Daniel survived two collisions at the start and end of the Hungarian Grand Prix to power through from P16 after the start to fourth place at the chequered flag in Budapest. However, there were no Hungaroring heroics for Max as a power unit problem saw him drop out of the race after just five laps.
Max made a good start to the race, passing Toro Rosso’s sixth-place starter Pierre Gasly and rising to fifth as Renault’s Carlos Sainz slipped back, and at the end of the first lap the Dutchman was tucked up behind Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari, as polesitter Lewis Hamilton led from team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Daniel was going the other way to Max, though. The Australian lined up in P12 on the grid after misfortune in qualifying and it looked like Daniel might be facing another afternoon of rotten luck when he was hit by Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber immediately after the start.
The Swedish driver’s car smacked into the front left wheel of Daniel’s RB14 and the Honey Badger dropped back to P16. Checks soon revealed he had escaped any damage and thereafter Daniel put all his recent racing woes behind him to deliver a drive of super pace, precision and power.
First though, the team had to endure the pain of seeing Max drop out of the race. On lap 6, just as he was settling into his first stint, Max suddenly slowed dramatically in Turn 3. He quickly reported a loss of power and was told to pull over at Turn 6 and retire from the race.
It was a bitter blow but it was mitigated by the strides Daniel now began to make. By lap 10 he had climbed to 11th place, passing McLaren’s Fernando Alonso under DRS into Turn 1 at the start of the lap.
And his march through the pack continued as he soon passed Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley under DRS in Turn 1, before delivering another textbook move in the same spot to take P7 from the other Renault of Carlos Sainz on lap 16.
The pit window was now open and Raikkonen and Bottas were the first of the leaders to switch tyres on laps 14 and 15 respectively. Race leader Hamilton, starting on ultrasofts, and soft tyre-shod Vettel and Daniel stayed out, however, looking to maximise track position during long stints.
Hamilton eventually visited the pit lane for soft tyres on lap 25, while Vettel stayed on his softs until lap 39.
The German’s stop was slow, however and he emerged behind Bottas and ahead of Raikkonen and Daniel. As Bottas slowed the field on older softs, Hamilton was allowed to build a gap large enough to see him safely to the flag and his fifth win of the season.
Daniel, meanwhile, made his sole stop, for ultrasoft tyres, on lap 44. He then began to give chase to Raikkonen and Bottas.
As the race wore on and there was no significant shift in the gaps at the front, Daniel’s hopes of further progress looked forlorn but on lap 64, Vettel closed in on the Finn, who was visibly beginning to struggle on his aged tyres.
The German made a good move around the outside of Bottas through Turn 1 and had the advantage through Turn 2. But as they went through Turn 3 Bottas didn’t back out as Vettel turned in and the pair collided.
Vettel was able to carry on in P2 with no damage, but Bottas’ front wing was shredded and he was quickly passed by Raikkonen.
Daniel was quick to seize the opportunity and he rapidly closed on the stricken Mercedes. But when he made his move, like Vettel around the outside of Bottas into Turn 1, the Finn, lacking downforce and mechanical grip, understeered into the side of Daniel’s RB14.
The Australian sustained heavy damage to his right bargeboard but he was able to carry on behind Bottas. The incident was marked for investigation by the stewards, but Mercedes immediately told the Finn to hand the position to Daniel. The Badger was in no mood to wait though and simply took the place. Bottas later received a 10 second penalty for the incident.
And on the final lap, after Hamilton had taken his 67th career win ahead of Vettel and Raikkonen, Daniel swept across the line to salvage 12 points’ worth of pride for the Team.
Behind him Bottas was left to take fifth place ahead of Gasly who handed Toro Rosso their best result since his fourth place in Bahrain earlier this season with sixth. Kevin Magnussen was seventh for Haas, while Fernando Alonso celebrated his 37th birthday with a good drive to eighth place. The final points positions were taken by Renault’s Carlos Sainz and Haas’ Romain Grosjean.
OUR RACE IN NUMBERS:
- 50% –Daniel has finished in the top five in six of the season’s first 12 races.
- 3 – DNFs for Max Verstappen so far this season, in Bahrain, Azerbaijan and now Hungary.
- 223 – points for the Team so far, who are third, 112 points behind Ferrari.