July 27th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Lotus drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean finished the Hungarian Grand Prix second and sixth respectively. For Raikkonen, it was a hard-fought race that included a battle with Sebastian Vettel in the closing laps. For Grosjean, there was some controversy, as he received two penalties - one cost him a chance to challenge for the podium; the other had no effect whatsoever.
Right from the start, it was clear that Lotus had the pace to deliver strong results in the Hungarian Grand Prix. Romain Grosjean made a strong start and ran third in the early stages. But after his first pitstop, Grosjean found himself stuck in a train behind Jenson Button. When he eventually passed Button, Grosjean moved towards Button in the braking zone for the turn 6 chicane, making contact with the McLaren and forcing Button to put a wheel on the grass.
Later in the race, Grosjean pulled a stunning pass on Felipe Massa around the outside of turn 4. But the stewards noticed that Grosjean had gone wide on the exit of the corner, with all four wheels of his Lotus outside the white line that marks the track limits. They handed him a drive-through penalty, which was considered harsh by many, including Massa. The penalty destroyed any chance Grosjean had of fighting for a podium finish, and he could do no better than sixth place after the time lost driving slowly through the pits.
After the race, Grosjean was slapped with a 20-second time penalty for the incident with Button. He made no complaint about that, freely admitting that the incident was his fault. In the event, the penalty had no real effect, as Grosjean was more than 20 seconds ahead of seventh-placed Button at the end of the race.
For Raikkonen, second place was a crucial result. He took three points out of Sebastian Vettel's championship lead at a circuit where the Red Bull was very competitive. Raikkonen said after the race:
“It was a good race and a good result for the team. The strategy worked well. We did two long stints on the tyres but they weren’t too bad and the car felt strong so it allowed us to make one less stop. In the last few laps the rears were a bit on edge, but apart from that it was ok. Sebastian [Vettel] got the run on me a couple of times but luckily it was in places that you can’t really overtake.
"The main positive is that we gained a few points to Seb in the Championship. For sure we could have maybe closed the gap a little more with a win, but anything we can get back will help. We’re only halfway through the season and it will be hard to catch up, but anything can still happen so we’ll keep fighting until the end.”
With nine races to go in the season, Raikkonen is 38 points behind Vettel in the championship. Although the lead is significant, it is hardly insurmountable - at this point of the 2012 season, Fernando Alonso was 42 points ahead of eventual champion Sebastian Vettel. Another few strong results could put Raikkonen firmly in sight of Vettel at the lead of the drivers' table.