Hungary Leaves Us Wanting More F1
The 2014 F1 Grand Prix season seem to getting better and better F1 blogger Kerri Meyerhoff sent us this report of the action in Hungary.
The Hungarian Grand Prix kicked off in style on Saturday's qualifying session, with race favourite Lewis Hamilton, only 14 points behind his teammate and rival Nico Rosberg in the drivers' championship, quite literally going up in smoke. His car failed to record a time after catching fire during the session.
This was a severe disappointment after his fantastic performance in practice, but came as a blessing for the other teams, as with only one Mercedes in the top ten, the race blew wide open.
Rosberg started on pole, predictably, with the Red Bull of Vettel alongside him on the front row in second place. Red Bull looked strong in qualifying as Ricciardo started in fourth, and both Williams cars managed to make the top six along with the Ferrari of former champion Fernando Alonso.
The usual Mercedes stranglehold had been weakened and although Hungary is not usually much of a 'racing' circuit, with only a couple of places to overtake, it looked to be an exciting race as all the teams pushed themselves to the limit to topple Mercedes from the podium.
The Thrills and Spills of a Great Grand Prix
And a thrilling race it was. All the drivers were forced to start on intermediate tyres as a thunderstorm prior to the beginning had made the track especially slippery; this resulted in Hamilton spinning off the track in lap one after starting from the pit lane, and eventually in two major crashes, followed by safety cars each time, which saw both Force Indias along with Ericsson and Grosjean out of the race in the most dramatic fashion.
Luckily none of the drivers were injured in the collisions, but this put a serious dampener on a season which was already pretty mediocre for Force India.
Despite Hungary being a narrow, twisty track with only two DRS zones, the wheel-to-wheel racing towards the conclusion of the event was fierce. Hamilton, after starting from the pit lane and suffering his slip off the track in lap one, had battled his way through the field in his superior car to the top four, along with his teammate Rosberg, Red Bull's new superstar Ricciardo and Ferrari's Alonso.
In the closing laps of the race, it was still unclear who would win. Rosberg had failed to capitalise on his pole position, since one of the previous safety cars had happened just after he passed the pit exit, and he was unable to change his tyres before the slow lap.
He came out behind Hamilton and despite being the Brit being told by his team to let Rosberg pass, since he was on fresher tyres with his three-stop strategy, Hamilton ignored them and continued to race for the podium.
Another Epic Race for Ricciardo
As they entered the last four laps of the 70-lap race, Alonso was first, followed by Hamilton and then Ricciardo. Alonso had a fair lead but his tyres were on their last gasp, whereas his rivals, and in particular Ricciardo, were sporting fresh sets.
Ricciardo and Hamilton tussled for second, both experienced and talented racers; Ricciardo swept past Hamilton on a corner to take the place and then roared ahead to challenge the flailing Alonso.
While Ferrari and Red Bull are quite evenly matched in terms of power and mechanics this season, Alonso's tyres were much, much older and he could do nothing to fend off the powerful surge from Ricciardo; in the final whispers of the penultimate lap, he sped past Alonso and took first place.
Alonso then faced the problem of Hamilton in his rearview mirror, also on much fresher tyres than his own and in a vastly superior straight-line car. He did exceptionally well to keep the roaring Mercedes behind him though, making his car seem twice its width across the circuit, and Hamilton ran out of laps, coming in third ahead of his teammate.
Rosberg, though, was also catching up fast after his third tyre change, and had the race been longer we could well have seen both Mercedes in the top three.
Looking Forward the Rest of the Feast
So what does this result mean? Well, a second win for Ricciardo and none for Vettel so far this year points to an emerging superstar in the second seat at Red Bull. He has been consistently outperforming the four-time world champion, and though Vettel has had a run of bad luck, it proves that the Red Bull car is not as far behind Mercedes as previously thought.
Could Ricciardo's win, and his placing at third in the standings only 60 points behind Hamilton, be a catalyst for a Red Bull surge late in the season?
Hamilton did extremely well considering his bad luck in qualifying and has now closed the gap in the championship to only 11 points. Can Rosberg hold on for the title, or will the Brit manage to snatch it out from under him in the second half of the year?
A top three result from Ferrari and continuing form from Williams are also promising results. Following the summer break, we may be witnessing the end of the Mercedes domination – or they may rise to the occasion and come back from Hungary more powerful than ever.
One thing is for sure, with the intensity and smoldering rivalries between these drivers, and ongoing rumours about team-switching and taking seats next year, every single one of these men will be racing to their limits.