Hamilton wins in Hungary

19/07/2020
NEWS STORY

They're playing with us... they are most definitely playing with us.

Having taunted us on Friday afternoon and threatened us again for much of Saturday, those pesky weather gods have been at it again.

Having hit the Hungaroring overnight, leaving the track damp for this morning's various support races, they have been threatening to return, spitting occasionally but never actually letting rip.

Consequently, though our hopes are up and our appetites whetted by events last week, it is still unclear if they're going to play ball.

Naturally we have a vested interest, for based on the opening practice session and yesterday afternoon, today's race is going to be a stroll in the park for the Black Arrows - no pun intended.

Indeed, if the weather gods don't play ball the best we can look forward to is that long run down to Turn 1, at which point the race could be decided, depending on which of the Mercedes drivers is ahead.

Lewis has been 'on it' all weekend, and though Valtteri has been there or thereabouts, there or thereabouts doesn't win races, far less championships.

With that in mind, in terms of excitement we must turn our attention away from the two stars of the show and look at the support cast.

Having locked out the second row, other than whether they can avoid each other during the opening lap, the big question for Racing Point is whether Lance and Sergio can transfer their qualifying pace into race pace.

While there is no disputing (just protesting) the RP20's speed, the Panthers haven't yet fully delivered on Sunday afternoons.

Of course, behind them we have the Ferraris, and again, other than whether the two can avoid one another, the question is can they too transfer their qualifying pace into race pace.

For much of the weekend Sebastian has out-paced his precocious young rival at a track the German clearly likes. However, the SF1000 is clearly not a race-winning car - not in normal conditions (a hint to the weather gods) so perhaps a decent scrap between the pair might be the best we can hope for.

As far as Red Bull is concerned, Max and Alex will be praying that their qualifying pace isn't transferred to their race pace, both having struggled yesterday, indeed for much of the weekend.

To put it bluntly the car is all over the place, understeer ten oversteer, the sort of problems we usually hear Romain moaning about. Suddenly, and for no obvious reason, the RB16 has gone from being the biggest threat to Mercedes to facing a serious challenge from Racing Point.

Young Max has been unhappy since opening practice, and the signs are that this is going to be one of those 'off' weekends drivers have from time to time. That said, for a driver who has history and wears his heart very much on his sleeve let's hope that this doesn't lead to any silliness.

Sadly, sections of the media are already making much of Alex' relatively poor performance last Sunday and for much of this weekend. Then there's the twitchfork mob who insist they - or their favourite driver of the day - could do better.

We like Alex and we rate him highly. Sadly, Red Bull, and in particular Helmut Marko has history.

What Alex needs right now - what all drivers need from time to time - is a little support, a little TLC and ego massaging, as opposed to hectoring and threats. Indeed, on this particular matter we agree with George.

Sadly, it would appear that we can forget all about Alfa Romeo and Haas, the two customer teams paying the price for the Maranello outfit's actions last year.

With the Williams drivers both making it into Q2 yesterday, it appears that in the weekends ahead Nicholas will be making up the drop zone contingent along with Kevin, Romain, Kimi and Antonio. Not the best of possible farewell seasons for The Iceman.

This leaves McLaren, Renault and Alpha Tauri, and based on the evidence thus far the Woking outfit is most likely to come up trumps.

Indeed, though Racing Point is getting all the attention - and the protests - McLaren is more likely to leave here today with a grin on its face, albeit behind the mask.

The quickest strategy today is a one-stopper, as has often been the case in the past. The best way is to start on the mediums for 35 to 40 laps, and then go onto the softs until the end.

Second-fastest is actually a two-stopper, with two stints on softs of 21 to 25 laps each, then a final stint on mediums to the flag.

The third-quickest is a soft-hard strategy, swapping tyres between laps 28 and 34, while the slowest is a medium-hard strategy, changing between laps 35 and 38.

Of course this all goes out the window if 'you know who' decide to have some fun.

Ye Gods!!! Ninety minutes before the start our friends 'up there' finally make an appearance, the sky goes dark and the heavens open up... it looks like we're going to get a race.

The pitlane opens... at which point the rain stops. Nonetheless, the cars head out on Inters.

The air temperature is 20.7 degrees C, while the track temperature is 27.4 degrees.

Though the rain has stopped as the cars head to the grid they throw up clouds of spray.

"There's no grip out here," reports Hamilton.

Oh dear, on his way to the grid Verstappen loses it in T12 and heads off into the barriers, ripping off his front wing in the process. It remains to be seen if he's damaged the suspension or steering.

"I've hit the wall," he reports, somewhat sheepishly. "It's suspension, everything," he adds. Nonetheless, he is pushed to his grid slot. He climbs from the car as it is checked out.

As the drivers head off for the national anthem, the Red Bull crew work frantically on the Dutchman's car.

By the way, that remains our favourite anthem.

As they work on his car, Verstappen is reduced to the role of helpless spectator.

With seconds to spare, the car appears to be ready as Verstappen climbs in.

Air temperature is 22 and the track temperature 28, the sun looks as though it is trying to break through.

All are starting on Inters bar Magnussen who is on full wets.

Verstappen thanks his crew for their work.

The field heads off on the warm-up lap. All get away.

Kvyat wants to pit for slicks before the grid has even formed. However, it is the Haas pair who pit for slicks.

They're away. While Hamilton gets away cleanly, Bottas appears bogged down and as he loses out to his teammate he is swamped by Leclerc and Norris, while Perez loses time behind the Struggling Finn.

As the make the run to T1, Vettel moves across to cover Bottas, while Stroll is second to Hamilton. In the first corner Vettel is on the inside while Verstappen goes around the outside, on the exit the German moves across and both wobble and as they head in to T2 it is the Red Bull driver who has the inside line.

Bottas is struggling to hold off Perez with Ricciardo hot on their heels.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Hamilton, Stroll, Verstappen, Vettel, Leclerc, Bottas, Perez, Sainz, Ricciardo and Latifi. Hamilton leads Stroll by 2.9s.

Check out our Race Day gallery from Budapest, here.

Kvyat pits at the end of lap 1 and switches to softs. His rivals will be watching his progress, or lack of it, with interest.

At the end of lap 2, Leclerc and Bottas pit, the Ferrari driver for mediums and the Mercedes driver for softs.

Hamilton pits at the end of lap 3, as do Stroll, Vettel, Perez, Sainz and a whole load of others.

It's a dreadful stop for Vettel who loses a heap of positions. Dreadful from the Ferrari crew.

Verstappen pits at the end of lap 4 as do Ricciardo, Ocon, Norris and others.

A spin for Ocon.

Raikkonen is under investigation for being out of position at the start (?!?).

Latifi slows having picked up a puncture. The Canadian is being looked at for a pitlane incident involving Sainz.

After 5 laps, the Haas pair are third and fourth, having pitted at the end of the warm-up lap. Hamilton leads from Verstappen.

Stroll makes a bold move on Grosjean for fourth, as Vettel questions whether Bottas jumped the start.

After 7 laps, it's: Hamilton, Verstappen, Magnussen, Stroll, Grosjean, Leclerc, Bottas, Vettel, Albon and Perez.

Raikkonen gets a 5s penalty for being out of position at the start.

Bottas is all over Leclerc but is unable to make a move on the Ferrari driver stick. His cause not helped by the fact that it is still very, very wet if you wander off the racing line.

Replay shows a very unsafe release for Latifi into the path of Sainz, which is how the Williams driver got his puncture.

Sixth placed Leclerc is the highest placed medium runner, with thirteenth-placed Kvyat next up on the yellow-banded rubber.

At the start of lap 10, Bottas makes his move on Leclerc in T1 and this time he makes it stick to take sixth.

Latifi is handed a 5s time penalty for his unsafe release.

Leading by 9s, Hamilton posts a string of fastest lap, his latest being a 21.522.

Bottas passes Grosjean for fifth, Stroll, 5.2s up the road, being the world championship leader's next target.

Hamilton is told that light rain in around 12 minutes away.

Albon is on a charge, having passed Vettel he is now closing on Leclerc.

As the Thai driver shapes up to make his move, Vettel, running right behind, keeps a watching eye.

Albon makes a move in T1 but Leclerc has it covered.

Norris is currently 17th though it's unclear how he lost so much ground.

Leclerc, Albon and Vettel are running as one, with Perez and Ricciardo closing in.

Gasly pits at the end of lap 16,his race clearly over as his car is engulfed in a cloud of smoke. A lousy weekend for the Frenchman.

Bottas sweeps by Magnussen to take fourth, as Leclerc is now holding up half the field.

Unable to pass Leclerc, a breathless Albon reports he doesn't have enough power.

At the start of lap 19, Albon makes it stick in T1, and at T2 Vettel tries to follow through but his teammate slams the door.

Vettel eventually nails his teammate in T2, though one wonder if Leclerc got 'the call'.

Out front, after 19 laps, Hamilton leads by 11.3s.

"Are we sure rain is coming," asks Leclerc as he struggles on his mediums.

The Monegasque is now under attack from Perez, with Ricciardo and Sainz also keen to progress up the field.

Russell pits for the second time at the end of lap 20.

"I'm losing so much, I think we should stop," urges Leclerc. He duly pits and switches to hards. The only other driver on the white-banded rubber is Kvyat, who is running just behind the Ferrari.

It appears Norris lost position(s) due to the timing of his stop, the Briton released into the mother of all traffic jams.

Giovinazzi pits and fits a new set of mediums.

"Light rain in 10 minutes," Vettel is told.

Despite starting from last and receiving a penalty, Raikkonen is up to 12th.

"There's a lot of wear on that left-front," reports Hamilton.

Lap 24 sees another fastest lap from Hamilton (21.341) as he maintains a 12.6s lead over Verstappen. Stroll is third, 15.9s down on the Red Bull driver.

Like Hamilton, Vettel reports wear to his left-front.

The Haas pair continue in 5th (Magnussen) and 6th (Grosjean).

Albon is under investigation for the use of a drying machine (leaf blower) on his grid slot before the start of the race.

"Argh, I'm struggling," reports Stroll.

As Albon is told that rain is expected in eight minutes, the messages are beginning to sound like one of those dodgy mini-cab companies... "it's on its way..."

Leclerc creeps up behind Norris, as they prepare to battle for 14th.

Grosjean isn't making life easy for Albon, nor should he. That said, the Red Bull driver finally nails the Haas in T1 to take 6th.

Next up to challenge the Frenchman is Vettel. However, the German subsequently pits, switching to the hards. Odd timing, when you consider that rain is incoming.

Vettel rejoins in 12th, behind his former teammate, Raikkonen.

"The left-front is getting really bad, mate," wans Verstappen.

Perez passes Grosjean for seventh, as Magnussen holds on to 5th.

Norris absolutely refuses to yield to Leclerc as they battle for 14th. Great stuff from the two youngsters.

"Still a lot of rubber on the rears," reports Hamilton, "it's just the fronts."

Leclerc finally gets the job done and passes Norris in T1 on lap 33.

As Grosjean asks about pitting, he is passed by Ricciardo.

Bottas pits at the end of lap 33, rejoining in 4th, as Vettel posts a new fastest lap (20.734).

Check out our Race Day gallery from Budapest, here.

Sainz is told they rain may necessitate Inters, while other drivers are told the rain will by-pass the circuit.

Raikkonen pits at the end of lap 34, rejoining in 17th.

At half-distance, it's: Hamilton, Verstappen, Stroll, Bottas, Magnussen, Perez, Ricciardo, Sainz, Vettel and Albon, who pits.

Grosjean also pits.

Next time around Stroll stops as Bottas posts a new fastest lap (20.359).

Magnussen pits, as do Perez and Norris. The Dane rejoins in ninth.

Next time around Verstappen pits, rejoining alongside Raikkonen, but, more importantly, ahead of Bottas.

Hamilton pits at the end of lap 37, the Briton switching to mediums.

Another fastest lap for Bottas (19.656) as he closes to within 5.6s of Verstappen. Next time around the Finn posts 18.945.

After 38 laps, Ricciardo (5th) and Sainz (6th) are the only drivers yet to make a second stop.

"33 laps remaining, you did 34 on that tyre," Hamilton is told.

"Let's push for as long as we can," says Ricciardo who has no intention of pitting any time soon. Unlike Sainz who pits for hards at the end of lap 41. The Spaniard rejoins in 11th.

As Latifi spins (again) at T5 there is talk of "more rain".

Ricciardo pits at the end of lap 44, the Australian rejoining in 9th.

Russell is told of "possible rain in 9 laps".

After 45 laps, Hamilton leads, Verstappen is 20s behind, with Bottas 0.9 down on the Red Bull, Stroll a further 22s down, Vettel 24s down and Albon 3.3s behind the Ferrari.

"I'm struggling for second gear," complains Verstappen, who also wants more power. "He's right behind you," are the words of comfort from the pit-wall.

Leclerc is warned that Sainz is closing on fresher tyres, as Ricciardo passes Magnussen for 8th.

Norris passes Grosjean for 15th as the Frenchman enquires if everything is OK with his car.

Leclerc and Sainz - 2021 teammates - are locked in battle for 10th.

Bottas pits at the end of lap 49 without losing position. He rejoins 22.3s down on Verstappen who will surely have to pit again.

Undaunted, the Red Bull driver posts a PB as the Finn goes quickest in the final two sectors.

A lock-up for Leclerc allows Sainz to close as Bottas posts a new fastest lap (18.435).

Bottas is told to maintain "18.5 to beat him", the 'him' being Max Verstappen.

Next time around the Finn posts 17.913 as Stroll pits from 4th. The Canadian rejoins on hards still in 4th, just 1.5s ahead of Vettel.

"This tyre doesn't feel great," reports Hamilton, who has done just 16 laps on this set of mediums.

"If you go fast you can get Sainz and Kvyat," Ocon is told, though Leclerc is only just ahead of the Spaniard.

Bottas has reduced the gap to 13.7s.

Hamilton, 23s ahead of Verstappen, has lapped everyone up to (and including) sixth-placed Albon. Next up is Vettel.

Vettel doesn't offer any resistance as Hamilton closes and subsequently sweeps by.

"His (hard) tyres are 21 laps older than yours," Sainz is told of Leclerc up ahead, "your time will come."

"Get your head down and back on the pace," Verstappen is told. "I'm trying as much as I can," he responds. Bottas is now 9.6s behind.

Sainz attempts a bold move around the outside of Leclerc in T2 but the Ferrari driver hold the line.

Next time around, Sainz won't take no for an answer and passes Leclerc in T1, and in no time at all he is 3s up the road. The Ferrari driver reports - as though it cannot be seen - that he is struggling.

After 62 laps, it's: Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Stroll, Vettel, Albon, Perez, Ricciardo, Magnussen and Sainz.

Ah, In his bid to pass Leclerc, Sainz benefitted from the blue flags shown to the Ferrari drivers as he was about to be lapped by Bottas.

At the end of lap 63, the Mercedes crew are in the pitlane as it looks like Hamilton is about to stop, however the stop is aborted.

"What's going on," asks the race leader. "Don't know, we'll get back to you".

All that's missing was "it's on its way..."

"The front are starting to suffer," says Ricciardo who has lost pace since his stop.

"The balance is all over the place, I'm struggling so much" moans Leclerc.

With 5 laps remaining, Bottas is 5.2s down on Verstappen.

In the midst of all this, it's easy to forget Stroll who has driven a faultless race and looks set for 4th.

Hamilton pits at the end of lap 66, the Briton rejoining still leading, albeit with a lead reduced to 6.604s.

Elsewhere, Albon has passed Vettel for fifth.

A new fastest lap for Bottas (17.665) as he closes to within 2.4s of Verstappen.

Now Perez is closing on Vettel.

On fresh rubber, Hamilton goes quickest in the first two sectors, crossing the line at 17.497.

Bottas is now 1.2s down on the Red Bull while Perez is 0.7s behind Vettel.

As they begin the final lap, Verstappen urges "get that f****** Haas out of the way".

Hamilton takes the flag, posting the fastest lap (16.627) in the process.

Verstappen holds on to second, ahead of Bottas, Stroll, Albon, Vettel, Perez, Ricciardo, Magnussen and Sainz.

Leclerc is eleventh, ahead of Kvyat, Norris, Ocon, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Russell and Latifi

Gasly (drivetrain) is the only retirement.

Though the weather gods pretty much let us down, they did at least spice up the opening phase of the race, and certainly gave Max a scare.

Though the podium is pretty much the same as it usually is, there have been a few surprises, with Stroll finishing a convincing fourth, Albon also impressing – much to the frustration of some no doubt - Vettel bringing home some points for Ferrari and Magnussen getting the Haas onto the scoreboard.

Despite his pre-race error, Max rewards his mechanics for their sterling work on the grid, a superb performance from the youngster.

Of course, it remains to be seen if the actions of other Red Bull crew on the grid cause problems for Albon.

But for that fluffed start this would have been another 1-2 for Mercedes, the German team's advantage over its rivals this season quite remarkable.

As a result, we head to the next triple-header, which gets underway with back-to-back races back where it all began, at Silverstone, with Hamilton leading the championship.

The good news is that at Silverstone, the interference of the weather gods is an absolute certainty.

Bring it on.

Check out our Race Day gallery from Budapest, here.

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

Published: 19/07/2020
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