Mourning and sadness filled the air as the F1 circus rolled into the Hungaroring on 24th July 2015. Fresh from the tragic death and funeral of former Marussia driver and Ferrari protege Jules Bianchi on July 17th, Hungary 2015 was a rare highlight in an otherwise lacklustre season where Formula One paid tribute to one of its own in the best way possible.
With few straights and 14 corners, the Hungaroring is one of the slowest tracks on the F1 calendar, and hasn’t had a history of producing exiting races, until 2014 and 2015 somewhat bucked the trend. Daniel Ricciardo’s enthralling second career victory at the very same track last season set the bar extremely high for 2015, but the events of Sunday’s race this year reached that bar with ease, and then continued to push it even further.
A familiar qualifying result saw Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel make up the top three with Ricciardo making the most of a track which wasn’t so dependent on engine power by placing his under powered Red Bull in fourth. Off the line, cumbersome starts from both Mercedes, coupled with lighting starts from the two Ferrari’s saw Vettel lead Raikkonen with Rosberg and Hamilton scrapping behind, until Hamilton ran wide at turn six and dropped to tenth. By lap 20, such was the pace advantage Mercedes had, Hamilton had recovered to exit the pits in fifth place, and by lap 36, had passed the Red Bull of Ricciardo to trail his teammate Rosberg by just eight seconds.
Hulkenberg’s disintegrating front wing and the subsequent safety car helped Ricciardo close right onto the back of Hamilton following the restart and the two touched at turn one with the stewards handing Lewis (perhaps unfairly) a drive through penalty as a result. By lap 63 of 69 Vettel was leading Rosberg from Ricciardo and Kvyat and when Rosberg and Ricciardo collided again at turn one, the resulting puncture for Rosberg would see him finish the race in eight place. Hamilton passed Ericsson and Grosjean to take sixth and would be unable to pass Alonso for fifth, but back at the front of the field Vettel took his, and the Scuderia’s second win of the season followed by the excellent Danil Kvyat and the recovering Ricciardo.
In an F1 season filled with processional and predictable races, the Hungarian GP was no doubt one of the few highlights of the season. In the BBC’s end of 2015 review programme, Hamilton would later admit that he had a less than stress free build up to Sunday’s race by visiting a film set before heading to the circuit, perhaps one of the only moments in his incredible season that his jet set lifestyle caught up with him. Rosberg on the other hand, through no fault of his own missed the chance to close the gap on his teammate in the championship, and would eventually end up seeing his deficit to Hamilton increase by the end of Sunday’s race. The woes Mercedes suffered on Sunday opened up the door for one of the most unpredictable races in recent memory and allowed Kvyat to score his maiden Red Bull podium in a series of races where he began to out perform his highly esteemed teammate. Most important however, the Hungarian Grand Prix was the best tribute to Jules Bianchi our sport could have given, and as Vettel said on team radio following his victory, he was a Ferrari protege who we all know would have been driving for the prancing horse one day.