About time Kovalainen had some luck. There may have been a stroke of good fortune about Heikki’s first win but it would make up for the series of problems (loose wheel in Spain and big shunt; bad Safety Car in Melbourne; steering wheel electronics in Monaco) that had compromised his first season with McLaren-Mercedes.
Kovalainen’s result may have been at the expense of Felipe Massa (engine failure) and Lewis Hamilton (puncture) but the win was extremely popular here, particularly within McLaren where the Finn is well-liked.
The timing was good, too, Kovalainen having been re-signed by the team for another year. You could say that his move to allow Hamilton through in Germany helped cement the deal but that showed he was a team player (a quality highly valued by Ron Dennis) rather than a subservient Number 2. In fact, Dennis was at pains to point out this morning that his drivers were at liberty to race each other – provided they didn’t take each other off.
In Hungary, there was no fear of that happening as Hamilton had the better pace throughout the weekend. Lewis would have finished second, ahead of Kovalainen, but for a flat spotted left-front tyre and then a damaged side wall on the same tyre, the team saying that initial investigations showed that the two incidents were probably not related. The only certainty is that Hamilton had to do almost an entire lap with the damaged tyre, rejoining in tenth and rising to an eventual fifth place and the four points which would maintain his lead of the championship.
Hamilton would have lost the lead of the championship had Massa not suffered a catastrophic engine failure three laps from home. (The Ferrari team say there was absolutely no warning.) The Brazilian shook everyone – not least Hamilton – by snatching the lead with a brilliant start from third on the grid and then outrunning the McLarens – with ease. It seemed that Ferrari had a better handle on their tyres as the temperatures rose. Either way, it was an impressive display which did not deserve a rare failure on a Ferrari.
With all this going on, Timo Glock’s amazement at finding himself second just two weeks after being stretchered out of the German GP was tempered by the fact that the Toyota driver had to fend off a belated attack from Kimi Raikkonen. The world champion caused the usual mystery by setting the race’s fastest lap as the final act of a weekend in which he appeared to have been struggling. At least Raikkonen had a fellow Finn to talk to when he unexpectedly reached the podium. And he had every reason to smile. Raikkonen is second in the championship, just five points behind Hamilton.
What an extraordinary season.