The race for the 2009 world championship took a sharp turn in Hungary on Sunday, as the sport’s former top drivers showed a return to form. Title contenders Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel both struggled: the Brawn driver just seventh at the chequered flag with tire wear problems, and Red Bull's Vettel suffering a hefty blow with a tumultuous race and retirement.

It was therefore Mark Weber smiling most, despite the Nurburgring pole sitter and winner finishing just third. The Australian leapfrogged his teammate Vettel in the drivers' standings, and closed the gap to leader Button to 18.5 points.

"It's a bit of a surprise -- we expected to be a little bit quicker," said the Red Bull driver. "It was a pretty difficult venue for us. We knew we didn't have the advantage we had in the last two races.

"I'm pretty happy all in all. We're still very much a force," added Webber.

Vettel blamed Kimi Raikkonen, who finished second behind winner Hamilton, for his retirement. "In the first corner I had contact with Kimi," said the German, whose front suspension later failed. The incident sparked the interest of the stewards, who are currently considering whether to penalize the Finn.

"I didn't notice that I had touched somebody," said the Ferrari driver, who also made contact with Hamilton at the first corner. "This is the first I've heard of it."

Webber, meanwhile, escaped penalty when his crew released him from a pitstop into Raikkonen's path.

Brawn's early-season dominance ended definitively in Hungary, after the team had blamed the cold circuit conditions at Silverstone and the Nurburgring.

"I don't think we can blame the weather," said Button at Budapest, where ambient temperatures hovered in the mid twenties on Sunday. "We've got to be looking in other areas."

At one point over the radio, the 29-year-old was heard to ask his engineer: "How can this car be so bad at the moment?" The Briton later told reporters: "Our car is not driving as well as it did at the start of the season. There's obviously an issue."

Pole sitter Fernando Alonso led early but retired after a problem with his right front tire, which fell off shortly after a pitstop. The Spaniard also told reporters he had a problem with the fuel pump.

The big news, however, remains the condition of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, who suffered a serious injury from a crash during qualifying. Felipe Massa's pit crew wished the injured Brazilian driver a speedy recovery on the grid, holding up his pit board with the message: "Forza Felipe. Siamo con te" (we are with you).