ANALYSIS: 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix – Assessing the field

by Harry Slade

The 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship continued on its renaissance as Formula 1 heads into its customary summer break as the Hungarian Grand Prix proved to be yet another great Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton made it ten Mercedes AMG Petronas wins in twelve races as the Silver Arrows outfoxed rivals Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen to take a memorable victory at the Hungaroring, much to the dismay of the Dutchman.

The two standouts of the season were a cut above the chasing pack as the Scuderia Ferrari team were beaten by more than a minute after the races seventy laps had been completed, as Verstappen and Hamilton served up a titanic cross-generational clash.

Top of the class…

Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes AMG Petronas

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.179s

Race margin to team-mate: – One Lap

For Lewis Hamilton, his showing this weekend was all about the race. While Qualifying did not go his way as he was relegated to a position less than his usual peerless standards allows on the second row. However, he rectified this almost immediately as he swooped around the outside of team-mate Valtteri Bottas at turn two.

From there Hamilton played a pivotal role in a two-car showdown as he duelled with Max Verstappen. Initially, the championship leader chose to stalk his prey, before charging at the Dutchman with vigour around his first pit stop, only to be repelled by Verstappen.

He then bided his time, before relentlessly waiting in Verstappen’s DRS, poised to make a move should the twenty one-year old buckle under the ever-increasing amounts of pressure. But as the battle plateaued, Mercedes rolled the proverbial dice by placing Hamilton on a two-stop strategy – leaving the Brit with it all to do to reel in the Red Bull.

Yet Hamilton’s performance from here rose to a new level, one Verstappen could not get to due to his worn Pirelli rubber, as Hamilton cut a twenty second gap to nothing with only a handful of laps to go. Hamilton then took a brilliant seventh Hungaroring triumph, matching Michael Schumacher’s record by charging past Verstappen into turn one; completing an incredible drive.

Max Verstappen  – Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.878s

Race margin to team-mate: – One Lap

Another weekend, another masterful Max Verstappen drive. The Dutchman marked the final race before the summer break with his first Pole Position to become the fourth youngest driver to head the grid of a Formula 1 Grand Prix, as he battered team-mate Pierre Gasly in the process.

In terms of the race itself, Verstappen was faultless and surely would have taken victory if not for Mercedes pulling a rabbit out of a hat strategically to leave Red Bull red-faced and boxed into a corner.

Verstappen began the race with a superb start thast contrasted his form of the line at last weekends German Grand Prix as he defended the lead well on the run to turn one. From there, he along with Hamilton waltzed away from the rest of the field, lapping his Red Bull team-mate Gasly on pure pace.

The Dutchman also highlighted a new facet of his driving ability as his usual swagger and bravado when coming through to take unlikely victories was replaced by clam composure when leading from the front. While this didn’t result in a third win in four races it did highlight that the Dutchman still has an outside chance at the World Championship.

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Carlos Sainz Jr. – McLaren F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.052s

Race margin to team-mate: – 10.066s

Carlos Sainz Jr. enters the summer break with back-to-back top five finishes after another special display in Budapest for the Spaniard. After being narrowly edged by team-mate Lando Norris on Satuday, Sainz Jr. bounced back almost immediately with an excellent start to jump Norris as well as Gasly to move up to sixth.

From there the Spaniard was one of a handful of drivers to move ahead of Bottas, promoting him to fifth and leaving him head-to-head with Gasly for a position in the top five. Under copious amounts of pressure, the McLaren driver showed his worth by holding off the Frenchman in inferior machinery to take a well-deserved fifth place.

With these ten points Sainz Jr. exceeds his hero Fernando Alonso as the McLaren driver with the most points in a season since the failed switch to Honda engines in 2015.

George Russell – ROKit Williams Racing

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -1.293s

Race margin to team-mate: – One Lap

Inarguably the standout from Saturday’s qualifying session in Budapest, George Russell brillianly managed to qualify a career best sixteenth for ROKit Williams Racing – their best result of the season. Furthermore, the Formula 2 champion was only half a tenth away from a coveted qualifying two birth.

In the race itself Russell was dogged as he battled with rivals who had vastly superior machinery at their disposal. Namely, the likes Lance Stroll, Antonio Giovinazzi and for a period Daniel Ricciardo. Russell also lapped his fellow Williams incumbent, Robert Kubica as the Brit continues his dominance over the Pole this season – in spite of the championship tables current viewpoint.

This superb display will have certainly caught the eye of Toto Wolff and the Mercedes higher-ups, as pressure continues to mount upon their current incumbent, Valterri Bottas.

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Homework to do…

Pierre Gasly  – Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.878s

Race margin to team-mate: + One Lap

Poor performances have become common for Pierre Gasly so far this season, yet the events in Budapest may mark a new low for the Frenchman as his results may have inadvertently affected that of Max Verstappen’s.

Gasly qualified a lowly sixth, the best part of a second a way from his superlative inducing team-mate and was then relegated further at turn one due to a poor start – leaving him ninth. The ailments of Bottas soon promoted him a spot, before Red Bull’s pitstop prowess saw him reclaim his grid slot of sixth – albeit behind Sainz Jr. in the McLaren.

However, while Gasly did recover to his starting position, you have to wonder if that’s enough. If the Frenchman was playing the supporting act to Verstappen, in arguably the role they envisaged for him, Hamilton may well have not had the gap to pit for the fresh set of Medium tyres which eventually sealed the race victory. Gasly’s poor form then cost Red Bull a victory, and as he goes under tighter scrutineering over his seat as the season goes on he must began to find his form.

Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes AMG Petronas

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.179s

Race margin to team-mate: + One Lap

Bottas, similarly to Gasly heads into the summer break under increasing pressure in regards to his contract stability heading into 2020. His performance this weekend will do nothing to ease that. While his qualifying display was superb, edging out Hamilton in brilliant fashion for a front row birth, his race was damaged from the get-go.

After being bested by Hamilton through the opening corners he found himself firmly under pressure as Charles Leclerc flew by. But unneeded contact with the Ferrari gave him front wing damage that would inevitably result in him having to pit. While the contact wasn’t Bottas’ fault, all the Finn would have wanted was a clean first lap as he looks to save his seat from the Esteban Ocon-like shadow that is looming large.

Bottas recovered well from here, charging to eighth, yet it was a race which could have great Implications for his Mercedes future, should the Finn stutter when Formula 1 returns at Spa-Francorchamps.

Daniel Ricciardo – Renault F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.467s (Q1)

Race margin to team-mate: +0.991s

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For the second weekend in a row Daniel Ricciardo produced a drive not befitting his standard. He was knocked out in Qualifying one in Budapest following an error in dealing with Sergio Pérez in the final corner as he aimed to start his lap. This rash call ultimately effected thus race, as he battled with cars that he simply shouldn’t have been sharing the track with.

On a weekend in which Renault F1 Team priorited over Hockenheim with a fresh power unit, the Australian failed to produce his best work as he was beaten by his teammate Nico Hulkenberg.

This poor run of form has left the Australian outside of the top ten in the World Championship, with many now questioning his move to the Enstone outfit.

The Rest…

Scuderia Ferrari had a day to forget in Budapest, in spite of their podium for Sebastian Vettel. The Maranello outfit were hugely off the pace with both drivers and were completely isolated together in third and fourth – as they remain winless so far in 2019.

It was a contrasting day for Alfa Romeo Racing as Kimi Räikkönen shone, while Antonio Giovinazzi struggled. However, the Finn’s strong showing did help elevate the Swiss-Italian outfit up to seventh in the constructors championship.

Lando Norris managed to gain yet more points for McLaren in ninth as the young brit was hampered by a slow pit-stop, dropping him from a likely sixth place. However, this was still better than the fellow Renault-powered Nico Hulkenberg who struggled for race pace despite his advantageous grid-slot as Renault continued to go backwards in 2019.

Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda were another team who faced a day of contrasting fortunes as Alex Albon produced another sterling display to take the final points position in tenth, just ahead of the similarly impressive Sergio Perez for SportPesa Racing Point. However, Daniil Kvyat‘s form was a far cry from his Hockenheim heroics as he struggled to fifteenth. Lance Stroll struggled for pace all weekend in the second Racing Point, and was eventually beaten by the Williams of Russell.

However, Robert Kubica was another to struggle all weekend in the second Williams, as the Polish driver continued to fail to match his highly-rated teammate.

Finally, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team suffered a low key Hungarian Grand Prix as both drivers failed to have the speed to muster up a points charge. However, solace must be taken from the fact that Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean managed to avoid breaking the unwritten laws of team-mate engagement.

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