Hungary 2007 - advantage McLaren, despite tangling team mates 01 Aug 2008
This time last year Ferrari and McLaren arrived at the Hungaroring fresh from their head-to-head battle in front of the FIAs spygate hearing. McLaren had initially emerged unscathed from the scandal, but an appeal against the World Motor Sport Council decision was already in the offing. And over the race weekend the British team would find themselves embroiled in yet another controversy.
As for the drivers, Lewis Hamilton was confident he could extend his lead in the drivers championship, while both Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen were hopeful about the improved form of the Ferrari F2007. Further down the field there were changes afoot with BMW Sauber third driver Sebastian Vettel replacing Scott Speed at Toro Rosso and former Jordan and Super Aguri driver Sakon Yamamoto stepping into the breach for Spyker following the exit of Christijan Albers.
Slippery track conditions, a light rain shower and a spin for Hamilton meant the first day of running in Budapest was particularly difficult to judge. BMW Saubers Robert Kubica topped the timesheets in the morning session, leading the two Ferraris and then the McLarens. But after lunch, it was McLarens Fernando Alonso who was quickest, finishing over three-tenths ahead of Renaults Heikki Kovalainen.
Saturday morning saw a Ferrari fight back, with Massa setting the fastest time ahead of Alonso, Hamilton, Nick Heidfeld and Raikkonen. Behind the frontrunners the times were even tighter, with Williams Nico Rosberg, Toyotas Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher, and Red Bulls Mark Webber leading the pack. The scene was thus set for an intense qualifying session.
In the end it was the McLarens who had the edge in terms of pace, with Alonso just pipping his team mate to P1 - but only after some rather unusual goings-on in the pit lane which left Hamilton feeling somewhat aggrieved. Alonso was very slow to get away from his final Q3 stop - so slow in fact that Hamilton, who was forced to wait behind him, was unable to complete a final flying lap, and hence missed out on pole, despite having dominated up to that point.
There were problems at Ferrari too. Massas F2007 stopped in the pit lane in Q2 after a misunderstanding with his crew over refueling. It left him languishing down in 14th place. Raikkonen, meanwhile, found himself usurped by Heidfeld and would start the race from fourth. Rosberg continued to shine in fifth, ahead of Schumacher, Renaults Giancarlo Fisichella, Trulli and Webber.
On Sunday morning Hamilton had cause for cheer, after stewards deemed Alonso to have deliberately impeded him during their qualifying pit-lane incident. The Spaniard was stripped of pole position and demoted to sixth on the grid. McLaren were also punished and prohibited from earning any constructors points from the race. In a separate incident, Fisichella was also demoted five grid places for impeding Yamamoto (on track) during Q1.
With pole back in the bag, Hamilton proved insurmountable in the race, leading from lights to flag to take victory from Raikkonen. The Finn had easily passed Heidfeld at the start, but couldnt overtake the Englishmans rapid McLaren, despite some hair-raising dueling in the Grand Prixs dying moments.
Heidfeld successfully held off the challenge of fourth-placed Alonso to secure BMW Sauber their first podium finish. Team mate Robert Kubica nabbed fifth place to consolidate BMWs best-ever result, while Schumacher took sixth for Toyota, ahead of Rosbergs Williams. The final point went to Renaults Heikki Kovalainen.
His Hungarian victory, the third of his debut season, saw Hamilton extend his championship advantage to seven points over Alonso (80 to 73), ahead of Raikkonen (60) and Massa (59), who finished in 13th. In the constructors championship, McLaren, unable to bank any of the 15 points they scored, retained their lead over Ferrari but by a reduced 19-point margin.