Round thirteen of the 2006 Formula 1 season took place at the Hungaroring circuit in Hungary, with Fernando Alonso heading into the event with an eleven point advantage in the Drivers’ Championship over Michael Schumacher, while the Constructor’s Championship advantage was with Renault, who held a ten-point gap to Ferrari.
For Alonso and Renault, the weekend could not have got off to a worse or more controversial start, with the Spaniard being handed a two-second qualifying penalty for dangerously overtaking another driver during Friday practice in a yellow flag zone. This meant he would have two seconds added to his qualifying time in each qualifying session.
A similar fate would then befall Schumacher and Ferrari, when the German driver overtook two drivers, one of which was Alonso, during a red flag period in Saturday practice. All this meant was that the two championship contenders would be out of position on the grid on Sunday, with Schumacher starting eleventh and Alonso fifteenth.
Two other drivers would incur grid penalties ahead of qualifying, with Jenson Button and Christijan Albers both taking ten-place drops for changing their engines, with Honda driver Button the biggest loser, dropping from fourth on the grid to fourteenth as a result, while Midland driver Albers would start right at the back in twenty-second.
Qualifying around the 4.381km track saw Finn Kimi Raikkonen take pole position for the McLaren-Mercedes team, out-qualifying Brazilian Felipe Massa of Ferrari by 0.287s, with Rubens Barrichello third for Honda. Pedro de la Rosa moved up to fourth in the second McLaren as a result of Button’s penalty, while Mark Webber of Williams and Ralf Schumacher of Toyota shared row three.
Race day in Hungary saw the first ever wet Hungarian Grand Prix, with Raikkonen leading the way early on, with both Schumacher and Alonso making strong gains early on as they made amends for their practice misdemeanours.
Schumacher was fourth at the end of the first lap, and Alonso sixth, before the Spaniard moved ahead of team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella on lap two and ahead of Schumacher on lap four that saw him jump into fourth, and when Barrichello pitted on lap five, Alonso was already into a podium position.
On lap seven, Raikkonen still led the way ahead of de la Rosa and Alonso, while Button also managed to climb through the field and had passed Schumacher for fourth.
Raikkonen made his first pit stop of the afternoon on lap seventeen, a lap after de la Rosa, handing the lead to Alonso for the first time in the afternoon. Unfortunately for Raikkonen, he would not be in position to retake the lead again, when the McLaren driver collided into the back of Vitantonio Liuzzi’s Toro Rosso on lap twenty-six, bringing the safety car out onto the track while the cleared the wreckage from the circuit.
Alonso took the opportunity to pit behind the safety car and remained in the lead as a result, with Button now up to second ahead of de la Rosa and Barrichello, while Schumacher was now down in seventh behind Nick Heidfeld’s BMW Sauber and David Coulthard’s Red Bull.
On the restart, Button was able to pressurise Alonso for the lead, but was forced to pit for fuel soon after, allowing Alonso some breathing space. However, the wheels would literally come off for the championship leader when he made his second stop, when a wheel nut was not attached to his car properly, meaning a spin into the barriers at turn two, ending his afternoon that had been so strong up to then.
This promoted Button into the lead of the Grand Prix for the first time, and the Briton was never challenged thereafter, with the Honda driver taking his maiden Formula 1 victory and the first victory for Honda since the 1967 Italian Grand Prix.
The track was drying towards the end of the Grand Prix, with many drivers switching from the intermediate tyre to the dry tyre, but one of those who did not change was Michael Schumacher, who gambled on staying on the intermediates. He initially climbed to second as a result, but despite some controversial moves to hold off de la Rosa by cutting the chicane at the back of the circuit, he eventually fell behind the Spaniard, who took his first ever Formula 1 podium as a result.
Schumacher would then bang wheels with Heidfeld with two laps to go while defending third, breaking the Ferrari’s suspension and forcing him to retire. Heidfeld would claim the first podium for BMW Sauber as a result.
Barrichello finished fourth in the second Honda ahead of Coulthard, while Ralf Schumacher took sixth ahead of Robert Kubica, who was making his Formula 1 debut for the BMW Sauber team after Jacques Villeneuve left the team following the German Grand Prix. Unfortunately for Kubica, he was subsequently disqualified from the event for having an underweight car, caused by excessive tyre wear due to remaining on intermediates at the end.
Kubica’s disqualification meant Felipe Massa took seventh for Ferrari, while Michael Schumacher was promoted back into the points despite not finishing the race.
But no one was able to deny Button his moment of glory.
2006 Hungarian Grand Prix Race Result (Top 10)
|2||4||Pedro de la Rosa||ESP||McLaren-Mercedes||+30.837s|
|5||14||David Coulthard||GBR||Red Bull-Ferrari||+1 Lap|
|6||7||Ralf Schumacher||GER||Toyota||+1 Lap|
|7||6||Felipe Massa||BRZ||Ferrari||+1 Lap|
|8/RET||5||Michael Schumacher||GER||Ferrari||+3 Laps|
|9||18||Tiago Monteiro||POR||Midland-Toyota||+3 Laps|
|10||19||Christijan Albers||NED||Midland-Toyota||+3 Laps|