Daniel Ricciardo has won a breathtaking Hungarian Grand Prix ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, battling through with a perfect strategy following rain and two safety car periods.
The Australian claimed the second Formula 1 win of his career in sensational style, battling past both Hamilton and Alonso in the final five laps of the race on fresher tires as a dud strategy forced Rosberg to settle for fourth place.
Having started from the pit lane, Hamilton produced a superb drive to battle through to P3, but has some explaining to do after repeatedly ignoring Mercedes’ calls to allow Rosberg past during the race.
A sharp rain shower hit the Hungaroring one hour before the race, forcing the drivers to start on intermediate tires for the first time since the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix. Pole-sitter Rosberg managed to make a good start and hang onto his lead as Bottas swung around the outside of Vettel at turn one to move into second place.
Lewis Hamilton’s race took a turn for the worse following his pit lane start when he hit the wall at turn two, although he did manage to keep the Mercedes going despite suffering damage to his front wing. He was soon picking up positions as though nothing had happened, but at the front, Rosberg continued to open up his lead over the field.
This was wiped out when Marcus Ericsson crashed hard at turn four on lap eight, bringing out the safety car, allowing a number of drivers to pit for fresh tires, with some – including Hamilton – risking slicks. The front four cars all pitted one lap later, and lost time as a result, handing the lead of the race to Daniel Ricciardo with Jenson Button – one of the few to fit more intermediates – in second place ahead of Felipe Massa.
The race got back underway on lap fourteen, having also accommodated for Romain Grosjean’s spin into the wall. On the intermediate tires, Button managed to get past Ricciardo and take the lead of the race as Kevin Magnussen passed Rosberg. With more rain looking less likely, McLaren told its drivers to push while they still could, but as the track dried out they had to pit just two laps after the restart for slicks.
Hamilton made a great restart, and found himself right behind Rosberg on lap fifteen having trailed by over thirty seconds before the safety car. The Briton struggled to pass Vettel for sixth place, but with fourth-placed Jean-Eric Vergne holding up Rosberg ahead, the Silver Arrows were separated by less than two seconds at one-third race distance. Ricciardo set about increasing his lead at the front over Felipe Massa, posting a series of fastest laps as the Brazilian came under pressure from Fernando Alonso.
However, Ricciardo lost his lead when the safety car came out for a second time following a huge shunt for Sergio Perez on the pit straight. The Force India ran wide and spun into the wall, bringing an end to his race. Ricciardo and Massa took to the pits, handing the lead to Alonso in the Ferrari ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne.
On the restart, Hamilton continued to hound Vettel for position as Rosberg closed on Vergne, but the championship leader opted to pit and avoid losing too much more time. Just as he did, Vettel nearly binned his Red Bull in the wall, spinning 360º and handing the position to both Hamilton and Ricciardo. The Briton stayed out, passing Vergne around the outside of turn four before the Toro Rosso driver pitted for fresh tires.
Hamilton moved into the lead of the race when Alonso stopped as Rosberg picked his way through the traffic. The Briton split the two drivers when he came out of the pits. and duly set about opening up a gap to his teammate. Rosberg managed to reel Lewis in on the option tire, but on primes, Hamilton was set to go to the end of the race without stopping again.
The Briton was told not to put any fight up to Rosberg, but did not let him past, causing Rosberg to ask why he was not being allowed through. Hamilton was told for a second time, only to go faster than Rosberg still. The German asked his team again, and was told that Lewis had been given the message.
At the front, Ricciardo started to complain of rear tire wear, so was brought into the pits on lap 54 thus handing the lead to Alonso. Ricciardo’s task was now to use the fresh option tires to catch the squabbling Mercedes drivers who were four seconds up the road.
The team bailed on Rosberg two laps later, bringing the German driver into the pits for a fresh set of option tires. He emerged in seventh place behind Kimi Raikkonen, and appeared to have waved goodbye to all hopes of winning the race.
Hamilton, on the other hand, kept pushing to reel in Alonso, but had to keep an eye on his mirrors as Ricciardo continued to charge on fresh option tires. The Red Bull driver was soon within DRS range, as was Lewis to Alonso – less than one second separated all three drivers with six laps to go.
Ricciardo tried a move on Hamilton at turn two on lap 65, but ran wide, giving the Briton some breathing space. He was soon back on the Mercedes’ tail thanks to his fresher tires. He forced Hamilton into a lock-up and found a way past with three laps to go with an incredible overtake heading into turn four.
Hamilton tried to follow him through, but was soon more occupied with Rosberg who had caught the leaders on fresh options. However, he could not find a way past and had to settle for fourth place come the line. Felipe Massa came home in fifth for Williams ahead of Kimi Raikkonen – his best result of the season – and Sebastian Vettel. Valtteri Bottas was eighth, with Jean-Eric Vergne and Jenson Button rounding out the points.
However, all of the plaudits must go to Ricciardo. Through rain, safety cars and in light of the Mercedes’ pace, he produced an epic drive to claim his second career victory and continue to show the F1 world that he has the makings of a future champion.