Ambient 28° Track 52° Humidity 48% Wind 1.0 m/s
Polar opposite to yesterday as brilliant sunshine smashed down on the circuit with the odd ball of cotton floating by. Massa managed to break his car on the way to the grid as the replacement steering rack the team installed due to his qualifying shunt failed to work first in one direction, then after fixing in the other. Fun times for Williams as they trucked the serious tools out to the grid to have a go at sorting it before the race start. No pressure.
Of course, the real fun was had by the stewards post qualifying yesterday and perhaps the less said the better, but if one thing is clear, it’s that the average F1 reg is not always written AFTER having been thought through clearly.
The talk of the town is drama in T1 between the Mercedes teammates but there will be plenty to sort in the first 3 rows of the grid. Pirelli recommendations offered a choice between 2 and 3 stop so with luck there will be some strategic variability.
Still the main racing is likely to be down to T1, into the pits and possibly the last 4 or 5 laps if Mercedes can maintain it’s stranglehold off the line.
And they’re off!!! Great start by Hamilton banging past Rosberg into T1 on the inside, Ricciardo was by Nico as well and 3rd for Rosberg not where he wanted to be. Verstappen almost managed to get P1 round Lewis off the line before he shut that door and shuffled him right back to P4. Nico kept his foot into it and into T3 and managed a deft pass on the outside into T3. Ricciardo kept up the dice but Nico continued hsi faultless defense and as Lap 1 vanished it would be the wait for DRS for the Red Bull duo.
Most of the way through lap 2 and it was Hamilton at full chat, already clearing 1.5s whilst his teammate battled the bulls.
Lap 5 already a problem for Button as he reports “the pedal is going to the floor” with no further elaboration. As he drove backwards it was quickly game over as he had lost all hydraulic pressure. Alonso meanwhile, had managed to steal P6 from Sainz at the start.
A remarkably de-motivated Button was told to stay out, despite having lost 14 places as McLaren managed to get on top of Jenson’s issues (technical ones that is). At the front it was status quo through lap 8, with young Max already complaining about being held up by his teammate in front of him. Perhaps going faster in Quali would help. Certainly saying you’re driving like a grandma won’t.
Adding insult to injury, Jenson had to roll through the pits to comply with the new, even stupider, radio regs, during which he strapped on a set of Soft tyres. And then they gave him a drive through on top of it, for taking instruction, his panicked engineer shouting “don’t shift” while telling him there was no hydraulic pressure apparently the worst sort of cheating.
Nasr pitted lap 12 from P20 while at the front the two Mercedes had dropped lap times into the 1:25’s. Looking backwards, the Red Bulls had dropped almost 4 seconds to Mercedes and were still trying to eke Raikkonen out of their pit window. Lap 14 saw the end of Pirelli recommended stint length as all the cars at the front continued to effortlessly circle. Button wondered that the brake pedal going to the floor was somehow not a safety issue and Vettel chose lap 15 to go for his undercut on the Red Bulls. Out P8 just in front of Raikkonen who had wedged himself up to P8.
Then it was domino time as Ricciardo responded to avoid the undercut leaving young Max under some pressure as danny Ric was in front of Vettel by only a hair, but tragically behind Bottas.
Lap 17 saw the race leader in, trailed by Verstappen, both onto the Softs. Lewis was out 10s up the road from Ricciardo as Bottas finally took to the pits and Verstappen emerged just beside Vettel and they had a bit of a tiff before Vettel got the better of Max and his cold tyres. Then, to add insult to injury, Raikkonen managed to get a good run and stuck the knife in as well, demoting Verstappen to P6. A slow stop was the cause of his woe, as he was unable to keep the car still in the box.
Rosberg took to the pits lap 18, per the Mercedes playbook, and managed to take a second out of Lewis, but the battle on track was between Verstappen and Raikkonen, with Verstappen having gotten his tyres up to temperatures.
By lap 21, Hamilton was beginning to struggle for pace, as he radioed in to inform the team he was not entirely happy with the tyres. At that point, Ricciardo on the same tyres was over a second a lap faster.
Back at the end of the points position, Perez, Palmer and Mgnussen had all eked their way up, with Magnussen having run 22 laps on the Super Softs as they had all chosen to go long with their first stint.
Lap 25 saw the rock approaching the hard place as Rosberg was now catching glimpses of Danny Ric in his mirrors as the gap between the 2 was down to 4 seconds and Lewis continued to tantalizingly dangle just out of DRS range as he continued to struggle with pace. A small improvement saw Lewis cut the loss to around 0.4s a lap but it was not enough for the Mercedes garage who were watching both Ricciardo and Vettel looming large, and they radioed Lewis to let him know it was not enough.
Massa pitted and became the first driver to try out the Mediums and Perez finally from P7 made his first stop, completing the pit stop cycle with a set of Mediums and returning Alonso to P7. Behind him, Sainz and Bottas lurked, with Sainz running lap times definitely in Fernando’s neighborhood.
Kvyat and Haryanto dinged for speeding and then Raikkonen was in, lap 30 for his first stop, onto the Super Softs which according to Pirelli’s calculations could not last the distance left in the race.
Raikkonen was spat out behind Alonso and took about a lap before effortlessly dispatching the Spaniard into T1. At the sharp end, Hamilton had managed to sort of get on top of his issues, and was now running similar times to the rest, leaving Rosberg about 2 seconds adrift and Ricciardo about 3 seconds behind him with no real movement.
Still it wasn’t enough for Mercedes, as a radio call was played lap 34 telling Lewis that Rosberg would be given priority to protect against undercut if he couldn’t open gap. And reacting to that Ricciardo immediately was in and Lewis took 0.5s off his lap time. Clever strategy by Merc perhaps as Rosberg stayed out, perhaps to give themselves fresher tyres as Danny Ric was in 3-4 laps ahead of Pirelli’s optimum strategy.
Lewis second lap saw him into the 1:24’s and at the same time, Ricciardo was slowed, having to deal with getting round unhappy Jenson. Vettel sang the rather blue blue flag lament to spice up the show as Lewis again sawed another tenth off his pace, running 0.3s faster than Ricciardo on lap 39. Verstappen was in that lap as well, and got a bit of a telling off for being all for off at T11.
Verstappen was out behind Raikkonen, and just managed to get in front of Haryanto approaching T1, which certainly saved him a spot of bother.
As lap 40 receded into the distance, Hamilton was now a full second up on Ricciardo’s lap time. Meanwhile a wicked stop from Renault saw Palmer launched ahead of Hulkenberg who was also in, to take P12 away.
Lap 42 and Hamilton had done enough to retain primacy in stops as Vettel trailed him in and both opted to continue running the Soft tyre.
In the meantime, Perez made an unannounced visit to his pit, which slowed his stop down a bit as no tyres were out. Rosberg dutifully trailed in the following lap and was out in P2 with no damage done to either runner in the long run. Lewis in particular had a flash outlap and found his gap extended to almost 4 seconds with the undercut. Alonso was in lap 45 for his 2nd stop and at the back, Perez was having a bit of a go at Gutierrez for P13.
Lap 47 saw the pundits at Sky mistake traffic for lack of pace and much hand wringing commenced in the commentary box, until they realised the following lap that getting round traffic might cost everyone some lap time.
Further back, Jolyon Palmer, who had worked his way into the points and looked good to get his first ever point, instead went for a spin T4 and got a second warning for track limits. Of course he was sideways when he went off, but hey, still sure he gained an advantage by losing 3 places.
Verstappen had his second 4 off warning just after Palmer managed to get it back into shape, and he seemed all too aware of his faux pas when the team radioed him to pass the bad news.
Vettel’s blue flag lament again was, as Rosberg taking advantage of traffic, had managed to cut the gap to under DRS as a balky Gutierrez held Lewis up more than a little bit, with 16 laps to go.
With a clear track Hamilton reacted by banging in a lap 0.4s faster than Rosberg and taking himself right out of Nico’s DRS. Rosberg matched his time the following lap and both Mercedes were lapping nearly a second faster than Ricciardo in 3rd.
Whilst that drama transpired, Alonso received his final track limits warning, meaning running afoul would be penalised and in P7, Macca could ill afford that. Button’s problem was down to a sensor failure and subsequent to fixing the problem, his brake pedal was long, inviting the opprobrium of the stewards.
Lap 57 saw Raikkonen having a bit of a go at Verstappen, which had been developing for several lap. Out of T1, he was behind and going into T3 he tried to swing inside out and tagged the rear of Verstappen, shattering his front wing. Kimi was immediately on the radio, blaming Verstappen for making 2 moves, but by the end of the lap he was back on Verstappen’s gearbox and showing no signs of coming in, but the loss of front DF could make his life difficult at the end of the race, with his tyres having to work harder to make up the lost grip.
Lap 60 saw the leading Mercedes into the high 1:23’s and a bog standard 2 second gap between them. Sainz was slowly reeling in Alonso running P7 with about 3 seconds between them and behind him, Bottas the same amount behind. Button was called into retire the same lap, as smoke was spotted pluming skyward from his engine cover.
Then, just when everyone was falling asleep, BANG! Rosberg had closed the gap to Lewis and was just 0.5s off, while Kimi continued the relentless assault on the Red Bull of Verstappen. Sky had a look and decided it was a late 2nd move for young Max, but no investigation.
Big T13 lock up into Lap 64 for Verstappen but again, Kimi could not take advantage. A lock up into T12 was also responsible for Hamilton’s loss of time, but as previously he responded in rather boring fashion and immediately took himself out of DRS. Bad behaviour under blue flags was a trending topic amongst the front runners, and Alonso, having gotten the memo, had gradually pulled the gap out and was well in front of Sainz with 3 laps to go, leaving Raikkonen v Verstappen the only show on track.
At lest until lap 68 when a late defending move from Verstappen sent Raikkonen wide on T1 and cost him buckets of time. Fortunately, Vettel had closed in on Ricciardo to give the telly something to occupy the last 2 laps as Mercedes once again retained their death grip on the top steps of the podium.
On the radio, Raikkonen sounded like a child whose ice cream had been forcibly removed, as angry as the normally phlegmatic Finn ever sounded as he complained of Verstappen’s late reactive moves to his lines into corners. And not surprisingly, Vettel was unable to pip Ricciardo and as they rolled under the checquers, it was Hamilton P1 taking the championship lead and Mercedes’ first win at the Hungaroring in the hybrid era simultaneously, along with being the first ever 5 time winner. Rosberg was forced to make do with his first ever podium in Budapest, followed by Ricciardo, Vettel and Verstappen, who will likely be looking to dodge a rather angry Finn post race.
Alonso made it quite clear that McLaren was no longer languishing, at least on tracks that don’t demand maximum power, coming P7 and Sainz Bottas and Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10.
Insane FIA regulations and behaving badly under blue flags seemed to be the winners of this particular race, though a nod to Hamilton’s finally getting off the line perhaps worth a mention, along with Verstappen v Kimi, should be good for some conversation. AS to Hamilton’s slowness in the second stint, put it down to the formula perhaps, as he’s managing engines to maximise life, tyres to maximise life etc. Good news maybe that Pirelli has sturdier tyres in mind for next season! Or perhaps Mercedes was just playing mind games with Red Bull, getting them to pit Ricciardo early and sticking him in traffic. Good luck deciding that, haha!! Oh and while you’re at it, is Red Bull really faster than Ferrari now, or has the track just favoured them?
And remember to play nice in the comments!!