Small and big errors hinder Ferrari’s title charge, Hamilton does the business again, Bottas plays bumper cars, and Gasly proves the power of dreams is the real thing…
Hamilton on fire; Ferrari wilt in the heat
After Sebastian Vettel’s win at Silverstone, it seemed that Ferrari would be the team to beat over the long, hot European summer. Instead Lewis Hamilton has claimed a maximum 50 points across the rounds in Germany and Hungary while Vettel has picked up a mere 18 points – despite having the best machinery on the grid.
Hamilton described Sunday’s win as “a bonus” as Vettel was left to rue a small error at turn 1 on lap 23, traffic during the middle phase of the race, and a slow pitstop, which meant his late duel was with Valtteri Bottas rather than Hamilton.
The T1 mistake cost the German 1.2 seconds and the Ferrari pit crew’s tyre change was around 2 seconds slower than par. The combined 3.2 seconds loss was damaging and so was running an offset strategy because Vettel lost around six seconds to Hamilton in traffic between lap 32 and lap 39.
Ferrari and Vettel have a month to regroup ahead of Belgium, and they need to reduce their errors from Spa onwards. They need to improve in every area from strategy, to pitstops, to managing Kimi Raikkonen. For Hamilton, he has defied expectations to go into the summer recess a massive 24 points ahead, despite Mercedes not having the best car for the first time in the turbo-hybrid era.
Bottas’s bumper cars
Former F1 driver Martin Brundle attributed the contact between Vettel and Bottas in the closing stages in Hungary to Vettel, while Red Bull team boss Christian Horner apportioned the blame to Bottas. Replays suggest that Bottas locked his front tyres and speared into the Ferrari, which had already turned in to claim the corner.
A racing incident is arguably the best way to describe the contact and Bottas had done an excellent job in protecting Hamilton up to that point, but the Mercedes number 2 driver might have to reconsider his approach, especially considering the age of his rubber relative to Vettel and Raikkonen who were on faster and newer tyres, respectively. As for Bottas’s collision with Daniel Ricciardo, that was just reckless from the Finn who defied team orders and refused to hand the position back to the Australian – although this was moot because the Red Bull managed to overtake him anyway.
Joke is lost on Red Bull despite the Ricciardo show
Red Bull’s latent pace at Budapest was constricted by poor qualifying and poor reliability. Ricciardo drove superbly to show how competitive the team could have been to recover to P4 from 12th on the grid. His overtaking into turn 1 was something to savour, again underscoring his reputation as the best overtaker in the business.
Max Verstappen, though, wasn’t given the opportunity to showcase his speed due to a power-unit failure on lap 5. He described the retirement as a “joke” in an expletive-ridden rant, while Horner was more diplomatic, saying that he would leave it to Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul to “come up with excuses” for yet another Renault failure.
Gasly reminds the paddock of his talent… and with a Honda power unit
Sixth-place in Hungary was probably not as good as his performance in Bahrain, but Pierre Gasly drove a brilliant race to claim sixth and the title of best of the race. Although the broadcast didn’t provide much coverage, this was an eye-catching result for both Gasly and Honda – one which both Red Bull and Verstappen and Ricciardo will have noted with interest.
It was a good day for…
Fernando Alonso celebrated his birthday with a solid eighth, ahead of both the factory Renaults, but poor Stoffel Vandoorne was unlucky not to finish in the points due to a reliability issue on lap 49, though he drove particularly well up until that point. The Belgian desperately needs a result after an underwhelming campaign.
Kevin Magnussen’s impressive season continued as he bagged P7 despite starting ninth and Romain Grosjean’s 10th meant that both Haas cars finished in the points.
But a bad for…
Carlos Sainz was unimpressed with P9 considering that he started the grand prix in fifth. Sainz is under pressure at Renault, with the team confirming that it has held talks with Esteban Ocon.
Brendon Hartley’s future is also in doubt as he failed to capitalise on a solid qualifying and could do no better than 11th. Charles Leclerc’s recent woes continued with a lap 1 retirement and both Williams cars again finished at the back of the pack.
Richard F Rose