Ranked: Top 10 Hungarian Grands Prix
We pick the 10 best Hungarian GP from the previous 34 editions, with wet-weather thrillers, underdog performances and strategic masterclasses all on show
10. Hamilton defeats Verstappen, 2019
Pole: Max Verstappen (Red Bull RB15)
Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes W10)
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W10 overtakes Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB15 for the lead
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images
The battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen is one many fans are still waiting to burst fully into life, but there have been glimpses. After taking his first F1 pole, Verstappen appeared to do everything right at the Hungaroring in 2019, but a good strategic call from Mercedes and a well-judged drive from Hamilton snatched it away from the Dutchman.
Verstappen defended the inside into the first corner, the Red Bull and both Mercedes going three-wide. Hamilton outfoxed teammate Valtteri Bottas through the Turn 2-3 sequence and the second Mercedes then made contact with Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.
That made it a two-car contest, Verstappen and Hamilton quickly leaving the rest behind. Hamilton shadowed the leader, with Verstappen remaining resolute before pitting for fresh rubber on lap 25 of 70. Hamilton stayed out six laps longer, giving Verstappen a lead of 6.5s when the Mercedes did come in thanks to faster laps on fresher rubber.
Hamilton soon cut into Verstappen’s lead and launched an attack as the race entered its second half, the duo going wheel-to-wheel. Hamilton even had to take to the runoff at Turn 4 after briefly nosing ahead.
“It was exhilarating stuff, the battle between arguably the two best drivers of today we’ve all been waiting for,” said Autosport’s report. But Hamilton couldn’t breach Verstappen’s defences, so Plan B was instigated.
With a big gap behind, Mercedes decided to call Hamilton in for fresh rubber on lap 48. He emerged 21 seconds behind with 22 laps to go, but had taken nearly 2s of that back by the end of his out-lap.
Red Bull had no chance to respond – Verstappen would have lost the lead if he’d pitted – and so the chase was on. The Mercedes arrived on the Red Bull’s gearbox with just under five laps to go. It didn’t take long for Hamilton to pull alongside on the run to Turn 1 using DRS, completing the move around the outside into Turn 1. He’d only led for 11 of the 70 laps, but victory – his 81st – was Hamilton’s.
9. Williams tortoise beats the hares, 1990
Pole: Thierry Boutsen (Williams FW13B)
Winner: Thierry Boutsen (Williams FW13B)
Race winner Thierry Boutsen, Williams leads Ayrton Senna, McLaren
Photo by: Sutton Images
It would be easy to look at the 1990 Hungarian GP in one of two ways. Either it’s an example of how difficult it is to pass at the Hungaroring, with decent-but-not great Thierry Boutsen holding off the legendary Ayrton Senna. Or it’s a tense GP, with an F1 driver having one of his day of days to score a rare victory. It is, of course, a bit of both.
Given what had happened the year before (see below), poleman Boutsen’s ability to absorb pressure for nearly two hours deserves credit, while there was enough going on behind to make this race more than just a procession.
Boutsen defended his lead from a fast-starting Gerhard Berger, while Senna – in the spare McLaren following a radiator leak on his race car – slipped from fourth to sixth on the opening lap. The top four – Boutsen, Berger, Riccardo Patrese’s Williams and the Ferrari of Nigel Mansell – drew away from the rest.
By the time Senna made it past Jean Alesi’s Tyrrell on lap 21 of 77 he was 13s behind the leader. Almost immediately he picked up a puncture and dived into the pits for fresh rubber. That put Senna 10th, 41.5s behind Boutsen.
While the McLaren started a charge, the other car on the move was Alessandro Nannini’s Benetton. He took fifth from Alesi on lap 24 and closed on the leading quartet. After 35 laps, just 2.4s covered the top five. Senna made it into sixth just before half distance and he too started closing.
Several of the drivers now considered coming in for fresh rubber. Boutsen stayed out, but Berger dived in with 29 laps to go. “Boutsen, Patrese, Mansell, Nannini and Senna were covered by fewer than 4s,” wrote Autosport’s Nigel Roebuck. “There were 25 laps to go, and this looked like a shootout.”
When Mansell got too close to Patrese out of the last corner, Nannini pounced and Senna followed him through into Turn 2. Patrese, his tyres now shot and wanting to come in, stayed out to help Boutsen escape, but he finally pitted on lap 56.
Boutsen now led Nannini by 5.7s, but the top five, which was completed by Senna, Mansell and Berger, were soon together again. On lap 64 Senna tried an ambitious move on Nannini at the chicane. The McLaren booted the Benetton out of the way and into retirement but somehow kept going.
On lap 72 Berger duplicated the move on Mansell. This time both were wounded, leaving a simple Boutsen v Senna battle in the closing moments.
“At the start of the penultimate lap Senna put a move on Boutsen into the first turn, but Thierry hadn’t put in all that work for nothing, and resolutely slammed the door in his friend’s face,” reported Roebuck. Boutsen held on to take his third and final F1 victory by 0.3s.
8. Prost just fails to pip Senna, 1988
Ayrton Senna, McLaren MP4-4 Honda
Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch
Pole: Ayrton Senna (McLaren MP4/4)
Winner: Ayrton Senna (McLaren MP4/4)
Traffic and a more competitive field than was normally seen in 1988 meant Alain Prost lined up only seventh, with five normally aspirated runners between him and his polesitting McLaren teammate Senna.
Prost was much happier with his MP4/4 in Sunday warm-up, which he topped by 0.7s, presaging a charging race performance. A poor start made his job even harder and he completed lap one in ninth, 4.9s behind leader Senna.
Prost passed Mauricio Gugelmin’s March, while Ivan Capelli’s March started suffering from a misfire, so the McLaren was seventh at the end of lap two. Prost appeared in no hurry early on, but gradually picked people off: Berger’s Ferrari on lap 10; the Benetton of Nannini on lap 12; an ill Mansell with flat-spotted tyres on lap 28 of 76.
When Patrese’s Williams developed a misfire, Prost moved into third, so at half distance Senna led Boutsen’s Benetton by 1.8s, with Prost another 3s back. The trio closed up – after 41 laps just 1.3s covered all three.
Senna extended his lead in traffic but, once Prost nipped ahead of Boutsen, the gap came down. Going on to lap 49 Senna was delayed in traffic and Prost boldly went down the inside into the first corner. Senna gave him just enough room, but Prost slid wide and lost the lead again.
“I knew he was quicker than I was today and I had to get back as soon as possible,” said Senna. A left-front wheel vibration compromised Prost, but he made another bid in the closing laps, falling just 0.5s short.
7. Button versus Hamilton in the rain, 2011
Jenson Button, McLaren MP4/26
Photo by: Sutton Images
Pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull RB7)
Winner: Jenson Button (McLaren MP4-26)
The Hungarian weather helped make the 2011 GP an entertaining one and it was McLaren’s Jenson Button who shone brightest, after a fight with teammate Hamilton.
Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull led initially from pole on a damp track, chased by Hamilton and Button. After being robustly held off once, Hamilton took the lead from Vettel at the Turn 2 left-hander on lap five of 70.
Hamilton still led after the first round of pitstops, in which the leaders switched from intermediates to slicks, and initially built his advantage over Button, who had overcome Vettel on-track. But Hamilton was using his tyres harder than the 2009 world champion and, as the second stops approached, the gap started coming down.
The order was the same after Hamilton’s second stop on lap 26, but the 2008 world champion once again hit trouble with his left-front tyre and Button started looming in his mirrors. Hamilton came in for a third time on lap 40 and it appeared Button could save himself a stop when he came in on lap 42 and switched to a harder compound, potentially gaining a winning advantage.
As drizzle intensified, Button started chipping away at the gap once again. Then Hamilton spun at the chicane, forcing Paul di Resta to take avoiding action as he rejoined, and Button swept by. Hamilton fought back and the duo put on a superb display, passing and repassing, with Hamilton moving ahead when Button ran wide at Turn 2.
But then Hamilton came in for intermediate tyres, while Button refused to pit, believing he could maintain his pace on slicks. He was right. The rain eased and Hamilton was soon back in. Adding insult to injury, he received a drivethrough penalty for his earlier unsafe rejoin.
Hamilton fought back and overtook fourth-placed Mark Webber in traffic, but up front Button had done everything right. He crossed the line 3.6s ahead of Vettel – and 48.3s before Hamilton – to score one of his greatest wins.
6. Piquet’s greatest overtake, 1986
Nelson Piquet, Williams FW11 Honda
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Pole: Ayrton Senna (Lotus 98T)
Winner: Nelson Piquet (Williams FW11)
This race makes the list almost entirely down to Nelson Piquet’s pass on Senna, surely one of the greatest overtaking moves in F1 history. Senna beat his fellow Brazilian to pole in the first world championship GP behind the Iron Curtain and the Lotus led at the start.
Mansell initially jumped to second, but Williams teammate Piquet was quicker and went by as they started lap three of 76. Piquet had used his T-car in practice to compare two differentials and selected the one previously rejected by Mansell. It gave him a clear advantage and the race was all about Senna v Piquet.
Piquet started pressuring the leader and dived down the inside at Turn 1 on lap 12. The Williams built a small advantage before pitting for fresh tyres at the end of lap 35. Piquet rejoined in second, 22s behind Senna.
Fast laps from the leader then built the gap so that Senna retained the lead when me made his own stop. After 43 laps, the margin was 7.7s. Piquet closed in and, starting lap 55, tried to replicate his earlier move. But this time Senna forced him onto a tighter line and the Williams slid wide, the Lotus immediately shooting back past.
Two laps later Piquet tried again, this time on the outside and his Williams snapped luridly sideways under braking. But Piquet not only kept control, he was able to complete the move across the front of the Lotus to dramatically secure the lead.
Piquet initially pulled away, but Senna came back at him – both setting their best laps in the closing stages. Piquet held his nerve and ended up with an unrepresentative winning margin of 17.7s as the Lotus-Renault’s engine died in the closing miles.
5. Schumacher and Ferrari outwit McLaren, 1998
Michael Schumacher, Ferrari F300
Photo by: Sutton Images
Pole: Mika Hakkinen (McLaren MP4-13)
Winner: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F300)
The 1998 race is remembered as one of Michael Schumacher’s greatest drives. Dynamic Ferrari strategy and qualifying-style laps at a crucial moment were enough to overturn a McLaren 1-2 on the grid.
McLaren played a key role in its downfall. All seemed well in the early stages, with poleman Mika Hakkinen leading from David Coulthard, and even after the first round of pitstops the silver cars led.
But when Schumacher made his second stop on lap 43 of 77 and committed to a three-stop strategy, the race came alive. And McLaren blundered.
Instead of bringing in Hakkinen next time through to ensure he kept his lead, it brought in Coulthard for his second and final stop. He rejoined behind Schumacher, as did Hakkinen when he came in on lap 46. That meant Schumacher led by 5s. He now had 15 laps to build up enough of an advantage to make his third stop.
He started putting in a string of fast laps and McLaren again played into Ferrari’s hands. Hakkinen was suffering handling issues on his final set of tyres, but it wasn’t until lap 52 that Coulthard was allowed through. The gap to Schumacher was already 11s, despite a brief off by the leader, and Coulthard’s chase was hampered by a wrongly pressured rear tyre.
The Ferrari’s Goodyears also proved better than the Bridgestones the McLarens were on, allowing Schumacher to continue extending his lead.
“For me it was like a qualifying race,” said Schumacher, who made his third and final stop with 15 laps to go. He emerged 5s ahead of Coulthard and took a shock win by 9.4s.
4. Hill and Arrows denied at the last, 1997
Damon Hill, Arrows Yamaha A18
Photo by: Sutton Images
Pole: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F310B)
Winner: Jacques Villeneuve (Williams FW19)
“Amazing Damon,” said Autosport magazine’s cover after reigning world champion Damon Hill got within two miles of scoring a remarkable victory for Arrows.
The A18 had started the season more than 5s off the pace, but development work brought it nearer the front and at the Hungaroring its Bridgestones were better than the Goodyear tyres, which suffered blistering, on most of the other runners.
Hill, who always went well at the Hungaroring, qualified third and jumped Jacques Villeneuve’s slow-starting Williams off the line. Remarkably, he then dived down the inside of leader Schumacher’s Ferrari into the first corner on lap 11.
“It was a fantastic weekend where we were blessed with a poor tyre decision by Goodyear and Bridgestone got it right,” says Hill. “We managed to get a good balance and Michael couldn’t get off the corners – after a few laps his tyres were finished and I managed to get past him.”
And then he simply drove away from the field, with Heinz-Harald Frentzen’s Williams – one of the few frontrunners to start on harder Goodyears – the only real challenger until he retired with a fuel tank issue.
With three laps to go Hill was 34s ahead of second-placed Villeneuve. Hill looked set to take his first victory since leaving Williams – and take a maiden success for Arrows in the team’s 20th season (and give this race an even higher spot on our list!).
But then hydraulics failure gave him throttle and gearbox problems. He was forced to crawl round and Villeneuve passed him on the final tour.
“To get within one lap of the end and then for something to happen was a little bit cruel, but at least we got to the finish,” says Hill. “People talk about that one almost more than any other race in my career.”
3. Ricciardo wins a thriller, 2014
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB10
Photo by: Sutton Images
Pole: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes W05)
Winner: Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull RB10)
This race made it into our list of the top 10 F1 races of the 2010s, so it was always going to feature strongly here. It was the first season of Mercedes domination in the turbo hybrid era and Nico Rosberg led early on in damp conditions, his job made easier by the fact that teammate Hamilton had to start from the pitlane and then went off on lap one.
Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull started fourth and fell to sixth on the opening lap. But the complexion of the race changed when Marcus Ericsson crashed his Caterham and brought out the safety car too late for the leading four to dive into the pits.
Button and Ricciardo could and did. Ricciardo jumped Button during the stops. The McLaren went by at the restart, but was on intermediate tyres, which soon needed changing as the track dried.
Ricciardo then built a lead over Felipe Massa’s Williams, which was ahead of a good fight for third involving Fernando Alonso, Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso, Rosberg, Vettel and the recovering Hamilton.
When the Force India of Sergio Perez crashed and brought out another safety car, Ricciardo and Massa pitted, leaving Alonso at the front of the pack. As others stopped Ricciardo moved forward, despite a brief scare thanks to an engine sensor, and led until his final stop on lap 54 of 70.
The different strategies set up an exciting climax. Alonso led but was on old soft tyres, Hamilton was second on ageing mediums, while Ricciardo had fresh softs. He moved into third when Rosberg, who had been thwarted by Hamilton despite team orders, made his final stop with 14 laps to go.
In one of his finest performances in the recalcitrant Ferrari F14 T, Alonso continued to hold off Hamilton, but the charging Ricciardo was a different challenge. With four laps to go he went around the outside of Hamilton at the Turn 2 left-hander, securing second at the downhill Turn 3.
Next time around Ricciardo dived inside Alonso into the first corner to snatch an unlikely victory. Rosberg’s late charge meant he finished just 1.2s behind Alonso, with Hamilton between them.
2. Alonso and Button are the rainmasters, 2006
Jenson Button, Honda RA106
Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images
Pole: Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren MP4-21)
Winner: Jenson Button (Honda RA106)
There aren’t many races in which two F1 aces each put in one of their greatest drives, but Alonso and Button both starred in 2006.
Two key ingredients made this race a good one. The first was that Schumacher’s Ferrari (11th), Button’s Honda (14th) and the Renault of Alonso (15th) started well down the field thanks to penalties. The other was the weather.
On a wet track, all three rapidly charged through the pack. At the end of lap one, Schumacher was fourth, Alonso sixth and Button 11th. On lap four Alonso, his Michelin intermediate tyres working better than Schumacher’s Bridgestones, went around the outside of the Ferrari to take fourth. Button moved into seventh on the same lap.
After seven laps Alonso and Button were third and fourth, behind only the McLarens of Kimi Raikkonen and Pedro de la Rosa. The McLarens and Button made their pitstops relatively early but the heavily fuelled Renault simply kept going.
Alonso had easily built up enough of a lead to make his stop and resume ahead when Raikkonen clashed with Vitantonio Liuzzi’s Toro Rosso and brought out the safety car. Alonso initially pulled away from Button at the restart before the Honda started to reel him in. By the end of lap 43, they were together, but then Button had to make a fuel stop.
He resumed on intermediates, while Alonso went five laps longer, switched to dry rubber and kept the lead. The race seemed won, but a faulty wheel-locking mechanism meant Alonso’s right-rear wheel came loose on his out-lap and he retired.
Button then took over in the lead. He made his final stop on lap 54 of 70 and took a remarkable first F1 victory, more than half a minute clear of second-placed de la Rosa, making his one and only podium appearance in F1.
Schumacher had survived an early clash with Giancarlo Fisichella’s Renault and was battling Nick Heidfeld’s BMW Sauber for third when contact put him out. The Ferrari ended up being classified eighth at the end a classic rain-affected GP.
1. Mansell magic from row six, 1989
Nigel Mansell, Ferrari and Thierry Boutsen, Williams
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Pole: Riccardo Patrese (Williams FW12C)
Winner: Nigel Mansell (Ferrari 640)
Our number one choice included another great overtaking move, one of the best performances by an F1 legend and didn’t require rain to spice things up. And there wasn’t any last-minute unreliability to prevent the right result. Mansell was not happy with his Ferrari during practice and decided major changes were required overnight.
“We had problems with understeer and we had a big discussion to have some different front flaps made, and we transformed the car,” recalled Mansell in an interview with Murray Walker in 1992.
“For the race I was optimistic, but the problem was I was 12th. No one ever thought you could win from that far back because it’s so difficult to pass.
“I pumped myself up for that start more than any other.”
That worked and Mansell completed the first lap in eighth. But then he had to bide his time, looking after his tyres, and did not gain another spot until lap 12 of the 77-lapper. Up at the front, Patrese’s Williams led, tracked by Senna’s McLaren and Berger in the other Ferrari.
The trio was soon joined by Prost’s McLaren so that, after 20 laps, the top four were covered by just 2.2s. Mansell had just overtaken Boutsen’s Williams and was looking for a way by Alex Caffi’s Dallara, which had qualified an amazing third, 18s behind Patrese. He was through within two laps and now charged after the leading group.
Berger pitted for fresh rubber and by half-distance, Mansell was with Prost, less than 2s covering the top four. While Senna harassed Patrese, Mansell set about Prost. A superb run through Turn 3 got him the run he needed and he swept into third on lap 41, Prost not putting up too much of a fight thanks to an engine pick-up issue.
The leading four continued to run together until, with 25 laps to go, Patrese’s radiator was punctured and the others streaked by. Prost also fell back, leaving a Senna-Mansell fight.
The Ferrari was faster, but the McLaren-Honda was quicker in a straight line. It didn’t matter how close Mansell got coming out of the last corner, he wasn’t able to stay close enough down the main straight to try a move into Turn 1. He needed a different solution.
Stefan Johansson provided it on lap 58. Senna caught the slow Onyx as they plunged through Turn 3 and hesitated. Mansell jinked out and the cars went three-abreast on the run to Turn 4. The Ferrari had more momentum and was comfortably ahead when they got there.
“It was very rare that Ayrton put himself in a position that – he just got a little bit too close and, before he knew it, there was nowhere for him to go, because I’d boxed him in behind Stefan,” Mansell told Autosport in 2014.
“You can’t plan things like that. You’ve got to be ready and I was there to take full advantage of it. That was probably one of the most tremendous, spontaneous moves that you could possibly have, so that was very satisfying.”
Once ahead, Mansell raced clear to take arguably his greatest victory by 26s.
“By a league this was the best race of the season,” reckoned Roebuck, “maybe of several.”
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