Humdrum Hungary

The third round of the F1 2020 season was held this weekend at the Hungaroring. A circuit with little overtaking opportunities meant an electric qualifying session in order to get vital track position. Mix in the constant threat of rain, and it looked like the race could have matched the two previous hectic races at the Red Bull Ring, but, unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to the hype.

Qualifying on Saturday followed a monstrous downpour that caused the final practice session to be cancelled. The rain had stopped by the time qualifying was scheduled, with trucks deployed on tracks to scrub the standing water away. As soon as the green light for the session came out, every car was on track as the dark clouds loomed overhead. Q1 ended with both Haas and Alfa Romeo’s eliminated, and Daniil Kvyat. It is the first time that Kimi Raikkonen started last on pace alone in his 17 year career! You can tell that it was new to him because he didn’t even line up in the correct starting place, earning himself a 5 second penalty. The biggest surprise in this session was the Williams car both getting out of Q1 for the first time since Monza 2018, an incredible performance, showing they do have significant one lap pace. George Russel loves this track, and it shows, he looked sublime all weekend and pumped in a qualy time 1.4 seconds quicker than last year to start 12th.

In Q2, the biggest surprise was the luck of Alex Albon, all weekend he has looked to have struggled with the balance of his car. On a track where downforce is so vital, this is a huge problem. This track needs a responsive front end to turn sharply into corners, and a tight back end to get good traction out the corners. Lap after lap he complained on the radio, to no change. Russell came to his friends aid in an interview with Sky, saying he’s being taken as a joke, when everyone will say he’s the quickest out of all of the young drivers.

Q1 saw an increasingly greasier track where the majority of the best times were set on the drivers first laps. Ferrari looked good this weekend lining up 5th and 6th, the lack of straights meant that they weren’t on such a disadvantage compared to last time out. How weird that Ferrari is now more aero focused, essentially the new Red Bull. Racing Point lined up for their first ever second row lockout, 2.732 seconds quicker than their times last year! Lewis Hamilton claimed his 90th pole position with a scintillating lap. His car looked sensational, it stuck wherever Lewis wanted it to go. When he took turn 4 flat, I literally gasped.

Race day came with even more rain before the session started. Even before the race chaos ensued. Max Verstappen on his way to the grid lost control on the greasy surface, locking his rears and going straight into the wall at turn 12. He made his way back to the grid, and the mechanics had an amazing repair job on the grid, finishing a job in 20 minutes which would’ve normally taken over an hour, just a few seconds before they had to be off the grid! An amazing feat, showcasing how incredible the mechanics must be at this level.

19 pilots started the formation lap on the intermediate tyre, only Magnussen was on the full wet. Although both cars dipped into the pits before the start to go onto the medium slick tyre, a worldie strategy that meant they had unbelievable track position as every car came into the pits before the fifth lap to go onto slicks. Bottas was lucky to avoid a penalty for a jump start, only avoiding it by stopping in his pit box before the lights eventually went out, his demotion far down the order was enough of a penalty.

The first ten laps of the race were hectic, and for the following 20 laps rain was promised to the drivers, this resulted in a tyre saving stint in case they needed to pit. Hamilton had a comfortable lead over Verstappen with Stroll and Bottas 15 seconds behind. The Haas drivers committed to a one stop strategy, and with significantly worse race pace than the frontrunners, it was a case of keeping cars behind as best they can to try to achieve points.

The rain never came, we were thoroughly shegged. It looked like the weather could throw up some carnage, but instead it passed to the south of the track. As cars pitted for their second set of slick tyres, most cars ended in a procession, unable to follow in the dirty air. Grosjean was the only car that saw significant pace drop, going from 6th to 15th. I really liked Grosjean, however, after the race Lewis gave an interview about his promotion of the Black Lives Matter movement, with Grosjean stating that taking a knee didn’t need to happen as it happened once and that’s all that mattered. No Grosjean, just no.

Lewis Hamilton had built a comfortable lead, enough to come in a few laps before the end to fit the soft tyre and pump in the fastest lap, securing the win and the fastest lap point. His dominance so much that he lapped every car up to 6th place. He has now matched Michael Schumacher’s record of most wins at a circuit, this being his eighth time winning around the Hungaroring. Verstappen finished second, Bottas in third after a late crusade to catch Verstappen wasn’t enough to overtake the Dutch driver who didn’t even look like he could start the race. Albon and Vettel finished 5th and 6th respectively, going under the radar with two great drives to clear traffic. Had Vettel not been held for an eternity in the first pit stop, he would’ve overtaken Albon, and even troubled Stroll for 4th. It was actually his call to go onto the medium tyres instead of the softs like the Ferrari strategists wanted, his decision ensured he didn’t languish out of points like his teammate. Albon showed he is the right man for the job making good, clean work weaving through slower traffic after starting 13th.

My driver of the day would be Kevin Magnussen, a superb strategy call set him up nicely, but after his pit stop he stayed in 9th place comfortably taking away a vital 2 points, but also at the end of the race gapping Charles Leclerc by over 4 seconds. However, just in as I’m editing this. Both Haas drivers have been hit with a 10 second time penalty for communicating with the engineers during the formation lap, dropping him to 10th and only a single point to show for his work.

Lewis Hamilton has taken the lead in the Drivers Championship for the first time this season, now with a 5 point gap to his teammate Valtteri Bottas. Max Verstappen has now jumped Lando Norris, in a race to forget for both McLaren’s who were held up in the pits and unable to pass slower cars on the difficult circuit. In the Constructors Standings, Mercedes have over double the points of Red Bull, so basically the FIA can write Mercedes on the trophy already. Racing Point are now tied on points with McLaren after their double points finish, although, I think they would have wanted more coming into race day. Magnussen’s well earned point is vital in lifting them off last place in the title standings, which could be worth millions at the end of the season.

The first triple of the season is over, and with a weeks break, teams have the ability to go home and rest before the second triple header of the season. We return to racing on August 2nd, at the home of Formula 1, Silverstone. On a track that always promises great racing, this season promises more hectic racing after a bit of a lull in Hungary. After 3 weeks of nonstop F1 action, I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself with a week off! F1 has taken over my life this month, and I bloody love it.

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