The third race of the 2020 Formula One race is outlined by our correspondent in Europe Nick van der Meulen in his report F1 Review Hungary 2020.
The F1 circus moved to Hungaroring, just outside Budapest, for the third round of the 2020 F1 world championship. The circuit has the lowest average speed around one lap on this year’s calendar and it has gained the reputation of being notoriously difficult to pass there. While it has this negative reputation, there have been some stonking races in the past, along with some fantastic overtaking manoeuvres (Piquet around the outside of Senna under braking into Turn 1, 1986, comes to mind, along with Mansell’s relentless run to an emphatic victory from 13th on the grid in 1989).
Interchangeable weather conditions graced the circuit over the weekend and, with the circuit wet just before the race got underway, there were hopes that another classic Grand Prix would occur. While the editor of this page thought the 2020 event was a great race, this fan was not as enthusiastic…
Lewis Hamilton annihilated the opposition over the weekend, taking pole position (his 90th), another lights-to-flag victory – his 86th of his career – and broke the lap record on the final lap to clinch the bonus point. The Englishman has regained his momentum of dominance and the rest of the grid will be hard pressed to challenge him on the way to a seventh world title.
Teammate Valtteri Bottas destroyed his chances of a challenge on the start line, creeping forward before the lights went out, but stopping himself and compromising his start. It is clear he wanted to be aggressive at the start, but couldn’t control it and paid for it dearly. He was extremely lucky not to be penalized by the stewards (that was a 30-second penalty, back in the day) for the infringement. While he began making inroads into Max Verstappen’s second position later in the race, the team called him in for new rubber, which, essentially, compromised his chances. The Finn re-joined and, again, whittled the gap down to his rival, but it was not enough and he was half a second astray from second place at the fall of the chequered flag.
Red Bull Racing-Honda had an ordinary weekend, by their standards, with some average qualifying performances from both its drivers. Max Verstappen made good of his start and forced his way into second position in the early stages – a position he did well to hold on to by race end. Alex Albon recovered well to finish fifth, albeit a full 70 seconds behind his teammate. Pierre Gasly was ousted in favour of the Thai driver for such performances last season, so the pressure must be mounting to improve on these results.
Failed to deliver
The Pink Mercedes squad (this fan has seen the team referred to as the “Pink Panthers”, which he may adopt) or Racing Point, as they are officially known, had a good weekend… although they may have been hoping for more. Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez locked out the second row in qualifying and Stroll made a solid start to run in third position for much of the race, but Bottas got the undercut in the pit stop and the Canadian ran a lonely fourth to the finish.
He must have read our editor’s article overnight, for he gave his teammate a hiding on race day! Perez ran at the bottom end of the points-paying positions for most of the race, but managed to salvage a seventh-place finish. After the race, the Renault team protested the Pink Panthers’ legality for the second time in two weekends, claiming the Racing Point machines are running with brake ducts that are copied from the championship-winning Mercedes from last season. It is suggested that Renault will protest Racing Point at every round until the stewards have adjudicated on the matter.
Not a second-rate Ferrari
The revelation of the race had to be the Haas-Ferrari team. Both drivers were called in on the formation lap to switch to slick (dry weather) tyres, which paid off handsomely as Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean ran third and fourth, respectively, for the first half of the race. They faded in the latter stages of the race, but Magnussen salvaged points for a superb drive to ninth place. It was subsequently announced that both Haas drivers were under investigation by the stewards for the use of ‘driver aids’ at the Hungarian Grand Prix. That would be sad, if it were true, for Magnussen scored points with a car that has not been anywhere good enough for a top ten finish.
Ferrari was putrid, by their standards. The team had aerodynamic upgrades in place and both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc made approving noises, stating that the car felt better. They were not anywhere near to being competitive and it was thought Leclerc would put in another strong drive when the drivers all switched to slick tyres. The Monegasque must still have been mindful of last weekend’s disaster, however, for he was hesitant to say the least when it came to challenging Lance Stroll for position. By the time he was ready to attack, the Canadian was gone – a clear indication of the red car’s lack of speed compared to where they should be. Vettel scrabbled to finish sixth, while Leclerc complained of car balance issues and slipped outside the points to finish 11th.
Hamilton continued racking up numbers and records. His eighth Hungarian GP victory equals that of Michael Schumacher for multiple victories at a single circuit, and he is five shy of Schumi’s all-time win record. He has also led more laps at Hungary than the rest of the grid combined. The Englishman’s dominance continues.