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Formula 1 Nostalgia: 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix
In his seventh season in Formula 1, after 113 starts and thirteen podiums, Jenson Button took his first win at the 2006 Hungarian GP. The Briton, who started the race from fourteenth on the grid, produced a performance of pure driving brilliance in the challenging conditions to take the checkered flag for the first time in his Formula 1 career.
The 2006 Formula 1 season marked the switch from 3.0-litre V10 engines to 2.4-litre V8 engines and was the last year that teams were supplied by two tire manufacturers. It was also a year almost completely dominated by Ferrari and Renault. The Drivers’ Championship was a two-man battle between Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher and Renault’s Fernando Alonso, with the Italian and French constructors dominating the season and winning all but one race: the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Hungarian summers are usually hot and dry and the Hungaroring is known as a difficult circuit to drive around. it is narrow and winding and often very dusty due to the heat and infrequent use. As such, the Hungarian GP is usually associated with procession races where cars follow each other and cannot pass. However, 2006 was different; Hungary hosted its first wet Formula 1 Grand Prix and the rain made the race a mess, providing one of the most action-packed races of the year.
The organizers were busy before the race: Championship leader Alonso received a one-second penalty for overtaking under a yellow flag during Friday’s practice session, and another second was given to him for testing Red Bull’s brakes. test driver Robert Doornbos. In the final practice session, Schumacher received a two-second penalty for passing under a red flag, while Button’s Honda was caught after an engine failure (resulting in an engine change and a 10-place penalty for the Briton).
McLaren’s Kimi Räikkönen took pole ahead of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Honda’s Rubens Barrichello; while Schumacher started eleventh, Button fourteenth and Alonso fifteenth. There was water on the track which made for an eventful first lap; While Räikkönen held onto the lead, Massa dropped to seventh, with Schumacher and Alonso moving up to fifth and seventh respectively. Button used his wet-weather driving skills to find grip on the wet track to gain a significant position in the early stages of the race.
At a track notorious for its lack of overtaking manholes, drivers bravely put their overtaking skills to the test amid the rain-induced chaos. Toro Rosso’s Tonio Liuzzi spun out of control, handing teammate Scott Speed fourteenth position, while Barrichello pitted to change from wet to wet tyres. a move that was considered very strange as the weather conditions worsened. Massa had his hands full after a Ferrari spin that cost him his place on David Coulthard’s Red Bull and then a wide line that allowed BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld to pass.
Schumacher came under fire from Renault driver Giancarlo Fisichella, as did Alonso from Pedro de la Rosa. Barrichello took the win on Massa’s Ferrari, so the team took him into the pits for a tire change; However, Barrichello soon went off the track but was able to recover. Fisichella made a bold move on Schumacher, but in the process took off the Ferrari’s front wing, sending the German into the pits. After a while, Fisichella’s afternoon was over when he flew onto the gravel and crashed into the barrier. Nico Rosberg joined the race retirees after he fell victim to an electrical failure.
Drivers had to contend with difficult weather conditions as heavy rain subsided and sunshine dried out the track, placing a heavy emphasis on tire strategy, with Schumacher the only Bridgestone runner in the top ten by this stage. Räikkönen’s day came to an abrupt halt when he crashed his McLaren into Liuzzi’s Toro Rosso and went airborne, with neither driver injured but the safety car deployed.
Alonso was one of several drivers to take advantage of the pit stop for fresh rubber, also finding himself in the lead, with Button second and de la Rosa third. When the safety car came in, Alonso took advantage of the moment and took off, but Button stayed with the Spaniard and the two fastest exchanged laps, the gap at one point being less than a second. Both cars were running on intermediate tires and were struggling to find the wet parts of the fast-drying track, and both opted for a much-needed tire change. But disaster struck as Alonso exited the pits as his Renault appeared to wobble and he lost control at the second corner when his right rear wheel nut came loose and he crashed into the barrier.
In treacherous conditions, just eleven cars crossed the finish line with Jenson Button in the lead, 30 seconds clear of McLaren’s Pedro de la Rosa and Nick Heidfeld in BMW Sauber in third for the team’s first podium finish. But the day belonged to the victorious Button who cruised to his first Formula 1 win at unbeatable odds.
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