For only the second time this F1 season, a non-Mercedes car took first place in a race. And for the second time this season, it was the same man – Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, 4-time World Champion, who drove home to win his 41st Grand Prix, now only third behind Prost (51) and Schumacher (91) in the overall standings.
But this wasn’t just any race.
In the 10th race of the 2015 season, the drivers – united in mourning for the young French driver Jules Bianchi, who passed away earlier this week after an accident last season – made this perhaps the most memorable modern-day contest in a while. Hungary became witness to a race that would forever be remembered as a classic. Vettel won the race but not without plenty of drama, up and down the sequence.
To start of with, Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton (Championship leader) and Nico Rosberg (second in the standings) finished 6th and 8th. Believe it. And till only 4 laps before the finish line, it was Rosberg who was in second position, four ahead of his rival and teammate, and probably gunning for a crucial set of points to take him neck-to-neck with the Brit in the championship standings. But disaster struck with Aussie Ricciardo (Red Bull), not for the first time, clipped a Mercedes car during an over-ambitious overtaking attempt, and punctured Rosberg’s tyre, forcing him to pit and fall down to eighth. Hamilton, who had earlier clipped Rosberg because of his own careless mistake, heaved a sigh of relief as the German fell 21 points behind with this mishap.
For the longest time at the beginning, the two Ferraris, Vettel and Raikkonen, dominated the race. Vettel passed the two Mercedes cars into turn one and held on, before Raikkonen did the same, leaving Hamilton to drive his most error-strewn race of the season. Raikkonen was unfortunate to suffer a mechanical failure later on, letting Russian Red Bull driver Kvyat to finish second, and Ricciardo in third. Both the Red bull drivers were handed 10-second penalties at different points, but still managed to hold on to their most point-scoring positions of the year.
“Merci Jules, Cette victoire est pour toi (Thank you, Jules. This victory is for you)”, said Vettel in his slowing-down lap at the end. And he meant it. The German driver was one of many active drivers to attend Jules’ funeral in Nice last weekend, and with the former Ferrari test driver’s family in attendance in Hungary, Vettel drove the race of his season to give the fans something memorable to remember Jules by. There were hoardings of Jules, with ‘World Champion Ferrari 2017’ as the caption, and it was an emotional race for many who drove with him.
While F1 struggles with its issues of safety, drivers like Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel, Raikkonen, Button – all World Champions at some point – continue to rescue the sport from becoming just another boring technology-over-skill robotic event.
With the season halfway through, it’s two-time Champion Hamilton still leading, by a considerable margin over teammate Rosberg. Hungary was as good as F1 gets, and perhaps a race that could resuscitate international competitive racing as a viewing sport for the near future.