Numbers crunch yields obvious result in Hungary: First

Updated: August 7, 2006, 8:33 PM ET
By Michael Kelley | Special to ESPN.com

Formula One has always been a sport of numbers, with teams and drivers crunching figures such as budgets, lap times, weight ratios and salaries in an effort to succeed. For some at Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix, those figures added up to several derivatives of the best possible number: one.

Michael Schumacher
Mark Thompson/Getty ImagesMichael Schumacher wasn't too pleased with his single point in Hungary.

Indeed, the initial wet-weather race at the Hungaroring in 21 tries yielded so many unprecedented results that it was hard to keep track of them. One would find it difficult to blame the sport's governing body for mandating that every race be run in the rain considering the entertainment value of Sunday's event at the track just outside Budapest.

It was as though some sort of divine convergence took place.

For starters, there was long-suffering Jenson Button's maiden F1 victory in the 113th start of a career rife with promise turned to disappointment.

That milestone also translated into victory for his Honda team, the first for a Japanese manufacturer in almost four decades. Button's result was all the more impressive as it marked the first time the Hungarian GP had been won from farther back than 12th on the starting grid.

"This is such an amazing moment for me and one that I have worked my whole motor racing career for," Button said. "I always had faith that we would achieve our objective together and this victory is testimony to that belief. To win such a tough and challenging race from 14th place on the grid is incredible for me and all the more important because I know I won on merit today.

"No one can dispute that today the Honda Racing F1 team got everything right."

Button's win was reminiscent of Rubens Barrichello's initial win, also achieved in unusual circumstances, in a wet German GP in 2000. Barrichello's triumph ended a 124-race wait that remains the sport's longest for a driver claiming his first victor's trophy.

Sunday's triumph must also have been particularly sweet for a team that entered F1 in 1999 with no small amount of bluster and bravado, with then-British American Racing team principal Craig Pollock being so bold as to predict a win in the team's debut.

Instead, BAR went scoreless for the entire season and has since been an underachiever among more established teams. Both Button and Honda, which joined BAR as an engine supplier in 2000, must be relieved to have the first-win gorilla off their backs at long last. Honda's last win as a constructor had come at the 1967 Italian GP.

Not to be outdone by the victors, Pedro de la Rosa added to the parade of firsts with the initial podium finish of his 66-race career, a sterling second-place drive that doubtless boosted his chances of keeping his seat at McLaren-Mercedes next year.

Having driven for such weak sisters as Arrows, Jaguar and Jordan in the past, the driver could hardly be faulted for being enthusiastic afterward, characterizing himself as "extremely happy" and effusively thanking his team for its efforts. De la Rosa overcame a spin on the formation lap and improved his qualifying position by two places with a steady, determined effort that saw him among the top three for most of the day.

The last spot on the podium was also first-worthy, with Nick Heidfeld's third-place finish earning auto manufacturer Bayerische Motoren Werke AG its initial podium placement as a constructor through its BMW-Sauber team.

BMW, previously active as an engine supplier to the Williams squad, might have expected better sooner after earning a podium on its return to F1 at the 2000 Australian GP.

Still, it could hardly have been disappointed by Heidfeld's performance, as he improved his starting spot by seven places and kept his head while some of those ahead of him were losing theirs.

BMW briefly had another reason to celebrate as test driver Robert Kubica, F1's first Polish pilot, replaced Jacques Villeneuve after the latter's crash in Germany last week and drove to a fine seventh-place finish, thereby earning points in his debut race.

However, Kubica was later disqualified as his car was found to be about 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) underweight, a violation his team attributed to high tire wear due to running intermediate tires much farther than they may have been intended to go. He's now likely to replace Villeneuve on a somewhat more permanent basis after the former world champion and BMW parted company for keeps on Monday.

Kubica's misfortune was Ferrari's gain, as Felipe Massa was elevated to seventh and Michael Schumacher to the last points-paying position in eighth as a result.

Schumacher now trails driving leader Fernando Alonso by 10 points while Ferrari reduced its arrears to seven points in the constructors standings after Alonso's Renault squad suffered (you guessed it) its first race of the season in which neither car finished. Renault will try to get itself back on form at the next race in Istanbul in three weeks.

Hungarian ghoulash

Mark Webber is expected to sign with the Red Bull Racing team shortly after being shown the door by current employer Williams-Cosworth, Speed TV reported Sunday. The team's option on Webber expired at last week's German GP, Speed reported, and the two sides weren't able to agree on a deal after the option ran out. … F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone was honored by Hungarian GP organizers Sunday in a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the first F1 race at the Hungaroring, the sport reported on its Web site. Ecclestone was awarded a specially commissioned coffee set crafted by Hungarian porcelain makers Herend, the site said. The 1986 Hungarian GP was the first F1 event held in a communist-bloc nation.

Michael Kelley is a freelance journalist and a contributor to ESPN.com.

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