5 Thoughts From The 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix
The finale to the triple header season opener concluded in Hungary with an interesting race to say the least.
Courtesy - RACEFANS.net
Mogyoród, Hungary - Formula 1 races are coming at us thick and fast since the restart of the 2020 season. The final leg of the season opening triple header ended in Hungary with a mixed conditions race weekend. Some aspects of the weekend were predictable but we were offered quite a few surprises through qualifying and the race. Lewis Hamilton dominating Hungary for his eighth win at the Hungaroring was to be expected but what we didn't see coming was Red Bull's massively difficult weekend. A year after taking pole position at this same circuit, Max Verstappen didn't even qualify in the top five. His teammate Alex Albon failed to make Q3 and the frustrations of both drivers was clear through team radio. Race day wasn't any easier as Verstappen damaged the front wing and suspension on the lap to the grid and put them at risk of not even being able to race. Nonetheless, Verstappen was still able to put on a show and the wet start to the race made things quite unpredictable in the beginning. As the teams fly home for a much needed week off, here are five thoughts from the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix.
1. Verstappen's mechanics are indeed 'legends'
'I want to say a big thank you to the mechanics because they saved the day, you guys are legends.' That was the message from Max Verstappen as he crossed the line to finish P2 in Hungary. What a roller coaster of a weekend it was for Red Bull as it seemed like they were on the back foot in each session. Failing to qualify in the top five, Verstappen was unhappy with the balance of the car all weekend long. The Dutchman was struggling with aerodynamic stability, especially in the low speed corners which made driving the RB16 very tricky. Points aren't handed out on a Saturday however, with the way Verstappen got underway on Sunday it seemed like points were the least of their worries. Verstappen lost control of his car on the way to the grid and damaged the left front suspension and his front wing. With less than twenty minutes to go until the race start, many thought Max's race was over before it even started. But thanks to a herculean effort from his Red Bull mechanics, they were able to repair the damage and fit all four tyres with seconds to spare. Take a look at the time lapse video of the repairs on Verstappen's car on the grid.
The F1 drivers are often the heroes of the day who get all the glory, money, and fame, but in this case the mechanics are the stars of the show. We don't know the names of the individuals who repaired Verstappen's car but they deserve a few bottles of champagne themselves. Without them, Max Verstappen wouldn't have been able to even turn a wheel in anger on his way to a second consecutive podium finish.
2. Strolling along nicely
Courtesy - RACEFANS.net Lance Stroll finished P4 in one of his best weekends for Racing Point
Amidst all the noise that is surrounding Racing Point nowadays, (Renault protest and the Vettel rumors) Lance Stroll's improvement as a driver has gone quite unnoticed. Stroll has been the easy target of the 'pay driver' label ever since he's entered Formula 1 back in 2017. With the Vettel rumors flowing rapidly, Sergio Perez was getting question after question about his future with the team. Of course many online highlighted the fact that Lance Stroll should feel pretty safe at Racing Point considering his father Lawrence is now part owner of the team. It would be quite a shame if Perez was forced out of Racing Point considering that he is the better driver and that he has done so much for the team, but Stroll is showing us so far in 2020 that he's not just being kept around because of his name. So far, Stroll has been able to improve on one of his biggest weaknesses, qualifying. Through three races so far, he's out qualified Perez twice and has made Q3 on two occasions. Qualifying third for the Hungarian Grand Prix was Stroll's best result so far on merit (Stroll started P2 at Monza in 2017 thanks to Red Bull grid penalties). We're seeing a lot more of Stroll's racing capabilities now that he has a car under him that can perform at the top end of the grid. He hasn't been afraid to be forceful on track with his overtakes on Ricciardo in Austria and Magnussen in Hungary. Stroll has also been able to keep pace with his more experienced teammate which is something that he struggled with last year. Racing Point clearly have a car that is capable of scoring podiums and maybe even challenging Red Bull. They haven't been able to bring everything together quite yet, but Lance Stroll's improvement and progression through the first three races should make Racing Point feel optimistic about the future.
3. We need a new word for this kind of domination
RACEFANS.net Hamilton equaled Michael Schumacher's F1 record of 8 wins at a single venue
Surely even Mercedes fans are bored of this now aren't they? Three races, three poles, and three wins, without even so much as a doubt of another car challenging for the win. We are currently in the seventh year of this unprecedented run by the Mercedes Formula One team. What McLaren did in the late 80's was impressive, Ferrari's early 2000's run was historic, but Mercedes' utter domination of the turbo-hybrid era is unparalleled. Lewis Hamilton finished the Hungarian Grand Prix 57 seconds ahead of 4th place Stroll, 78 seconds ahead of 5th place Albon, and he managed to lap every car up until P6. Hamilton lapping both Ferrari's probably brought a smile to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff considering all the tension between him and Mattia Binotto. Of course a Formula 1 Grand Prix win is never set in stone, but let's be honest here, Hamilton could have went sight seeing in Budapest and still finish in first place. After half of lap one, Hamilton already pulled out a three second gap to Stroll in second place and it was never in doubt after that. It was Lewis' 86th career victory and with little competition in sight, it looks inevitable that he will break Schumacher's record tally of 91 wins. If you're not a Mercedes fan, look away now. With little changes to the regulations in 2021, it's conceivable that Mercedes will maintain their stranglehold on the rest of the field. Domination doesn't begin to describe the run that Mercedes is on. We've never seen this before in the sport of Formula 1 and their is no immediate end in sight to their success. You can't blame them either, the problem lies with teams like Ferrari and Red Bull who have consistently fallen short of the silver arrows. When a team who copies their 2019 car ends up being one of the best teams on the grid this season, it just goes to show how far ahead the team from Brackley really is.
4. Driver of the Day - Kevin Magnussen
Courtesy - RACEFANS.net Magnussen finished P10 to score Haas' first points of the season
Officially, Max Verstappen was voted Driver of the Day by the fans for his P2 finish. It was a remarkable drive considering the circumstances but I think one driver went under the radar who deserves the most recognition, and that is Kevin Magnussen. It was an eventful day for Haas with K-Mag starting on the wet tyres which was a bit of a head scratcher. Then they pitted both cars at the end of the formation lap for slick tyres and it worked out well for both cars. Magnussen was running in a podium position for a handful of laps until the faster cars of the Racing Point and Ferrari's caught up. As the drivers settled in for the long runs, Magnussen's pace was quite impressive and was able to hold his position in the top ten quite well. We know Magnussen is a gritty racer and he didn't give an inch to the likes of Stroll, Albon, and the Ferrari's. While his teammate Grosjean stumbled down the order, K-Mag was able to hold off Leclerc, Norris, and Kvyat for the final points position. He initially crossed the line in P9, but a ten second time penalty to both Haas cars bumped him down to tenth. Regardless, the raw emotion of Magnussen on the radio post race was fantastic to listen to.
It's been a long and difficult road for Haas ever since they came into the sport. Points are far and few between for the American team in recent seasons so that's why a P10 finish seems like a victory. Their is something about an underdog team like Haas or Williams that just makes you want to cheer them on. Let's hope Haas can build on this good result but Magnussen was well deserving of some driver of the day votes.
5. Red Bull are not off the hook with a podium finish
Courtesy - RACEFANS.net
Ferrari have been the butt of all jokes and memes in the last few weeks because of their drop in performance from last season. While it is well deserved, they are not the only world championship team who have been massively disappointing in the last few seasons. Red Bull haven't come close to a world championship since 2013, at least Ferrari on the other hand have been able to challenge Mercedes in 2017 & 2018. The formula has been similar season after season. They get off to a slow start, develop the car mid way through the season, and then finish the season strong giving much hope to fans of a title challenge the following year. It just hasn't worked out for them at all and this weekend was another illustration as to Red Bull's ongoing struggles. They had decent pace in Austria but poor reliability which resulted in a handful of points lost to Mercedes. Hungary provided a new opportunity for Red Bull as the chassis of the RB16 was expected to excel at a high down force circuit like the Hungaroring. It was clear from Friday practice that it was not going to be a smooth weekend for the Milton Keynes squad. Alex Albon and Max Verstappen struggled heavily with the balance of the car and the performance was just not there at all. It did not get any better in qualifying with Albon starting P13 and Verstappen only managing 7th. The race was much better however and Red Bull were able to walk away from Hungary with 28 points and a podium finish. Even with the added silverware, expect the debrief back at base to be long and extensive. Red Bull's step backwards in performance was puzzling to say the least, especially when they're realistically the only team able to challenge Mercedes. They've got to get their act together quickly and try and salvage what's left of their chances for a championship in 2020. They have a driver in their car in Max Verstappen who is an absolute star of the future and present. Their is nothing more we'd love to see than a Verstappen vs Hamilton battle in equal machinery battling for race wins and titles. Verstappen is doing his part by driving the wheels off of his car but it's time Red Bull step up and give Max the car that is deserving of his talent.