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2019 Hungarian Grand Prix Blog

A ‘Duel on the Danube’ is what we were treated to on Sunday with F1 heavyweights Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen trading blows in an enthralling Hungarian GP. Fans have been waiting for years to see these two drivers go head to head, and finally got what they wanted, with Max holding track position in the slower Red Bull trying to fend off Lewis in the faster Mercedes.

Tactics played a crucial part in how this Grand Prix unfolded. Mercedes took the bold step to put Lewis on a two-stop strategy and on lap 49 pitted him again to switch from hard to medium tyres. They lost 20 seconds or so in doing so, but with fresh tyres and a faster car, they still had 21 laps to chase down their target.

Hamilton was unsure about the move at the time. “I definitely was not thinking: ‘Genius,’ he said afterwards, “They told me we were going two-stop and I couldn’t compute how it would work.” But it did work, and this proved to be an inspired move from the Mercedes strategists. Red Bull were clearly taken by surprise and could not react quick enough. To pit Verstappen over the coming laps, would have given track position to Hamilton.

Christian Horner acknowledged the move afterwards and said his team were left in an: “All to lose” situation, trying to defend against a Mercedes which was simply a quicker car, on fresher tyres. Horner also praised Verstappen, saying: “He has driven with great maturity… To lose a race with four laps to go is hugely frustrating, but he gets the bigger picture. He knew the situation we were in and he understood how the race was being read.”

The big disappointment of the weekend was Ferrari. Yes, they finished in third and fourth, with Sebastian Vettel taking the last spot on the podium, but he was over a minute slower than the race winner. Vettel was open about his team’s shortcomings, Saying: “Obviously I can’t be happy because we were not fast today… Losing 60 seconds in 70 laps is probably fair – that’s what we were missing. Maybe we didn’t pick the absolute fastest strategy but overall we’re just not quick enough today so lots of homework for us.”

Homework is definitely what is required for the Scuderia. Spa and Monza are up next, both circuits which should play to Ferrari’s strengths, and wouldn’t it be great to see a three-way battle between the top teams.

A driver who needs to be involved in any such showdown is Valterri Bottas. He looked a reformed character at the start of the year, but his season has tailed off. A good showing round Hungaroring was needed but Bottas fluffed his lines. Starting in P2, he was P4 by the fourth corner and with a broken front wing to boot, he eventually finishing the race in P8.

Bottas knows his future hangs in the balance. Mercedes are set to decide between him and Estaban Ocon, as to who gets the seat next year. Toto Wolff explained their thinking, saying: “We will not be letting one race result influence our decision… It is more about compounding all data and then making a decision on stability and great personality and a very good driver, versus giving youth a chance with all the reward and risk it can bring and we haven’t done that yet… We will start the process tomorrow and it will not be an easy one.”

F1 heads into the traditional Summer Break now, with four weeks off before we return for the final nine races of the season. Verstappen is 69 points behind Hamilton in the title race. The gap looks big but if he can win another couple of races he’s sure to have Lewis looking nervously over his shoulder.

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