July 27th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - On a swelteringly hot day in Budapest, Lewis Hamilton produced a flawless drive to win from pole position. It's the first time Hamilton has stood on the top step of the podium in 2013 after leaving McLaren at the end of last season. Kimi Raikkonen made superb use of a two-stop strategy to finish second, just ahead of championship leader Sebastian Vettel.
Right from the start, it was clear that Hamilton had the pace to be competitive, which had been a concern ahead of the race. Mercedes have struggled in warm conditions with tyre wear, which is one of the factors that have prevented Hamilton from winning earlier in the season. But today, there were no such problems. Hamilton surged off the line into a comfortable lead by the first corner, and after a couple of laps started to pull away from Sebastian Vettel.
Jenson Button was on a diferent strategy to the front-runners, having started on the medium tyres. That allowed him to run longer in the first stint and he found himself among the leaders in the first half of the race. Vettel, Grosjean and Alonso found themselves held up for quite a while behind the McLaren, which allowed Hamilton to open a significant gap at the front.
Vettel compromised his own race by damaging his front wing against Jenson Button's car in an attempt to pass quite early in the race. That meant he lost some front downforce and had to make an adjustment to his front wing in the pits. Consequently, he changed the balance of the Red Bull and struggled with oversteer right towards the end of the race.
That didn't prevent Vettel from fighting hard to pass Kimi Raikkonen in the closing stages of the race. But the Lotus driver gave nothing away, defending aggressively as he held on to second place on worn tyres. Raikkonen covered 33 laps on his final set of tyres, and impressive feat on such a hot day.
In the other Lotus, Romain Grosjean had his race wrecked by a drive-through penalty for exceeding track limits when he passed Felipe Massa round the outside of turn 4. The penalty seemed quite harsh, given that Grosjean lengthened the track by running wide. In addition, most of the drivers ran wide in that corner on quite a few occasions during the race. But Grosjean served his penalty, which ended his challenge for a podium position.
Earlier in the race, when he passed Jenson Button, Grosjean pushed Button onto the grass under braking for the turn 6 chicane. There was no action taken during the race, but a penalty could still be issued by the stewards afterwards.
Mark Webber had a dismal qualifying session, ending up 10th on the grid after a KERS failure prevented him from setting a time in the final part of qualifying. He started the race on the medium tyres and managed his tyres well to lead the race at one point. He made his final pitstop with 10 laps to go, putting on the soft tyres for a last gasp charge towards the podium. For the first few laps of his final stint, it looked like he had the pace to catch Vettel and Raikkonen ahead, but the pace soon disappeared as his tyres started to wear, and in the end he had to settle for fourth place.
Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg had a day to forget. Opening lap contact with Felipe Massa put him down to 12th position, from which he recovered to run in the points until his engine blew in the last few laps of the race. It's unusual to see engine failures in modern Formula One, but today there were at least two such failures - Valtteri Bottas cruised to a halt on the grass next to the main straight on lap 45 with smoke issuing from his exhausts.
Elsewhere in the field, there were several retirements with mechanical problems. Adrian Sutil's 100th Grand Prix ended on lap 19 when he pulled into the Force India pit to retire. He was followed into retirement by his team-mate, Paul Di Resta, Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez, Bottas and Rosberg. Di Resta and Rosberg retired late enough in the race that they were still classified as finishers, but right at the back of the field.
Hamilton's victory puts him firmly in the title fight. He is 48 points (just under two race wins) behind championship leader Sebastian Vettel and has a car that is performing well. Furthermore, the next two races, in Belgium and Italy, should suit the Mercedes well, as they are both high-power low-downforce tracks. Kimi Raikkonen's second place has helped him to overtake Fernando Alonso in the Drivers' Championship. He is now second in the points table, 38 points behind Vettel and one ahead of Alonso.