When rule changes such as the adjustable rear wing and KERS were brought back into the mix this season, many in Formula One thought that they could be a deciding factor in races. While they have made an impact, a much stronger outside force is drastically influencing race outcomes.
Wet weather has dominated the headlines recently, and rain at the Hungaroring shattered team strategy up and down the grid. A master in wet weather, Lewis Hamilton had the rest of the field chasing him for much of the day, but like so many other drivers this year, he was felled by poor pit strategy. With fewer than 20 laps remaining, Hamilton switched to intermediate tires as an answer to the increasing rain, but returned to the pits only laps later to switch back to a harder compound.
Combined with a drive-through penalty, it spelled the end of any hope of victory, and it paved the way for Jenson Button to take the win in his 200th grand prix. He's now the only driver to win in his 200th start, and just the third to reach the podium, along with David Coulthard and Jarno Trulli. Remarkably, six of the previous 10 drivers failed to finish in their 200th F1 grand prix.
Button's steady hands were once again a huge asset on a constantly changing track surface, and his composure and pace throughout proved critical in his win. While competitors such as Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Hamilton made mistakes, Button again shined on a damp track, much like he did in the closing stages in Canada.
His victory was eerily similar to his first-ever F1 win, which also came at Hungary, in 2006. That race was also marred by rain, and just like in 2011, Button led the final 19 laps before seeing the checkered flag.
Hamilton, meanwhile, put a positive spin on the team's efforts, telling reporters, "I felt sorry for the team that we didn't get a one-two, but at least one of us got the victory. The car felt very good to drive today. I think the cooler conditions helped us, but the team has done a fantastic job to get us where we are. We've now won two races in the space of a week, which is a great way to enter the summer break."
Still, it must feel like a letdown to some degree, as Hamilton led 39 of the 70 laps Sunday before finishing fourth. In 2011, that's the second most by a driver who did not go on to win the race, behind only Vettel's 68 in Canada.
As for Vettel, he quietly increased his championship lead with a second-place result. While Red Bull's dominant start has tapered off, the defending world champion is doing everything he needs to ensure a second F1 title. Of the 10 events since Australia, Vettel has increased his lead over the second-place driver after all but two races.
Alonso rounded out the podium after starting fifth, a positive result considering he was a touch slower than teammate Felipe Massa in the final round of qualifying. After failing to reach the podium in each of his first three races this year, the Ferrari ace now has finished among the top three in six of the past eight events. Much like last year, he should be primed for a strong second half to the season.
Force India's Paul di Resta also had an impressive day. The first-year driver scored his best F1 result (seventh) and made a nice move to avoid a spinning Hamilton late in the race. He's now tied with Sergio Perez for the most points earned among rookies this season.
Hungary delivered another suspenseful race in this F1 season, and fans were left guessing as to the outcome until the final laps. The battles for the lead were extremely entertaining yet again, especially between teammates Hamilton and Button, and so far the on-the-track action has lived up to even the loftiest of expectations. The front-runners have created significant drama in the majority of events, and although the championship race is far from close, 2011 has picked up where 2010 left off in many ways.