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There were no special birthday presents for Fernando Alonso, who turned 31 today, but as the Spaniard said earlier in the week, the important thing is to always bring home as many points as possible, be that a win or a fifth place. Today, that meant the lesser of those two options, but thanks to the 10 points that come with it, the Spaniard saw his lead in the Drivers' classification grow by a further six points from 34 to 40, over Mark Webber, who finished eighth today in the Red Bull. Although Felipe Massa in the other F2012 never really recovered from losing a few places at the start, the 2 points he gets for ninth place today, help keep Ferrari within 4 points of second place in the Constructors' table, even if the Italian team has slipped back to fourth place.
The race was won by Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren, the Englishman taking his second victory of the season. It was hardly surprising, as he had been quickest all weekend. Behind him on the podium came the two Lotus, Kimi Raikkonen getting the better of team-mate Romain Grosjean with a spirited passing move in the later part of the race.
When the lights went out, the first start was aborted as Michael Schumacher stalled his Mercedes on the grid, bringing the actual race distance down to 69 laps. Second time round and Hamilton led from pole, followed by Grosjean, with Button passing Vettel for third. Fernando moved up one place to sit behind the German Red Bull driver, as the Spaniard had managed to pass Raikkonen. Seventh was Webber in the other Red Bull, followed by Senna for Williams and then Felipe who had dropped a couple of places to ninth in the early stages.
Lap 6 and Fernando had dropped well back from the lead four, being keen to look after his Option tyres in the early stages and had Raikkonen's Lotus less than a second off his tail, while Felipe was chasing fellow Brazilian Senna for eighth spot. Vergne in the Toro Rosso was the first to pit for a normal tyre stop, coming in from 16th on lap 12. Button brought the McLaren in from third on lap 15, followed down pit lane by Hulkenberg and Maldonaldo. Senna came in on 16, which moved Felipe up one place to sixth, with Rosberg also coming in on this lap. Vettel and Fernando came in to the pits in close succession on lap 17, the Ferrari man switching to the Medium Pirelli tyre. Next time round, Hamilton changed tyres promoting Grosjean to the lead, as Felipe also made his tyre change on this lap. Lap 18 and Fernando had found himself ninth stuck behind Perez in the Sauber as Grosjean pitted the Lotus, leaving his team-mate Raikkonen and Red Bull's Webber in first and second, as they had yet to pit. On lap 20, Fernando fought his way past the Mexican, as Raikkonen came in for Softs and Webber for Mediums.
The run of pit stops had not worked in the Scuderia's favour, as Fernando found himself dropped to sixth behind Raikkonen and Felipe was ninth behind Senna. But there were different strategies at play, as Hamilton in the lead was on the Medium, with Grosjean second on Soft, followed by Button on Hard, with Vettel, Raikkonen and Fernando on Soft. With 25 laps gone, Fernando was trailing the Finn in the Lotus by 6.1 seconds and had 1.1 in hand over seventh placed Webber.
On lap 30, it was again Vergne who started the second run of pit stops. Button pitted on 32 from fourth, fitting the Softs. This promoted Fernando to fifth. Behind the Ferrari man were Grosjean and Vettel, followed by Senna, Button and Massa in eighth, which became seventh when Senna pitted on lap 42. At this point, only Raikkonen and the two Ferraris had not made a second stop out of the top ten runners. That changed when Fernando took on another set of Mediums on lap 43, with Felipe following him down pit lane on the same lap. However, in this run of stops, Fernando's closest rival in the Drivers' classification, Mark Webber, had managed to get ahead of the Spaniard.
Button was the first of the front runners to make a third and final stop which dropped him to seventh one place behind Fernando, just 0.7s behind. With 15 laps remaining, the action was hotting up at the front, as Raikkonen appeared to be closing on Hamilton, lapping faster on fresher rubber.
Running on the Soft tyre meant Webber had to make a third stop on lap 56 which now promoted Fernando to fifth place, 1.2 seconds ahead of Button's McLaren, leaving Webber eighth, one spot ahead of Felipe. The Scuderia's two stop strategy had proved the best way of marking Webber and getting ahead of him. When Vettel had to do the same, he came out of pit lane just centimetres in front of Fernando, who even managed to get alongside the Red Bull for a moment, but in the end he could not overtake the German and in fact he then had worry about Button who was now only half a second behind on fresher rubber. From here to the flag, there were no significant changes: behind the podium trio, Vettel in the clearly faster Red Bull finished ahead of Fernando. Jenson Button was sixth, followed by Bruno Senna, Webber and Felipe, while Nico Rosberg took the last point for tenth in the Mercedes.
The teams are now allowed to work for a week either side of a two week compulsory summer shutdown, before the fight resumes at the cooler and probably more exciting surroundings of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
- 29/07/2012 18:13 - Red Bull third best in Hungary as Vettel finishes fourth
- 29/07/2012 18:12 - Mercedes endure torrid Hungarian Grand Prix, Rosberg does manage a point though
- 29/07/2012 18:09 - McLaren back in the running with Hamilton's victory in Hungary, Button finishes 6th