Daniel Ricciardo stormed to a stunning win in a thrilling Hungarian Grand Prix.
The Australian produced a faultless drive, battling his way past Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton in the final laps of the race after a late tyre stop to claim his second Formula 1 victory, as the Spaniard and the Mercedes racer rounded out the top three, with early leader Nico Rosberg missing a spot on the podium by just half a second.
After a rain shower an hour ahead of the race start, the field started on the intermediate tyres, and as the lights went out it was Rosberg that converted his pole into an early lead, while behind the German, Valtteri Bottas and Fernando Alonso swamped Sebastian Vettel down into turn one, as the field streamed cleanly through the opening corner.
Starting from the pitlane, Lewis Hamilton was an early spinner, the Mercedes man losing it at the entry to turn two on cold brakes, the 2008 champion fortunate to recover after whacking the barrier with his left front wheel.
While Rosberg sprinted into an early lead, dropping Bottas and Vettel, Hamilton started his charge through the field, the Briton up to 13th by the time the safety car was deployed on lap nine after a heavy accident for Marcus Ericsson at turn three.
With a swathe of the front runners stopping under the safety car, including Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo was promoted to the race lead, ahead of Jenson Button, who made the switch to the intermediate tyres.
Button dived past the Australian on the restart, only to pit two laps later, McLaren’s tyre gamble having failed, the 2009 champion and his team-mate Kevin Magnussen relegated to the back of the field, promoting Ricciardo back into the lead, ahead of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, while the early leader Nico Rosberg found himself down in seventh.
The safety car was out for a second time on lap 23 prompting stops for Ricciardo and Massa following a heavy accident for Sergio Perez on the start-finish straight, the Mexican running wide at the final corner, his car spat back into the pit wall at high-speed.
With the debris cleared Fernando Alonso lead the field away, the Spaniard quickly dropping Jean-Eric Vergne, the Toro Rosso man running in a surprise second, ahead of Rosberg, Vettel and Hamilton, up to fifth despite the early spin.
Rosberg, unable to pass Vergne’s stubborn Toro Rosso was in for his second stop on lap 33, as Vettel almost pulled of a carbon copy of Perez’s earlier crash, the four-time world champion spinning wildly after running across the still wet astroturf at the exit of the final corner, only somehow managing to keep the Red Bull out of the wall.
Hamilton was in to switch to the medium tyres seven laps later, the 2008 champion pitting from the lead, rejoining fifth, just two seconds ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Rosberg.
While Ricciardo attempted to eek out his soft tyres to the end out front, Rosberg closed on Hamilton, Mercedes asking Hamilton to let his team-mate, who still need to stop again, through, the Briton instead holding the position, much to his team-mates distress via team radio.
Ricciardo was in for the final time on lap 55 for a set of soft tyres, handing the lead back to Fernando Alonso, while Rosberg, unable to clear Hamilton, was into the pits just two laps later, dropping to seventh behind the train of Bottas, Massa and Kimi Raikkonen.
While Rosberg quickly sliced his way into fourth, attention turned to the battle at the front between Alonso, Hamilton and Ricciardo, the Australian on fresh rubber after his stop.
In a dramatic conclusion to the race, Ricciardo first passed Hamilton, then the struggling Alonso, who had completed over 30 laps on the soft tyres, for the race lead with just three laps to go, all while Rosberg closed in on the battling trio, cutting a deficit of 15 seconds to his team-mate to just a car length by the final lap.
Ricciardo though was untouchable out front, securing his second win of the season, ahead of Fernando Alonso, on the podium for just the second time this year, and Lewis Hamilton, who stormed from the pitlane to claim the final spot on the podium.
Pole man Nico Rosberg recovered to come home fourth, having seen his early lead eliminated by the first safety car period, the German just half a second shy of his team-mate at the finish.
Felipe Massa was a distant fifth for Williams, two seconds ahead of his former-Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen at the flag, the Finn collecting his best finish of the season with sixth.
Sebastian Vettel came home seventh, some forty seconds behind his race winning team-mate after his spin on the start-finish line.
Valtteri Bottas finished eighth in the second Williams car, while Jean-Eric Vergne, who ran as high as second, and Jenson Button, who monetarily led the race early on, rounded out the top ten, the McLaren racer collecting the last point on offer.
Adrian Sutil was 11th for Sauber, the German missing out on both his and the team’s first point of the season by just a second.
McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen was a disappointing 12th, ahead of Pastor Maldonado in the sole Lotus to finish, his team-mate Romain Grosjean having spun out at turn three during the opening safety car period.
Daniil Kvyat was a lapped 14th, while Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton were the last of the classified runners, 15th and 16th respectively, the Frenchman surviving contact with Maldonado early in the race at turn one.
Hungarian Grand Prix – Provisional Classification
1. Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull-Renault – 1h53:05.058
2. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari +5.225s
3. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes +5.857s
4. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes +6.361s
5. Felipe Massa – Williams-Mercedes +29.841s
6. Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari +31.491s
7. Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault +40.964s
8. Valtteri Bottas – Williams-Mercedes +41.344s
9. Jean-Eric Vergne – Toro Rosso-Renault +58.527s
10. Jenson Button – McLaren-Mercedes +1m07.280s
11. Adrian Sutil – Sauber-Ferrari +1m08.169s
12. Kevin Magnussen – McLaren-Mercedes +1m18.465s
13. Pastor Maldonado – Lotus-Renault +1m24.024s
14. Daniil Kvyat – Toro Rosso-Renault -1 lap
15. Jules Bianchi – Marussia-Ferrari -1 lap
16. Max Chilton – Marussia-Ferrari -1 lap
Esteban Gutierrez – Sauber-Ferrari – 33 laps
Kamui Kobayashi – Caterham-Renault – 25 laps
Sergio Perez – Force India-Mercedes – 23 laps
Nico Hulkenberg – Force India-Mercedes – 15 laps
Romain Grosjean – Lotus-Renault – 11 laps
Marcus Ericsson – Caterham-Renault – 8 laps
Image courtesy of Red Bull/Getty Images