In what has proven to be a season of sensational races, the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix may have offered the best one yet.
Red Bull Racing's Daniel Ricciardo took the chequered flag 5.2 seconds ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in second, with the dueling Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg following close behind in third and fourth respectively.
In a race that was almost non-stop action, the fates would conspire to ensure Saturday's qualifying performances had little impact on the outcome of the race.
Rain in the hour prior to the start forced all drivers onto intermediates, and the track proved to be extremely treacherous in the early going, as a turn 3 crash by Marcus Ericsson brought out the safety car on lap 9.
The timing of the incident left the front four of Rosberg, Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel and Alonso in the lurch as they were past the pit entry, forcing them to go around an extra time before diving into the pits. Romain Grosjean's crash just as the safety car was set to go in gave the track more time to dry, and all but the McLarens resumed racing on slicks, with Ricciardo in an unlikely early lead.
A second crash to a Force India for the afternoon would bring out another safety car on lap 23, as Sergio Perez went off along the pit straight. Upon resumption Vettel's Red Bull was fortunate not to meet a similar fate on lap 33, but with no more safety cars nor rain for the afternoon, the real action was only just getting started.
The early chaos had done wonders to shake up the field, both in terms of driver position and strategy. For the first time all season a Ferrari was legitimately leading a Grand Prix, via Fernando Alonso, while Hamilton managed to take not only second, but a pit-stop advantage over his teammate by lap 38. Ricciardo continued to lurk near the front, driving a very controlled race to ensure he would be in the thick of it at the end.
Despite having last pitted for softs on lap 39, Alonso managed to keep the fight for the lead at status quo heading into the final four laps, as neither Hamilton -- having last pitted for mediums a lap later -- or Ricciardo could take advantage of their DRS, nor get close enough through the corners. That changed on lap 67, when Ricciardo managed to make his second successive attempt at Hamilton around the outside of turn 2 stick, before making the most of his far fresher soft rubber to pass Alonso along the pit straight a lap later. Quickly building a healthy lead, there was still no certainty over who would occupy the final two steps of the podium.
Rosberg's more recent pit-stop for softs had him poised to put in qualifying laps all the way to the finish, and a significant gap to the front-runners would evaporate by race's end, as the German consistently lapped two seconds faster than the three drivers ahead of him. On the final lap Rosberg would get a single attempt on his teammate around turn 2, but that window of opportunity was quickly shut as Hamilton forced him wide.
Their last-lap squabble only served to highlight what was a race fraught with animosity between the Mercedes pair. Differing tyre strategies after Hamilton's aforementioned stop on lap 40 had Rosberg trailing his teammate by less than a second on older, soft tyres by lap 48, yet he was unable to make use of a team order to pass.
Despite having rapidly closed the gap to the other Mercedes, Rosberg was unable to get close enough to Hamilton through the DRS zone, while losing time throughout the rest of the circuit, eventually forcing him to pit while still behind.
Hamilton, meanwhile will leave Hungary having shaved three points off his championship deficit to Rosberg, having put on a remarkable drive that saw him start in the pit lane only to end up on the podium. After a first-lap spin left the Brit even further disadvantaged, two safety cars and a blistering march through the field allowed him to return to fight at the front, even if it was at the expense of Rosberg.
Further down the grid, Felipe Massa was able to steer his Williams to an under-the-radar fifth, followed by the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, who pulled off some stellar passes to take sixth. Sebastian Vettel endured another disappointing afternoon, as he finished in seventh, while Valtteri Bottas, Jean-Eric Vergne and Jenson Button rounded out the top ten.