German driver Sebastian Vettel delivered an emotional high-speed tribute to his late colleague Jules Bianchi on Sunday when he stormed to victory for Ferrari in a dramatic and incident-filled Hungarian Grand Prix.
The four-time world champion claimed his second victory of the season and 41st of his career — drawing him level with the late Brazilian legend Ayrton Senna in equal third on the all-time list — after leading from the start to dominate a thrilling and unpredictable contest.
The Red Bull pair of Russian Daniil Kvyat and Australian Daniel Ricciardo finished in second and third respectively.
The ferocity of the contest, lit up by Vettel’s blazing speed and tenacity, served as an appropriate tribute to Frenchman Bianchi, who died on July 17 from injuries sustained when he collided with a recovery vehicle in torrential rain at last October’s Japanese Grand Prix.
A minute’s silence for Bianchi, a Ferrari academy protégé, before the race created an emotional atmosphere that was reflected in the action and in Vettel’s speech to the Ferrari team on his triumphant slow-down lap.
“Merci Jules, c’est a toi,” said the winner. “Thank you Jules, You will always be in our hearts This win is for you.”
It was Vettel’s first victory in Hungary, and 21-year-old Kvyat’s first career podium – the best ever by a Russian driver — as Red Bull produced a reminder of their pedigree. It was the first podium this year without a Mercedes driver.
Dutch teenager Jos Verstappen finished fourth for Toro Rosso — on a track where his father Jos finished on the podium in 1994 — ahead of two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso who delivered the troubled McLaren Honda team’s best result of the year in fifth place.
Series leader and defending two-time champion Briton Lewis Hamilton finished sixth, after starting from pole position, for Mercedes to enlarge his advantage in the title race after an afternoon of incidents, mishaps and penalties.
Inspired, perhaps, by the team’s call for total commitment to racing in a signal of respect for Bianchi, Vettel surged from third on the grid to pass Rosberg into Turn One.
Behind him, team-mate Kimi Raikkonen followed closely as both Rosberg and Hamilton attempted to defend, but just as at Silverstone three weeks previously, the two Mercedes men were out-started comprehensively.
Hamilton was relegated to fourth on the opening lap during which, in an attempt to pass Rosberg, he ran wide across a gravel trap at the chicane.
He returned to the track in a spray of stones, re-joining in 10th place. “Nico crossed my line there, he pushed me wide,” said Hamilton, a claim not supported by video replays.
After closing the gap behind Rosberg to five seconds, Hamilton lost time in traffic while Raikkonen, suffering more bad luck, lost power and slowed before Hulkenberg, after losing the front wing on his Force India car in a frightening incident on the straight, crashed directly into the barriers at Turn One.
A virtual safety car was deployed immediately followed by the Safety Car as debris was cleared. As the field closed up, both Rosberg and Hamilton pitted for harder medium tyres for a final rush to the flag.
More drama erupted at the re-start on lap 49. Sensing his chance, Rosberg attacked and passed Raikkonen for second while Hamilton, on harder tyres, struggled against Ricciardo and collided with him at Turn One, the Briton losing a front wing end-plate.
It was his final significant act. He pitted on lap 52 for a new front wing, re-joined 13th and was then given a drive-through penalty for his part in the incident.
Rosberg, free of his earlier tussles, raced after Vettel.
He cut the gap while Ricciardo, on softs, closed behind him before a late collision between the pair when the Australian tried to pass him at Turn One with four laps remaining left Rosberg with a puncture and Ricciardo with a damaged front wing.
This opened the door to Kvyat and gave Hamilton his chance to climb back ahead of Rosberg in an unexpected finish on a remarkable day. – Agence France-Presse