Result: Daniel Ricciardo wins his second race of the season in a thriller.
Arguably the most breathtaking race of the 2014 season, the Hungarian Grand Prix got the mojo back in F1, if only temporarily. Rain, tyre changes, safety cars, crashes contributed in making this one of the most unpredictable races in recent times—with a leader and favorite not confirmed till the end.
It was a seesaw battle, as eternal pole-sitter Rosberg began calmly, while teammate and title rival Hamilton began from the pitlane, in what would be another storming damage-limiting drive. The Brit has been forever starting on the backfoot on raceday, but has earned the reputation of being the most dangerous underdog on Sundays, arguably more determined and skillful when beginning from behind.
Everything changed on lap 8, when the safety car was deployed following Ericcson’s crash. The top four were unable to pit, having already passed the final corner, and were to find themselves struggling to get back into the pack after pitting late.
There was a time when Ricciardo led Button, but the McLaren driver was a victim of a risky, faulty tyre strategy that made him pit again and fall behind. A long safety car period after crash-king Grosjean somehow managed to crash his Lotus on a straight-line after turn 3 – and the order was reshuffled plenty more over the next 20 minutes.
Alonso led, then Hamilton led, while Vergne held back Rosberg and Vettel. Hamilton was asked to make way for Rosberg, who was yet to pit again and was fast closing on his teammate—to which he duly refused, and held onto his 2nd place, letting Rosberg fall back to 7th and eventually fight back to 4th place.
With Alonso leading and four laps to go, Hamilton couldn’t pass him, as hard as he tried. But it was Ricciardo, finally on fresher softer rubber, who was closing down the two ahead of him. It was only a matter of time as—for the first time in ages—a driver overtook the first two in the last few laps. The young Aussie dived down the outside of Hamilton and inside of Alonso, to storm to yet another win and an impressive performance that technically makes him Red Bull’s no. 1 ahead of World Champion Vettel. This is a sticky situation with the German struggling this season, but is no doubt a master move for the future that singles out the Aussie as the new boy-wonder. F1 needed him, with cars and engines defining this season more than the drivers instead of the other way around. It may be too late for him to challenge for the Championship, but atleast his driving skills are there for everyone to see—even as Mercedes are guaranteed to win the title.
Hamilton barely held on to his podium place, with Rosberg troubling him right till the end. Alonso drove his race of the season to finish 2nd, somehow pushing his soft tyres from the 38th lap while ending Ferrari’s dry spell.
Rosberg now leads Hamilton by 11 points—202 to Hamilton’s 191, while Ricciardo is now a clear third (131) ahead of Alonso (115). Ricciardo is also the only non-Mercedes driver to win races this season (2), with Rosberg and Hamilton winning 9 between them.