BUDAPEST, Hungary, July 31- Jenson Button marked his 200th Grand Prix with a reminder of his class on Sunday when he drove his McLaren to a stirring victory in a chaotic and incident-filled Hungarian Grand Prix.
The 31-year-old Briton, who started third on the grid, made the most of some wretched ill-fortune for his team-mate and compatriot Lewis Hamilton in changing wet-dry-wet-dry conditions to record his second win of the year and the 11th of his career.
“It’s a great moment, all round a major weekend. For some rason I like these conditions,” said Button of the slippery track.
Championship leader Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull was second with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in third.
Back on the circuit where he claimed his first F1 win in 2006, for Honda, Button revelled in the demanding circumstances which saw a record 88 pits stops. Given a celebratory cake before the race on Saturday, he ate it with relish.
Hamilton, having started second, led for long periods after taking early control, but was caught out by a succession of strategic errors – when he chose the wrong tyres in rapidly-changing weather – and a harsh stewards’ decision to give him a drive-through penalty after he forced Paul Di Resta off the track.
“The better man won today,” said Hamilton who finished fourth ahead of Red Bull’s Mark Webber.
“The team have done a fantastic job. It’s a fantastic way to go into the (summer) break. We would have liked a one-two, I let the team down a little bit but we will be back.”
In spite of his second place, Vettel was able to increase his lead in the drivers’ title race as his nearest rivals finished behind him.
The German now has 234 points, 85 ahead of Webber with Hamilton, Alonso and Button bunched up behind. Red Bull lead the constructors’ table with 383 points ahead of in-form McLaren on 280.
Brazilian Felipe Massa came sixth in the second Ferrari with impressive British rookie Di Resta seventh for Force India.
Seven-times champion German Michael Schumacher, 42, was forced to retire in his Mercedes with gearbox problems.
On a damp, overcast and cool day of pre-race drizzle, the teams all chose to start on intermediate tyres and hope for improving weather. On the formation lap, however, they were all slipping and sliding as they made their way to the grid for the start on the 75th anniversary of the first Hungarian race.
When the lights went out, Vettel made the most of his eighth pole of the year to lead through the opening corners while, behind him, Hamilton resisted a charge from Button as a wall of spray shrouded the field in the initial roar of action.
The lack of grip created a host of incidents as the race settled down before the opening round of pit-stops.
Hamilton, driving with great control, challenged Vettel several times before passing him at the start of lap five. He soon pulled clear and had a five-second lead by lap ten when Webber was the first to pit for slick tyres.
Button and then Hamilton followed in successive laps, Button making the most of his ‘under cut’ strategic decision by passing Vettel on lap 14.
Webber also profited from his early stop and by lap 18 he was up to fourth behind the two leading McLarens and his Red Bull partner Vettel.
Tyre strategy became all important and it worked against Hamilton who, once German Nick Heidfeld had retired after a dramatic blaze when his Renault blew up, chose to continue on super-soft ‘option’ tyres when others went for the harder ‘prime’ tyres.
Alonso also chose the options and all seemed well until lap 47 when Hamilton spun as rain fell at turn six, the Englishman rejoining with a vivid spin just in front of Di Resta, who took smart avoiding action.
Button took the lead, but during several of laps of exciting racing lost and regained it as Hamilton fought back to take control before pitting again for intermediates – another bad decision as the rain stopped.
Controversially he was then punished with a drive-through penalty for rejoining the race in front of Di Resta after his spin.
Hamilton battled back for fourth but it was his teammate Button who stole the day.