It was a case of 'after the Lord Mayor's show' in Budapest on Sunday as the Hungarian Grand Prix again provided a race to forget, particularly after the controversy of qualifying.

With Fernando Alonso demoted to sixth on the grid, and McLaren stripped of the right to score team points, after the 'blocking' issue that prevented Lewis Hamilton from completing a second flying lap on Saturday, it was left to Kimi Raikkonen and Nick Heidfeld to provide the opposition to the British hero, who inherited top spot on the grid from his team-mate.

In the event, only Raikkonen managed to offer any challenge to Hamilton, the Ferrari proving a better prospect in race trim than it did in qualifying. Heidfeld remained in touch for a while, before the relentless pace up front took its toll, leaving Alonso's battle to progress through the field to hold much of the attention.

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The Spaniard make things hard for himself, however. As Hamilton made the perfect getaway from pole, and Raikkonen took advantage of lining up on the clean side of the grid to pass the wheel-spinning Heidfeld, Alonso found himself similarly affected by starting off-line. A look down the inside into turn one was thwarted by a defensive Nico Rosberg and the world champion then found himself swallowed up by Robert Kubica, dropping to seventh. A mistake at the final turn also allowed Mark Webber through, leaving the McLaren eighth and already nearly ten seconds off the lead.

Rosberg held his fourth place, ahead of Ralf Schumacher and Kubica, while Heikki Kovalainen and David Coulthard completed the initial top ten, benefiting from a poor opening lap from Jarno Trulli. Further back, Felipe Massa had also conceded a couple of places, dropping to 16th as he struggled to get his heavily-fuelled Ferrari off the line.

Hamilton had the hammer down in the opening laps, taking successive seconds out of Raikkonen before the Finn stabilised the gap, while his team-mate set about trying to undo the damage his start had done. Webber was put back in his place at turn one on lap three, with Kubica following suit next time around. That, however, only brought Alonso onto the tail of Ralf Schumacher, and the Toyota proved a tougher nut to crack.

Sakon Yamamoto's first race with Spyker was a short one, the Japanese returnee crashing out on lap six, but early retirements proved to be rare, with no-one joining Yamamoto on the sidelines until lap 36, when last year's winner, Jenson Button, succumbed to engine failure.

With overtaking opportunities likely to be rare, pit-stops would take on greater significance, and it was Heidfeld, Rosberg and Alonso who cracked first, calling in on lap 18. While the two Germans were serviced in around seven seconds, however, the world champion was stationary for fully 9.9secs, hinting at the diversity of strategy on offer.

McLaren's tactic prevented Alonso from vaulting past Schumacher when the German stopped next time around, the German coming out directly ahead of the world champion, and there was no chance of him making inroads into the leaders when they stopped on lap 20. Hamilton and Raikkonen returned to the track still holding first and second positions, both appearing to join Alonso on a two-stop gameplan while the other frontrunners opted for three.

Those further back, of course, were experimenting with just two stops, but with long first stints in an effort to make up ground. For the likes of Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella - like Alonso, penalised five places for blocking in qualifying - the tactic failed to work, both only making up a place on their starting slot by the chequer.

Renault hopes, therefore, lay with Kovalainen, who moved into fourth place as the leaders pitted, the Finn apparently happy to run long on the softer of the two Bridgestone tyre options. Kovalainen did not pit until lap 27 - fully seven after Hamilton and Raikkonen - putting himself firmly in the hunt for points.

The leaders, meanwhile, were closer than at any time in the opening quarter of the race, Raikkonen's out-lap considerably faster than Hamilton's, having already been fuelled slightly lighter. Just over a second separated them through the middle stint, when Hamilton began to report a steering issue that was clearly affecting his pace. The problem may have been playing on the Briton's mind, but it wasn't affecting his performance, the McLaren remaining inch perfect and not offering Raikkonen a sniff of the lead.

Alonso's pursuit of decent points saw him off the road on lap 34, but there was no damage done and the Spaniard resumed his challenge to Schumacher, the pair having gained a place when Rosberg kicked off the second round of stops for those opting for four sets of tyres.

There were still those who had not stopped and, when Massa did so, he exited right in front of the lead battle. Hamilton had already had one close call when the similarly long-running Takuma Sato baulked him in turn one, but Massa proved more gentlemanly, able to pull away from the McLaren with greater ease than Sato, removing any suggestion that team tactics may come into play.

Anthony Davidson exited the fray on lap 41, the victim of a robust move by Fisichella as the Italian exited the pits. Spinning to the inside of turn one, the Briton was unable to rejoin what was one of his most impressive races of the year as the contact had broken his rear suspension. Tonio Liuzzi completed the list of retirees on the following lap, the under-fire Toro Rosso driver parking up in the pits.

Although lapping faster than either Hamilton and Raikkonen, Massa was finally forced to give way to the top two on lap 40, although he was able to unlap himself when they pitted shortly afterwards. In line with his shorter second stop, Raikkonen stopped first, four laps ahead of Hamilton, and was stationary longer than the McLaren, meaning that, when the Briton rejoined, the Ferrari was but a speck in his mirrors. From the smallest gap of the race, Hamilton's pace - steering issue aside - in the laps between their stops made the difference in transforming the difference to the biggest it had been since the start.

Raikkonen was not about to give up, however, and set about whittling the gap back down to something representative of his performance, all the time extending the gap back to third place. Heidfeld held that spot for the majority of the race, only allowing BMW Sauber team-mate brief possession during the pit-stop cycles, but the pair were proof that running three stops was not necessarily the way to go.

Alonso's progress received a boost when his long second stint saw him exit from his second stop ahead of Schumacher and, when Rosberg and Kubica made their third change of tyres, the Spaniard gratefully accepted their positions as well. Heidfeld, too, came within reach, Alonso catching and tailing the BMW Sauber to the flag, but unable to make up any more ground.

Although Raikkonen similarly closed up again on Hamilton, the places remained unchanged over the final ten laps, the McLaren driver eventually claiming his third victory of the year by seven-tenths of a second. The only shame is that no-one from Mclaren was allowed to join him on the podium to accept the constructors' trophy.

No-one noticed that the Italian anthem failed to appear though.....