Forza Ferrari as the Reds hit double top in Hungary
The Formula 1 world championship headed to the Hungaroring last weekend, a tight challenging circuit set in the countryside outside Budapest, for the last Grand Prix before the summer break. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel arrived on top of the drivers’ listings by just a single point from his main rival, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, and after overcoming a race long steering wheel problem it was the German driver who left with an increased 14 point lead as the Italian team claimed a 1-2 finish.
Red Bull’s engaging Aussie ace Daniel Ricciardo had been quickest in both opening free practice sessions before Vettel topped the timesheets in final practice. With overtaking being difficult at this circuit a decent qualifying session was crucial to get the best possible starting position for the following day’s race and it produced an all-Ferrari front row, with Vettel taking a 48th F1 pole position ahead of his team-mate Kimi Räikkönen.
Just behind them were the Mercedes duo, with Valtteri Bottas outqualifying his triple world champion team-mate Hamilton. The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Ricciardo completed the top six qualifiers. There was extra British interest in qualifying too when Williams drafted in their reserve driver Paul di Resta at the last minute to replace the ill Felipe Massa and, whilst finishing next to last in qualifying, his effort was still very impressive.
Come race day the massed fans made a colourful spectacle under the scorching sun with their flags and banners waving and when the red lights went out to signal the start of the Grand Prix the Ferrari duo sprinted into an immediate lead ahead of Bottas. A cardinal rule in motor-racing is never to crash into your team-mate, but sadly that is just what young Dutch charger Verstappen did at the second corner on the very first lap, understeering into the side of the unlucky Ricciardo and damaging his car sufficiently to put him straight out of the race. Cue one understandably unhappy Danny Ric!
A short safety car followed whilst the stricken Red Bull was cleared from the track and leaking fluids and shards of carbon fibre were cleared away and as the race resumed Vettel led from Räikkönen, Bottas, Verstappen and fifth placed Hamilton. The stewards were unimpressed with Max and announced that they had given him a ten second penalty for causing a collision. Impossible to argue with that decision.
The two Ferraris were flying out front, but the leading Vettel was being increasing troubled by a steering wheel problem which meant that it was very turned to the left just to drive in a straight line. After all the frontrunning cars had made their one and only pit stop of the Grand Prix and Verstappen had also served his time penalty Vettel still led from a closing Räikkönen, who in turn was starting to be pressured by the Mercedes cars of Bottas and Hamilton.
At this stage of the race Mercedes instructed Bottas to let Hamilton past to see if he could catch and overtake Räikkönen, on the understanding that if he couldn’t the positions would be reversed back. So Valtteri dutifully pulled aside to let his team-mate by and Lewis set about closing the gap to Kimi, which he soon did but was never close enough to seriously threaten the Finn.
With the Grand Prix drawing towards its closing stages Seb’s pace out front improved a little as he continued to overcome his steering woes and as the two Ferraris reached the chequered flag to make it a clean sweep for the famous Italian marque Lewis dutifully slowed to let Valtteri back into third place whilst holding off Max for fourth. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso claimed an excellent sixth place finish, setting the fastest lap of the race too, ahead of fellow Spaniard Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, which left the pink Force India duo of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon plus McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne to compete the leading ten finishers. Williams’ substitute driver di Resta was sadly instructed to retire his ailing car with eight laps to go, at which point he was running last but still putting in a commendable effort.
So, at the end of a hot afternoon of racing and with the F1 world’s summer break about to start after a test at the Hungarian circuit this week Vettel leads Hamilton and Bottas at the top of the Drivers’ championship and Mercedes heads Ferrari and Red Bull in the Constructors’ battle.
F1 is back in four weeks’ time for the Belgian Grand Prix, as always held at one of my favourite circuits, the classic Spa Francorchamps track, even if in my personal experience it does rain there more often than not. As last year, it will be a mass of orange clad travelling Dutch Verstappen fans making the short journey from nearby Holland. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for some decent British summer weather before I hope you join me in Belgium for the next thrilling instalment in this year’s totally unpredictable Formula 1 season. Happy holidays, everyone.
2017 F1 Hungarian Grand Prix Results
1 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1hr39m46.713s
2 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) +0.908s
3 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +12.462s
4 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +12.885s
5 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +13.276s
6 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +1m11.223s
7 Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) Lapped
8 Sergio Perez (Force India) Lapped
9 Esteban Ocon (Force India) Lapped
10 Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) Lapped
11 Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) Lapped
12 Jolyon Palmer (Renault) Lapped
13 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) Lapped
14 Lance Stroll (Williams) Lapped
15 Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber) Lapped
16 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) Lapped
17 Nico Hülkenberg (Renault) Retired
18 Paul di Resta (Williams) Retired
19 Romain Grosjean (Haas) Retired
20 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) Retired
2017 F1 Drivers’ Championship (after 11 rounds of 20)
1 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 202 points
2 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 188 points
3 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 169 points
2017 F1 Constructors’ Championship (after 11 rounds of 20)
1 Mercedes 357 points
2 Ferrari 318 points
3 Red Bull 184 points
By Graham Read