McLaren played a tactical game in order to vault Kimi Raikkonen to the front of the Hungarian Grand Prix, and was rewarded when the Finn took maximum points to title rival Fernando Alonso's zero score.
Raikkonen would have needed a rocket-like getaway, from the dirty side of the grid, if he was to assume control from the start, but he settled for third into turn one behind Michael Schumacher and McLaren team-mate Juan Montoya - the front row pairing - before jumping the Colombian later in the lap to put himself in prime position to take advantage of any tactical or mechanical lapse on Ferrari's behalf. Behind the leading trio, however, key moments in the championship story were being written.
Although McLaren and Raikkonen effectively began the Hungaroring weekend by dismissing their chances of taking the individual title this year, both knew that a nightmare weekend for Alonso and Renault would help keep them in the hunt. To this point - twelve races into the season - the Spaniard had suffered just one, driver-induced, retirement and a couple of non podium points finishes, but the bubble finally burst at the track where he recorded his first victory two seasons ago.
Birthday boy on Friday, Alonso's party was spoiled somewhat at the first corner, the nose of his R25 being squeezed by Ralf Schumacher's Toyota, damaging the front wing sufficiently to require a first lap pit-stop. Although Schumacher escaped unscathed from the brush, the other Toyota came off worse after a punt from Rubens Barrichello, pieces of diffuser clearly being spread across the circuit. It was the Brazilian, however, who needed a pit call to check for significant damage.
If either of the four drivers involved in those two incidents thought themselves unlucky, however, they should spare a thought for Christian Klien. The Austrian, starting perhaps his last grand prix of the year for Red Bull, pending its seat share policy, was clipped by the front wheel of Jacques Villeneuve's Sauber and pitched into a low-speed flip that tested the structural integrity of the rollhoop. Fortunately, Klien landed the right way up and was able to extricate himself with little more than a stiff neck.
The fates were not done with Red Bull at that point, however, and the closest thing the sponsor has to a home race ended less than a lap later, when a unsighted David Coulthard collected the remains of Alonso's wing section, smashing his own aero device and all but ripping off the right front wheel. A wild ride across the grass again ended with the driver unharmed but more than a little bemused.
While Raikkonen was making up a place by passing his team-mate, therefore, Alonso was plotting just how he could make his way back through the pack to claim at least a point. If he wanted something akin to mission impossible, he could not have chosen a better venue, for the Hungaroring continued to prove unwilling - if not completely incapable - of providing passing opportunities. The backmarking Jordans and Minardis were despatched easily enough but, once he caught up with team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella - on the fringes of the top ten after being muscled out at the start - and Barrichello, the Spaniard's recovery ground to a halt.
Raikkonen, meanwhile, was trading fastest laps with Schumacher, determined not to allow the German to get away at the front, despite the suspicion that the Ferrari was running lighter than the McLaren. The gap between them fluctuated at around a second before the first team to blink brought its man in. To the surprise of most of the pit-lane, it was McLaren who reached for the fuel hose first, suggesting that Raikkonen's qualifying lap had been at least partly achieved by running light, but also hinting at a tactical ploy designed to get the Finn out of Schumacher's dirty air and ahead of the Ferrari.
The world champion made his first stop three laps later and, thanks to a combination of a couple of quick laps and the McLaren being held for a relatively long ten seconds, emerged in front again, the pair now behind Montoya, who had begin to chip in with his own fastest laps.