Hungarian GP: Race Reflections

The Hungaroring failed to live up to expectation. In the last two Grand Prixs held there, a Mercedes has occupied only one of the six podium positions. It was the perfect location – the season’s halfway point – to cause some upsets.

Shortly before qualifying, the heavens opened and a deluge of rain fell onto the track. Prime conditions for a surprise early exit for a top team, or  a back marker to earn a high starting position. Despite four red flags in the first session alone, it was relatively predictable: Mercedes on the front row, Red Bull behind – though both McLarens started in the top ten for the first time since the 2014 US GP.

Ultimately the result was the third Mercedes one-two of the year, with Daniel Ricciardo claiming the final podium spot. It never quite reached the calibre of previous Hungarian GPs, but the stage is set for a cracking showdown at the German GP as Nico Rosberg tries to regain the lead he has lost to Hamilton.

Hamilton wins, and snatches Championship lead from Rosberg

For the first time in 2016, Lewis Hamilton is leading the Drivers’ Championship.

Hamilton out-braked Rosberg going into turn one, and a racy Ricciardo tried to go around the outside in a bid to take the lead, squeezing the German down into third. The race was on for Rosberg, who had to get back past the Australian to have any hope of winning.

He made the move at the next corner, sailing round the outside as if on rails. And that was pretty much it for the front runners.

The gap is now 6 points between the two Mercedes drivers as we head into the final race before the summer break. Hamilton said the British fans energised him and pushed him to the win – could the same be true for Rosberg this weekend?

Rosberg’s ragged run

Rosberg had a 43-point lead of Lewis Hamilton earlier in the season, a gap that the Brit hasn’t so much chipped away at as obliterated.

Two lacklustre performances from Rosberg was enough for Hamilton to gain the momentum to now be leading the Championship. He needs to regain the lead of the Championship by winning his home Grand Prix – if not for the bragging rights, for his own personal mental strength. Hamilton has an undeniable psychological hold over Rosberg, and if Hamilton’s impressive run continues, it’s hard to imagine Rosberg reeling him back in to take the Championship.

Hamilton is on his fifth and final power unit and will undoubtably have to take a grid penalty at some point later in the season.

And though he was under little pressure in Hungary, he never quite managed to shake Rosberg off his tail …

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Verstappen and Raikkonen meet again

All eyes were on Verstappen and Raikkonen in the final throes of the race. These two are now making a habit of being close to one another on track, and once again the young Dutchman came out on top, but not without controversy.

Raikkonen attempted a move on the Dutchman, who moved to defend on the right before quickly moving back to the left. The Finn made contact with the back of the Red Bull, enraging him.

Verstappen then reported Raikkonen for exceeding track limits, and the Finn attempted a last-gasp lunge around the outside of Turn One, but ultimately couldn’t get the car stopped and finished the race right up Verstappen’s chuff.

The Finn won Driver of the Day for his impressive race from 14th to 6th. Ferrari’s strategists have come under fire this season for appearing to make crucial mistakes with their pitstops (See: Australian GP) but on Sunday, their calls were inspired.

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Rules, Schmules

The calls for F1’s to overhaul its current rulebook will likely rumble on into the summer break.

The current radio communications restrictions have seen two farcical penalties applied to Rosberg and Button at the British and Hungarian GPs respectively. It’s now nigh-on impossible to defend the rule – neither driver arguably gained anything from the instruction. I’m not a fan of so-called ‘driver coaching’, but something has to give.

Expect radio communications, qualifying under yellow flags and standing starts in the wet to all be hot topics at the German GP.

2016 Hungarian GP results

  1. Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES
  2. Nico Rosberg MERCEDES
  3. Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL
  4. Sebastian Vettel FERRARI
  5. Max Verstappen RED BULL
  6. Kimi Raikkonen FERRARI
  7. Fernando Alonso MCLAREN
  8. Carlos Sainz Jr TORO ROSSO
  9. Valtteri Bottas WILLIAMS
  10. Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA
  11. Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA
  12. Jolyon Palmer RENAULT
  13. Esteban Gutierrez HAAS
  14. Romain Grosjean HAAS
  15. Kevin Magnussen RENAULT
  16. Danill Kvyat TORO ROSSO
  17. Felipe Nasr SAUBER
  18. Felipe Massa WILLIAMS
  19. Pascal Wehrlein MANOR
  20. Marcus Ericsson SAUBER
  21. Rio Haryanto MANOR

DNF: Jenson Button MCLAREN

The German GP is this Sunday at 1pm BST. 

 

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