‘Wake Up! The Hungarian Grand Prix is over!’ read a tweet after the race, which is possibly the best summary of Formula One’s sojourn at the Hungaroring in Budapest.
But to be fair, after delivering some nail biting races in Austria and Silverstone, it is acceptable for the sport to deliver a processional one. Although we’re not sure what the newer fans think of this. In this day and age of T20 cricket, futsal, et al, does Formula One need to revamp its format to create never-ending excitement? And no, DRS isn’t the answer.
Lewis Hamilton clinched the 48th victory of his Formula One career – three shy of Alain Prost’s second highest number of wins in the sport. This was also Hamilton’s fifth win in Hungary – the highest ever for any driver at this track. And since we’re still on statistics, here’s one more: Hamilton’s five wins on this track have come in only 10 years, which means that his win percentage here is as high as 50 percent. This could probably explain why the reigning World Champion could make a fantastic getaway from P2 on the grid, lead into the first corner, and then win the race comfortably.
The 25 points awarded to Hamilton for victory, seven more than Nico Rosberg for finishing second, saw the Briton lead the Drivers’ World Championship for the first time in 2016. Yes, it has taken Hamilton 10 races and nearly five months to lead the table by six points (from Rosberg) and if one has followed this season closely, one will remember that Hamilton was staring at 43 points deficit a little over a month ago.
Before the start of the race in Hungary, Hamilton had made his plan of attack public – get a good start and run away. Strangely enough, in 2016, Hamilton’s only Achilles’ Heel has been the race start. Luckily for him, he managed a perfect launch and overtook Rosberg in the first corner itself.
Nico Rosberg, despite charging Hamilton relentlessly for 70 laps, was unable to pressurise his teammate into making a mistake. And he was probably a fool to hope that a talent such as Hamilton would make one. This is probably where Rosberg needs to change his approach. Maybe he could learn a thing or two from Max Verstappen and attempt to overtake rather than wait for others to make mistakes. Agreed that the current formula doesn’t allow for close racing since tyre usage goes up and that impacts race strategy, but if Verstappen can do it so consistently and effectively, why not Rosberg or the others?
In the week leading up to the Hungarian GP, Mercedes and Rosberg announced a two-year extension of their relationship (for 2017 and 2018 seasons). In our view, the extension is a brave step forward for both parties. For Mercedes, it means that they’re willing to back Rosberg and his abilities over their young prodigal talent and current Manor driver Pascal Wehrlein. For Rosberg, he’s ready to fight Hamilton for two more seasons, even if it means that he finishes second. To us, this is real bravery – after being massacred by Hamilton for three years in a row and 2016 could be the fourth, Rosberg is willing to take his chances even if it means that he could be beaten six seasons in a row!
Note: We agree that there’s almost nowhere else Rosberg could and should go. At the moment, it seems that no one but Mercedes can give him multiple shots at the Drivers’ Championship.
Daniel Ricciardo joined the Mercedes title-rivals on the podium ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, his team-mate Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen. In the Red Bull Racing vs Ferrari battle, both Red Bulls managed to keep the Ferraris behind. This is bound to increase the pressure in the Ferrari camp which is just unable to respond and bring about a change in fortunes and results. And in an attempt to do so, they’ve tried hard to woo back their former multiple championship winning team member, Ross Brawn. Brawn, the architect of Schumacher’s seven titles, Team Principal of the title-winning Brawn GP and the person who put the title-winning Mercedes team in structure, has however declined interest in taking up a full-time role at Ferrari. Will he join them as a Consultant though? Rumours have been doing the rounds, but seems highly unlikely.
The Hungarian Grand Prix would’ve brought the loudest cheer for Fernando Alonso and Mclaren-Honda. The sport’s ‘most complete’ driver is also probably its ‘most consistent’ after he managed to finish in P7 across all sessions – Free Practice 1, 2 & 3, Qualifying and even the Race. Does this mean that Mclaren-Honda are truly the best of the rest (after Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing)? We’d not put our money on that just yet. Let’s not forget what happened to Jenson Button in the same race.
This weekend brought back into focus the FIA and their ridiculousness when it comes to ‘radio rules’. While the FIA did offer a relaxation in rules, they did so with a heavy penalty in the form of a pit stop. Henceforth, the teams can advise drivers on making changes to settings, etc but can do so only while servicing the car in the pit lane. Are the stakeholders of the sport bothering too much about the smaller aspects and missing out on the bigger picture? We think so and so does Fernando Alonso.
Lastly, Ferrari’s dip in form saw their Championship rivals Red Bull Racing close the gap on the Constructors’ table to only one point. While Mercedes will clinch top honours, it would be important for Ferrari to finish second for pride and for matters of money. After all, the Constructors’ Championship is the business of Formula One. And then if it matters at all, Raikkonen lost third place in the Drivers’ Championship to Ricciardo by a single point. We’d bet our money on Red Bull Racing in the second half of 2016.