The third round of the F1 season was at the Hungaroring in Budapest, Hungary. The mixed weather all weekend saw reduced running in free practice and some entertaining spins, but produced a great race on Sunday.
FP1 was dry but cool hence many teams had a hard time heating up the hard tyres. Mercedes topped the time sheets followed by Racing Point. Gasly in the AlphaTauri set no time due to power unit issues that would go on to cause him trouble all weekend. The Ferraris came in 6th and 7th in FP1 which is surprising given this circuit is better suited for them than Austria was, with fewer straights and more corners.
FP2 was wet. Only thirteen of the twenty drivers went out during this session but found the cool track temperature to be a bigger issue than the amount of standing water. Vettel in the Ferrari topped this session’s timesheet—but with only 65% of the drivers setting a time, not much can be taken from this.
Mercedes were fastest once again in FP3. The Red Bull drivers struggled with their car, calling it ‘unpredictable’, and Verstappen spun at turn 12.
The rain held off for qualifying so the medium tyres were the popular choice. The highlight of Q1 was the two Williams making it into the top 15, meaning they would advance to Q2. Gasly’s power unit issues continued into Saturday and he didn’t set a time in Q3 so started 10th, while his teammate only managed 17th. Hamilton set a new track record to secure his 90th career pole and 7th in Hungary. Bottas completed the front row and the two Racing Points locked out the second row.
Sunday brought action on the track before the race even began. All cars except the two Haas chose to start on wet tyres but the rain did not come. Verstappen locked up and crashed into the barrier on his way to the grid. His mechanics worked exceptionally well to replace his front wing and left front suspension in the 20 minutes before lights out, a job that should have taken at least an hour. They got the tyres on with 20 seconds to spare so Verstappen did not have to take a grid penalty. The Haas cars started from the pit lane as they changed tyres on their out lap—a strategy that proved wise and kept them in the top 10 for the first half of the race.
Bottas jumped the start, saying he reacted to lights on his steering wheel by mistake; he stopped the car before it crossed the detection line so was not issued a penalty. I agree with this decision as he lost places stopping and starting again.
Verstappen had an amazing start and climbed from 7th to 2nd on the first lap.
Everyone decided it was too dry for wet tyres and so pit on lap 3, causing massive traffic in the pit lane. Vettel and Norris came off worse from this, having to wait to be released into a gap. Latifi is released unsafely into the path of Sainz and gets a puncture. The stewards also issued him a 5-second time penalty. He limped around the track with a puncture before having to pit a second time to replace the tyres.
It was then discovered that Räikkönen had started the race in the wrong grid spot. He qualified last but obviously didn’t leave two places in front of him where the Haas cars were meant to be positioned, receiving a 5-second time penalty.
The first and only retirement of the race came on lap 17 as Gasly’s power unit finally gave up. This was a disappointing 50th race for Gasly.
Latifi’s race got worse on lap 43 with a spin and he finished the race 5 laps behind the leaders!
Hamilton took the chequered flag to win the Hungarian Grand Prix and in the process set the fastest lap to grab a bonus point. He is now 5 points ahead of Bottas in the championship. This was his 8th win at Hungary, which ties him with the great Michael Schumacher for the most wins at a single circuit. Verstappen finishes in second, a great recovery after crashing before the race even started and takes third from Norris in the championship. Bottas completes the podium but says it was a ‘really bad race to be honest for me’, having been bogged down at the start. Magnussen in the Haas takes 9th but a 10-second time penalty for using driver aids during the formation lap drops him to 10th in the final standings. Regardless, he secured the team’s first championship points of the season.
The unpredictable weather teased many of the strategists this weekend. Many teams waited for the rain to come but it never showed, meaning the drivers had a long middle stint with degrading tyres. This problem made the race harder for Leclerc and Sainz in particular who struggled to gain places on old tyres.
Albon had a good race, fighting his way from a disappointing 13th place on the starting grid to finish 5th. An investigation into his team artificially drying his grid box with leaf blowers did not affect his race result.
Williams qualified 12th and 15th but couldn’t hold their place in the race, finishing last of the running cars. Their pace in qualifying has been hopeful in the last two races, but they have problems holding that position in the early laps of the race. Russell was unfortunate to try some daring overtakes that didn’t pay off and Latifi’s unsafe release, puncture and spin all added up to a race from hell.
Holly’s driver of the day… and loser
Verstappen is my driver of the day. He struggled with his car in practice and despite crashing before the race, his team did amazingly to mend the car. His first lap gains to secure 2nd repaid their hard work.
Perez is my loser of the day. This may seem harsh as he finished 7th but I don’t think he stood out this weekend like Stroll did. Perez was out-qualified by his teammate on Saturday and didn’t have a great start on Sunday. His long middle stint was difficult for him and he failed to thrive like we’ve seen in previous races.