Button victorious at the Hungaroring
The Englishman was assured of victory after his team mate Lewis Hamilton changed onto intermediate tires in the closing stages of the race only to find that the conditions were not wet enough, forcing him to revert to slicks in his fifth pit stop of the afternoon.
Button and Hamilton fought closely for a victory that centered on tire strategy, with Hamilton having saved an extra set of supersoft tires for the race during qualifying.
Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel qualified on pole with the P Zero Red supersoft tires, just ahead of Hamilton. The race started in damp conditions, with intermittent rain and 18 degrees of track temperature, meaning that all the drivers chose to start on the P Zero Blue intermediate tires.
Under the current regulations, this meant that the drivers were no longer obliged to use both the slick compounds nominated for the race: P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red supersoft. Williams driver Pastor Maldonado was the only person to use just the intermediates and supersofts though.
In the slippery conditions, both McLarens passed Vettel in the early stages of the race, using very different tire strategies. Button stopped three times, completing a final 28-lap stint on the P Zero Yellow soft tires, despite the rain that fell in the closing stages.
On lap 46, with light rain falling once more, Hamilton spun – allowing his team mate past. But with the rain continuing, Hamilton’s supersoft rubber helped him to find extra grip and reclaim the advantage, after the lead changed four times in four laps. Nonetheless, Hamilton gambled on more rain falling and switched to intermediates on lap 50, like Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg – which turned out to be the wrong decision.
Hamilton’s fight back on the P Zero Yellow soft tire to fourth place in damp conditions was a highlight of the race, despite a drive-through penalty that meant he visited the pits six times in total. Like Button, Sebastian Vettel stopped three times and ran a final 29-lap stint on the soft tire to claim the runner-up spot, 3.5 seconds behind the winner, while Fernando Alonso stopped four times in the Ferrari to take third.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “It’s been another fascinating race in mixed conditions which has allowed Jenson Button to demonstrate his skills of mastering changing weather and the capabilities of our P Zero tires, which demonstrated both performance and durability throughout the grand prix. Even when rain was falling at the end of the race, Button managed to secure enough grip from the P Zero Yellow soft tires to make sure of a well-deserved victory. There was a very wide variety of strategies employed by all the teams throughout the race, with the top five using four different strategies, but in the end it all came down to each driver’s ability to get the best out of slick tires in slippery conditions. The McLaren drivers were very closely matched: Lewis Hamilton also drove a brilliant race and seeing his recovery at the end, despite six visits to the pits, was fantastic. I’m particularly pleased because the Hungaroring is a place that has not always been renowned for overtaking in the past, but today we saw plenty of it, in a race that contained more twists and turns than the circuit itself!”
Button’s victory was the 11th of his career, taken at his 200th grand prix. The Hungaroring was also the scene of Button’s very first grand prix win in 2006, which was also held in wet conditions.