Changing of the Guard: Hungary 2016
An FP2 crash for Hamilton put him on the back foot for qualifying, while the weather on GP Saturday in Budapest threw a massive curveball in the form of a deluge half an hour before Q1 was due to start. With 10 minutes to go, thunder and lightning joined the show. A 20 minute delay was the FIA's response.
5 minutes into Q1, the red flag was thrown. After a 15 minute wait, Ericsson ran off the track and slammed into the wall, bringing out the red flag once more. The Sauber was outside 107% but practice times should let him race.
55 minutes from the scheduled start time of Q1, cars were lining up to resume the first part of qualifying.
Vettel and the Red Bull pair started this third part of Q1 on intermediates. Still on wets, Hamilton did a solid first sector, only to lock up and travel across the gravel trap at the chicane, wrecking his lap. Moments later Massa brought out another red flag after wiping out his right front corner in the second sector. The Williams was also on intermediates, showing the conditions were still erring towards the wet tyres.
At the fourth attempt, the entire field took inters. Alonso and Nasr were at the front of the queue this time.
Haryanto made a near identical mistake to Ericsson, bringing out another red flag. Mercedes topped the session, with half the field outside 107%. Palmer, Massa, Magnussen, Ericsson, Wehrlein and Haryanto were out of the top 16.
Q2 again saw intermediates use to open the session, although Bottas took super soft tyres about halfway through the session. A few other drivers followed suit including Button and Hamilton. Bottas set the first slick lap, putting 0.9 seconds over the field. Alonso then put 1.2 seconds on the Williams, Perez immediately going even faster. Vettel broke into the 1:28s, Alonso in the 1:26s. Hamilton took 2nd but almost half a second off the McLaren.
Raikkonen saw the flag first, with a 1:25. Sainz then did a 1:24, as did Vettel. Alonso took a 1:23. Hulkenberg was within a tenth, but Rosberg went a second faster than the McLaren. Grosjean, Kvyat, Perez, Raikkonen, Gutierrez and Nasr fell, but Hamilton in 10th was incredibly lucky. Rosberg sat 2nd sandwiched between the Red Bulls with Verstappen taking the top spot. McLaren got both cars into Q3 for the first time since Brazil 2014.
A late spin from Alonso ruined almost everyone's last laps, aside from Rosberg in terms of the battle for pole. Rosberg managed to claw back a huge amount of time in the last sector as well, taking pole from Hamilton. Ricciardo led a Red Bull row 2, Vettel and Sainz on row 3. Alonso and Button took to row 4, Hulkenberg and Bottas then rounding out the top 10.
Ericsson had to start from the pit lane after taking a new chassis. Haryanto received a futile penalty for a gearbox change.
Massa had steering issues but said the car was drivable.
All cars were on super softs except Kvyat, Perez, Raikkonen, Palmer, Massa, Haryanto and Ericsson on softs.
The top 5 were unchanged as the order settled down after the start, despite Ricciardo briefly passing Rosberg. The Toro Rosso of Sainz lost out to Alonso's McLaren. Bottas also jumped Hulkenberg.
Button's accelerator seemed not to be working, overtaken by Bottas, Hulkenberg and Grosjean into the first corner before we heard the team tell him to stay in gear and pit due to hydraulic pressure loss. He was then told to stay out, after announcing the problem. If the problem had fixed itself, he might be on the right side of the rules, but the pit call is meant to be irreversible. Button pitted a couple of laps later, only for soft tyres – not that we heard the radio while he was in. The FIA then looked into Button's communications. He was given a drive-through penalty.
Vettel pitted for softs on lap 14, the first of the leaders to stop. He rejoined 8th ahead of Raikkonen as Hulkenberg and Grosjean pitted.
Ricciardo pitted a lap later for the same change, releasing Verstappen as the lead Red Bull was prioritised. Alonso pitted behind the Red Bull.
Hamilton and Verstappen pitted on lap 16, the Spanish winner rejoining just behind Raikkonen and unable to make a quick move past. Hamilton held 2nd and was hoping the undercut would give him more of a lead over the championship leader. Despite Rosberg being stationary for 3 tenths of a second less, Hamilton comfortably retained the lead.
The lead Mercedes reported struggling for pace, Ricciardo now a second a lap faster as the 20th lap ended.
Kvyat shed his softs on lap 24, Massa on lap 25. Kvyat was then investigated for speeding in the pits and was handed a 5 second penalty.
Perez stopped on lap 27 and took the medium tyres – the first time they had been used in the race.
Raikkonen took supers on lap 29, dropping to 7th behind Alonso but ahead of Sainz. Alonso held on for all of a lap.
Ricciardo took another set of softs on lap 33, aiming for the win now as Hamilton was warned to up his pace or strategy would favour Rosberg. Neither Mercedes pitted on the following lap. Verstappen was the next major player to pit, on lap 38.
Hamilton pitted on lap 41 for softs, as did Vettel. Rosberg was in a lap later and had lost time to the reigning world champion.
Perez pitted again for softs, but the team weren't ready and his stop was three times as long as most.
Alonso was in on lap 44, dropping to only 5 seconds ahead of Sainz.
Palmer dropped the Renault at turn 4, falling from 11th to 14th. His re-entry looked very close to hitting Perez.
Raikkonen's second stop came on lap 50, taking super softs as he droped to 6th behind Verstappen.
Gutierrez held Hamilton up, being investigated for ignoring blue flags but bringing Rosberg temporarily back into DRS range of his teammate.
Raikkonen swerved around behind Verstappen and clipped the Red Bull, damaging his own front wing.
Button was forced to retire the McLaren after the engine started pumping out smoke. At the front, Hamilton lost 1.4 seconds to Rosberg.
Hamilton won from Rosberg, Ricciardo, Vettel, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Alonso, Sainz, Bottas and Hulkenberg. Outside the points were Perez, Gutierrez, Palmer, Grosjean. Magnussen, Kvyat, Nasr, Massa, Wehrlein, Ericsson and Haryanto. Button retired with what turned out to be an oil leak.
Gutierrez dropped to 13th behind Palmer thanks to his blue flag penalty.
This race saw Hamilton leading the championship for the first time in 2016, 6 points clear of Rosberg.