This should be a post that’s all about the Ferraris, right after their glorious 1-2 finish at the Hungarian Grand Prix. But instead, Lewis Hamilton somehow managed to steal the limelight (how does he do it) and snuck his way into headlines and hearts.
We knew that the Ferrari package would work well in Budapest, given the characteristics of the circuit (the last race that Ferrari won was in Monaco, a similarly tight circuit) and they didn’t disappoint. After planting themselves in front on Saturday, they managed to seal the deal on Sunday despite Mercedes looking threatening at times.
The theme of this year’s Hungarian Grand was the volatility and sensitivity of intra-team battles. We saw plenty of friction between Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen as the team’s chosen No 1 driver was clearly not the fastest driver on track. Meanwhile at Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton picked graciousness over glory in an admirable move of sportsmanship to Valtteri Bottas. At Red Bull Racing, civil war broke out as Max Verstappen took Daniel Ricciardo out of the race and in return, Ricciardo fired verbal salvos.
Vettel’s win is Raikkonen’s loss
The team looked set to win the race from the very start, when they sprinted away into the distance as the Mercedes cars fell back. There were some worried moments in the Ferrari garage as Vettel’s steering wheel woes came to light, but Vettel handled the situation calmly like a true world champion. Tellingly enough, he has opened up the championship lead to 14 points over Hamilton.
Of course, Vettel’s win is Raikkonen’s loss. The Finn was continuously on the radio, asking the team to let him through as he had the quicker car. Of course, Ferrari didn’t relent as they wanted Vettel to pick up all 25 points while in contrast Raikkonen is not even in the hunt for the drivers’ championship. Moreover, Ferrari was aware that Raikkonen would safeguard a beleaguered Vettel from the late race charge of the Mercedes cars.
Disappointed as he must be to have to settle for P2, Raikkonen may find joy in the fact that he has established a record for most number of podiums at Hungaroring (eight). My personal moment of the day was when Raikkonen refused to speak in Finnish on the podium because most of his Finnish fans anyway understood English.
Unexpected moral victory for Hamilton
Mercedes may have lost the race but Hamilton scored a shining moral victory in a great show of sportsmanship. Mercedes had swapped their drivers, hoping that a quicker Hamilton could hunt down the Ferrari cars further down the road. When he failed, Hamilton handed Bottas back the P3 position at the last corner. Personally, I was surprised to see the proverbial ‘bad boy’ Hamilton playing by the rules.
There’s already much ado being made of the impact this could have on the world championship. I think it suffices to say that while the swap only cost Hamilton three points extra in addition to the 10 points he was anyway losing to Vettel. The role of these three points will only be clearer as we go into the second half of this very exciting season. If, ironically, Vettel wins the championship by three points or less, we know where that came from.
Overall, it was a far from perfect weekend for Mercedes, with the team suffering from troubles of their own. A dismal qualifying run saw Hamilton start in P4, followed by a lukewarm start. Mercedes also had a radio communication problem throughout the race which made it hard for the pitwall to communicate with the drivers. It is possible that this also compromised their race – for example, Mercedes brought Hamilton in for a tyre change sooner than he thought necessary.
After Mercedes and Force India, Red Bull Racing became the latest team to see an on-track civil war that saw one of their drivers – Verstappen – take out the other – Ricciardo. Despite a stern penalty, Verstappen grabbed P5. One can only wonder how much better he could have done without the penalty. One can also only wonder how Ricciardo could have done, and the total haul of points that Red Bull Racing missed out on.
The hunky-dory equation between the Red Bull drivers also seems to be breaking down with Ricciardo (usually Mr Congenial) piling on the criticism to Verstappen – calling him a “sore loser” and “immature.” Where this dynamic goes is the start of a soap opera in itself, especially because I fancy these lads competing hard for a possible championship title in the years to come.
Of fastest laps and deck chair humour
It was a great day for McLaren Honda with a double-points finish for the team. Fernando Alonso managed to finish in P6, which is his best result of the year. Amazingly enough, he has scored points in each of his last eight races at the Hungaroring. The icing on the cake was Alonso recording the race’s fastest lap during the last lap (in a McLaren Honda, how did he do it?!) But, the highlight of Alonso’s day was stealing the limelight from the podium sitters by posing with the deckchair installation just below the podium. Glad to see the sport shedding its uptight image and developing such a fine sense of humour.
Rest of the pack
As usual, Force India maxed out on consistency, delivering yet another double points finish (P8 for Perez and P9 for Ocon). Williams, who had to pull their reserve driver Paul di Resta into the car after Felipe Massa took ill had a disappointing race with no spoils to take home. Incidentally, Massa was down with the same ailment that affected Martin Brundle, an ear infection called labyrinthitis.
Going into the summer break, the teams will be gearing up for the second half of the season. it’s going to be hard fought, no holds barred as the winner takes all and I cannot wait!
Updated Date: Jul 31, 2017 17:50:21 IST