Jenson Button celebrated his two hundredth Grand Prix with victory in a wet/dry Hungarian Grand Prix.
McLaren could have had a one-two finish, with Lewis Hamilton leading the majority of the Grand Prix, but a tyre strategy misjudgement and a drive-through penalty ruined Hamilton’s race.
Championship leader Sebastian Vettel had to settle for second position, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Hamilton.
The race began on a damp track with all twenty-four drivers on the intermediates. Starting in second, Hamilton was in aggressive mood and immediately focused his attention on passing Sebastian Vettel for the race lead. The duel between the pair was quite exciting.
The lead finally changed on lap five, when Vettel ran wide at Turn 2 and Hamilton breezed past and pulled away, soon extending a four-second lead over the championship leader, who was at least able to drop Button at this stage.
Laps 10 to 13 saw all the leaders decide the track was ready for slicks, and coming in one lap sooner than Vettel paid off for Button, who made the most of this warmer tyres and greater confidence to take second place into Turn 2.
Mark Webber pulled off the same manoeuvre on Alonso for fourth at the same time. The Ferrari had lost ground through Turn 1 on the opening lap, and then charged back up the order despite two minor trips off track.
The relatively serene middle phase of the race saw Hamilton holding a comfortable gap over Button, who had a similar five-second advantage back to Vettel, while Webber fended off Alonso ten-second behind them.
Alonso decided to make a relatively early third pit-stop and take another set of option (super softs), while all the other leaders except Hamilton switched to the prime (softs) at this point.
That burst of pace allowed Alonso to jump both Red Bulls during his rapid laps before they pitted, though the Pirellis began to wear out and he lost third to Vettel again.
Hamilton adopted the same strategy as Alonso, which left him looking very vulnerable to Button, but in the event the return of the rain rendered these tactics rather irrelevant.
The sudden shower hit on lap 47, causing Hamilton to spin at the chicane. He tried to rejoin as quickly as possible, but could not prevent his team-mate taking the lead. As he rotated around, he forced Paul di Resta off the track and that move ultimately earn Hamilton a drive-through penalty.
With the rain increasing, Button slipped up at Turn 2 four laps later, allowing Hamilton back into the lead. Button retaliated on the following lap and briefly regained first place on the pits straight, only to go wide again at Turn 2 as the top spot was exchanged yet again.
While all this was going on the McLaren drivers were in discussion with the pit wall on whether to switch to intermediate tyres. Initially, the team told both to come in which would have meant Button queueing behind Hamilton.
But as the lap neared an end the team decided not to bring Button in. Hamilton, struggling to hear his instructions with a faulty radio, did pit for intermediate tyres.
This was a big mistake as the brief shower was gone, and he was soon back in for slicks. His drive-through penalty for nearly wiping out Paul di Resta followed; dropping Hamilton down to sixth and leaving his McLaren team-mate clear to take the chequered flag.
The 2009 champion briefly came under pressure from last year’s champion, but had the speed to pull away again and clinch his second Grand Prix victory of the season.
With Webber also switching to intermediates unnecessary, Alonso regained third, which he held despite a quick late spin.
Hamilton battled back to fourth ahead of Webber, with Felipe Massa recovering from an early spin to take sixth.
Kamui Kobayashi tried to go the full distance on just a two-stop strategy and held seventh heading into the closing stages, albeit with a massive queue of cars chasing his Sauber.
The plan did not work, and he had to pit for fresh set of Pirellis after tumbling down the order, as Paul di Resta came through to seventh and Sebastien Buemi turned P23 on the grid into an eighth place for Toro Rosso.
Nico Rosberg finished in ninth position in the remaining Mercedes as team-mate Michael Schumacher was forced to retire with a gearbox issue.
Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari survived a clash with Kobayashi to take the final point with tenth.
One of the most spectacular incidents of this highly eventful race befell Nick Heidfeld, whose Renault caught fire in the pit exit following a long stop, with a minor explosion on its left-hand side as the track marshals dealt with the blaze.
Formula One now enters its summer break. Despite winning a single race in the past four Grands Prix, Sebastian Vettel still leads the championship with 234 points. It’s going to be fascinating to see if McLaren and Ferrari can keep applying pressure to Red Bull in the second half of the championship.
Hungarian Grand Prix, 70 laps:
1. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1h43:42.337
2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault +3.588
3. Alonso Ferrari +19.819
4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes +48.338
5. Webber Red Bull-Renault +49.742
6. Massa Ferrari +1:17.176
7. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes +1 lap
8. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
9. Rosberg Mercedes +1 lap
10. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
11. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari +1 lap
12. Petrov Renault +1 lap
13. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth +2 laps
14. Sutil Force India-Mercedes +2 laps
15. Perez Sauber-Ferrari +2 laps
16. Maldonado Williams-Cosworth +2 laps
17. Glock Virgin-Cosworth +4 laps
18. Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth +4 laps
19. D’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth +5 laps
20. Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth +5 laps
Fastest lap: Massa, 1:23.415
Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 56 laps
Schumacher Mercedes 27 laps
Heidfeld Renault 24 laps
Trulli Lotus-Renault 18 laps
World Championship standings, round 11:
1. Vettel 234
2. Webber 149
3. Hamilton 146
4. Alonso 145
5. Button 134
6. Massa 70
7. Rosberg 48
8. Heidfeld 34
9. Schumacher 32
10. Petrov 32
11. Kobayashi 27
12. Sutil 18
13. Buemi 12
14. Alguersuari 10
15. Di Resta 8
16. Perez 8
17. Barrichello 4
1. Red Bull-Renault 383
2. McLaren-Mercedes 280
3. Ferrari 215
4. Mercedes 80
5. Renault 66
6. Sauber-Ferrari 35
7. Force India-Mercedes 26
8. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 22
9. Williams-Cosworth 4
Next race: Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps. August 26-28.