Regular service was most definitely back in Formula One at the Hungarian Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton scored maximum points during a race where he was simply untouchable. His 86th career victory came after he scored pole position for the 90th time at a circuit he has now won on eight occasions. The race could’ve been a tricky one though, with the twisty Hungaroring initially covered with standing water and rain threatening throughout, but the new championship leader put no foot wrong on his way to victory.
The final race classification flatters Hamilton’s competition. Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas seemingly looked like they finished just 9 seconds behind. In reality, Lewis had such a large gap to second place that he stopped four laps from the end for a ‘free’ pit-stop to claim the fastest lap point on the soft compound tire. His time was half a second faster than the previous lap record set by Max Verstappen one year earlier, such is the pace of the Mercedes W11.
Already frustrated at his 7th place qualifying, Sunday couldn’t have begun any worse for Verstappen. With the drivers facing a potentially wet race, Max was pushing his Red Bull to find where any grip was on intermediate tires as he made his way to the grid on an installation lap. Instead of finding a grip advantage, he aquaplaned on standing water and was a passenger as his Red Bull canoed into the tire barrier, breaking the front left suspension and front wing. Somehow, his mechanics worked a miracle and repaired the car to be race-ready again within 20 minutes.
In contrast to Max’s nightmare beginning, the Haas team were in dreamland early in the race as they opted to pit both their cars on the way to the start line to switch to dry tires. As every other driver swapped from the intermediates in the early stages, the two Haas drivers found themselves in P3 and P4 thanks to their pit lane start. Their fellow backmarker team Williams instead had their race undone in the pits when they unsafely released Nicolas Latifi into Carlos Sainz’s McLaren. Latifi suffered a puncture. From his early high tenth place position, the rookie struggled home to 19th place, one behind teammate George Russell.
Any realistic challenge to Hamilton would have come from the other Mercedes that started alongside the Briton. However, Bottas misjudged the start due to an LED in his cockpit turning off before the actual starting lights went out. The error had the Finn hitting anti-stall, and the chasing pack soon swamped him. Being so out of position meant Bottas provided much of the early entertainment for fans, though, as he hunted down and easily overtook those that passed him at the start.
Bottas escaped any penalty for his jump-start but still looked a dejected figure on the podium. He recovered all positions but one as Max Verstappen, whose sublime start propelled him up the order, extracted every bit of life from his tires to keep Bottas at bay to clinch second. In a familiar strategy from 2019, Mercedes decided their best chance to get past the Dutchman in the closing laps was to regain time on fresh rubber. But Bottas needed perhaps one more lap to get past and crossed the line 7-tenths behind to finish third.
Elsewhere, Racing Point showed that they are the best of the midfield teams, with Lance Stroll taking fourth place, well clear of any Renaults, McLarens, or Ferraris that are their 2020 opponents. Alexander Albon and Sebastian Vettel battled for much of the race, but it was Albon who finished ahead in a recovery drive. His awful qualifying had him start back in 13th in a twitchy looking Red Bull, but the Thai driver looked assured in his overtakes, most notably on Charles Leclerc, and should be delighted with his 5th place finish, one ahead of Vettel.
In the sister Ferrari, Charles Leclerc suffered from a poor strategy call by his team to fit the soft compound tire at his first stop. Though in theory faster, Leclerc couldn’t make the tires work, and he had to watch his mirrors as he defended a growing train of cars behind him. Ferrari believed that more rainfall was inbound and kept their young driver out, hoping Leclerc could pit in with everyone else and not lose out. The rain never came, and in the end, Charles had a point-less race finishing in 11th place.
Despite the early wet weather, there were no safety car appearances for the first time this season. With Gasly the only retirement due to a power unit failure, any battle for the remaining points was down to how long the high-flying Haas duo could keep the faster midfield cars behind. Romain Grosjean couldn’t keep up with Kevin Magnusson and was 15th by lap 50. But K-Mag drove well and crossed the line 9th, behind the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo but ahead of Carlos Sainz in the McLaren. Unfortunately for the Danish driver, both he and Grosjean were handed a 10-second penalty. The stewards deemed their engineers aided them by suggesting they pit before the race began. Magnusson still scored a point but was classified 10th place instead.
With three quick-fire rounds now complete as F1 tries to claw back lost time, there is a now a weekend off for the teams before another tripleheader. Like Spielberg before it, Silverstone will play host to two rounds, with the first on August 2nd, and the second, marketed as the ’70th Anniversary Grand Prix’ on the 7th, before Barcelona on August 16th. And in troubling news for anyone not in car 44, Lewis Hamilton has won five of the last six races at Silverstone, and the previous three Spanish Grand Prix in a row.
Originally published at https://www.fortloc.com.