Following the tragic death of Jules Bianchi in the week leading up to the Hungarian Grand Prix, the paddock reconvened at the Hungaroring with a heavy heart.
The loss of a driver is something that many of the sport’s current generation had not experienced before. Across the weekend, many friends and admirers of Bianchi shared stories of the 25-year-old who had an enormously bright future ahead of him in the sport.
Yet the show had to go on in Hungary. Tributes were paid, and Bianchi’s family was on hand to take part in a minute’s silence before the start. In the end though, what followed on track was perhaps the best tribute to Bianchi – a stunning race that he would have enjoyed.
Heading into the race, it appeared that the script had already been written. Lewis Hamilton had finished fastest in every single session leading up to the race and had a fifth win at the Hungaroring firmly in his sights. It would surely take something out of the norm to stop the Briton winning from pole position.
Ferrari tore up the script at the very first corner. Hamilton bogged down off the line to fall all the way down to fourth as Sebastian Vettel took the lead, and then dropped further down the pack by going off-track to avoid hitting teammate NIco Rosberg.
Running tenth, Hamilton fought his way back up to fourth under the safety car, but a collision with Daniel Ricciardo on the restart left him with damage and a penalty for his part in the incident.
All the while, Nico Rosberg had been keeping out of trouble at the front. The German driver struggled throughout the weekend, but remarkably looked set to take the lead of the championship for the first time in 2015 thanks to Hamilton’s misfortune, running second with five laps to go.
He then threw it all away. An attempt to retain second place ahead of the charging Ricciardo left Rosberg with a puncture, leaving him to crawl back to the pits for repairs. He eventually finished the race in eighth place – somehow, Hamilton had escaped a nightmare weekend with an even bigger lead in the championship.
Vettel was one of the few drivers in the race to not make any mistakes and keep his cool. After a disastrous Friday that saw both Ferrari cars hit trouble, the team’s victory was a complete shock, but also the perfect tribute to Bianchi, a protégé that had been lined up to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Maranello in the future.
That is what the 2015 Hungarian Grand Prix will be remembered as: a tribute. F1 does suffer a great deal of criticism when races are dull, but they are akin to a 0-0 draw in football. That is the nature of sport. Not every game or every race will entertain or excite.
But when F1 needed to find a silver lining, it did exactly that. As Vettel said on the podium after the race: “This victory is for Jules.”
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