For the past two years the Hungarian Grand Prix has spoiled us. In 2014 Daniel Riccardo won an absorbing contest with a late move on Fernando Alonso. A scintillating race in 2015 saw Sebastian Vettel take a memorable and emotional victory in the first race held after the loss of Jules Bianchi. Would 2016 offer us another great event?
The answer is an emphatic no. There was drama in qualifying (held in variable conditions, with multiple red flags in Q1 following numerous accidents and ending with a question mark over whether Rosberg had lifted enough under double yellows), but the race itself was processional. Hamilton, starting in second, enjoyed a good start for a change and whilst it looked like the Red Bulls might threaten into the first corner, Hamilton was able to sweep into the lead into turn 1 and would thereafter control the race in a manner we saw a lot of last year (but not so much in 2016).
A steady drive from Hamilton kept Rosberg at bay, to see a change in the championship lead for the first time this season. From 43 points behind after Spain, to 6 points ahead six races later, is an important marker for Hamilton, and ensures the title race is well and truly on.
Elsewhere, Riccardo and Verstappen, who had good pace in qualifying, might feel a touch disappointed to have been cut adrift from the Mercedes’. Questionable pit stop strategies didn’t aid their cause, and in fact Verstappen would end up down in fifth, being chased down by the Ferrari of Raikkonen. Not for the first time, the youngster would produce moments of controversy, with an abrupt change of direction into turn 2 seeing Raikkonen lose a piece of his front wing, and another jink into turn forcing Raikkonen wide.
Verstappen was unrepentant after the race, arguing he was firm but fair. Raikkonen, unsurprisingly, took a different view.
A race that won’t live long in the memory may well prove pivotal to the title battle, but let us hope that Germany offers greater entertainment.