Formula 1

ANALYSIS: Assessing the field – 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix

7 Mins read
2020 Hungarian Grand Prix, Saturday - LAT Images

The word synonymous across the weekend’s Formula 1 racing at the Hungaroring was “strategy”. The weather played a huge part in the proceedings with the threat of rain cursing the race. The teams had to plan tyre changes and pit stops to the wire, which made the race interesting. Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team scored a double podium with Lewis Hamilton taking the win, and Valterri Bottas taking third place, with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen separating the silver arrows in second place. 

Lewis Hamilton impressed with his lights to flag victory, there was drama for Verstappen even before the race had begun, as he crashed into the armco on his way to the grid on the outlap and Bottas was accused of jumping the start – which the stewards later found out he was stationary at lights out, and in his box. 

The teams were fraught with the anticipation of rain for the duration of the race, which led to many pit stops, and drivers all going in at once. We saw unsafe releases and slow stops which really changed up the order.

Top of the class

Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate:  -0.107s | Race margin to team-mate: -9.452s

Perfect start off the line to launch him into clean air ahead of the field, where he stayed for the duration of the 70 lap race at the Hungaroring. Hamilton won by eight seconds, to Verstappen who was the only real contender to the Mercedes this weekend.

Hamilton’s performance this weekend is riddled with stats and facts, breaking records and adding to his ever-growing list of achievements. On his last lap, the six times champion took the fastest lap of the race, which broke the track record: 1:16.6s. Crossing the finish line, he scored his eighty-sixth Grand Prix career victory and became championship leader by five points to his team-mate Bottas.

Max Verstappen – Aston Martin Red Bull Racing

Qualifying margin to team-mate:  -0.866 | Race margin to team-mate: -1:09.61

Or would we say Max and the mechanics? I cannot be the only one who thought it was all over for the Dutchman before the race had even started, so to see him on the podium at the end of the race was something else!

Verstappen lost control of his RB16 into turn 12 and ended up in the tyre wall with damage to his front wing and suspension damage. The Red Bull mechanics made a miraculous attempt at fixing the issues in the 20 minutes before the drivers took to their formation lap. Team Principal Christian Horner explained that the damage would usually take around one and a half hours to repair.

Max repaid the efforts of his mechanics by contesting a strong race and crossing the line in second place, holding of Bottas who was slowing eating away at the gap between the Mercedes in third place and the Red Bull.

Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate:  +0.107 | Race margin to team-mate: +9.452s

Despite a bad start to the race, Bottas did contest a good race, which I think is deserved of a place at the top of the class. Recovering from a suspected jump start, to take the third podium spot, the Finn took a late tyre change which paid off closing the gap to Verstappen, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to round off a Mercedes 1-2.

Bottas’ car had gone into anti-stall on the line, rolling forward in his grid box as the lights were going out, luckily his car was stationary as the lights went out – avoiding a penalty from the stewards. We know it wasn’t the race he expected, he expected to be contesting his team-mate Hamilton for the victory, but leaving Hungary, he is second in the Drivers’ Standings.

Lance Stroll – BWT Racing Point F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate:  –0.168 | Race margin to team-mate: -1 lap

Even though the BWT Racing Point driver started the race in third place, Stroll did incredibly well to cross the line in fourth place. Even though at the end of qualifying, a podium was in sight for the Canadian, weather played a part in the team’s strategy, with a misjudgement allow Bottas to take advantage of Stroll’s wearing tyres. It was a comfortable fourth, having clear track ahead and behind he did however, score one of his best race results in Formula 1. With the pace of the Racing Points being up there with the Mercedes and the Red Bulls, can we expect to see a repeat performance for Stroll at Silverstone?

Alexander Albon – Aston Martin Red Bull Racing

Qualifying margin to team-mate:  +0.866 (Q2) | Race margin to team-mate: +1:09.61

Earlier in the weekend, both RB16s were struggling with both drivers claiming they were difficult to drive during practice. Albon’s qualifying had been hampered by traffic which left him starting the race from fifteenth on the grid. The youngster had an incredible race moving up the order to fifth place, with some brilliant overtaking moves made on his way. His fifth place was not safe however.

Aston Martin Red Bull Racing were under investigation from the stewards following an accusation of the team artificially drying Albon’s grid slot with the blowers used to cool the RB16’s brake ducts. Luckily for Alex, he was able to keep his fifth place following the investigation.

This is Albon’s second strong points finish in two races after he retired from the first race of the season. Albon sits fifth in the drivers’ standings with 22 points.

Homework to do

Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN

They didn’t have the best weekend. They seem to be constantly out of the top ten and qualified at the back of the grid for the Hungarian Grand Prix, with 2007 Champion Kimi Raikkonen in last, and his team mate Antonio Giovinazzi a place ahead in nineteenth. Raikkonen was then slapped with a 5 second penalty from the stewards for starting out of position on grid, despite being in last place – he was slightly over the line, being the last car into position and the Finn had no time to back up before preparing for lights out. Kimi however did cross the line in fifteenth. Giovinazzi was on a three-stop strategy in order to use all his tyre compounds, and finished in a lowly seventeenth place – two ahead of where he started.

Following the race Kimi slammed the performance of the car expressing that the team have a lot of work to do. Let’s hope we see a better performance from the Italian outfit at Silverstone in two weeks’ time.  

McLaren F1 Team

The McLaren boys had an ok weekend, but with the strong start to the season they had, it was a little disappointing not to see them contesting too far into the top 10. Following being held in the pit box due to traffic and then pit lane contact with Latifi, Sainz finished the race in tenth (then classified ninth following a penalties for Haas). His team-mate Lando Norris finished the race in thirteenth after starting eighth the Brit slipped back in the early laps of the race, unable to claw back position after being caught in the midfield.

Sainz had similar woes after spending most of the race at the back of a four-car train behind the Ferrari of Leclerc. McLaren need to work on their pit stops as ultimately the timing of this one led Sainz to drop back out of contention for more points.

Esteban Ocon – Renault DP World F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate:  +0.081 | Race margin to team-mate: +39.388

Frenchman Ocon has failed to make waves on his return to Formula 1 following a year out of the championship. Pre-season, this was one of the most talked about signings of the 2020 season. Speaking with F1.com following the race, he said it was a “weekend to forget” – and I do not disagree. He failed to score, whilst his teammate Daniel Ricciardo finished in 8th place.

Ocon was brought into the pits in the earlier stages of the race, at the same time as most of the grid, which led to stacking in the pit lane and ultimately losing vital time and position that couldn’t be reclaimed.

Nicholas Latifi – Williams Racing

Qualifying margin to team-mate:  +0.846  | Race margin to team-mate: +4 laps

Despite making an impressive start off the line which mirrored the likes of Vettel, Leclerc and Sainz, it all went downhill for Latifi. An unsafe release into the path of McLaren F1 Team’s Carlos Sainz Jr., saw the Canadian contact cause a puncture, and a spin into turn one on his exit from the pits. Ultimately ending any chance of a decent result for the Canadian, he limped his Williams back to the pits to repair the puncture. With damage to the floor also, it meant the race became simply getting the car across the finish line – he finished five laps down on race leader Hamilton.

The rest of the field

Whilst Scuderia Ferrari are still underperforming, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc had their best qualifying session of the 2020 season, starting fifth and sixth on the grid. Vettel had a storming start sneaking right up the inside of the pack, with Leclerc and McLaren’s Sainz following behind, into turn one. Vettel had a much better race than his team-mate Leclerc contesting for position but settling for a sixth place finish. Leclerc found himself further down the pack finishing in eleventh which wasn’t where we expected the Monegasque racer to finish following the strong start.

We saw the Haas’ of Romain Grojean and Kevin Magnussen sitting in podium positions early on in the race after switching tyres out just before the race start. They played their cards right moving the drivers onto slicks, which saw them benefit from the conditions as cars around them struggled, however this was short-lived as Grojean dropped back to the midfield and then both cars were penalised after the race following the radio calls to pit on the formation lap which contravened article 27.1 of the championship regulations. Magnussen did retain a point but dropped to tenth.

BWT Racing Point driver Sergio Perez did not fare as lucky as his team-mate Stroll, ending his race in seventh. Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo had a strong race finishing behind Perez in eighth.

Williams Racing’s George Russell had another promising qualifying session, scoring the twelfth fastest time for the second weekend in a row but he was unable to capitalise on this performance, dropping back to sixteenth off the start, then finishing the race in eighteenth.

The Scuderia Alpha Tauris had a nightmare with Pierre Gasly suffering with mechanical issues forcing the team to retire the car. Team-mate Daniil Kvyat finished out of the points in twelfth. 

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