Tom’s Hungarian Grand Prix Race Notes

After an excellent and action packed two-race weekend in Austria to open the 2020 Formula One season, our attention was turned to Hungary for race three. Known as Monaco without the close barriers (and minus a luxury yacht or ten) the Hungaroring had the potential to deliver even more thrills and spills and didn’t it just. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some Hungarian Grand Prix weekend highlights and yet even more talking points.

Lewis Hamilton 

Quite frankly, I don’t think there’s anywhere else you could possibly start, is there? Fresh off the back of a masterclass in Styrian, Hamilton arrived at the Hungaroring needing just one win to equal the Michael Schumacher’s record of eight wins in Hungary. Boy, didn’t he deliver!

Hamilton’s mind-blowing qualifying meant he started on pole, leaving the field needing something to happen at turn’s one and two or it was game over. Sure enough, Hamilton had it all his own way as he cruised through the opening corners and never looked back. In fact, the Brit opened up a staggering eight-second lead by lap three. Oh, and he had a free stop at the end of the race to claim the fastest lap crown and that all-important extra point.

Put simply, Hamilton and his unstoppable Mercedes were once again class apart and he thoroughly deserved his 86th career win.

Oh, Red Bull!

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Being a Red Bull fan wasn’t easy this weekend. Both drivers reported issues all weekend, Albon’s qualifying was one to forget and race day was looking like it was headed for disaster. Did it end up being a disaster? Absolutely not! However, did it very nearly not happen at all? Absolutely!

My memory doesn’t always serve me correct but that said, I can not for the life of me remember the last time there was pandemonium on the grid prior to lights out as there was on Sunday. Just 12 corners into the pre-formation lap, Red Bull’s race looked as if it run before it had even began. Locking up into Turn 12, Verstappen collided with the barriers, leaving him needing a miracle to make lights out.

Thankfully, the Red Bull mechanics were not about to let the story end there. Not only did they get the job done but they got the job done spectacular fashion. Usually, the job that they were facing to repair his damaged RB16 would take around an hour and a half to put right however, somehow they pulled it out the bag in just 20 minutes!

Verstappen, in return, managed to take himself from 7th to 2nd, dedicated his podium to his mechanics and telling them on the team radio, “This podium is definitely dedicated to my mechanics”.

As for Albon, he managed to get over his Saturday session and pull himself from 13th to 5th. Albon has developed a reputation for getting it done when he’s up against it on a Sunday and once again, he didn’t disappoint. Although, he very nearly didn’t have a finish at all (more on this shortly).

Racing Point

I had a decision on who to mention first between Haas and Racing Point (or Mercedes depending on how you feel about the ongoing battle with Renault – sorry, Lawrence). I decided on Racing Point because yet again I am left wondering what else had this car got in it?

Racing Point locked out the second row of the grid. However, despite Stroll dropping a place to finish fourth and Perez dropping three places to end up in P7, that’s still very impressive. Here’s why.

Both Stroll and Perez were constantly giving their rivals something to think with their pace. It looked as  if Stroll was going to start on the front row for only the second time in his career – only to be denied of course, by Mercedes.

This was another great showing from a team, who firmly believe we haven’t seen the best of yet. With a week off between now and the British and 70th anniversary Grand Prix’s at Silverstone, how much more can they improve ahead of next year’s rebranding? Personally, I’m not sure but I know one thing – I can’t wait! Well done, Racing Point. A point is certainly starting to be made. Loud and clear too!

Haas Haas Haas

No, that’s not a misprint, that’s actually Kevin Magnussen and Haas laughing all the way to Silverstone with a 9th place finish and two championship points in the bag! Oh, wait… Checks notes… Maybe not, because after what looked like a masterstroke from Haas was actually a breach of rules and ultimately cost the team a place after both Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were each handed  a 10-second time penalty.

With the formation lap coming to an end, Haas decided that the track conditions were improving and that running on intermediate tyres was old news. Both drivers were told to pit for soft tyres which, as I mentioned, was a masterstroke. They eventually found themselves running in 3rd and 4th respectively. This was great to see but it was the long game they were using this strategy to benefit from.

To me at the time I thought it was a brilliant strategic work however, after the race the FIA thought otherwise and decided they had actually breached the regulations. Great thinking Haas but there’s undercutting and then there’s breaking the rules. It’s a far cry from what Guenther Steiner once described them as looking like though and credit where it’s due, it was still a very good showing.

George Russell and Williams

Now, I know that both Russell and teammate Nicholas Latifi both had a nightmare of a race, as Williams remain the only team yet to score a point this season. However, both drivers did amazingly well in qualifying, marking the first time two Williams drivers made it through to Q2 since 2018. Doesn’t seem that long? Well, think back to last season’s horror show at Williams and it does.

Russell was outstanding in qualifying and actually gets my highlight of the weekend with his ‘That’s the lap, That’s the lap’ reaction on the team radio after he put in a worldy of a lap to go 5th at the end of Q1. I’m not going to be the one and I don’t really need to say it BUT Russell right now is surely putting in a great audition for a certain seat in the coming year or so.

Another busy day for the stewards, and another Renault protest

Sergio Perez, Racing Point RP20

Oh boy, where to start! In fact, there’s only one place and that’s with Renault vs Racing Point – part four!

As we all know by know, Renault are serious not letting go of break-duct gate and after the race, issued the following statement:

‘We confirm that Renault DP World F1 Team has submitted a request to the Stewards of the Event for clarification on the legality of the Racing Point RP20. We have no further comment on this matter until the Stewards have arrived at a decision.’

Rewind a week to the day and it’s the same statement regarding the same battle – the legality of the Racing Point. Renault is adamant that Racing Point has broken the rules when designing their car, while Racing Point are categorically denying any wrongdoing. Who is right and who is wrong? Well, you can make your own mind up but for me, I really don’t see how we are this far along and this is still a conversation. Renault though are not letting go and have said that they will contest every race weekend until the FIA give them full closure. The FIA have already told Racing Point that their car is legal but Renault are still having none of it!

Renault versus Racing Point wasn’t the only thing that the stewards were looking at after this weekend’s race. There was also Albon’s dry start, Valtteri Bottas’ jump start, as well as the aforementioned Haas double-time penalty.

For Albon, the stewards came to the decision that Red Bull did not use their dryers to dry his grid spot and no further action was deemed necessary.

As for Bottas, that is very much self-explanatory. Yes, he jumped the start by the finest of margins but ultimately he didn’t benefit from it as he dropped a place from P2 to P3. Had he benefited from the error or even overtaken Verstappen to claim second place then maybe there could/would have been something done about it, but as it is, Bottas is the only one who has suffered as he surrendered his championship lead to teammate its Hamilton.

Final thoughts

So, as the F1 takes its first break since returning, you have to admit that while it wasn’t as action-packed as rain-struck Austria,  the conflicting opinions on the teams radios as to whether it was going to rain or not, and indeed when, was brilliant to listen to. Hungary wasn’t the best race given Hamilton’s and Mercedes’ pure dominance once again but overall, it was a great way to prepare us for a huge doubleheader at Silverstone.

 

[Featured image – LAT Images]

F2 Hungary: Ghiotto holds off Ilott in sprint race tyre gamble

Luca Ghiotto took his first win of the season in the Hungary sprint race, beating Callum Ilott after risking an alternative strategy to the rest of the field.

Ghiotto made a great start from fifth on the grid to second behind reverse polesitter Ilott. Behind, his Hitech teammate Nikita Mazepin continued his strong Hungaroring form to jump up to fourth place, while Jehan Daruvala slipped from the second row of the grid down to ninth.

Ghiotto and Ilott spent the opening phase of the race trading fastest laps as the Italian tried to put pressure on the lead, although Ilott was able to maintain a steady gap of over three seconds.

On lap 10 the first signs of the rapid tyre degradation that would define the race came when Louis Deletraz, struggling on softs, was passed by Mick Schumacher, Mazepin and Robert Shwartzman. On lap 13 Daruvala and Sean Gelael both stopped to change their own tyres, and were followed by Deletraz a lap later.

At the front Ilott was having the same struggles, as Ghiotto was able to close down the gap to the UNI-Virtuosi. On lap 17 Ilott, together with Schumacher and Shwartzman, finally stopped to change his worn mediums for softs. A slurry of pit stops then followed, leaving Ghiotto and Giuliano Alesi, the only drivers who elected not to change tyres, running first and second with half a minute in hand over Ilott.

Giuliano Alesi, HWA (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

But despite conceding track position, Ilott had a clear advantage from his fresher tyres. On lap 23 Ilott caught and passed Alesi, then began reeling in Ghiotto at a rate of almost five seconds a lap. On the penultimate lap Ilott was just 2.7s away from Ghiotto, which then became 0.7s when Ghiotto locked up through Turn 1.

However, Ilott was unable to affect a pass on Ghiotto on the final lap despite having much better traction through the corners, and Ghiotto was able to hold him off to win by four tenths.

Schumacher took his second consecutive third place after an assertive drive through the reverse grid field. Shwartzman finished fourth behind him, and Mazepin reinforced his strong form in yesterday’s feature race with fifth place. Deletraz recovered to sixth ahead of Daruvala, and Guanyu Zhou took three points with eighth place and the fastest lap.

After round 3 of the 2020 championship, Shwartzman holds an 18-point lead over Ilott. Christian Lundgaard remains third despite not scoring in either race at the Hungaroring, but is now only four points clear of Schumacher. In the teams’ standings, Prema have moved into the lead with 120 points, leading UNI-Virtuosi and ART.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F3 Hungary: Beckmann fights back to sprint race victory

Trident’s David Beckmann took his first Formula 3 victory in the Hungaroring sprint race, having fought back to first after losing the lead at the start.

Beckmann started from reverse grid pole but had a slow getaway compared to Dennis Hauger starting from third. Hauger took the lead into the first corner and showed great pace in the wet conditions to move two seconds clear of Beckmann by the end of lap 2.

Beckmann responded in the following laps, reducing the gap to under a second by lap 7, before the safety car was deployed when Liam Lawson pulled off with an engine failure.

Dennis Hauger, Hitech (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

When the race resumed on lap 10 Hauger jumped clear of Beckmann again. Meanwhile, Bent Viscaal had a great restart and passed his teammate Richard Verschoor for fifth, before then overtaking Logan Sargeant and Clement Novalak for third place by the end of the lap.

Viscaal continued charging, and on lap 13 the Dutchman moved into the lead after passing both Beckmann and then Hauger on the same lap. However, Viscaal was then handed a five-second penalty for causing a race-ending collision with Igor Fraga in the early laps, and was also placed under investigation for overtaking Sargeant off the track when taking fourth place.

As Viscaal set about trying to build a ten second gap to protect against a second penalty, Beckmann began pressuring Hauger for second place. The Danish driver was already six seconds adrift of Viscaal on lap 17 as his wet tyres struggled on the drying track, and he had little resistance to offer as Beckmann passed him on the inside of Turn 1.

Later on in the lap, Hauger then lost third place to Oscar Piastri, who had battled his way up the field from ninth on the grid.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

With five laps to go Beckmann struggled to bring the gap to Viscaal down beneath six seconds. But this wasn’t needed in the end, as the stewards awarded Viscaal another five-second penalty for his pass on Sargeant, which would drop Viscaal to third and hand Beckmann the victory.

However, Viscaal’s penalties were to become even more painful on lap 20, when Federico Malvestiti crashed out and caused the race to end under the safety car. Viscaal’s gap at the front was wiped out, and when he crossed the line his ten-second penalty dropped him from first all the way down to P17.

Hauger was promoted back into third for his maiden podium, with Piastri scoring valuable championship points with second place and the fastest lap.

Sargeant finished fourth ahead of Verschoor, with yesterday’s winner Theo Pourchaire in sixth and leading his ART teammates Aleksandr Smolyar and Sebastian Fernandez. Enzo Fittipaldi and Alex Peroni rounded out the top ten.

After round 3, Piastri’s double podium has extended his lead in the drivers’ standings, and he now has 26 points in hand over second-placed Sargeant. Pourchaire has dropped to third, and is now only half a point ahead of Beckmann following the German’s win. In the team’s standings Prema has 171 points, more than double the total of nearest rivals Trident and ART.

Formula 3 will be back in two weeks’ time, supporting the Formula 1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

F3 Hungary: Pourchaire commands interrupted feature race

Theo Pourchaire became the first double winner of the 2020 Formula 3 season at the Hungaroring feature race, seeing off championship leader Oscar Piastri through numerous restarts.

Starting in slippery conditions, the race opened with several incidents at the first corner bringing out the first safety car. Polesitter Aleksandr Smolyar was spun out of the race by Logan Sargeant, while behind them Frederik Vesti and Calan Williams came together to partially block the corner.

With Smolyar out and Sargeant driving a damaged car, Pourchaire moved up into the lead with Piastri second ahead of Sargeant. When the race resumed after a lap behind the safety car, Pourchaire immediately opened up a second over Piastri to protect against the DRS.

Piastri responded on lap five to bring the gap down to half a second. But before he could try a move on Pourchaire the race was interrupted once again when Liam Lawson pulled off with an engine fire, leaving a trail of oil throughout Turns 1 and 2. After one lap behind the safety car, the race was red-flagged to properly clear the track.

When the race resumed after a start behind the safety car, Pourchaire again bolted from Piastri and within two laps the Frenchman had broken out of DRS range again. From there Pourchaire kept improving, setting a series of fastest laps to add almost a second per lap on Piastri.

By the chequered flag, Pourchaire crossed the line more than twelve seconds clear of Piastri to take his second consecutive win of the season, and become the first double winner of the year.

Logan Sargeant, Prema (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Sargeant finished third behind Piastri to make it two Premas on the podium. Nursing damage throughout from the first corner collision with Smolyar, Sargeant was under pressure from both Lawson before his retirement and Sebastian Fernandez after the final safety car restart.

The American’s struggles were clear as he ran wide multiple times. However, he managed to hold onto the position until lap 15, when Fernandez’s tyres dropped off and he dropped behind the MP Motorsport pair of Richard Verschoor and Bent Viscaal.

As Verschoor and Viscaal then battled between themselves for fourth, Sargeant was able to pull away and comfortably keep his podium position. Behind, Viscaal came out on top with a last lap move through Turn 2, taking fourth place and his best F3 finish to date. Verschoor finished fifth and Fernandez was behind in sixth.

Alex Peroni finished in seventh, returning to the points for the first time since his podium in round one. Red Bull junior Dennis Hauger took his first F3 points in eighth place ahead of Clement Novalak, who rose 17 places from his grid position, and David Beckmann took the final point in tenth as well as pole position for tomorrow’s sprint race.

Dennis Hauger, Hitech (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

F2 Hungary preview: rookie leaders prepare for battle in Budapest

FIA Formula 2 takes to Budapest’s Hungaroring this weekend for round three of the 2020 championship.

While the opening round of the season was dominated by returning drivers Callum Ilott and Guanyu Zhou, last weekend was the turn of F2’s rookies. Robert Shwartzman and Christian Lundgaard took their first victories in the series to assume the lead of championship from Ilott, while Yuki Tsunoda, Dan Ticktum and Marcus Armstrong all impressed with podium finishes.

When F2 arrives in Hungary these rookies will be aiming to build on that momentum and take charge of the championship. Expect to see Shwartzman come out of the gates strong as he tries to make up for retiring from last weekend’s sprint race, while Tsunoda will be hungry to reclaim the feature race win that was taken from him by a team radio failure in Austria.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Mick Schumacher will also be one to watch this weekend. Not only will he come to Hungary with confidence from having won there in F2 last year, but he’s also on a much-improved run of form this time around.

In both rounds at the Red Bull Ring, Schumacher showed he had the pace to come away with at least a podium finish, if not a win. However, a spell of bad luck—including his fire extinguisher going off in his cockpit while running third last Sunday—means he’s currently lagging behind his title rivals, and will be pushing even harder this weekend to catch up.

And he won’t be the only one. Zhou will also be looking ahead to the Hungaroring weekend as a chance to get his championship campaign back on track. The Renault junior will be sorely disappointed after leading both feature races in Austria but coming away with only one podium, and will need to lay down a marker this weekend to avoid the title fight slipping away from him.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Further back, the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend will also provide a much-needed reset for some of the drivers still yet to score any points.

Chief among these will be Hitech’s Luca Ghiotto. Used to being a title protagonist, Ghiotto’s best finish so far has been tenth in the second Austria sprint race, with an array of incidents and technical issues helping to keep him away from the points.

Also in need of a breakthrough soon is Jehan Daruvala. At the start of the season the Red Bull-backed driver talked up his goal of vying for an F1 seat with Alpha Tauri next year, but so far he’s had a mixed start to the season and is currently only P17 in the standings.

Daruvala has been solid in qualifying this year, starting both feature races well inside the top ten, but scruffy performances on race day mean he’s yet to convert any of those starts into points. With his Carlin teammate and fellow Red Bull junior Tsunoda already fighting for wins and podiums, Daruvala will need to tidy up his racecraft this weekend and make good on his pace if he wants to avoid losing Red Bull’s focus.

F3 Hungary preview: Piastri looking in his mirrors as rivals close in

FIA Formula 3 returns this weekend, heading to the Hungaroring in Budapest for the third round of the season.

The 2020 championship got off to an excellent start at the Red Bull Ring double header, with four first-time winners in each of the four races creating a tight battle at the top of the drivers’ standings.

Renault junior and Prema driver Oscar Piastri still leads the championship with 44 points after the opening two rounds. However, he hasn’t finished on the podium since his win in the opening race of the campaign, and in each of the two sprint races so far he’s struggled to make progress through the reverse grid field.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

Meanwhile, his teammates Frederik Vesti and Logan Sargeant have closed up behind him and are only one good result away from taking the title lead.

In Hungary, Vesti needs to capitalise on the momentum of his feature race win last weekend and take the fight to Piastri again. Sargeant meanwhile must take the pace that’s yielded two second place finishes so far and battle to the top step of the podium this time.

But it’s not just his fellow Premas that Piastri will have to watch out for in Budapest. David Beckmann is sitting just behind them in the standings after a double podium in Spielberg last weekend, and the Trident team generally has emerged as Prema’s nearest rival.

Beckmann and Lirim Zendelli both have the pace to be genuine threats for victory this weekend, while Olli Caldwell showed no qualms about battling with Piastri at the Red Bull Ring last time out.

Frederik Vesti, Prema (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

While the battle rages for the lead of the championship, there are a couple of drivers further back who will be looking to reset their own campaigns as we move on to Hungary.

Sebastian Fernandez would have been hoping for a lot more than six points and 13th in the standings after storming to the first pole of the season in Austria. His only top ten finish came with ninth place in the second Spielberg sprint race, although this was largely gifted to him by Jake Hughes and Liam Lawson crashing out in the final laps—prior to that, Fernandez had dropped down the order after running wide while battling with Zendelli for eighth.

As for Hughes, he will also be glad to finally see the back of the Red Bull Ring. His collision with Lawson last Sunday capped off a troubled start to the year—after a technical problem left him 28th in the season opener, Hughes’ best result is half a point for tenth in the red-flagged second feature race.

The good news for both Hughes and Fernandez is that while neither came away from Austria with the points they expected, both showed that their form this season is a lot higher than their championship standings suggest. Given a clean weekend, both drivers have the potential to trouble the frontrunners for victory at the Hungaroring.

Sebastian
Fernandez, ART (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Hungarian Grand Prix: Hamilton hunts down Verstappen to take victory

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.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

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.

LAT Images

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?

 

[Featured image – LAT Images]

F2 Hungary: Rowland wins the battle in Budapest, but Leclerc still has the edge

The Formula 2 race weekend at the Hungaroring in Budapest couldn’t have started better for championship leader Charles Leclerc. On Friday he took his seventh consecutive pole of the season, beating Stoffel Vandoorne’s previous record, and securing himself four additional points. However, by Saturday morning that pole position had gone to second placed Oliver Rowland of DAMS, along with those four points, and Leclerc was sent to the back of the grid after a technical infringement which disqualified him from the session. It was also a season’s best qualifying for fellow championship contender, Russian Time’s Artem Markelov, who started next to his nearest rival Rowland in second place.

Credit: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

After an aborted start and an extra formation lap, it was a searing start for Markelov in Saturday’s feature race. He snatched the lead away from Rowland almost immediately, despite ferocious attempts at regaining the place from the Yorkshireman. Rowland’s teammate, the very much on form Nicholas Latifi also got a great start, moving up two places by the end of the first lap. But it was the championship leader Leclerc who gained the most ground, a rocketing start and some impressive moves round the first few corners meant he was up to eleventh with barely a minute of the race gone.

While most of the drivers started on the traditionally faster soft tyre, Leclerc, ART’s Alexander Albon and a few of the other drivers who had started further down the order were attempting an alternate strategy; trying for a long first stint on the medium tyres with a view to come charging back through the field on fresher, faster tyres at the end of the race. However, the new surface laid at the Hungaroring meant teams were somewhat in the dark about how long each compound would last, and whether the alternate strategy would work at all.

Credit: Hone/FIA Formula 2

While the race leaders pitted, Leclerc and Albon were released to try put some distance between themselves and the early stoppers. What ensued was a great battle between the two ex-teammates, neither of them giving the other an inch until Leclerc finally managed to work his way past the Thai driver. Meanwhile, Rowland managed to take back the net race lead from Markelov as he hunted down Leclerc and the rest of the drivers on the medium tyres.

When Prema finally called Leclerc in for his stop he came back out in thirteenth place, and it became apparent that the alternate strategy was not going to do him any favours. But clumsy contact between Sergio Canamasas and Robert Visiou on lap 25 brought out the safety car and luck was back on the Monegasque driver’s side again.

It was a frenetic restart when the safety car came in two laps later, one which saw Leclerc overtake three cars in a single corner, and Gustav Malja, who was on course to score some much needed points for the struggling Racing Engineering team floundered, plummeting to almost dead last.

In the closing laps of the race, it became apparent that race leader Rowland was struggling on his tyres and Markelov was closing in fast, being in the hunt very much suiting his driving style. With three laps to go he went for a move on the Englishman, but a combination of over eagerness on the Russian’s part and on the limit defending from Rowland sent him wide, onto the grass and out of the race in a high speed crash, which he thankfully walked away from unscathed. Rapax’s Nyck de Vries was promoted to the podium places, and Rowland led home a DAMS one-two as Latifi claimed second place in what has become a breakthrough season for the Canadian.

Credit: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

It was an excellent recovery drive from Leclerc to finish fourth, who came home ahead of Matsushita in fifth and Luca Ghiotto in sixth whose race pace continues to be far superior to his qualifying performances, after he started the race in thirteenth. It was originally a double points finish for Arden with Norman Nato in seventh and Sean Gelael in ninth with Albon sandwiched between them. But after the race Gelael was handed a ten second time penalty for premature use of DRS. That meant Trident’s Santino Ferrucci, who has now made a permanent switch to Formula 2, finished a fantastic ninth on debut, and Louis Deletraz of Racing Engineering scored his first point of the season when he was promoted to tenth. It was well earned too for the Swiss driver who overtook a hatful of drivers after the safety car restart.

His eighth place in Saturday’s feature race meant ART’s Alexander Albon managed to bag himself reverse grid pole for the sprint race, with Norman Nato lining up beside him. Charles Leclerc, still leading the championship started in fifth place, three places ahead of his nearest rival; Oliver Rowland.

Misfortune struck debutante Santino Ferrucci before the cars had even lined up on the starting grid, technical issues sent him packing to the pit lane, a disappointing end to what had started out as a very promising weekend for the Haas development driver.

Credit: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

At lights out it was not the start Albon and Nato needed. The two drivers dropped way down the order, promoting the fast starting Nobuharu Matsushita to first and Luca Ghiotto to second, and set Nyck de Vries up to score a double podium as he was elevated to third place.

The start might have been even more disappointing for Ralph Boschung and Antonio Fuoco, who hit trouble no sooner as the race got started, and were forced to pit and  circulate a lap down for the remainder of the race. Not the way either driver would have wanted their Sunday to go after a fruitless Saturday for both of them as well.

His high speed crash in the feature race meant Artem Markelov started from seventeenth, but he was very quickly up to tenth and looking determined to make up lost points. But for the most part the order stabilised, with gaps opening up throughout the field as drivers settled into their rhythm. There was an air of caution surrounding tyre wear, as the medium compound they were running wears much faster than the hard tyres used in the sprint race in 2016.

ART’s Matsushita looked unflinching as he led the race after his lightening fast start, controlling a commanding lead. At almost a third race distance most of the gaps had stayed consistent, and Nicholas Latifi was the only driver closing in on the car in front of him; Alexander Albon. Despite good work from Albon, always a strong defensive driver, Latifi bided his time and managed to move up to seventh place on lap 11.

As the race neared the half way mark the field began to bunch up and soon De Vries and Rowland were within DRS range of the cars in front of them. But with the Hungaroring being a notoriously difficult track to overtake on, it would take some laps of build up before they could move up the field. Further back, Markelov was making steady progress, playing it safe while taking ninth from Sean Gelael, clearly not wanting a repeat of his collision with Rowland.

Credit: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

Nyck de Vries pulled off what has to be the move of the weekend overtaking Ghiotto to take second position. The Dutchman was followed by both Rowland and Leclerc, the Russian Time driver dropping to fifth place. But it was not to be a higher finishing position than fourth place for the championship leader Leclerc, who was struck by suspected gearbox and engine issues for the last ten laps of the race, and it was all he could do to hold onto the points he did have.

Despite such a good start for Ghiotto he finished his race in eighth ultimately, claiming the last point up for grabs. But it was a carefully controlled win for Matsushita, who has had an up and down season thus far. Oliver Rowland and Nyck de Vries both scored their second podiums of the weekend as they finished second and third respectively. Leclerc managed to hold onto fourth, ahead of Nato in fifth who held off a charging Nicholas Latifi, while Albon came home in a slightly disappointing seventh, given his starting position.

After a disappointing Silverstone, Rowland capitalised perfectly on the fortunate hand he was dealt to gain some much needed ground on Leclerc, and put some distance between himself and the now third placed Artem Markelov. For him and Nyck de Vries, who both scored double podiums, it was perhaps a point proven, as both of them were overlooked for the upcoming young driver test in Hungary – Rowland to his teammate Latifi no less. Still, it is evident that Rowland needs a few more weekends like this before he will be on terms with Leclerc in the championship fight.

Credit: Glenn Dunbar/FIA Formula 2 Media Service.

Compared to their recent form, Russian Time had an underwhelming weekend, with Markelov only scoring two points the whole weekend, and arguably slipping back into old habits with his desperate attempt to pass Rowland in the feature race, which lost him a potential win as well as valuable points. His teammate Ghiotto could be up there the rest of the championship contenders if he can learn to put together a solid qualifying lap, but for the moment he leaves himself far too much to do in the races, and that elusive race win out of reach. The Russian team have now slipped below Prema in the team standings.

Losing out due to circumstances beyond his control, Leclerc showed maturity in making the best of a bad lot, and he still holds a healthy fifty-point lead over Rowland. He can rest easy knowing that after the summer break when racing resumes in Spa in a month’s time his campaign is very much on track.