The last race before the summer break takes us to Hungary, a track that last year produced carnage at the start and one of the strangest restarts in history with only Hamilton taking the lights on the grid. Ferrari has it all to do so that they can go into the summer break with some positive energy in the team.
Hungarian GP 2021
Last year saw the race start wet, which meant everyone started on intermediates but created chaos at the start. Bottas got a poor start but couldn’t slow down fast enough for turn one, hitting the back of Norris. This created a chain reaction, Norris hit Verstappen, Bottas hit Perez and behind them, Stroll had crashed into Leclerc, who hit Ricciardo.
This created a red flag, allowing the track to dry, and on the formation lap to the restart grid, all drivers apart from Hamilton dived into the pits to get slick tyres, creating one of the weirdest standing starts in Formula 1 history.
The race itself is known as an exciting track with plenty of overtaking opportunities and a great place to rack up some decent points for the championship.
Ferrari’s strategy calls in question… again
It’s no secret that in the last few years Ferrari has managed to build a reputation for making strategic decisions that often get in their own way. The French GP was no exception to this.
After losing Leclerc from the race early on, they only had to focus on Sainz, who was making great progress through the field and looked on pace for a podium. However, with 10 laps to go Ferrari decided to pit him for fresh tyres. He was on the mediums, and it was questionable if they would make it to the end, but Sainz was at a good pace and had just past Perez in P4.
These calls have now created a situation where Ferrari will need an almost flawless performance from now on. For Leclerc who is now 63 points behind Verstappen, he needs a clean weekend to take that confidence into the summer break
Double podium Mercedes
Mercedes had their first double podium since the Saudi Arabian GP in 2021. They are currently the most reliable team on the grid, and at their fastest, they have been able to pick up podiums when the top two falter.
However, they are now consistently on the pace and fight for the podium places now merit. Hamilton seems to have returned to his performance after a shaky first part of the season and Russell is still consistent. Hungary has always been a happy hunting ground for them, so they will want to replicate their past success.
Alpine is at the top of the midfield pack
Alpine has fond memories of the Hungarian GP last year, Ocon got his first win in Formula 1 and Alonso had an epic battle with Hamilton, helping out his teammate from the charging Silver Arrow. This year they appeared to have a faster car to bring to the fight.
In France, Alpine definitely had the measure of its closest championship rival, McLaren. Alonso appeared to taunt the papaya behind him and finished P6, while his teammate finished in P8 after an early incident with Tsunoda.
However, they are only four points ahead and McLaren seems to be having unpredictable performances. Alpine can’t rely on that pace alone with the midfield battle so close.
Esteban Ocon took his first Formula 1 victory and the first for the Alpine team in a chaotic race at the Hungaroring, after multiple drivers were taken out at the first corner.
15 minutes before the race start, rain started to fall on the track. Adding to the anticipation, it started light but was due to continue for the first 30 minutes of the race and get heavier before mostly drying out by the end of the race. Intermediate tyres on to start, Lewis Hamilton indicating on the radio he was ready for the fight in the rain. Hamilton and Max Verstappen are both known for performing well in the wet, possibly a leveller but definitely exciting!
Lights out and all eyes turned to Verstappen and Hamilton. Both got a great launch, but Valtteri Bottas had an absolutely dreadful start with wheel spin from third. Lando Norris got in front of him off the line but was tapped by Bottas from behind who had missed his breaking point. Norris then crashed into Verstappen and Bottas hit Sergio Perez. Norris and Verstappen managed to carry on with significant damage, but Bottas and Perez were out.
Further back in turn 1, Lance Stroll tried to avoid some cars by heading towards the apex, but ended up on the grass and collected Charles Leclerc who hit and spun around Daniel Ricciardo. Unfortunately, that was the race over for Leclerc.
Ricciardo kept going and Stroll was able to keep driving after damage to the front of his car. A red flag was called to gather the debris left around turn 1. This allowed the Red Bull team to fix Verstappen’s car, potentially saving him from retirement. Norris and Stroll then had to retire due to the damage from the incident.
Hamilton was still in P1, but others had benefited from a high attrition first corner. Ocon and Sebastian Vettel were the biggest winners, starting P2 and P3 respectively. Yuki Tsunoda was in P5, Carlos Sainz P4 and the Williams’ were P6 and P8 whilst Verstappen had really lost out and started in P13. A fight from the back was on after quick recovery work by Red Bull. There was a standing re-start as the sun came out to a now quickly drying track, but the question then was slicks or inters?
Hamilton was the only one starting on the grid, so the race was in the pits with everyone coming in for slicks. George Russell came out on top, and with Hamilton pitting after it looked like Russell would lead the race, but Russell was told by the FIA to give back the places he’d taken in the pitlane. Mercedes didn’t come out well with Hamilton boxing after the restart and ending up last and importantly behind Verstappen. So, on lap 5 Ocon was leading the race, with Vettel P2 and Nicholas Latifi P3. Hamilton was catching Verstappen who still had damage, so the race was on!
Verstappen managed to get past Pierre Gasly but then became stuck behind Mick Schumacher for five laps before passing him with a daring move through Turns 1, 2, 3 and 4. They did touch but both were able to carry on. Meanwhile Hamilton was struggling behind Gasly, locking up a few times but both Gasly and Hamilton managed to pass Schumacher in the next two laps.
Hamilton stopped for hard tyres on lap 20 in an attempt to change the strategy and go longer. Red Bull and Verstappen responded so made the stop just one lap later. Ricciardo pitted at the same time as Verstappen, and he came out in front of the Red Bull. Hamilton was coming down the straight as the pair came out of the pits. Hamilton took advantage and got past not only Verstappen but also Ricciardo, putting a vital car between the Championship rivals.
On lap 32, Hamilton was the fastest car in the race passing Tsunoda into P5 with a fantastic move while Verstappen was still behind Ricciardo in P12. This move caused Ferrari and Sainz to react, and with enough gap Sainz pitted and came back out in P4 with fresh tyres ready to defend against Hamilton.
Meanwhile Schumacher was doing a great job in the Haas to keep 4 drivers behind him. However, after many laps of battling, Russell finally made it past Schumacher on lap 33 with a brave move on the outside of Turn 2. Schumacher then begun to lose places rapidly to Ricciardo and Verstappen on the next lap, very important for Verstappen in terms of the championship.
From the front, Vettel pitted with a slow stop but came out in P3, ahead of Sainz and Hamilton. Ocon told to push but Alpine appeared to have the advantage with both cars in the podium places fight. A good stop meant Ocon came out ahead of Vettel, but Vettel tried to fight it into Turn 4. Sadly for him nothing came of it and with only Fernando Alonso in front of Ocon it looked to be an Alpine win from lap 39.
It wasn’t over at the front though. Sainz and Hamilton in P3 and P4 were catching the leaders at a rapid pace. However, Hamilton pitted on lap 48 for the mediums. He came out behind Alonso, but this would mean he could push to the end of the race, with flashbacks to Hungary 2019 and Spain 2021. Vettel got closer to Ocon through the back markers in an attempt to pass him for the lead. On lap 50 the fight was not over with Vettel having DRS and the pressure piling on Ocon.
Verstappen finally made a move on Ricciardo for P10 on Lap 61 and the final points position. This could be an important point for the championship and impressive driving considering the significant damage still on his car from lap 1.
On lap 57 a brilliant battle between Hamilton and Alonso began, Alonso defending and making the Alpine the widest thing on the track. This epic battle continued for over 10 laps, but Hamilton was eventually close enough when Alonso made a rare mistake and locked up into Turn 1. This did create problems for Hamilton though, who was on a mission to get to the front. However, catching Sainz on older tyres in P3 meant that just two laps later, Hamilton was in the podium places, but the gap was too big for Hamilton to catch Vettel in P2.
Esteban Ocon won the Hungarian Grand Prix! The first win for him and a great turn around since a relatively poor run of form. Vettel was in P2 after a great drive from the restart. Sainz was P4 ahead of Alonso, Gasly sneaked in a fastest lap right at the end in P6, and Tsunoda was P7. Both Williams finished in the points with Latifi P8 and Russell P9, which is vital for the constructors and their first double points finish since 2018. Russell finally managed to get those illusive points in a Williams!
For the championship Hamilton gained points on Verstappen, who finished P10, and leads going into the summer break. This has been a real swing in momentum after the British Grand Prix in the favour of Mercedes and Hamilton. It is all to play for as the teams regroup and look to improve for Spa at the end of August.
Lewis Hamilton has taken victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix, making best use of a free pit stop to chase down Max Verstappen and take the lead in the closing laps of a race that saw every driver outside the top four lapped.
Verstappen had retained his lead after the first pit stops and fended off an attacking Hamilton as the pair picked their way through traffic. Running wide when attempting an overtake at turn four, Hamilton dropped back and the gap to Verstappen stabilised around the one-and-a-half second mark.
With a sizeable gap to the Ferrari duo in P3 and P4, Mercedes made the decision to bring Hamilton in on lap 49 for what was a free stop, switching him onto the medium tyres. He emerged some 20 seconds behind Verstappen and set about chasing him down, being told by his team that Verstappen would be down to “zero rubber” by the end of the race.
Sure enough, Verstappen reported on lap 64 that his tyres were dead, and Hamilton closed at a rate of almost two seconds a lap to make a move round the outside of turn one and take the lead with just three laps to go.
With Verstappen reporting that he couldn’t make it to the end of the race, he made a free pit stop on lap 68 to switch to the soft tyres and chase the bonus point for fastest lap.
Sebastian Vettel finished a distant third, overtaking team-mate Leclerc on lap 68. Vettel ran a very long first stint and only came into the pits on lap 40 to change onto the soft tyres. By the time he had caught up to his team-mate, Leclerc’s hard tyres were some 40 laps old, and this allowed Vettel to dive down the inside going into turn one and take the final podium position. With the gap to Hamilton at over a minute, Ferrari will certainly be hoping that the long straights of Spa and Monza will allow them to claw back
Carlos Sainz finished in an impressive fifth place for the second race in a row, with Gasly and Raikkonen behind in sixth and seventh respectively.
The other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas took himself out of win and podium contention on the first lap. Lock-ups going into the first two corners allowed Hamilton to slip past and take second, and then contact with Leclerc damaged his front wing and forced him to pit. Dropped to plum last on the road, it was a long day for the Finn and he eventually reached the chequered flag in eighth place.
The top ten was completed by Lando Norris – who was hampered by a slow pit stop – and Alex Albon.
Hamilton’s victory means he heads into the summer break with a 62-point lead in the championship. Two bad races in a row means that Bottas is now just seven points ahead of Verstappen in P2, and you have to think that second is now firmly in Verstappen’s sights going into the next half of the season.
Hungary was the fourth good race in a row this season following Austria, Silverstone and Hockenheim, but can the trend continue when the F1 circus reconvenes at Spa at the end of the month?
After an absolute stonker of a race in Germany and two enticing races before that in Austria and Britain, it would, unfortunately, be difficult to say the same drama awaits F1 when it arrives at the 4.3-kilometre-long Hungaroring circuit in Budapest for this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
What’s more, the absence of any threat of rain across the weekend allows for the conclusion to be drawn that a track not designed for close-quarter racing will not toss up the same exhilarating drama we have seen in recent weeks.
However, we always live in hope. This season has been a bit of a slow burner, so we can only plead to the racing gods that Hockenheim was not the abrupt culmination of what has been a superb run of entertaining races.
Mercedes enter this weekend with a point to prove. Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton both became familiar with the barriers in Germany, with the former crashing out and the latter ending up very lucky to score points. That was their home race, their celebration of 125 years of motorsport, and their 200th race in Formula One, so it probably goes without saying that Toto Wolff’s boys need a strong weekend in Hungary.
The positive for them is that not only do they get a shot at redemption straight away in the second part of a double-header, but they also travel to a circuit that – if technical form is anything to go by this season- should suit them over their main rivals Ferrari.
That leads us to two drivers who had very contrasting races last time out. Sebastian Vettel produced a scintillating performance to recover from 20th on the grid to a 2nd placed finish, while Charles Leclerc, who had one eye on a victory, soon had both eyes on the Mercedes sponsored barrier and the end of his race. While Ferrari can take advantage of the opening two straights in Hungary, the rest of the track is down to technical driving ability and aerodynamic efficiency, neither of which have been entirely consistent for Ferrari in what has been a frustrating season for them. They are yet to win a race as the first half of the season before the summer break begins to draw to a close.
Let’s not forget, though, that Ferrari may not be fighting for a win, and perhaps not even a podium, this time round. The Hungaroring is a track that will suit the Red Bull down to the ground, and Max Verstappen, fresh from his win in Germany, will be firmly focused on adding an eighth to his tally.
Further down the order, Renault will try and get both cars to the line this time after Daniel Ricciardo’s mechanical failure and Nico Hulkenberg’s crash last time out. They are embroiled in a closely contested midfield battle with the likes of Toro Rosso and Racing Point, who saw Kvyat score a sensational podium and Lance Stroll take fourth after a brilliant strategy call in Germany.
Haas desperately need to get the bottom of their race pace issues, so Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen not running into each other this time would be welcomed by boss Guenther Steiner.
Williams and Robert Kubica scored their first point of the season in Germany, but we can unfortunately expect them to return to the back of the grid this weekend.
At a circuit where Mercedes need to get back on track and Ferrari need to finally get a long-awaited win, the ominous threat of Red Bull and Max Verstappen looms large as we head into the final race before the summer break.