BUDAPEST • Perhaps the only fitting tribute to a fine young man whose destiny was to drive in the red of Ferrari could be a victory for Formula One's most famous team.
If Jules Bianchi was looking down on the Hungaroring, he would have been as exhilarated as the fans at a race that was a celebration of the sport he loved. It was fascinating and intriguing. Few could have predicted the result of the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Sebastian Vettel won for the first time at the Hungaroring and, in the process, equalled the record of 41 career victories set by Ayrton Senna. It was emotion heaped on emotion.
Vettel was followed remarkably by the Red Bulls of Daniil Kvyat - the 21-year-old's first career podium - and Daniel Ricciardo. Not since the Brazil Grand Prix in 2013 had Mercedes failed to have a driver in the top three.
Lewis Hamilton, the overwhelming favourite, looked like a novice as he careered around the place, going from pole position to sixth, via a penalty and much heart-searching as he apologised to his Mercedes team for such a scatter-brained performance. His team-mate Nico Rosberg finished eighth.
Today was weird. Do I deserve any points? I didn't give up and drove as hard as I could. To come away from one of the worst performances I've put in in a long, long time... it shows we are human.
LEWIS HAMILTON on his performance at the Hungarian Grand Prix
HUNGARIAN GRAND PRIX RESULTS
1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger)
Ferrari 1hr 46min 9.985sec
2 Daniil Kvyat (Rus)
Red Bull +15.748sec
3 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus)
Red Bull +25.084
4 Max Verstappen (Ned)
Toro Rosso +44.251
5 Fernando Alonso (Esp)
6 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr)
7 Romain Grosjean (Fra)
8 Nico Rosberg (Ger)
9 Jenson Button (Gbr)
10 Marcus Ericsson (Swe)
1 Hamilton 202
2 Rosberg 181
3 Vettel 160
1 Mercedes 383
2 Ferrari 236
3 Williams 151
But the joy of such a thrilling race was exactly what the sport needed. The build-up was a sombre affair, the 20 drivers linking arms with Bianchi's family during the minute's silence in remembrance of one of their own.
What came next was what the Frenchman loved - a swashbuckling riot of excitement that thrilled from start to chequered flag.
Inspired, perhaps, by the team's call for total commitment to racing in a signal of respect for Bianchi, the Marussia driver who died in hospital this month, nine months after suffering severe head injuries at the Japanese Grand Prix, Vettel surged from third on the grid to pass Rosberg into Turn One.
Behind him, team-mate Kimi Raikkonen followed closely as both Rosberg and Hamilton attempted to defend, but the two Mercedes men were out-started comprehensively. Hamilton was relegated to fourth on the opening lap during which, in an attempt to pass Rosberg, he ran wide across a gravel trap at the chicane. He returned to the track in a spray of stones, re-joining in 10th place.
After closing the gap behind Rosberg to five seconds, Hamilton lost time in traffic before Force India's Nico Huelkenberg crashed into the barriers at Turn One. A virtual safety car was deployed, followed by the real safety car as debris was cleared. As the field closed up, Rosberg and Hamilton pitted for harder medium tyres for a final rush.
More drama erupted at the re-start on lap 49. Sensing his chance, Rosberg attacked and passed Raikkonen for second while Hamilton, on harder tyres, struggled against Ricciardo and collided with him at Turn One, the Briton losing a front wing end-plate. It was his final significant act.
Rosberg, free of his earlier tussles, raced after Vettel. He cut the gap while Ricciardo, on softs, closed behind him. But a late collision between the pair left Rosberg with a puncture and Ricciardo with a damaged front wing. This opened the door to Kvyat and gave Hamilton his chance to climb back ahead of Rosberg in an unexpected finish on a remarkable day.
As the fans teemed on the racetrack, Vettel beamed down on them and dedicated his win to Bianchi.
"This victory is for Jules," he said. "It has been an incredibly tough week. It has been very, very difficult so this is for him. We know he would have been part of our team sooner or later." THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE