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Button Wins at Rain-Sprinkled Hungarian Grand Prix Print E-mail
Saturday, 13 August 2011
ImageBUDAPEST — The Formula One rule makers have sometimes considered sprinkling tracks with water to artificially enhance the excitement of the racing.

The Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday needed no such help.

It rained lightly but steadily at the start of the race at the Hungaroring, and then again later on, creating a sensational show on the narrow circuit on which it is difficult to pass and where the races usually look like a carnival procession.

The result was a shake-up of car positions, with cars sliding off track. Some drivers raced like maestros while others looked lost at sea. Throw into the mix a burning car at track side and another one spinning in the pit lane, and the recipe made for a thrilling Hungarian Grand Prix.

Jenson Button proved the strongest driver, winning the race in his McLaren Mercedes, to take his 11th career victory at the same track where he scored his first, in 2006, also in rainy conditions.

“It was the first place where I won a Grand Prix back in 2006 in these sorts of conditions, and it was my 200th race today,” said Button. “A great moment. Somehow, I like these conditions.”

For the third race in a row, the man who had dominated the first half of the season, Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull, failed to win. He ended up in second place, and Fernando Alonso came in third in a Ferrari. Alonso won the British Grand Prix earlier in the month, and Lewis Hamilton won the German Grand Prix last week in the other McLaren Mercedes.

After Vettel scored the pole position on Saturday, it looked as if the German would return to his dominating ways, especially as the Hungaroring is almost as difficult to pass on as the street circuit of Monaco. But the race began under spitting rain and the drivers had to use rain tires, and it became an unpredictable free-for-all.

Vettel made a perfect start, as the two McLarens battled for second behind him. Hamilton, who started the race second, held position and then proceeded to attack Vettel, with both cars sliding around on the track.

On Lap 5, Vettel could no longer hold off the British driver. He slid wide, and Hamilton passed him.

“I lost it, I was pushing too hard and trying to be on the edge,” Vettel said. “The white lines are very slippery, and it is easy to have a spin.”

The track dried out about a third of the way through the 70-lap race and the drivers switched to dry tires. But the show picked up when it began to rain again with just over 20 laps left.

The race became a game of poker as the teams and drivers had to decide whether they should change into rain tires again. On Lap 47, Button passed Hamilton for the lead after Hamilton spun in the middle of the track.

On Lap 50 both Vettel and Button slid off the track and Hamilton took the lead again. Then the two McLaren drivers began to attack each other again as at the beginning of the race in a duel of the kind racing fans love and rarely get to see because of the high stakes of team points.

Button said McLaren Mercedes had given no team orders over the radio, preferring to leave the drivers to race and concentrate.

“With the rain coming down it was pretty difficult,” he said. “It is always fun racing Lewis; I think we were pretty fair.”

Hamilton led after Lap 51, but on the next lap he pulled in for another pit stop.

In the meantime, the Virgin car of Jérôme d’Ambrosio spun out in the pit lane, narrowly missing mechanics.

After Lap 53, Button led the race and Vettel was back in second position, 5.9 seconds from the leader, and Hamilton had dropped to third at 13.9 seconds from Vettel.

Alonso was fourth at 1.2 seconds from Hamilton, but managed to pass the British driver on Lap 54 as he had dry-weather tires and Hamilton still had rain tires.

Hamilton stopped on the next lap and changed into dry-weather tires, but his chances for victory ended after a drive-through penalty for forcing another driver off the track.

Mark Webber, in the other Red Bull, passed Massa for fourth position after Lap 57. Hamilton then fought with Massa and passed him at the end of Lap 58.

With just over 10 laps left in the race, Button set the fastest lap time, and then continued to build up his lead on Vettel.

Although Vettel did not win, he increased his lead in the championship on his nearest competitors, Webber, Hamilton and Alonso once again driving an excellent race.

He also returned to his regular finishing spot of either first or second place, which he has done in every race this season with the exception of the German Grand Prix last week, when he finished fourth.

“The most important message is that, especially McLaren, the last two races were very competitive and we are not happy about that and need to come back,” Vettel said.

Source: New York Times
COurce(image): Reuters
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