Going into the Hungarian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton desperately needed to take points off Fernando Alonso to keep his title hopes alive. He achieved that aim by taking a commanding pole position and then driving a calm and controlled race to take his second victory of the season. Hamilton was under constant pressure, first from Romain Grosjean and then the Kimi Raikkonen, but the McLaren driver held on for an impressive win ahead of the two Lotus cars.
It was another weekend of near-success for Lotus. Grosjean’s second on the grid was the Frenchman’s best qualifying performance yet, but it wasn’t quite enough for pole. In the race, Grosjean looked like challenging Hamilton for a few laps, but ultimately could not find a way past the Englishman. Raikkonen managed to pass his team-mate in the pits and closed up on the leader, but he too could not find a way past and could only take his third second place of the season. The Ice Man has yet to win in 2012, but his day is surely not too far away.
Ferrari had an unusually poor weekend. Alonso and Massa qualified down in sixth and seventh place, and finished fifth and ninth respectively. Alonso had looked bulletproof in the races leading up to Hungary, but Ferrari’s form evaporated at the tight and twisty Hungaroring.
Mercedes had an even more disappointing weekend. Rosberg and Schumacher were 13th and 17th on the grid, which suggested that their race would be difficult. But no-one could have predicted just how difficult it would turn out to be. When the first start was aborted, Schumacher turned his engine off as it was overheating, which resulted in the German having to start from the pitlane. A puncture followed after which Schumacher was handed a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane. Mercedes retired Schumacher’s car with 11 laps to go, claiming a telemetry-related failure. It is more likely that the team wanted the option to change his gearbox for the next race in Belgium, which is allowed if the car retires, but otherwise would have resulted in a grid penalty.
Nico Rosberg could only manage 10th in the race after qualifying 13th. The Mercedes W03 was simply not quick enough, as has clearly been the case in recent races. After Rosberg won in China there was hope of a continued Mercedes resurgence, but it seems that the Brackley-based team is gradually slipping back into the clutches of the midfield.
Bruno Senna had an impressive weekend, featuring at the sharp end of most of the practice sessions before qualifying ninth – the first time he has featured in Q3 this season – and then going on to take seventh in the race ahead of the Red Bull of Mark Webber. Team-mate Maldonado qualified eighth but finished outside the points after incurring a drive-through penalty for driving into the Force India of Paul di Resta.
Hamilton’s victory opens up the championship fight quite a bit, with second to fifth now separated by only eight points. Alonso is still 40 points clear at the front, but a few more results like this will close that gap quite quickly.
The teams now have five weeks until the next race in Belgium. After 11 races in the first part of the season, the break will be useful to recharge and refocus ahead of the last nine races of 2012. McLaren go into the break on a high, with Lotus looking strong. But can anyone do anything about the lead Fernando Alonso has in the championship? Time will tell.