Shakespeare was wrong. What’s done can be undone. This year’s F1 championship protagonists, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, have both learnt this over the past couple of rounds.
A fortnight ago at Silverstone, Lewis wiped out most of Seb’s title lead in a single afternoon. In Hungary – which we previously thought of as Hamilton’s happy hunting ground – Vettel snagged most of it back, taking the win and leaving Lewis in fourth on one of his relatively ‘off’ weekends. As for the momentum – which we thought all with the Englishman – suddenly no-one’s quite so sure.
It took Mercedes boss Toto Wolff to bring some of the foregone conclusions to heel in advance. Yes, Merc swept the board at Silverstone, but that’s a circuit that could have been designed for them. The Hungaroring – in terms of surface, layout, temperature, and tyre compounds – is very different. That would be a real test of the Merc’s ‘diva’ tendencies, warned Wolff. Prophetic.
Ferrari Frame the Race
Ferrari, meanwhile, has rarely been that far off beside Merc’s improved form – plus, the last place the Scuderia won was Monaco. Hungary is long known as Monaco without the houses. And, just as in Monaco, the Italian team bagged the first two places with Seb ahead.
Like Monaco too, at the sinewy Hungaroring track position is nine tenths of the law. Or ten tenths. Crucially Seb took the pole and led while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen provided dutiful rear-gunner services. All this coming together meant Seb in first was untouchable despite severe steering problems – Seb even admitted Kimi was much quicker.
So were many others by the looks of things. For hardly the first time here a queue built behind the leader – two Ferraris, two Mercs, and Max Verstappen. And it stayed that way.
It was tense, therefore, for a lot of the way. But given what we’ve said – plus the fact that the modern F1 car for all its merits ain’t good for overtaking – the tension was illusory.
Mercedes Led a Merry Dance
Valtteri Bottas again was the quicker in silver when the car’s not quite on point. Hamilton at least improved as the race went on though and was allowed past Bottas to attack Raikkonen late. But Kimi was expert in defence – of his place and of his hobbled team mate. Lewis – also dutiful – then allowed Bottas to pass again as agreed.
Red Bull had its most encouraging weekend in a long while, looking, for a time, the quickest car out there with an effective B-spec machine debuted at a track that best suits its car. This evaporated though when the two Bulls collided at the second turn, putting Daniel Ricciardo out and awarding the culprit Verstappen a 10 second penalty. The Australian was atypically irate.
Fernando Alonso showed his genius again by finishing sixth, adding an extra flourish by setting fastest lap on the final time around.
Vettel’s lead is thus back up to 14 as all now head on their summer hols. Again, for hardly the first time, we’re given cause to think this particular F1 battle will run.