Jenson Button marked his 200th Grand Prix with a reminder of his class on Sunday when he drove his McLaren to a stirring victory in a chaotic and incident-filled Hungarian Grand Prix.
The 31-year-old Briton — who started third on the grid — made the most of wretched ill-fortune for his teammate and compatriot Lewis Hamilton in changing wet-dry-wet-dry conditions to record his second win of the year and the 11th of his career.
“It’s a great moment, all round a major weekend. For some reason I like these conditions,” said Button of the slippery track.
Championship leader Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull was second with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in third.
In spite of his second place, Vettel increased his lead in the drivers’ title race. He now has 234 points, 85 ahead of Webber with Hamilton, Alonso and Button bunched up behind.
Red Bull lead the constructors’ table with 383 points ahead of in-form McLaren on 280.
Cool, calm, collected
Back on the circuit where he claimed his first F1 win in 2006 for Honda, Button revelled in the demanding circumstances which saw a record 88 pits stops.
Given a celebratory cake before the race on Saturday, he ate it with relish.
“It was a great call by all of us not to go to the ‘inters’ [intermediate tyres] and a great weekend for the team,” said Button. “We’re going into the break on a nice high but every day we will be thinking about the next race in Spa.
“I felt at end of the first stint the win was on. I was able to look after the tyres, and the car felt really good. It was a lot of fun racing with Lewis — it always is.”
Team chief Martin Whitmarsh was full of praise for Button.
“Jenson drove a great race,” he said. “He was calm, he was cool, he gave us great information. It was one of those great wins in difficult conditions.”
Hamilton, having started second, led for long periods after taking early control but was caught out by a succession of strategic errors — when he chose the wrong tyres in rapidly-changing weather — and a harsh stewards’ decision to give him a drive-through penalty after he forced Paul Di Resta off the track.
“The better man won today,” said Hamilton who finished fourth ahead of Red Bull’s Mark Webber. “He was superb in this race and deserved it.”
The McLaren driver also shrugged off his tyre difficulties.
“We were having radio issues,” he said. “I could hear my engineers but they couldn’t hear me, so I was constantly asking for information but they couldn’t hear me.
“It was a very difficult call for them. I heard them say it was going to rain and it was already spitting, so we opted to go for the wet tyres. It wasn’t necessarily the best call but that’s motor racing.”
Vettel, who won six of the first eight races of the season, admitted that the conditions affected his race.
“I was struggling a bit in the first stint on inters, Lewis was a bit faster,” he said.
“In the last stint I had to let Jenson go, I did feel I had more speed in the car but I had a couple of problems with the brakes.
“Second is an important step but the win was in reach and we didn’t get it. It’s been clear for a couple of races they’ve made a step forward and we need to come back.”
Alonso, who collected his fourth successive podium finish, said his Ferrari team had also taken confidence form the race.
“The car has improved a lot, we are fighting for podiums, pole positions,” he said.
Finding the fun
“July was a fantastic month. I am the driver who scored the most points in July, in three different conditions, at three different tracks,” said Alonso.
“The team did a step forward and McLaren also did a good step forward so competition is quite fun. Unfortunately it was not very hot in July. We love high temperatures so hopefully August and September will be better for us.”
Australian Mark Webber finished fifth in the second Red Bull ahead of Brazilian Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari with impressive British rookie Di Resta seventh for Force India.
This meant that the young Scot — in his first season — was the leading Mercedes powered runner in the race as he came home ahead of Swiss Sebastien Buemi of Toro Rosso, German Nico Rosberg in the leading Mercedes car and Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari in the second Toro Rosso.
Seven-times champion German Michael Schumacher was forced to retire in his Mercedes with gearbox problems.
The teams now have a four-week break before the championship resumes in Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix. — AFP