Button does it at last in Hungary 06 Aug 2006
The Hungarian Grand Prix was a veritable goulash of a race, and it finally brought Jenson Button redemption. On his 113th attempt he took his first-ever Grand Prix victory in style, and in a race in which fortunes changed faster than the weather.
It began with McLarens Kimi Raikkonen stamping his authority in the damp conditions. Hondas Rubens Barrichello and Pedro de la Rosa in the other McLaren were soon chasing Raikkonen, with Renaults Fernando Alonso scything up from 15th after a tight battle with Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari, whose choice of full-wet Bridgestones proved incorrect as the intermediate-shod Michelin runners ruled the game.
After five laps Raikkonen led De la Rosa and Alonso after Barrichello had made an early stop to switch from full-wet tyres to intermediates. Hondas Jenson Button was also on the move, taking a car a lap until he was running fourth as it began to rain a little.
When De la Rosa pitted on lap 16 and Raikkonen on lap 17, Alonso took the lead. After all his practice dramas the Spaniard now had the race in his hands as he pulled away from the McLarens. And his chances improved even more as Raikkonen unaccountably drove into the back of Vitantonio Liuzzis Toro Rosso while lapping it in Turn 8 on the 26th lap. The Italian was trying to keep out of the way of faster cars, but there was a misunderstanding between them. It was a big shunt, that eliminated both cars, and De la Rosa was very lucky to avoid getting involved.
That left Alonso in the lead from Button, with De la Rosa and Barrichello chasing the final podium place as BMW Saubers Nick Heidfeld moved up to fifth ahead of David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher, who was doing wonders on his increasingly inappropriate intermediate tyres. In the middle stint of the race Alonso and Button slogged it out, setting fastest laps as the gap between them stayed around four to five seconds. Further back, as the line began to dry and his wets became closer to the old type of slicks, Schumacher was on the move again, albeit well behind them.
Button pitted for the second time on lap 46, maintaining second place. Then Alonso came in on lap 51, his world championship lead apparently boosted by another imminent triumph. But as he exited the pits the Renault squirmed through Turn 1, then got as far as Turn 2 where a wheelnut flew off the right rear wheel. There was a fault in the rear axle, and suddenly he was in the barriers and out of the race.
That left Button in the lead, and now the unthinkable finally seemed possible. But then there was the Englishman, in the pits for a third time on lap 54. The track was good enough for dry Michelins. The stop was perfect, however, and he rejoined without losing the lead.
Behind him, Schumacher was hanging on to second place by a thread, until De la Rosa finally outfoxed him on the 66th lap after four laps in which they crossed the start/finish line literally side by side. A lap later Heidfeld was also challenging his fellow countryman, and that proved Schumachers undoing. As the BMW Sauber driver slipped ahead at the second chicane, just where De la Rosa had earlier found the gap, Schumacher hit the back of the F1.06. At the last gasp Alonso had been handed a reprieve, as the Ferrari crept home to the pits with damaged suspension. He was classified ninth.
Barrichello held on for fourth ahead of Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher, while rookie Robert Kubica completed a great debut by scoring two points for seventh for BMW Sauber. It was a disappointing day for front row starter Felipe Massa who struggled throughout the race in his Ferrari, but after his final stop for slicks he had the small consolation of a point for eighth, and fastest lap.
Tiago Monteiro and Christijan Albers finished 10th and 11th for Midland, with Toro Rossos Scott Speed an unhappy 12th after four stops (he was the first to try dries, just before the track was ready for them). Jarno Trulli was classified 13th, after his Toyota blew up on lap 67, and Takuma Sato was the final finisher in 14th place, five laps down.
Renaults Giancarlo Fisichella finally got past Michael Schumacher for fifth place on the 17th lap, only to spin off in Turn 8. Nico Rosberg also crashed out early after an electronic problem cut his engine, while team mate Mark Webber slid into a barrier and trapped the front wing under the chassis of his Williams. Sakon Yamamoto hardly saw any of this from the cockpit, as his Super Aguri didnt make it past the opening lap.
With neither of the world championship contenders scoring, Alonso stays ahead with 100 points to Schumachers 89 and only five races left, and Ferrari are now nine points adrift of Renault. But this day belonged to Button and Honda.
If my voice sounds funny its because Ive been screaming so much, a jubilant Button said. It was fun closing down Alonso. We made a great choice of tyres and also our last stop was great. We were a real thinking team today. We thought hard about our strategy and we won not just because we had speed but also because we had the strategy. The last lap felt amazing. In fact, over the last 10 I didnt want the race to end. Normally when you are in the lead - I suppose - it seems to go on forever but I was loving it, I didnt want it to end knowing I was on my way home to winning my first Grand Prix.
Few victories in recent years have been as popular.