Hamilton wins Hungarian Grand Prix
Sunday 26 July 2009
Lewis Hamilton was back on top of the podium today after claiming his first victory since October's Chinese Grand Prix.
The world champion took the chequered flag in a Hungarian Grand Prix overshadowed by Felipe Massa's accident in qualifying yesterday that left the Brazilian in hospital with a fractured skull.
The victory was Hamilton's 10th for McLaren from 45 starts, with the 24-year-old finally back in business after a first half of the season to forget.
Behind the Briton, Kimi Raikkonen gave Ferrari something to cheer about it as he finished second, although he could yet be stripped of that position following a first corner collision with Sebastian Vettel that is to be investigated by the stewards.
Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber finished third, closing the gap at the top of the championship standings to 18.5 points on Jenson Button who could only manage a season-low seventh in his Brawn GP.
It was a win and a race, though, under a cloud given the fact Massa lies in a medically-induced coma in a nearby Budapest hospital.
Massa sustained his injuries after being struck on his helmet by a spring that had worked loose off Rubens Barrichello's Brawn GP.
Massa is currently in a stable condition after undergoing emergency surgery, but is to remain under sedation for the next 48 hours.
The atmosphere at the circuit was naturally subdued, and it was clear everybody's thoughts were with Massa, notably in the Ferrari garage.
In offering their support, the team's mechanics used a pit board bearing the words 'Forza Felipe Siamo Con Te' which translates as 'Strength Felipe We Are With You'.
Remarkably, what followed on lap 13 following Alonso's first pit stop was almost beyond comprehension.
Starting from his first pole since the Italian Grand Prix in 2007, and Renault's first since China 2006, Alonso comfortably led the field away from the lights and for those initial 12 laps.
But on exiting the pit lane it was abundantly clear the double world champion had an issue with his right front wheel.
Within seconds, and as he slipped backwards through the field, Alonso initially lost the wheel cover.
But more horrifyingly, and as he continued to tour around the track, the tyre eventually worked its way loose off the rim.
It then bounced across the circuit and into a barrier before coming to rest along the side of the circuit.
Although dramatic, it would arguably have not mattered too much in the context of an ordinary week, but the past seven days have been anything but ordinary for motor sport.
Not when you consider Henry Surtees' death last Sunday when he was hit by a bouncing tyre that had come off a rival's car prior to him hitting a barrier, and then Massa's accident yesterday.
Mercifully, no-one was injured, and although Alonso eventually made his way back to the pits for another tyre change, the wheel issue was too acute and he retired after 16 laps.
As if that was not enough drama, Webber later came within inches of colliding with Raikkonen as he emerged onto the pit lane after they had both stopped for fuel and fresh rubber for the first time.
Running second and third at the time behind Hamilton who had taken up the lead in the wake of Alonso's torment, an issue momentarily delayed Webber, culminating in the near miss and him trading places with Raikkonen.
From that moment it was a straightforward run to the finish for the leading trio, although there are question marks over Raikkonen's second place.
Vettel was certainly pointing the finger of blame at Raikkonen, initially for dropping back several places following the first corner incident, which in turn resulted in his retirement.
The young German, who has now retired in four of the 10 races this season in contrast to team-mate Webber who has finished every one, suffered a front suspension failure.
"We know the reason for my retirement: in the first corner I had contact with Kimi," said Vettel.
"He hit my front left (wing), and that was also the reason why the pit stop took very long.
"All of a sudden it was game over, and the front left suspension gave up."
Vettel now trails Button by 22 points with eight races remaining, with Hamilton 50 points down, and naturally there was exuberance from the 24-year-old at the victory despite Massa's condition.
It was also McLaren's first triumph after 10 barren races, and the first by a KERS-aided car this season, the device playing a pivotal role at the start.
Hamilton was up to second from fourth going into the first corner, and although he swiftly lost the place to Webber, he used KERS to good effect again to pass the 32-year-old at the start of lap five.
Alonso's problems then followed, aiding Hamilton's cause, with Martin Whitmarsh also on the podium for the first time as team boss to take the constructors' prize.
Williams' Nico Rosberg and Heikki Kovalainen were fourth and fifth, with Toyota duo Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli sixth and eighth either side of Button.
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