BUDAPEST, July 31, 2011 (AFP) - It was a bitter-sweet Hungarian Grand Prix for McLaren on Sunday despite the team celebrating a second win in eight days and third in five races.
Jenson Button, the world champion of 2009 won while Lewis Hamilton, the champion the year before, finished fourth after leading the race for long spells.
It was Button's 200th race and a perfect way to mark it as he handled the demanding changeable wet-dry conditions with his now customary aplomb. On a greasy circuit, with little grip, shallow puddles and slippery conditions, he is the master of his era."For some reason, I like these conditions," he said with English understatement.
"Don't ask me why, but it worked out again. It was a great call from the team to put me on the 'prime' tyre when they did, a great call from all of us. "And, all round it has been an amazing weekend. "I want to say a big thank you to the team. Everyone has worked so hard to produce the car we have now. I think we are going into the break on a nice high. Every day we are on holiday we'll be thinking about Spa (the next race in four weeks' time)."
Back on the Hungaroring circuit where he registered his first victory, in 2006, for Honda, at the 113th attempt, he was singing in the rain again. In a race of a record 88 pit stops, Button, who made three, admitted he felt he had the race under control most of the time, but added that he had enjoying fighting with team-mate Hamilton.
"It's very easy to say now, but personally I felt that I was able to look after the tyres for the first stint. I think about halfway through people started struggling, but I was able to push on and the car felt really good. "I knew I was in good shape, the car was working well for me. I thought it was a matter of time in the dry conditions to get the jump on Lewis because at the end of the stints he was struggling.
"It turned out a little bit different with the rain coming down, but I had a lot of fun all the same. It's always fun racing with Lewis. And it's great to come away with a victory this weekend."
Button is now 100 points behind championship leading defending champion German Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull. "It's a big lead, it's going to be very tricky to catch him," he admitted. Hamilton, frustrated by some bad calls on tyres and strategy and then hit by a harsh drive-through penalty by the stewards, said he suffered also from radio problems.
"We were having radio issues -- I could hear my engineers, but they couldn't hear me, so I was constantly asking for information, but they couldn't hear me. So it was a very difficult call for them. "I think there was perhaps one point when they got some information from me, but maybe it was a little bit of info. I heard them say it was going to rain and it was already spitting, so we opted to go for the wet tyres.
"I think they called me in and I did the lap. Anyway the tyres went off and it wasn't necessarily the best call, but that's motor racing." Hamilton's hopes of victory were as much dashed by a penalty for accidentally forcing fellow-Briton Paul di Resta's Force India to deviate off track as the McLaren did a spin-turn to rejoin.
"I made a big mistake," Hamilton admitted. "My left front tyre was pretty worn so I went a bit wide at the chicane and spun, which is very, very rare."Then after that I honestly have to apologise to Paul di Resta. I didn't see him. I had absolutely no clue.
I don't know what happened but I got a penalty for something, which is to be expected, I guess, sometimes. So I apologise to him."