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Mixed fortunes - onboard during a pulsating first lap in Hungary

29 Jul 2015

As first laps go, this past weekend’s in Hungary was one of the wildest in recent memory, with multiple changes of position, several off-track incidents and plenty of wheel-banging. With the help of onboard videos, we take a look at the contrasting fortunes of the first four drivers on the grid through the opening corners of the race…

Lewis Hamilton
Starting position: 1st

Lewis Hamilton topped all three practice sessions and every segment of qualifying in Budapest, but the world champion’s good work was undone within the first few seconds of Sunday’s race as he bogged down off the line and was swamped by the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, as well as team mate Nico Rosberg’s similar F1 W06 Hybrid. Toto Wolff, Mercedes head of motorsport, suggested after the race that Hamilton’s bad start was probably the result of the team focusing too much on the revised start procedure for Belgium (when drivers will receive less assistance from teams) during practice, and not enough on the current method.  

Hamilton was fourth as he exited Turn 1, giving him an excellent view of Rakkonen’s Turn 2 pass on Rosberg, but before he could mount his own attack on his team mate he made a catastrophic mistake under braking for the Turn 6/7 chicane, locking up and running onto the grass before tripping through the gravel. The Briton rejoined the track in 10th, saying that Rosberg was to blame for the incident because the German had changed lines under braking. The stewards disagreed with his assessment, but what do you think? 

Nico Rosberg
Starting position: 2nd

Rosberg made a slightly better getaway than Hamilton from the dirty side of the grid, but like his team mate it wasn't as good as either Ferrari. The German was third approaching Turn 1, but braked a fraction of a second later than either Vettel or Hamilton and for a moment it looked like he’d take the lead. In the end though the German was compromised by his tight inside line, with Vettel, attacking from a wider angle and therefore able to carry more apex speed, getting past easily around the outside. His exit similarly compromised, Rosberg then came under threat from Raikkonen, with his attempts to keep the Finn at bay ultimately faltering when he ran too deep into Turn 2. The resulting slide and left-front lock-up presented an easy overtaking opportunity to the 2007 world champion, which he duly accepted.

Sebastian Vettel
Starting position: 3rd

In contrast to those ahead of him, Vettel made an almost perfect start as the lights went out, and within 100m the quadruple champion was alongside Hamilton. The two drivers were just millimetres apart as they accelerated towards Turn 1, with Vettel ever so gently squeezing his Ferrari towards Hamilton’s Mercedes. This compromised the Briton's approach to the corner, leaving him in the comparitive no-man's land of the centre of the track whilst Vettel was able to take the favourable - and much grippier - racing line. As such, Vettel was able to brake slightly later than Hamilton, but wary of Rosberg’s presence on the inside, the German takes a wide line into the right-hander. This enabled him to maximise his exit speed on the run down to Turn 2, and though he then locked his inside wheel slightly into the downhill left-hander, by this stage his rivals were already trailing in his wake.

Daniel Ricciardo
Starting position: 4th

If Hamilton’s getaway was bad, Ricciardo’s was arguably even worse. The Australian bogged down significantly away from the line, and was soon passed on the inside by Valtteri Bottas’ Williams. But with space around him, Ricciardo was able to jink out of the Finn’s slipstream approaching the first turn in order to take a wider entry. It proved a shrewd move, and using the more beneficial line he pulled back alongside Bottas as they rounded the corner. However, the Williams driver was not about to yield and as they reached the exit kerb side by side the two cars banged wheels, launching Ricciardo's RB11 briefly off the ground. The clash, the first of three for the Australian at the same corner, caused enough of a momentum loss for both Daniil Kvyat and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg to nip by on the run to Turn 2. Ricciardo’s miserable start was then compounded by Hulkenberg’s team mate Sergio Perez, who sneaked around the outside at the left-hander to relegate the 2014 race winner to ninth. 

To watch all four videos in one go, click here.