Daniel Ricciardo’s superb win in Hungary was a result of both the irrepressible Aussie’s driving, and a unique strategy that proved to be just the ticket.
For the second time this year, Ricciardo and his team were able to take advantage on a day when things did not go entirely to plan for the usually dominant Mercedes team.
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“I think this is even more satisfying than Montreal because we actually beat them without problems,” said Horner. “We got the strategy right, a great performance by Daniel today, the pit stops were good, overtaking moves were excellent, and I think we beat two Mercedes that didn’t have any problems today.”
Ricciardo did of course gain ground on those ahead when he was able to duck into the pits at the first safety car, but the key to winning was coming in under the second safety car. Only three cars opted to do that, and while Daniel went for soft tires, with the intention of stopping again and thus having reasonably fresh rubber for as long as possible, the two Williams drivers went for mediums.
It was that third stint, before he put on fresh tires for the final charge, that proved critical.
“Obviously starting on the inters the circuit in sector one was taking quite a bit of time to dry up. The safety car then came out after the Caterham had a big shunt, we immediately knew it was going to be a safety car, so we called both the boys, ‘box, box, box.’ Seb, being a bit further up the road, was halfway up the last turn, Daniel being a bit further back managed to make the pit lane.
“The first four cars didn’t make the pitlane, the group behind, the ones that did, were then in the pound seats. Jenson then stayed out on the inters, which were the right tire for half a lap of the restart, and then Daniel was able to get into an aggressive strategy.
“The bit that really made it work for him was his penultimate stint, he was able to go so long on the option. We were looking at Massa thinking he was going to try to get to the end, and we were trying to get a pit window to him, then it was a question of we’ve got to stop again, we’ll stop as late as we can to have as fresh a tire as we can for the last 10-15 laps.
“And it didn’t look like it was going to work, because he closed up very quickly, the guys were fighting so hard, it looked like we were going to cook our tires, and we’ve not been quick on the straight all weekend, and it didn’t look like it was going to happen. Then, obviously as they started to get more and more into deg, Daniel just paced himself, and then a fantastic move on Lewis round the outside at Turn 2, and a pretty straightforward move on Fernando, and job done.”
Horner was full of praise for his driver: “The guy is riding the crest of a confidence wave at the moment. You probably heard his radio message after he passed two World Champions. He’s driving the car with such ease at the moment, and things are just falling right for him as well. Being able to get in at the right time for that first stop was a critical element of the race.
“We then had a problem with one of the cylinders on the engine in that penultimate stint, but again the Renault guys were able to find a way around it and disable the sensor, and then his passing moves in the last five laps just topped a fantastic race really.”
Nico Rosberg made his disappointment clear after finishing fourth in the Hungarian GP, but in the immediate aftermath of the race he was keen to avoid saying anything about the team order controversy.
“We have to discuss that internally, it would not make sense to speak about that now,” he said. “I don’t want to speak theoretically about that situation or what if, it’s better to discuss that in the team.”
It was clear that he was frustrated by not being able to pass Lewis Hamilton on the last lap.
“I didn’t see anybody for a while, then I caught him on the last two laps, unfortunately not enough to get by. That’s the most annoying now, the last lap. I had the chance, but I wasn’t able to use it. Of course it was very difficult, so that was a pity. Other than that, a very up and down race. It was always going to be difficult in those conditions. There were some things that went against me today, I’m not complaining, but that was the case, especially the safety car and things like that, the strategy also wasn’t the best.
“At the moment I’m still very annoyed, because I’m still on the last lap at the moment. It will take some time and then I’ll be O.K. for the holiday.
“It was a very difficult race today. Some things went against me, I don’t complain, that’s very normal, that happens, and I just didn’t quite make it happen today, together with my team. It’s a team effort and we’ve just got to do better next time. But still ahead in the championship, that’s important. Got some time now to rethink everything and then full attack again for the next races.”
Alonso shines in Hungary with superd drive to second:
Fernando Alonso was one of the stars of the Hungarian GP, the Spaniard making a set of soft tires last for the final 32 laps of the race and holding off Lewis Hamilton at the flag.
Along with leaders Rosberg, Bottas and Vettel, he lost out by not making it into the pits when the first safety car came out, but he alone managed to recover to the podium.
“It means a lot,” said Alonso. “Obviously we had some tough races recently, and to see one Ferrari again on the podium is the best news. We took the opportunity after a difficult race, with a wet start and then some difficult decisions to make around the safety cars – if we pitted or not. Unfortunately at the first safety car we went a little bit out of position, because the safety car went out and we were in the last corners, so we missed the opportunity to stop.
“We stopped the lap afterwards and we lost a couple of places. We have to attack, we have to overtake a couple of people and just 10 laps to the end we were discussing if we stop and secure the fourth place that we really needed, those points, so just tried to defend the position as much as you can and maybe finish in fourth, so at the end it’s the same result but at least you have the chance to fight for the podium positions.
“So we were in that position 10 laps to the end and at the end we chose the right thing – stay out, defend the position as best we could and secure this second place that, for sure, it tastes like a victory for us at the moment.
“I don’t think that is one of the best in my career. It has been a good and a complex race, let’s say, to execute and perform – because there were some difficulties around the race that make the 70 laps not straight forward. You just need to make decisions during the race and all of them were, together with the team, and I think we did the best we could.”
Alonso admitted that circumstances had helped him.
“This circuit didn’t change much our performance, our position but today we had a little bit of a chaotic race and we took every opportunity we had in front of us. I think cars from behind also had some issues, with Rosberg, with Hamilton yesterday, with the issues in qualifying, we get this position for free. Vettel had a problem in the last corner today, the Force India [crashed]. We had some cars out of the way let’s say and we took benefit from this and we secured some very strong points for the team.”
Daniel Ricciardo did a brilliant job to log his second win of the season in Hungary, and he again succeeded by grabbing the lead right at the end of the race.
On this occasion took advantage of his fresher tires to pass first Lewis Hamilton and then Fernando Alonso in the closing laps of the race.
Safety cars played a crucial role twice. Ricciardo managed to duck into the pits when the first one came out, while the top four all missed out, which put him into the lead. Then, at the second safety car, he took the opportunity to pit and thereafter run a three-stop strategy, which allowed him to push for the rest of the race.
“I knew that the first safety car played into our hands,” he explained. “We inherited the lead there, pitting for slicks and then we were looking alright. Then we got the second safety car and obviously we pitted again for another set of tires but we obviously lost the lead. I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen. We … stayed out pretty long that stint and we were leading a fair chunk of the mid-race but then I knew we weren’t going to get to the end on that set of tires.
“So we had to pit again and that put me back out of position. Then we knew we had to overtake to win the race. Obviously we had the fresher tires at our disposal but I knew it was going to be an exciting finish. I honestly had a scare in the middle of the race, for a few laps we had some issues. Basically, we were down on power and had to get a bit crazy on the switches, so I thought the race could have potentially ended early but we got through that.”
Although he had fresher tires at the end, Ricciardo still had to work hard to get past Hamilton and Alonso to claim the win.
“Obviously there was only one way to win it and that was to get around them. Obviously I had the advantage of the fresher tires, but I knew they wouldn’t make it easy. I attempted Lewis into Turn 2, I think the previous lap or maybe two before I eventually got him, but just locked up and went too wide.
“I had a second crack at it, and I still locked up, but I managed to just hang on and just had a bit more grip around the outside there, so that was that. And then, once I got close enough to Fernando, I knew I just had to go for it. Being in that sandwich there, Lewis was still I think in the DRS zone, basically I couldn’t waste too much time and that’s what I did and then once I got the lead I knew it was just a couple of laps to go.”
Ricciardo hopes that Red Bull can continue to make progress.
“I think today obviously the mixed conditions and the safety cars maybe helped out this order in terms of having three different manufacturers up here, but I would like to think that it can create something for the second half. I think that in pure dry conditions, Mercedes still have a pretty significant edge on everyone else. Spa, it’s a pretty good place to start the second half of the year.
“Maybe the weather and the changes they have there could create something exciting but forgetting all the stats, obviously this is a great thing to see today: three teams, three manufacturers all up here. It’s refreshing, for sure.”