Hungarian GP: Lewis Hamilton delivers but beware Lotus

By Gary AndersonBBC F1 technical analyst

Lewis Hamilton was always going to win the Hungarian Grand Prix as long as he did not make any mistakes.

That is the advantage that pole position buys you at the Hungaroring - and Hamilton delivered a brilliant qualifying lap on Saturday to secure it by nearly half a second.

He nearly got sucked into an error at the first corner when he locked his inside front wheel and ran wide but he managed to survive it, largely because there was a battle going on behind him and he was already a long way clear.

From then on, it was about making the right strategy calls and controlling the race.

The Hungaroring is one of those tracks where it's so hard to overtake that if you have a decently quick car and you don't make any mistakes and you're at the front at the end of the first lap, you're probably going to make it.

But the two Lotus cars had opportunities out of which they did not make the most.

Both Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen were quick at the end of their second stints. The team brought Raikkonen in when they did because they felt that the edge had gone from his tyres and Hamilton's were just beginning to come on song.

But had they kept Raikkonen out for a couple more laps, they would have not lost anything and might have got that bit closer to Hamilton to make a difference.

By doing that, it would also have ensured Raikkonen had tyres that were that bit fresher for the last stint, which would have given him a slightly better chance in the closing laps.

The problem in Hungary is that the corners are so long.external-link That means the driver behind loses too much ground because of the downforce he is losing following another car and cannot challenge down the next straight.

But the Lotuses showed very strong pace and they are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the final nine races.

They are already very quick and at the next race in Belgiumexternal-link on 2 September following the summer break they are expected to race the straight-line speed boosting innovation they have tested at the last two races in Germany and Hungary.

This is a device that ducts in air from above the driver's head and uses it to 'stall' the rear wing, boosting straight-line speed.

It is in addition to the DRS overtaking device that all teams use - it's a kind of DRS-plus - and it will be especially effective at the next two races in Spa and Monza because of the long straights on those tracks.

So the other teams had better watch out.

Hamilton's victory puts him back into fourth place in the championship ahead of Raikkonen, but you would have to say the Finn is a title contender. I think team-mate Grosjean is too inexperienced to challenge - and he is also 40 points further behind.

Championship leader Fernando Alonso's Ferrari was not competitive in Hungary. As usual, he did the best he could with fifth place, and actually extended his advantage over second-placed Mark Webber of Red Bull, but the others all closed in a little.

You don't have to win every race to do well in this championship: the Lotus is a really good car and I don't see why Raikkonen cannot close that gap down.

He has had a few shaky races, but you have to remember that he has been away in rallying for two years and F1 has changed a lot in that time.

I've got a bit of a weak spot for Raikkonen - he's the kind of driver who if you make the car 0.1 seconds quicker, he will find you 0.2secs.

Now he is back up to speed and you can see the glint in his eye a little bit.


Red Bull were the focus of a lot of attention in Hungary after the technical row over their engine mapping in Germany the previous week.

Fourth for Sebastian Vettel and eighth for Webber is not the result they will have been hoping for - or that they should have got, given the speed of the car.

They were right to start Webber, who had qualified down in 11th, on the harder tyre but they stopped him too early on lap 20.

Had he gone a bit further - which he could have done - it would have meant they had the biggest possible window if the predicted rain came and it would have meant his stint at the end of the race on the soft tyres would have been short.

But because they stopped him early at his first and second stops, it meant he had to do a third stop to fit another set of soft tyres before the end.

Vettel also did a third stop but for him it made sense, as it meant he had fresher tyres at the end and he would have been able to gain a position had Hamilton, Raikkonen or Grosjean run into tyre problems in the closing laps. It was just that they did not, as it turned out.

The big mystery about Red Bull remains why they had such outstanding pace in Valencia at the end of June, where Vettel was 1.5secs faster than anyone else before he retired - and where that has gone.

The next track, Spa, has Red Bull stamped all over it.

They will have time to clear their head over the summer break, take stock of the last three races and where they need to do better, and that is where we will find out where they are.

Spa starts the run-in to the end of the season and the teams will be able to bring one big update to that race. After that the races come so thick and fast it will be dotting the i's and crossing the t's.

The Belgian Grand prix will be judgement day for a lot of people.