IT’S BEEN said many times; if only it rained during every Formula One race.
The Hungaroring is supposed to be one of the more boring F1 venues, with lots of corners and not enough lengthy straights to provide an abundance of overtaking.
But Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix turned it on, mainly due to the rain that drenched the track before the start, and some subsequent gambling on slick tyres while the surface was still damp.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull conjured their second grand prix victory of the year, blending driving brilliance and smart, opportunistic strategy to upstage the dominant Mercedes.
On a wet track, championship leader Nico Rosberg drove away to open a handsome early gap.
Then on lap nine came a shunt and a safety car; Dan and the team made the instant call to get off the wets early and were rewarded with a lovely leapfrog from sixth to the lead.
The weather and crashes threw the whole contest into pandemonium.
In the shake-out, Rosberg found himself back in the pack with Sebastian Vettel and also Lewis Hamilton, who made up a lot of ground despite starting from the pitlane, and spinning on the first lap.
A few others crashed and others, as the track dried, looked for advantages with enterprising tyre choices.
A Ferrari (Fernando Alonso) even led. Twice. It was that kind of strange yet enthralling race.
Ricciardo held sway for a big lump of the middle stages of the race while trying to possibly stretch his stint on fading soft tyres all the way to the chequer. But with 15 laps remaining, there was no alternative but to pit for fresh boots, dropping the Aussie to fourth behind Alonso, Hamilton and Rosberg.
When Rosberg went looking for better tyres, Dan inherited third and was looking menacing. Ahead were two world champions.
With 10 remaining, the gaps between the top three – Alonso to Hamilton, Hamilton to Ricciardo – were compressing tantalisingly, and Rosberg was carving huge chunks out of the front trio as he chased down a podium.
With not even four to go, Dan imperiously swooped around the outside of Hamilton. Second!
Three to go and our Dan charged beneath the struggling Alonso, and made the pass look simple. And that was the ball game, by 5.2 seconds. His second grand prix win, with the accolades flowing from team boss Christian Horner and anyone who saw it.
“Winning this today, it honestly feels as good as the first,” enthused Ricciardo. “It sank in a lot quicker this one, so crossing the line today I knew what was going on a bit more and it’s like I could enjoy it immediately rather than it being delayed.
“It was awesome. To have to pass guys again to win the race, as I did in Canada, makes it a lot more satisfying, knowing that we did have a bit of a fight on our hands – you beauty!
“In this environment now, I feel I am a different driver and in a way a different person, a different sportsman than I was last year. I’ve got a lot more belief in myself and it’s cool; I definitely feel like I belong here now and I’ve got confidence.
“We’ve converted two races into wins this year so far and I think that confidence is showing.”
Alonso tenaciously hauled his slip-sliding Ferrari to second, holding out the equally grip-challenged Hamilton, with Rosberg right there in fourth.
A grand prix classic.
In the title chase, Rosberg is still ahead of Hamilton, 202 points to 191, with Ricciardo third on 131.
For more motor sport news read the Monday Motor Sport Report here.
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