunt.
Jenson Button, after his poor qualifying show, saw his race get tougher after dropping to 15th in the first corner melee, with Nico Rosberg, Robert Kubica, Rubens Barrichello, Nico Hulkenberg, Pedro de la Rosa, Adrian Sutil and Michael Schumacher between the Briton and his team-mate in fifth.
The reigning world champion was the first to pit, stopping on lap 14 to switch to the softer Bridgestone tyre option, and was joined in service by Force India's Vitantonio Liuzzi who, for the second race in a row, needed a new front wing in the early stages.
The Italian's problem, however, would have big implications for the outcome of the race, as the stewards decided to deploy the safety car to aid the recovery of debris from the track. That prompted the majority of the field to complete their mandatory change of tyres, with Vettel responding to a late call from the Red Bull pit by bouncing over the kerbs bounding the entry lane.
However, although the German had enough of a lead to ensure that RBR would not have to stack its drivers, Webber remained on track, moving from third to first as Alonso also stopped. Hamilton and Massa joined their fellow frontrunners in pitting, with the Briton appearing to be the big winner by vaulting past his Brazilian rival.
There was drama in pit-lane too, with Nico Rosberg losing his right rear wheel as he pulled back into the 'fast lane' and mechanics at Sauber and Williams being forced to scatter as the errant part careered into their garage area.