BUDAPEST, Hungary – Daniel took a thrilling second career win with a brilliant drive at the Hungarian Grand Prix that saw him pass both Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso the final four laps. Sebastian, meanwhile finished seventh after an early safety car period compromised his chances of capitalizing on a front-row start.
The race began in wet conditions, with the field opting to start on intermediate tires. Starting from fourth, Daniel lost two positions into Turn 1 in the tricky conditions, when the lights went out. The race began to come to him, though, on lap eight. Caterham's Marcus Ericsson lost control of his car in Turn 3 and hit the barriers hard, bringing out the safety car. At the front, Nico Rosberg and the chasing duo of Valtteri Bottas, and Sebastian lost out on the immediate chance to pit for new tires, the trio having passed the pitlane entrance.
Daniel, though, was one of those who came in, the Aussie taking on soft tires in anticipation of further improvements in conditions as the rain stayed away. And when the leaders visited the pitlane on the following lap, the quick thinking vaulted Dan from sixth to the lead. He was passed by Jenson Button on the restart, McLaren putting on intermediate tires in the belief that more rain was due, but Button was soon back in pit lane as the showers stayed away and he lost any advantage by being on the inters.
Daniel was back in the pits on lap 23 as another accident brought out the safety car. This time it was Force India's Sergio Perez who made the mistake, the Mexican losing control of his car in the final turn and slamming into the pit wall.
The team brought Daniel in again for a set of new soft tires. But as those around him stayed out, he rejoined in sixth place. However, with those ahead needing to take on fresh tires at some stage, the race would come back to him.
It did so and he once again claimed the lead on lap 39 ahead of Williams' Felipe Massa, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, who had risen from a pit lane start to the brink of the podium positions.
Massa needed to pit and disappeared from the lead on lap 45, freeing up Daniel. He was soon on the radio, however, telling the team that he didn't feel he could nurse his second set of soft tires to the flag. He pitted on lap 54 and dropped to fourth, behind new leader Alonso, who was nursing his tires to the end, Hamilton, who did not require another stop and the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn pitted on lap 56 and Daniel used his greater pace on fresh tires to reel in Hamilton and Alonso.
After several attempts to pass the hyper-defensive Hamilton, Ricciardo eventually made a great move stick around the outside and then on lap 68 muscled past Alonso to claim the lead and his second grand prix win of the season.
"Winning this today, it honestly feels as good as the first,” said Ricciardo. “It sank in a lot quicker this one, so crossing the line today I knew what was going on a bit more and it's like I could enjoy it immediately rather than it being delayed, it was awesome. To have to pass guys again to win the race, as I did in Canada, makes it a lot more satisfying, knowing that we did have a bit of a fight on our hands – you beauty! In this environment, now I feel I am a different driver and in a way a different person – a different sportsman than I was last year. I've got a lot more belief in myself and it's cool. I definitely feel like I belong here now, and I've got confidence; obviously we've converted two races into wins this year so far, and I think that confidence is showing. I've got some friends from Australia here this weekend, so the plan was to always have a few drinks tonight, so I think we've got an excuse to now!"
By contrast, it was a frustrating afternoon for Sebastian. After claiming his second front-row start of the season, Seb took a cautious approach to the wet start, but unsighted by the spray coming from the back of pole position man and race leader Nico Rosberg, Seb lost out to Bottas in Turn 1. He was then passed by Alonso but fought back to retake third place in Turn 5.
That gave the champion a good platform for the rest of the race, but when the first safety car period arrived, Seb's race began to unravel. A technical error on the restart hurt his chances further and then a spin on the exit of the final corner on lap 33 dropped him down the field. He pitted at the end of that lap and then ran a set of medium tires until the end of the race, finishing seventh.
"It wasn't a great race," said Vettel. "I spun, which was my mistake, and before that I was unlucky with the safety car in the first stint. The timing meant the first four cars lost positions to those running behind. Unfortunately we were then in the wrong mode for the restart, and I lost two positions. It's good for Daniel that he won today. I'm happy for him."
Team Principal Christian Horner later hailed Daniel's performance as "truly sensational."
"Starting in wet conditions, he benefited from being a little bit further back and being able to get in for slick tires at the first safety car and then really managed to make his strategy work on the soft tires through the next stages of the race," said Horner. "We knew we'd have to make a final stop, which would put us behind Alonso and Hamilton who were trying to get to the end. But he closed the gap down quickly and then, with some fantastic overtaking maneuvers in the last five laps, pulled off a dramatic victory to achieve the second in his career and our second this season."
After the first safety car period hurt Sebastian's chances, the Team Principal said the rest of the champion's race had been about "damage limitation."
"After a good start and some good battles, he got the call at the same time as Daniel to pit after the Caterham had an accident, but was too far round the last corner to make it into the pit lane," said Horner. "He then had to stop under the safety car, which meant he lost some places. He was making progress, but then had the spin and managed to avoid the pit wall, but he flat-spotted his tires and then had a problem at the restart. It was then a question of damage limitation, trying to run the hard tires to the end of the race, and he did a phenomenal job to keep Bottas behind him."
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