Remorseless Hamilton breaks Dutch hearts

04/08/2019
NEWS STORY

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.

"We need you to push," Leclerc is told, the youngster currently 5.1s down on Hamilton, with Vettel 1.3s behind.

Given some adjustments to make, Hulkenberg responds: "That's the wrong time to tell me, no time to check the two."

Norris has Raikkonen and Gasly in hot pursuit, while Verstappen enjoys a 2.2s cushion in terms of Hamilton.

Lap 8 sees a new fastest lap from Bottas on the hards (21.400).

"P6 at the end of the race is very likely," Bottas is told.

"At the moment thinking Plan A," Leclerc is told.

Ricciardo makes short work of Stroll to take 16th, the Australian going around the outside of the Canadian in Turn 11.

"Plan B, Plan B," Vettel is told, the German currently 13.3s down on Verstappen.

Incidentally, Russell is running in 14th, 3.4s down on Kvyat.

"Tell me when you need me to close up," says Hamilton, who is 2.1s down on the leader.

In tenth, Hulkenberg heads a train of three cars comprising Perez, Albon and Kvyat.

"I've got no power on the straights, mate," reports Hulkenberg.

Bottas makes hard work of passing Stroll, but shortly after nails Russell. Next target is 15th-placed Ricciardo. Both drivers are on the hards.

Giovinazzi pits at the end of lap 16, the Italian switching to hards.

"Yes, I know it's Giovinazzi behind me," snaps Stroll, having been told that Giovinazzi is behind.

At the end of lap 17, Russell and Stroll both pit, both switching to the hards.

The Ferrari pair have enough of an advantage over 5th-placed Sainz to be able to make a stop without losing position.

A short, but sweet battle sees Kvyat pass Albon for 12th, the pair showing a certain Haas duo how it should be done.

Perez pits at the end of lap 18, as Bottas closes on Ricciardo.

If Bottas hasn't helped his 2020 cause, spare a thought for Gasly who still trails the McLarens and Raikkonen.

Lap 20 sees Verstappen complain of a lap of grip. No such issues for Hamilton who is 1.5s behind.

Grosjean pits.

As Ricciardo closes in on Magnussen, Bottas keeps a watching eye on the pair.

Hamilton looks set to pit at the end of lap 22, but the Briton stays out. No such false alarms for Kvyat however.

"Let's keep this pressure on Lewis, it won't be long now."

"I'm going to say once again now, I'm losing grip," warns Verstappen.

As the pair wind their way through the backmarkers, the gap is down to 1.2s.

Verstappen pits at the end of lap 25, 2.6s later he's heading down the pitlane as Hamilton is told "it's Hammer-time!".

Verstappen rejoins in second, 2.2s ahead of Leclerc and 18.4s down on Hamilton.

Failing to post any really fast sectors, Hamilton stays out, as Verstappen seeks to generate heat into his hards.

"We'll extend, we're currently unsafe," Hamilton is told, as Verstappen goes quickest in S1. At the line the Dutchman posts a new fastest lap (20.928).

Leclerc pits at the end of lap 27, rejoining in 4th on the hards.

Mercedes really appears to have missed a trick here, as Hamilton stays out and Verstappen reduces the gap to 17.5s.

"I locked-up, there's smoke coming from the discs," says Hamilton.

Norris, Gasly and Albon all pit at the end of lap 28.

Ricciardo is now up to tenth and Bottas twelfth, the pair separated by Norris.

Sainz and Raikkonen both pit at the end of lap 29, rejoining in 5th (Sainz) and 8th.

Norris is all over Ricciardo as they battle for 10th.

Hamilton pits at the end of lap 31, however at 4s it's a long stop. He rejoining in second, 6.2s down on the leader and 7.9s ahead of Vettel, who has yet to stop.

Gasly passes Hulkenberg for 6th as the German complains of balance issues.

On his fresh rubber, Hamilton goes quickest in S1, as teammate Bottas finally passes Ricciardo for 11th.

Brave stuff from Norris who goes around the outside of Magnussen in Turn 1.

Lap 33 sees a new fastest lap from Hamilton (19.653) as he closes to within 1.7s of Verstappen.

"Hamilton is behind," Verstappen is told, "expect him to attack while his tyres are fresh."

And like a horror movie, suddenly Hamilton is all over the rear of the Red Bull.

While Verstappen posts a PB, Hamilton has a look as they lap Albon on the pit straight.

The leading pair close on Perez and pass him as one on the pit straight.

"We need 3 more laps for Plan C," Vettel is told. Plan C, what happened to A and B?

As the pair pass Ricciardo, it's like they are tied together with string. Finally, Hamilton makes his move, and gets alongside the Red Bull in Turn 4 but overdoes it and runs wide.

Brilliant stuff from both drivers. Nice and clean with no silliness.

Vettel pits at the end of lap 39, as does Magnussen. The German rejoins in 4th, 20s down on his teammate following another shoddy pit-stop from the Ferrari crew which encountered an issue with his front-left. He's now on softs, like Hulkenberg and Magnussen.

"Keep the pressure on," Hamilton is told. "I can't keep the pressure on," responds the Briton, echoing his inner Spandau Ballet.

Interestingly, the next driver Verstappen has to pass is Bottas.

Elsewhere, Magnussen makes a clean pass on his teammate, no doubt choreographed by Guenther Steiner.

"Brake temps, brake temps," says Hamilton. He is told that it's more about wear than temperature.

Bottas is told that Hamilton is on Verstappen's gearbox, he moves aside for the pair.

"You need to give me full power," says Verstappen. "You've got full power," comes the worrying reply.

Check out our Sunday gallery from the Hungaroring, here.

After 44 laps, it's: Verstappen, Hamilton, Leclerc, Vettel, Sainz, Gasly, Raikkonen, Norris, Bottas and Ricciardo. The Australian is the only driver still to stop.

Looking good for third, Leclerc is 37s down on Hamilton.

Verstappen asks to be advised when Hamilton has DRS.

"Let's just close right up to Verstappen," Hamilton is told.

At the end of lap 47, Bottas and Ricciardo both pit. They rejoin in 12th (Bottas) and 15th.

Hamilton pits at the end of lap 48, the Briton rejoining 20s down on Verstappen on mediums.

On fresh rubber, Hamilton goes quickest in the final two sectors, as Bottas passes Albon for 11th.

"That's the right call, man," says Hamilton. "How far is he ahead now?" 18.2s is the answer.

Kvyat puts up a bit more of a fight than his teammate, but nonetheless Bottas is a man on a mission.

"We should have pitted as well," says Verstappen. "We would have come out behind Hamilton," he is told.

On lap 51, Grosjean is pushed into his garage, the first retirement of the race.

A news fastest lap (19.199), sees Hamilton close to within 16.2s.

Bottas is told that he had a helmet visor strip in his side panel, which is probably as painful as it sounds.

Next up to be lapped is fourth-placed Vettel.

"Verstappen will be on the tyre limit, we think" Hamilton is told. "Who knows, maybe I will too," he responds.

On his softs, Ricciardo is all over Magnussen, however, the Dane is in no mood to yield. They are fighting for 14th.

Gasly is closing on 5th-place Sainz, the Frenchman just 0.759s.

"You OK Max?" "As good as I can be," he responds.

"13 laps to go, Lewis, you can do this, you're the fastest man out there."

Meanwhile, Vettel is closing on his Ferrari teammate.

A new fastest lap (18.668) sees Hamilton close to within 13.053s.

"Argh, this p****, he's taking the p***," says Ricciardo of Magnussen who is in no mood to move aside.

"Catch is on," Hamilton is told, "at the end of the race he'll be on zero rubber."

Another fastest lap (18.528) sees the gap down to 10.597, with 9 laps remaining.

"How much tyres will I have left at the end," asks Hamilton. "Doesn't matter, just go for it."

Bottas closes on Norris as the Finn seeks 8th place.

The mood in the Red Bull garage is not overly confident, the mechanics looking very, very stressed.

"Brakes OK?" asks Hamilton as he closes to within 6.1s. He is assured that his brakes are fine.

"Tyres are dead," reports Verstappen. And a close up reveals that they are indeed much like the infamous Norwegian Blue Parrot.

On lap 65 or 70, Hamilton has closed to within 2.245s of Verstappen.

Bottas passes Norris and sets off closing the 2.1s gap to Raikkonen.

"When you need it, you have four laps of full engine mode," Verstappen is told.

"I don't have to tell you the gap, you can see him," Hamilton is told. Indeed he can.

At the end of lap 66, Hamilton nails Verstappen as they head into Turn 1, there is absolutely nothing the Dutchman can do about it.

Hamilton and Mercedes' remorselessness brings back memories of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari.

Verstappen pits at the end of lap 67 for softs, second is secure but another point for fastest lap will be small consolation.

Vettel passes Leclerc for third as Bottas is all over fellow Finn Raikkonen.

On fresh rubber, Verstappen, now 22s down on Hamilton, goes quickest in S1.

The Dutchman posts 17.103 to take fastest lap point, with one lap still remaining.

Hamilton takes the flag, a champion drive from a five-time champion.

Congratulated by Pete Bonnington and strategist James Vowles, Hamilton responds: "Sorry I doubted the strategy, that was a tall order but I'm grateful we did it.

"Woo-hoo, oh man that feels so good," he adds.

"They rolled the dice and it worked out for them, but you still drove brilliantly today," Christian Horner tells Verstappen

Not a thriller in the sense of Germany, Austria or Britain, but that remorseless display from Hamilton was worth the price of admission alone, and while one sympathises for young Max, there will be many more opportunities.

Behind Hamilton and Verstappen, it's Vettel, over a minute down on the winner, ahead of Leclerc, Sainz, Gasly, Raikkonen, Bottas, Norris and Albon.

Perez is eleventh, ahead of Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Russell, Stroll, Giovinazzi and Kubica.

In the cool down room, the three discuss the race excitedly, like schoolboys. Despite his loss, Verstappen is surprisingly upbeat and chipper.

And so F1 heads off on its holidays... now, where's that take-away menu?

Check out our Sunday gallery from the Hungaroring, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 04/08/2019
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