Hungarian Grand Prix 2015: A Fitting Tribute to Jules Bianchi
In a week which sombrely reflected on the loss of one of Formula One’s brightest and most promising future stars, the Hungaroring served up not only a moving and poignant tribute to Jules Bianchi, but also a remarkable race in his memory.
It is impossible to imagine the emotions of the driver’s as they formed a circle around their helmets and stood in solidarity for their fallen friend: it was a display which demonstrated the loss felt throughout the paddock and the entire sport, for a man who was not only hugely respected on the track, but genuinely admired off it as well.
But while the sport has lost one of its most promising young talents, the Hungaroring served up a timely reminder that the answers to F1’s current identity crisis and future development are to be found in the past.
What makes the Hungarian Grand Prix one of the standout fixtures on the calendar, is that it provides a genuine challenge for the drivers. Its combination of short sweeping corners and minimal long straights, mean that the drivers are forced to get their elbows out and attempt the kind of overtaking manoeuvres that make the sport so thrilling to watch. It’s no surprise at all that the likes of Lewis Hamilton (although not on this particular occasion) and Daniel Ricciardo thrive around this circuit. It is a true racers track, and not one which is diluted and castrated by artificial DRS zones which are similar to booster strips in Mario Kart. Wheel-to-wheel racing, daring overtaking, and multiple collisions are what the Hungarians serve up: it is the sport at its purest and absolute finest.
Of course one factor which helped this particular race come alive and which can be by no means always be counted on, was that both Mercedes drivers had truly bad days at the office. What most people love, or at least respect about Lewis Hamilton, is his gung-ho approach: he is a racer and an entertainer. But the trouble for Lewis is he just can’t help himself. Having recovered from his early plummet down the grid, he fortuitously found himself running in fourth with 20 laps to go, the podium and just maybe a scent of victory in his nostrils: all he had to do was be patient and not try anything too risky. The resulting incident with Ricciardo was a demonstration of Hamilton’s commitment to attacking, regardless of the situation in the race and the resulting effect on the World Championship. It could have been a huge mistake on behalf of the current Championship leader and he was extremely fortunate that Nico Rosberg failed to capitalise.
For a few laps it looked like Hamilton would be punished and find himself trailing Rosberg in the Championship; but if Rosberg had made such an indent based upon his performance in Hungary it would have been in the second-tier bracket of injustices behind such events as Chelsea winning the Champions League. Other than FP3 he was bang average all weekend and far below his usual standards: his performance largely masked by that of his car. He offered no threat to the luckless Kimi Raikonnen who had run convincingly in second before his Ferrari broke down for the third time that weekend, and he was even further behind the supremely dominant Sebastian Vettel. If Rosberg is to mount any kind of serious challenge for the title after the summer break, he needs to snap out of whatever miasma he found himself in during this weekend’s grand prix and seriously up his game. The chance was there for the taking, and he blew it.
Retirements, incidents, and penalties at the front, meant that there was a shuffle of the pack throughout the rest of the grid. After his collision with Hamilton and then Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo came home in third behind teammate Daniel Kvyat for Red Bull’s best result of the season so far; while miraculously not only did both McLaren’s finish the race, but Fernando Alonso finished fifth and Jenson Button came home ninth, for the Woking outfits first double points finish of the season.
To top things off there was the theatricality of Nico Hulkenburg’s front wing exploding beneath his car; and Pastor Maldonado picking up an impressive hat trick of penalties, all for driver error: embarrassing even for a man with a website dedicated to how long it’s been since he last had an accident.
But as Hamilton was throwing up dirt and stones; Kvyat was being showered by carbon fibre; and Rosberg and Ricciardo fell over each as the Aussie tried a trademark ballsy overtake, one man was sailing out in front impervious to all the melee and drama behind him. It was a performance by Sebastian Vettel that was as cool and collected as his hero Michael Schumacher. He jumped ahead from the start and never looked back: it was a victory that was as dominant as it was surprising, given that no-one had really given Ferrari a chance of victory all weekend.
Seb’s first thoughts were naturally for Jules Bianchi and his family, as the former World Champion dedicated the race to the man who would have one day become his Ferrari teammate. It was a thrilling and unpredictable race; and a fitting end to a truly remarkable day.
Statistics / Images from F1.com & Sutton Motorsport Images. All rights to their originals.