Can Ferrari kick-start their season in Hungary?

Date published: July 15 2020 - Finley Crebolder

Sebastian Vettel Ferrari

Goodbye Austria, hello Hungary. After a disastrous opening two races, Ferrari will be as grateful as anyone for the change of scenery.

The Italian team are currently sat in P5 in the Constructors’ Championship, 61 points behind Mercedes, and that doesn’t tell half the story.

Charles Leclerc’s opportunistic P2 finish at the season opener partially papered over the enormous cracks. In terms of raw pace, they were the sixth quickest team at the Red Bull Ring, as shown by their failure to get two cars into Q3 at both races.

To make matters worse, they didn’t get a chance to test the upgrades they fitted for the Styrian Grand Prix as Leclerc took out Sebastian Vettel on the opening lap, causing both to retire.

While Ferrari falters, Mercedes flies. Lewis Hamilton made it two wins from two for the German team when he cruised to victory last weekend with a vintage performance. However, as Valtteri Bottas did the same in the first race and finished P2 in the second, it’s he who leads the standings.

Valtteri Bottas not downbeat after Hamilton's Styrian display

Given Hamilton’s record at the Hungaroring, it would take a brave man to bet against him taking top spot from his team-mate. With seven wins there and the best car on the grid, he has to be considered the favourite, especially considering Bottas has never finished higher than P3. 

After retiring in the first race, Max Verstappen showed in the second that he’s going to be the biggest threat to Mercedes this season. While he never challenged Hamilton, he was holding off Bottas comfortably until he got front-wing damage and had to settle for P3. If Red Bull wants to take the fight to their rivals at the front, the Dutchman is going to need some help.

Alex Albon failed to provide it last time out, running around a minute behind his team-mate for most of the race. His strong performance at the season opener means he’s not under too much pressure yet, but given how brutal the team are with underperforming drivers, he’ll need to take things up a notch.

McLaren is currently sitting pretty in the dizzy heights of P3, thanks largely to the efforts of Lando Norris. After putting in a stunning final lap to take his first podium at the Austrian Grand Prix, he was at it again a week later. Running in P8 with two laps left, he finished the race in P5 and is now the highest-scoring non-Mercedes driver in 2020.

Racing Point will be looking at McLaren’s success and thinking that it should be them. They arguably have a quicker car, shown by Sergio Perez’s excellent charge from P17 to P6 last weekend. He could’ve taken P4 if he passed Albon instead of hitting him, and will be keen to make amends in race number three.

Despite ending the second race with the same exact result as the first, one P8 and one DNF, it was a much more encouraging weekend for Renault. They looked good in qualifying and, if they issued team orders, could’ve left for Hungary with more points in the bag thanks to Daniel Ricciardo’s initially strong pace.

All three aforementioned teams will be desperate to capitalise as much as possible because, with their driver lineup and vast resources, SURELY it’s only a matter of time before Ferrari catch up.

Given the car’s main weakness is its lack of straight-line speed, the Hungarian Grand Prix may provide an opportunity for some much need relief for the Scuderia. They almost definitely won’t be anywhere near Mercedes or Red Bull but, on a more suitable track with upgrades fitted, they may at least be able to fight to be the best of the rest. Don’t get your hopes though, this is Ferrari after all…

They at least don’t have to worry about dropping any further down the pecking order, because there’s a considerable gap to AlphaTauri. After a promising P7 finish in the first race, the second wasn’t as good for Pierre Gasly, who struggled with tyres and ended up finishing ahead of only the Williams drivers. On the bright side, despite being chased down by Alfa Romeo and Haas, Daniil Kvyat held on to finish P10.

Alfa Romeo will have mixed feelings about their last outing. While they’ll be encouraged by the fact that they were so close to AlphaTauri and a top 10 finish, they’ll be disappointed to miss out on points. Another concern is that Haas seemed to have the edge over them in terms of pace towards the end.

It was a relatively encouraging weekend for the American team. The finishing positions, P12 and P13, were solid, especially considering Romain Grosjean started in the pit-lane. The biggest positive, however, is the fact that both cars went a whole race without any mechanical issues, brake-related or otherwise. It’s progress.

As for Williams, it was a case of “what could have been” at the Styrian Grand Prix after George Russell put in an excellent Saturday performance to start in P11 on Sunday. He all but ended his hopes of a top-10 finish when he went wide fighting Kevin Magnussen and dropped to the back of the grid. The wait for their first points since last July goes on.

Before the Hungarian Grand Prix, listen to the latest episode of Torquing Point and catch up on everything that happened in the last round.

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