Button shines to beat ifs, buts and all-comers

It was a goulash of a race that Fernando Alonso should have, and Pedro de la Rosa might have won, but the Hungarian Grand Prix yesterday finally delivered to Jenson Button the victory for which he had waited so long. And he deserved every moment of his success.

The race had an explosive script in which a damp surface at the start, a little more rain, and then a steadily drying line which demanded clever strategies and timing of the switch from wet tyres to dry ones, all combined to create a veritable humdinger of a race.

To begin with, Raikkonen stamped his authority for McLaren-Mercedes, chased by Honda's Rubens Barrichello and his own team-mate, Pedro de la Rosa. Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Button (after their penalties in practice for brake testing Robert Doornbos and overtaking under a yellow flag; ignoring a red flag; and an engine failure respectively), were all scything their way up the field. It soon became clear, however, that the intermediate Michelin tyres were the answer in the conditions, and that the full-wet Bridgestones on Schumacher's Ferrari were not.

The McLarens of De la Rosa and Raikkonen pitted on laps 16 and 17, but Alonso's Renault kept going until lap 27, by which time he had built a lead of 39.1sec. But, a lap earlier, Raikkonen had crashed heavily into the back of Tonio Liuzzi's Toro Rosso as the Italian was being lapped.

According to McLaren, Raikkonen said: "I could do nothing to avoid the collision with Liuzzi. He really slowed down on the racing line and there was just nowhere to go."

That was not true. Raikkonen and Liuzzi are close friends, and the Finn admitted to the Italian, who was trying to keep out of the way, that he was looking in his mirrors at the time, thinking of letting the faster De la Rosa through. When he looked back ahead he went straight into, and over, Liuzzi's machine.

Both cars were eliminated, without driver injury, and as the safety car came out for five laps, Alonso's lead was eradicated. He set about rebuilding it, but then came under pressure, Button and the Spaniard trading fastest laps as the gap between them fluctuated between four and five seconds until Button refuelled again on the 46th lap.

Alonso went five laps further and seemed to have the race in the bag, but after one hiccup on the 34th lap when he accidentally hit neutral, his stop on lap 51 was the prelude to disaster. As he rejoined, a driveshaft problem pitched his Renault into the barriers and out of the race.

"These things happen in motor racing," he said philosophically. "But what an incredible race. The first part was fantastic, and the car felt really good in the wet conditions, even with a much bigger fuel load than our rivals. After the safety car, we avoided taking too many risks and with the dry tyres I think it would have been a comfortable win for us today. But as I came out of the pits, something broke at the rear."

As Button inherited the lead, Alonso's worst nightmare started to unfold as Schumacher had been flying on a drying track, retaining his full-wet tyres in his pit stops and exploiting their high wear rate as if he was running on the old type of slick tyre. By lap 60 he was defending second place behind Button from a closing De la Rosa and BMW-Sauber's Nick Heidfeld.

By then, however, his tyres were finished. He and De la Rosa ran side by side past the pits for four laps before the Spaniard finally squeezed through, but not without incident.

Heidfeld followed suit a lap later, and Schumacher then ran into the back of the Sauber. That damaged the Ferrari's steering, however, and close to the end Schumacher was forced out.

"He was defending his position a bit too much for his pace, already doing miracles to stay on the track, but I didn't expect him to battle that hard," De la Rosa said as he celebrated the first podium of his revived career. "I just waited and waited, and knew that I just had to be patient.

"The second time around I made it, but he nearly caused me to crash because he jumped over the chicane, backed off, and then when I went into Turn 8 on the inside, thinking he was letting me go past [after gaining an illegal advantage], he suddenly accelerated and we clashed wheels. I didn't understand."

Heidfeld said: "Michael drove into the back of my car, his suspension was damaged and my steering wasn't straight any more, so I took it easy for the last few laps."

Schumacher simply said: "Of course I'm disappointed. We had a great opportunity but we did not take it. But these things happen." Schumacher's luck changed late in the day, however, when Robert Kubica was disqualified from seventh place as his BMW-Sauber was found to be underweight. This boosted Schumacher to eighth, securing a valuable point and cutting Alonso's championship lead down to just 10 points.

The day, however, belonged to Button and Honda. With conditions equalising things, the Englishman could show his true class.

"Today we looked like a race-winning team," he said. "This evening I'll run through it again. I've read a lot of interviews about all the races I've done without winning, but they're not going to happen again. That's a big weight off my shoulders."

Over the Button moon: Jenson in perspective

* Button's 114-race wait for victory was just shorter than team-mate Rubens Barrichello's 124.

* No driver has taken so long to win a race and later become world champion.

* Button's win ends the longest streak without a British winner: 63 races. He is the 18th.

* The last Englishman to win a grand prix was Johnny Herbert at the Nürburgring in 1999.

* Formula One has nine active race winners, not including the absent Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Pablo Montoya.

* Damon Hill and Fernando Alonso also won their first grands prix in Hungary, in 1993 and 2003 respectively.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works