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Remorseless Hamilton breaks Dutch hearts

NEWS STORY
04/08/2019

Don't know about you, but back in the day the last day of term, be it Christmas or the summer holidays, saw little or no work getting done, as attention turned to the fun and games that lay ahead.

Indeed, the Pitpass team is already salivating at the thought of the Chinese take-away that will be ordered tomorrow evening to kick-start the break, while the feline division will get tuna and treats.

Spare a thought however for those 20 drivers who have the little matter of a Grand Prix to deal with first before any thought can be given to Li-Los, sun-cream and cocktails by the pool.

Indeed, some drivers have the added pressure of impressing the current - or potential - boss, with a number of seats under threat.

An 'early bath' today could well mean an early exit from the sport, for there are still fears that one or two drivers could be axed during the break while the sport is out of the spotlight - though that's a rarity in this age of social media.

The first big test today will be Turn 1, though Turns 2 and 3 can also be an issue, for it is only when the drivers hit the back straight leading to Turn 4 that they can finally breathe out.

Though Max Verstappen was able to turn a poor start into a win last weekend, this time around he cannot rely on the weather gods to play a part - they having already headed off on their hols, leaving Budapest in relative peace and sunshine.

Furthermore, the Dutchman will be under attack from two Mercedes drivers, one seeking to get his title hunt back on track, the other hoping to send Toto Wolff on holiday with a smile on his face and thereby retain his seat.

Notorious for the lack of overtaking opportunities, today's start at the Hungaroring will be vital, and Verstappen will need to dig deep if he is to keep the Silver Arrows at bay. One getting by would be bad, both getting by would be a disaster for the Red Bull driver, as Bottas would do his 2020 chances no harm by riding shotgun for his teammate.

Having shown so much promise in practice, the Ferrari pair lost out in Q2 and Q3, and though blindingly fast in S1, lost out in the remaining sectors.

Like the Bulls and Silver Arrows, the Ferraris will start on the mediums, however both Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel will be hard-pressed to challenge for the lead, not unless there is first corner calamity.

Pierre Gasly is one of those drivers who wants to send his bosses off on holiday in a good mood, and while Red Bull insists that his seat is not under threat, the team has history, as we all know.

McLaren looks set for another strong result, Lando Norris having stepped up a peg or two this weekend, while Carlos Sainz continues to impress.

At a time we talk of Bottas 1.0 and 2.0, what of Romain Grosjean and Haas? Other than the drivers keeping a safe distance from one another, will it be a good day for the Haas or another of those long, infuriating Sunday afternoons when banging wheels with the other guy is the only thing that keeps you awake.

While Kimi Raikkonen will no doubt bring the Alfa home in the points (again), the midfield battle for the remainder will be as intense as ever, with Toro Rosso looking best set to add to their impressive Hockenheim tally.

A superb performance from George Russell in qualifying sees the Briton start 16th, and though he can forget all about scoring another point for the Grove outfit, his pace yesterday does signal an improvement for the team.

Not so Racing Point, which, Daniel Ricciardo's disrespect for Sergio Perez aside, has not impressed this weekend despite the updates.

Talking of Ricciardo, an overnight engine change for the Australian, who qualified 18th, means he will start from the back of the grid (20th).

The optimal race strategy should be a one-stopper (groan). The fastest being to start on softs and switch to mediums, changing from lap 24-30, though a medium to hard strategy, swapping from laps 30 to 35, is very close and has the advantage of minimising degradation.

Slightly slower than that is to run the softs for 22 to 28 laps before switching to the hard.

A two-stopper is less efficient, also because track position is particularly key at the Hungaroring, due to the difficulty of overtaking. If a two-stopper is adopted, soft-medium-medium would be the optimal way to go, removing the softs after 16 to 20 laps.

The big question mark, as ever, is the weather. Following the not so warm conditions (for Hungary) up to now, nobody has an accurate picture of wear and degradation on the soft tyre in particular if conditions become warmer.

The pit lane opens, and in bright sunshine, with white clouds of a fluffy kind in the sky, the drivers head out.

Verstappen and Robert Kubica have both brought huge numbers of fans here this weekend, and it's great that those supporting the Pole are every bit as enthusiastic and vocal as their Dutch counterparts even though the likely fortunes of their drivers couldn't be more different today.

Air temperature is 24.2 degrees C, while the track temperature is 43 degrees. The warmer temperatures will be good news for Ferrari, and bad news for Mercedes.

That said, Race Control says there is a 20% chance of rain. Bring it on, we say.

"There is something blowing in my eyes," says Kvyat, "like the wind, but my visor is shut so I don't know where it's coming from."

"We're definitely going to be struggling with rear end," says Hamilton of the heat.

Other than the Bulls, Mercedes and Ferraris, Hulkenberg, Albon, Kvyat, Magnussen, Russell, Perez, Giovinazzi, Stroll and Kubica all start on mediums. Gasly, Norris, Sainz, Grosjean and Raikkonen are on softs and Ricciardo on hards.

As the field heads off on the warm-up lap, air temperature is up to 27 degrees C, and the track temperature now 48 degrees.

Raikkonen complains that his steering wheel is too hot from being left out in the sun.

They head off on the warm-up lap, the crowd rises, cheering and applauding.

The grid forms, and for the first time in his F1 career, Verstappen leads the way. Former teammate Ricciardo takes his place at the rear.

They’re away! For once it’s a brilliant start by Verstappen. Hamilton and Bottas also get away well, the Briton slightly quicker out of the blocks than his teammate.

Into Turn 1 they’re three abreast, with Verstappen on the inside and Hamilton on the outside. Bottas, the meat in the sandwich, has a big lock-up. A lock-up for Vettel also.

Into Turn 2 Hamilton and Bottas are still side by side and as they head into Turn 3 Hamilton is ahead following another lock-up from the Finn.

On the run to Turn 4, where Nigel Mansell famously used Stefan Johansson to pull a fast one on Ayrton Senna, Leclerc passes Bottas, the two touching in the process, the left-rear on the Ferrari hitting the right-front on the Mercedes. Losing momentum hand over fist, Bottas is lucky to hold off Vettel, who is under pressure from the McLaren pair.

Following that clash with Leclerc, Bottas has damage to his front wing endplate, and as it flaps around the Finn is warned by his team. At the end of the opening lap he looks set to pit for a new nose but doesn't.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Verstappen, Hamilton, Leclerc, Vettel, Bottas, Sainz, Norris, Raikkonen, Gasly and Grosjean.

Lapping 2.5s off the leader's pace, Bottas surely has to pit, while Gasly is under pressure from Grosjean following his poor start.

Surprisingly, Bottas continues and doesn't pit, despite the fact his team is expecting him.

Out front, Verstappen and Hamilton trade fastest laps, as Bottas pits at the end of lap 6, the Finn rejoining in last on the hards, though his tyres will last until the end of the race.

Check out our Sunday gallery from the Hungaroring, here.

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1. Posted by Tardis40, 05/08/2019 4:33

"You blew it Red bull"

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2. Posted by fenris, 04/08/2019 17:07

"Shades of '98. Apt comparison with Schumacher/Brawn."

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