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McLaren Mercedes' 2012 campaign is firmly back on track with a hard-fought win by Lewis Hamilton today in Budapest. The Briton controlled the race masterfully from the front, fending off the charging Lotuses of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. Team-mate Jenson Button had a relatively tough afternoon with strategy not going according to plan, finishing sixth.
Hamilton made a textbook start off the blocks from pole, quickly built up a 2 second gap to second placed Grosjean by Lap 3. The pair traded fastest laps in the first stint on the soft Pirelli tyres, with Hamilton emerging in front after the first round of pitstops, his own slow stop being matched by that of Grosjean. However the Lotus having switched to soft tyres hounded Hamilton, being fast enough for McLaren to consider a change in strategy mid-race. That came to nought as the black car was unable to keep up its challenge, Hamilton staying ahead after his second trip to the pits on lap 41 and pulling out a gap. The final stint was a fascinating battle with the other Lotus of Raikkonen, and although the Finn was within a second behind for most of that period, Hamilton held on to take the chequered flag.
A delighted Hamilton shared after the race, "Well, what can I say?! I'm over the moon! The team did a fantastic job! Absolutely brilliant!
â€œIt was a really enjoyable race â€“ but it wasn't at all easy. In fact, I reckon that it was one of the toughest races I've ever driven â€“ but, guess what, I'll savour it all the more for that.
â€œI was under a lot of pressure throughout all 69 laps. First, Romain [Grosjean] and then Kimi [Raikkonen] were right behind me, all the way through, and I had to look after my tyres without letting my pace drop, which was pretty tricky at times."
â€œIt isn't a static situation when a race goes like that. The feel of the car is changing all the time. You get different messages from the tyres with every lap. But they lasted â€“ I managed to make them last."
The win takes Hamilton up to fourth in the standings with 117 points, 47 behind leader Fernando Alonso.
Jenson Button endured a difficult afternoon with strategic calls seeing him losing positions in the middle of the race. He made a great start battling Sebastian Vettel through Turns 1-3 to take third place. The pair kept position post the first pitstops, but the McLaren was similarly chased by the German on softer tyres. The clearly quicker Red Bull prompted Button to pit early on lap 32 for soft rubber. After exiting the pits, Button found to his dismay that he was stuck behind the Williams on Bruno Senna, losing time for a good 9 laps and and in the process, third place to Vettel. The faster degrading soft tyres would not see him to the end of the race, meaning Button had to pit for a third time, finishing behind Fernando Alonso.
Button was not quite as happy with his performance, and shared: â€œFor me, though, I guess today was quite a bit more frustrating than it was for Lewis. Having said that, I was really pleased to be able to get ahead of Seb [Vettel] on the opening lap, passing him on the outside of Turn Two, and to be able to hold a very solid third place at that point. I was on the leaders' pace too. In fact, even after the first stop, I could still see the leaders â€“ so we were obviously still pretty close.
â€œThen we decided to go for a three-stop strategy â€“ but after my second and third stops I encountered traffic, unfortunately, which made things really difficult for me because the traffic I was stuck in was lapping quite a bit slower than I could have been lapping if I'd had a clear track.
â€œBut there are lots of positives to take away from this weekend: our car is obviously quick, as I was able to show at Hockenheim and Lewis was able to confirm here, and in the second half of the season I know that everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes will work as hard as possible to maintain and continue that upward performance development curve."
Button now stands 7th in the championship with a distant 76 points.
Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh focussed on the positives: "Yesterday Lewis scored the 150th pole position in McLaren's history â€“ and today he notched up our 178th Grand Prix victory. It was his 101stGrand Prix â€“ and it's difficult to imagine a better way for him to have begun his second century of Grand Prix appearances, isn't it?
"In the Constructors' World Championship, the 33 points that Lewis and Jenson scored today have lifted Vodafone McLaren Mercedes to second place overall. Again, as with the Drivers' World Championship, we're in a good position from which to work as hard as is humanly possible to close the gap on the leaders and wrest the Constructors' laurels by season's end.
"Talking of hard work, I want to pay tribute to the massively impressive levels of dogged application and sheer graft that everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes in Woking [Surrey, UK] and at Mercedes-Benz AMG HighPerformancePowertrains in Brixworth [Northamptonshire, UK] has brought to bear on the 2012 Formula 1 World Championship campaign so far. And, in fact, I want to say an especially big â€˜thank you' to our friends from Stuttgart [Germany] as well as from Brixworth, actually, because today's win was the 75th victory of the McLaren/Mercedes-Benz partnership: a pretty impressive stat!"
- 29/07/2012 18:15 - Racy Lotus robust in Hungary, both cars on the podium
- 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