After the first two rounds of the season, both held at the Austrian Red Bull Ring, the Circus moves to Hungary, where the third round of the championship will be held on Sunday 19 July 2020. A Grand Prix has never been held this early at the Hungaroring. The Grand Prix has been brought forward by two weeks due to the health crisis caused by Covid-19, taking the place initially assigned to the British Grand Prix.
The post-race period at Ferrari is silent. There is little time to go over the double retirement of the Styrian Grand Prix, caused by Charles Leclerc’s extreme manoeuvre, not even one minute from the start. It's time to focus on the new package of updates that the Maranello team will be bringing to the track this weekend (new layout for the radiators and the exhausts on the sides), and above all to try and get the most out of the slow and twisty Hungarian circuit. Mattia Binotto says he is motivated for this Grand Prix, and ready to work to the maximum:
"We are aware that the level of the car's performance is not up to expectations, both ours and those of our fans. But we are working hard on every aspect to improve as soon as possible. We go with the objective of collecting maximum points. To do so, we will have to be perfect in every area: drivers, car preparation, track operations, reliability".
Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc are the first to hope for a competitive SF1000. The Monegasque has a lot to give to the Maranello team, including optimism and promise to pay more attention after the mistake in Austria that cost him dearly:
"It will be vital not to make mistakes in order to put together the perfect attempt. Even a small thing is enough, in fact, to pay a high price in terms of lap time. Budapest is one of my favorite stages in the calendar, because the city is beautiful and the fans are very passionate. In this edition we won't be able to have them in the stands but they will follow us from home and I hope to entertain them".
Vettel, on the other hand, is in his last year at Ferrari and wants to end this adventure in the best possible way. But above all, he wants to prove he is still very valuable. Having won here in 2015 and 2017, he already knows what awaits him:
"It's a difficult track, which subjects the drivers to a fair amount of physical effort because there are very few stretches where you can relax. The turns are many, and usually when the Grand Prix is held the weather conditions present very hot days. It's even more sad this time that there is no public on the stands, as this is traditionally a track on which many Ferrari fans and many from Germany come".
In the meantime, however, the drivers' market does not stop. According to German newspaper Bild, Sebastian Vettel's future could be revealed very soon: he will be the new face of the Racing Point team. The team will become property of Aston Martin in 2021 and seems to have chosen to end the relationship with Mexican driver Sergio Pérez, part of the team since 2014, in favour of the four-time German world champion. The British team’s other driver, Lance Stroll, is the son of the majority shareholder of the team, and thus untouchable.
Racing Point seems to be the main contender for the German driver, for now, especially since Red Bull, Mercedes, Renault and McLaren have already closed their doors. A doubt arises, however, because of a clause in Pérez's contract, according to which the Mexican can be released no later than July 31, otherwise the team will incur in a hefty penalty. Lawrence Stroll's team must therefore hurry up and finalize the deal if they really want to bring the German home. Sebastian Vettel, however, when asked for a comment, doesn’t give away much:
"The rumors going around? If they are going around there is a reason. Even though not much has changed since Austria, there is nothing new. Many people are talking, Racing Point has impressed in the first two races for the performance, but for me nothing has changed. I want to make the right decision for me, and every option is still open: I don't know if I will drive next year, if I will stop one year or if I will stop. I don't know, and I'm in no hurry to decide".
Pérez says he is calm, reminding everyone that he still has a contract until 2022 with Racing Point:
"The team has taken a big step forward and I'm not surprised that it is now attractive to big-name drivers. It's good that this is happening, because it's proof that we are working well. Vettel is one of the big names, he has been lucky in his career because he has had very competitive cars at his disposal, but this does not mean that anyone can afford to devalue what he has achieved in Formula 1. He is a driver that a top-level team would welcome. As for me, I have a contract and when the rumors about Vettel came out I was contacted by a team in the paddock, I won't say which one".
Moving further down the paddock, on the eve of free practice WiIliams confirms their current driver pairing, George Russel and Nicholas Latifi, for 2021. As a result, it is now highly likely that Mercedes’ line-up will remain the same: Finland's Valtteri Bottas, along with Britain's Lewis Hamilton. Setting all negotiations aside for now, team principal Mattia Binotto presents the next round of the world championship in the build-up to the Hungarian Grand Prix:
"The first triple-header of this compressed Formula 1 season closes in Hungary. After the two races on the Spielberg circuit, the Hungaroring awaits us, a very different track from the Austrian one. It will therefore be interesting to verify the behavior of the cars on a track with maximum aerodynamic load as well as it will be fundamental to prepare the qualifying and, therefore, the management of the tires on single laps, given that overtaking in Hungary is traditionally much rarer than in Austria. We are aware that the car's performance level is not up to our expectations and those of our fans, but we are working hard on every aspect to improve as soon as possible. The goal for the weekend is as simple as obvious: to collect as many points as possible. In order to do that we will have to be perfect in every area: drivers, car preparation, track operations, reliability".
Sebastian Vettel introduces the third round of the World Championship too, expressing his happiness about being able to get right back behind the wheel of his SF1000 after the disappointment of the Styrian Grand Prix:
"After the negative outcome of last week's race in Spielberg, it's nice to have the chance to get right back in the car and get back on track. The Hungaroring is a track that subjects the drivers to a fair amount of physical effort because there are very few stretches where it is possible to relax. In fact, there are many turns and usually when the Grand Prix is held the weather conditions are very hot. This is also traditionally a track on which many Ferrari fans come and many from Germany, it will be very strange not to see their support from the stands".
The last race of the season's first triple-header starts on Friday, 17 July 2020, with free practice. The day opens with a thought for French driver Jules Bianchi. The twenty-five-year-old passed away on this very day five years ago, after a nine month-long coma following an accident during the 2014 Suzuka Grand Prix. Pirelli confirms that the same compounds used for the first two Grands Prix of the season, namely C2, C3 and C4, will be used at the Hungaroring. The FIA establishes two DRS zones: the first on the pit straight, the second between Turn 1 and Turn 2. In addition to this, a new speed limit zone has been added: sensors have been placed in the area between turns 11 and 12, in addition to the existing zone in turn 4. Drivers can be penalised if they do not respect the speed limit in these areas.
Robert Kubica will once again be driving an Alfa Romeo in FP1, this time in Kimi Räikkönen’s place. The session starts at 11:00 with the risk of light rain, but this does not force the drivers to use wet tyres, and indeed offers an advantage by bringing the asphalt temperature to a lower level than usual. Lando Norris is the first to go out for McLaren, followed by Max Verstappen who is the first to set a time, a 1'19"536. The Dutchman then improves and lowers it to a 1'19"440 on the next lap. A few minutes later Bottas takes the lead of the group, with a 1'16"559, which later becomes a 1'16"559. Lewis Hamilton, however, doesn't give up and lowers his best time to 1'16"126.
Halfway into FP1, the top ten consists of Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Magnussen, Ocon, Stroll, Sainz and Pérez. Ricciardo moves up to fourth position soon after, as heavy rain starts falling at the Hungaroring. Pérez, meanwhile, switches to medium tires and moves up to third position, ahead of Stroll.
Shortly after, Bottas takes the lead with a 1'16"003, and is then overtaken by his teammate on hard tires. Five minutes from the end, the top ten is occupied by Hamilton, Bottas, Pérez, Stroll, Ricciardo, Vettel, Leclerc, Verstappen, Norris, Ocon and remains the same at the end of FP1. Hamilton is fastest, while it is interesting to note that the first five places are all occupied by Mercedes-powered cars. The Frenchman Gasly, on the other hand, was unable to complete a single lap in this session, due to a technical problem with the power unit.
The afternoon session begins under heavier rain, so much so that only thirteen drivers manage to set times. At 15:00 on the dot, the light turns green and FP2 begins, but there is little action in the first few minutes. At 15:05, Pierre Gasly is the first to take to the track on full wet tires, intent on making up for the morning's forced stop. The Frenchman returns to the pits after the first installation lap. A very wet track is visible from his onboard camera, though it seems to be drying. There is no movement for the next few minutes, until Sergio Pérez decides to venture out, setting the first timed lap of 1’43”002. Räikkönen and Stroll also take to the track, though Sergio Pérez goes off the track at turn 6 shortly after and decides to return to the pits.
The first half hour ends with only three drivers having set a time: Pérez leads with a 1'42"470 from Stroll and then Räikkönen. After another couple of laps, it's the Racing Point Canadian who goes off track. Esteban Ocon takes to the track on intermediate tires for a slow installation lap, but doesn't set a time. Ricciardo does the same, while the two Ferraris go out on track with extreme wet weather tires. Charles Leclerc moves up to third place, 1.3 behind the leader, while Vettel is behind him. The German takes the lead on the next lap with a 1'41"564, while Kvyat, Grosjean, Giovinazzi and Norris join the track and Leclerc returns to the pits. In the following minutes, the track seems to improve, partly because the five cars have dried the wet track lap by lap, and so Valtteri Bottas with full wet tyres, along with Giovinazzi, Räikkönen and Grosjean, join the track. Vettel and Norris go back to the pits.
In the first lap Bottas sets a 1'40"736, conquering second position. In the meantime, Carlos Sainz on full wet tires and Lewis Hamilton on intermediate tires also show up. There's a precise reason why some drivers (Lewis, but also the two Renault drivers) try using non-extreme wet tires: Pirelli, in case of a wet free practice, gives an additional set of intermediate tyres back to the teams, but not full wet. So, using the intermediates in this session is practically free, while the full wets used in FP2 will not be replaced ahead of qualifying and the race.
Sainz moves up to third, while Hamilton chooses to pit after a slow lap on intermediate tyres. The Spaniard also tries a lap on intermediate tyres, but the track is still too wet. There is a very light yet constant rain that prevents the asphalt from drying, but despite this Sebastian Vettel chooses to attempt a lap on intermediate tyres. The first sector goes well, only three tenths less than the time set with full wet tyres, but the real problem are second and third sectors, where there is a lot of water and the German’s time is 1.7 seconds slower than his best lap.
Verstappen and Leclerc are now on track on intermediate tyres. With ten minutes to go, Vettel is about four seconds slower than his teammate. The German returns to the pits, while Alex Albon takes to the track. Both Gasly and Leclerc have problems: Leclerc explains that he can't hold the rear of the car, while Pierre Gasly warns the team via radio about an insistent burning smell in his car:
''There is a smell in the car, like something is burning. I don't know what's going on, it looks like there's a barbecue on the rear end''.
With five minutes to the end of this second free practice session, Räikkönen, Giovinazzi, Kvyat, Verstappen and Gasly take to the track, the latter back to work after solving the previous problems. Verstappen now chooses the extreme wet weather tyres to try and steal the lead from Sebastian Vettel, but risks going off at turn 11: luckily, he manages to hold the car and sets a 1'42"820 lap, a time that gives him the seventh position. Free practice ends at 16:30 this Friday, with Sebastian Vettel leading the timesheets, followed by Bottas, Sainz, Stroll, Pérez, Gasly, Verstappen, Grosjean, Räikkönen and Leclerc.
Once again, Lewis Hamilton seems to be clearly the driver to beat. The Mercedes World Champion has already won here seven times in his career and surprised everyone during FP1 by setting the best time with the hardest tyre compound. However, the rain that poured on the Budapest track in the afternoon thwarted much of Mercedes' planned work:
"The first session in the morning was very good. Too bad for the rain, it's strange that we are in summer and for the second weekend in a row there is this weather. That's why there wasn't much for us to do in this session. I wouldn't rely too much on those times; everyone does a different job in terms of setup, fuel, engine and everything else. But we did what we had to do. The gaps will be much closer when we're in Q3 of qualifying. There was a bit of work to do on the car but then it started to rain. Tomorrow I think a similar day to today is forecast. It could rain all day, and who knows even for Sunday: I hope it will be dry. Personally I would like to have a dry qualifying and a dry race. This is a great track to drive on if it's dry, but it's especially tricky when you have to race on it in the rain".
In the night between Friday and Saturday, Red Bull uses one of two opportunities to break the curfew without incurring in penalties on the grid, as set out by the regulations, to work on the set-up of its single-seaters. Saturday begins without rain, but with very dark clouds. Despite everything, the weather seems to hold up even at the start of the third free practice session at 12.00, when Lando Norris, the first to take to the track, notices a light drizzle that does not bother him. Räikkönen and Sainz also join the track for an installation lap, using soft tyres. The Finn then completes a 1'19"136 lap. Times are still high due to the track not being perfectly dry, especially in turns 1 and 2.
The two Williams also take to the track on medium tyres. Russel is in second position, 1.6 from leader Räikkönen. The session really comes alive when Albon, Leclerc, Vettel, Gasly, Verstappen, Bottas, Kvyat and Hamilton take to the track. Vettel is three tenths ahead of his teammate, both on soft tyres. But the Ferrari's lead doesn't last long: shortly after Max Verstappen goes fastest on medium tyres with a time of 1'17"033, then Valtteri Bottas overtakes him with a 1'16"862, on soft tyres. It was only a matter of time before the six-time world champion took the top spot: the lead is his with a lap of 1'16"472 on soft tyres. In the meantime, Max Verstappen spins as he pushes his single-seater, trying to get back into the lead. No problem for the Dutchman, who continues on immediately. Hamilton and Bottas battle it out for the top spot, which the Briton eventually wins midway through FP3 with a 1'15"984 lap on soft tyres.
In the meantime, Pérez confirms himself as one of the most dangerous drivers in the fight behind the Mercedes. He sets a time of 1'16"340 that puts him in second place, just 62 thousandths behind Bottas on the same tyres. A moment of calm follows, before the classic qualifying simulation begins: with only twenty minutes left in FP3, the two Ferraris and the two Mercedes start on new soft tyres. Leclerc is now ahead of Hamilton, while Vettel is fifth. Bottas takes back the top spot and Verstappen takes to the track, but complains of a gearbox mismatch that causes him to set an unremarkable lap.
As we reach the final minutes of this final free practice session, Nicholas Latifi spins out at turn 12, but manages to hold the car and get back on track. The surprises don't end there: Pérez displaces Leclerc from third, just 161 thousandths behind Bottas. Vettel meanwhile is eighth, behind Stroll, Verstappen and Norris. Five minutes from the end, we see the last passes for Hamilton and Bottas, while all the others are already in the pits. FP3 thus ends with the best time of 1'15"437 set by Valtteri Bottas, followed by Hamilton and Pérez. The two Ferraris finish fourth and eighth, a sign that their performance needs to be reviewed.
At the end of the session, Lewis Hamilton's comments are only positive, especially regarding the car, which he describes as the best he has ever driven. Ferrari, on the other hand, are not at all happy and Mattia Binotto does not hide this during the press conference, pointing out that the loss of engine performance is due to the new technical directives:
"I think the regulations are very difficult and complex, there are areas where perhaps clarifications will still be needed. Since last year there have been a lot of technical directives that have finally clarified some areas of the regulations. I think we had to adapt to the new interpretations. I don't think it's just Ferrari that has been affected, because if you look at the power this season, I think most of the other manufacturers have had to adapt. Certainly Ferrari has lost some of the performance it had".
In the meantime, however, attention in the paddock has shifted elsewhere, and more specifically towards the renewal of the Concord Agreement, which is due to expire at the end of the 2020 season. This agreement has governed participation in the World Championship since 1981, including the FIA body, the teams and the owners. The agreement, which also includes the obligation to participate in Formula 1 races, benefits Ferrari in a special way: as the only team to have taken part in every Formula 1 season since 1950, it is considered a historic team and is therefore entitled to a higher prize money than other teams.
Bureaucracy aside, Saturday goes on and it is time for qualifying. The rain still doesn’t let up, and the threat of wet weather forces the drivers out on track as soon as Q1 begins. Max Verstappen sets the fastest time, but is then beaten by both Mercedes cars. As light rain falls on the track, Lance Stroll takes third place, ahead of his teammate. Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, the two McLarens, Sebastian Vettel and Alexander Albon follow.
Hamilton retakes the lead and Ricciardo, who has come out for his lap in the meantime, is in sixth place. Towards the early part of this stage the rain pauses, allowing Sebastian Vettel to move into fourth place; his time is later beaten by Norris and Sainz. Ocon and the two Williams also improve, the latter reaching Q2 for the first time since the 2018 Italian Grand Prix. Kvyat, the two Haas and the two Alfa Romeos are in the elimination zone: Kimi Räikkönen finishes last, with no penalties to show for it, for the first time in his career.
This opens Q2, where tyre choice is important, as it determines which tyre drivers will start on. Racing Point and Mercedes opt for a medium tyre, while the other teams choose the softer compound. Despite the different choices, Lewis Hamilton is the fastest of all, and both Mercedes are eight tenths faster than the two Ferraris and Red Bulls. At the end of the second session, Ricciardo, Albon, Ocon and the two Williams are eliminated.
Only nine drivers start in Q3: Pierre Gasly is once again stuck with engine problems and starts tenth. Lewis Hamilton goes for the first attempt and sets a time of 1'13"613, three tenths quicker than his teammate; Stroll is third, one second behind. Max Verstappen is fourth, with the two McLarens and the two Ferraris behind him. Pérez sets a better time than the Maranello cars, but his time is deleted.
However, the Ferraris don’t give up and improve, taking fourth and fifth place. Lance Stroll also climbs the rankings, moving up to third place and beating his teammate, Pérez, who is in fourth. Both Hamilton and Bottas manage to lower their times again: the reigning World Champion stops the clock at 1'13"447. Verstappen, instead, does not improve and remains seventh. This is the end of a qualifying day during which Lewis Hamilton has continued to amaze; the Briton has no rivals and now only has records to beat, thus conquering the ninetieth pole position of his career and the seventh at the Hungaroring.
"I just have to pinch myself, it doesn't register. It's quite humbling to be honest because I get to work with an incredible group of people, who without I wouldn't have the opportunity to do so. So massively thankful to everyone back home and everyone here who does such an amazing job. Valtteri doesn't make it easy for me at all so it requires absolute perfection when doing laps and qualifying like that is one of the things I enjoy most. It was really nicely hooked up today, and not far off the rails. It's a long run down to Turn One, so nothing is a given here. We've just got to do the work this evening and ultimately I've got to deliver on the start. It is quite a long race. We don't know what this weather is going to do for us tomorrow but, for sure, I'll have my head down and focusing as hard as I can to try and bring a one-two home for the team".
Valtteri Bottas, second in qualifying, comments on the outcome of practice:
"From FP3 I knew it would be a close fight between us. Congratulations to Lewis, he did a great lap. I did a good lap too. We are way ahead of the other teams, that's very good for us. My lap in Q3 was very good, I couldn't do much better. Lewis was faster today. As always, it will be a good battle around Turn 1. The championship situation is good, but I need to win races to really play for the championship. So tomorrow the first lap can be a good opportunity”.
This step in the evolution of the Mercedes engine is peculiar, to say the least. Toto Wolff rules out the possibility that the leap in performance of the made-in-Brixworth power unit is due to the FIA’s technical directives. The directives issued from the 2019 United States Grand Prix define in great detail certain aspects of the regulations and could be exploited to obtain more power from the engines.
"It is nonsense that is linked to the fact that the technical directives have given us benefits. Clarifications were made official from Austin last year, clarifications that were very important. However, it wasn't that surprising, because if you stuck to the rules it was quite clear. Some of our opponents have pushed us to a whole new level. Last year we gave everything to close the performance gap at engine level. We did that, the leap forward between 2019 and 2020 is there, we needed more last year, and I find that quite ironic".
Racing Point achieves great results too. This qualifying is the team’s best since Nico Hülkenberg's second place at the 2016 Austrian Grand Prix, when it was still Force India: the second row is all pink, with Stroll in third and Pérez in fourth. The British team's pink single-seaters are still under investigation by the FIA after Renault's protest, due to the striking similarity with the 2019 Mercedes, but for now they are celebrating the excellent placing. Lance Stroll, son of the team boss, comments as follows:
"I'm very happy. The car was really strong all weekend. We always had the pace, we just had to put a lap together in qualifying. Great work from all the guys, I'm very happy with this session but now the focus is on tomorrow. I'll have to try to put it into practice to score a lot of points. Q2 on medium tyres? Yes, without a doubt it was a gamble but it put us in a good position for tomorrow. We managed to get through on medium and my lap time at the end felt perfect. When you get everything right at the end of qualifying it's fantastic. Behind the mask there is a big smile".
It's a day to forget for Pierre Gasly, who stopped in Q2 and now has to replace his entire power unit, though he can do so without incurring in a grid penalty. After a horrible weekend a week earlier, Ferrari are now back on their feet: the two cars will start in P5 and P6, making it the first time in three 2020 qualifying sessions that both cars made it to Q3. The comments from the two drivers are positive:
"I think it went much better than the previous weekends. For the first time we got both cars into Q3, we know that Austria was not very good for us. We were losing a lot of time in the straights, but here there are more corners to recover and the car felt much better balanced. We are much closer than the cars in our group, Racing Point, Red Bull and McLaren. We have to continue to improve, of course, but the thing is to prepare for tomorrow's race in the best possible way because we have different compounds to those that the cars next to us will start with. We are all here to race and to win, now we don't have the pace to win by our own means, but we will see what happens tomorrow. As I said the tyres will be crucial, we have different strategies because we had to use the softs. The weather will also be important. We will have to be smart and try to do our job".
This is Sebastian Vettel’s comment, while Charles Leclerc admits:
"I think our race pace is better than in qualifying and with a good strategy I think it is possible to gain a few positions. Today we have some cards to play. As far as the weather is concerned, I have to say that the car performed quite well in the dry, but we saw that it seems competitive in the wet too, even though there are obviously many more unknowns. That's why, if I had the choice, I would go for the dry".
Scuderia Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto analyses the Hungarian Saturday, focusing on the Mercedes and Racing Point’s quick performance:
"A qualifying that reflects our current potential. We certainly can't say we're satisfied with a third row, especially in light of the large gap to the team that occupies the first. Having said that, it is strange to see the difference on the few straight stretches of this circuit between some cars and the rest of the lot. On a track with different characteristics than Spielberg today we managed to get the best out of the car in qualifying, but this is certainly not enough. The goal in the race is to collect as many points as possible, trying to take advantage of all the opportunities that arise. Moreover, we will have to be ready for any eventuality, since, at the moment, the weather forecast is very uncertain".
Max Verstappen is equally disappointed at the end of qualifying:
"Something is not working, even compared to last year. We had a very good balance on this circuit, but all weekend it was really complicated for us and it's hard to understand why. We tried a lot of different things, but we just can't find the solution. It was a disappointing qualifying. Tomorrow? The pace of the different cars is very close. We won't start with the best tyre for the race, but that's the situation. I'll try to do the best I can and then we'll see the final result. For sure it will be complicated to overtake here".
On Sunday morning, everything at the Hungaroring is ready to start the third Grand Prix of the season. The rain is now a faithful companion for the entire weekend: in the morning there is plenty of rain, while a downpour is expected for the start of the race, but doesn’t seem close. As the drivers position themselves on the grid, Max Verstappen loses control of his car on the wet track and crashes into the barriers, losing his front wing.
The Dutchman still manages to reach the grid, where Red Bull mechanics miraculously manage to fix the damage just in time for the start. Because of the wet track, all drivers opt for intermediate tyres, except for Kevin Magnussen, who starts on extreme wet weather tyres. At the end of the formation lap, the two Haas cars come back into the pits to fit dry tyres, starting from the pit lane.
The race begins just a few minutes after 3:10 p.m.: Lewis Hamilton, starting at the head of the pack, easily maintains his position, partly thanks to a very slow move by his teammate, who is passed by several drivers. Lance Stroll takes second place, followed by Verstappen and Leclerc. The Finn, second on the grid, initially moves forward, before stopping and then starting again. The Finn's jump-start is noticed by his rivals, so much so that even Sebastian Vettel warns Ferrari. Valtteri Bottas, however, will not incur a penalty: Race Director Michael Masi explains this decision.
"There are two parts to this. The means by which the jump start is determined is actually clearly determined by the sporting regulations, and has been the same process for a number of years, which is the transponder that is fitted to each car. There is also a sensor on the asphalt. There is a margin of tolerance and, as we saw in Japan last year, this factor is decisive. So there is nothing else to investigate. We immediately spoke to the people who control the times, they reviewed the data and the matter was resolved”.
It only takes a couple of laps for the track to dry out, and so all the drivers choose to switch to dry tyres, as the two Haas did. Leclerc opts for softs, while Bottas goes for mediums. On lap 3 Hamilton, Vettel, Stroll, Pérez, Albon and Sainz pit to change tyres too, all choosing mediums. Max Verstappen and the two Renaults wait until lap 4 to fit new tyres. There is traffic on the pit lane and Sainz touches Latifi, who punctures a tyre, while leaving the pits. Ferrari to avoid this kind of contact, wait a few seconds before giving Vettel the go-ahead to re-enter the track, causing him to lose a few positions.
At the end of this first round of pit stops, Lewis Hamilton in the lead, followed by Versappen at a 7.8 gap, Magnussen at 10.5, Grosjean at 14.6, then Stroll, Leclerc, Bottas, Vettel, Albon, Pérez and Ricciardo. On lap 7, Bottas tries to overtake Leclerc, but the Monegasque manages to hold his position thanks to a great manoeuvre. However, it is only a matter of time before the Finn manages to overtake him: two laps later the Monegasque gives up the position to the Finn, who continues his comeback by passing Grosjean on lap 12.
On the same lap, a mistake by Vettel gives Albon the chance to recover a position. The Thai driver then goes on to attack of Leclerc, already having trouble with his softs. Vettel takes advantage of this situation and closes up to the two, and a few laps later the Monegasque gives way to both drivers. In the meantime, Lance Stroll passes Magnussen, moving into third place, while on the next lap Bottas catches up to the Dane too. On lap 15, Pierre Gasly completes a disastrous weekend by retiring due to a gearbox malfunction. On lap 30, Albon passes Grosjean too to take P6, while Vettel pits for hard tyres, and shortly after his teammate follows the same strategy.
In the meantime, Lewis Hamilton is still leading the group, followed by Verstappen at 14.8 and Stroll at 31.9. The top ten is completed by Bottas 33.6 from P1, Magnussen 57.4 down, then Albon, Grosjean, Pérez, Ricciardo and Sainz. The second round of stops begins on lap 33: Bottas comes in to fit medium tyres, while a couple of laps later Albon pits for hard tyres. Over the next few laps, all the top drivers are back in, including Hamilton on medium tyres and Verstappen on hards.
On lap 45, Hamilton is still in the lead, with a wide margin of 21.2 over Max Verstappen, who sees Bottas approaching. Stroll defends his P4, followed at a distance by Vettel, Albon, and Pérez. Ricciardo, Magnussen and Leclerc are further back. On lap 49, Bottas decides to make his third pit stop, fitting a set of hard tyres. Three laps later, Stroll also stops again but still manages to re-join the track ahead of Vettel. Leclerc, meanwhile, is struggling with worn tyres, and is passed by Sainz after a fierce duel, dropping out of the top ten on lap 64.
On the next lap, Lewis Hamilton pits too and his mechanics fit a final set of fresh tyres. The British driver tries to set the fastest lap, which would award him an extra point. However, he is initially slowed down by lapped drivers who don’t give him enough space to complete a good lap. On lap 66, Vettel makes a mistake in turn 2, allowing Albon to pass him. In the final laps Bottas tries in vain to get closer to Verstappen, while Hamilton finally manages to set a fast lap, lowering his time to 1'16"627.
The Grand Prix comes to an end and Lewis Hamilton takes his 86th career victory. It is the eighth victory for the British driver at the Hungaroring, which equals the record of victories in a single Grand Prix held by Michael Schumacher at the French Grand Prix. Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas complete the podium. They are followed by Lance Stroll, Alex Albon, Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Pérez, Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz Jr. and Kevin Magnussen, who picks up a point for Haas.
The Mercedes domination continues: the Anglo-German team is a story in itself, with Lewis Hamilton’s incredible performance in a single-seater seemingly unmatchable: the British driver managed to lap all his competitors except for four drivers behind him, dominating the entire race without any particular trouble. It’s a great day then for the Mercedes driver, who comments:
"Believe it or not we keep pushing and we proved it with that last lap at the end. We handled the race perfectly. I have to thank everybody, give a huge congratulations to all the guys working at home and the guys working in the engine department. they really did a fantastic job in development. This is one of my favourite races ever. When you are alone in the race it is a different challenge. We had great pace, but without the guys working behind the scenes, and also on the track with the pit stops and strategy it wouldn't be possible. Up until the end I was running medium tyres. The call to give me the softs to take the extra point was perfect. The first race I got hit by a flurry of punches and got tossed around. But I focused again, as I try to do race after race. Last weekend was fantastic and I managed to stay on the ball in this one too. I have to continue like that”.
Valtteri Bottas is satisfied too, though aware that he could have done more:
"It was pretty bad race to be honest for me. Starting from second you aim to win the race, but I lost it at the start. I reacted to a light on my dash that went off. I don't know what it was, but something changed on my dash so I reacted to that instead of the start lights so I had anti-stall and had to start again and I wasn't there. I lost many places and it made the race difficult for me. A gamble with the tyres? It wasn't really a gamble, it gave me a difference in tyre life, but in the end it didn't pay off. Silverstone? I like it, we will be strong there too, we have a lot to learn this weekend".
Max Verstappen’s performance was excellent, and this is what the Red Bull driver thinks of his second place:
"Before the race it wasn't really what I wanted. I ran into the barriers and lost grip, but the mechanics did an amazing job to fix the car. It was incredible, I don't know how they did it. To repay them with second place is very satisfying. The first lap was crucial, after that we made the right calls, they also had a good pace so we continued to make our own pace and in the end we managed to get in between the two Mercedes, which is a good result. The car was good, the mechanics worked perfectly. With Valtteri I made my pace. He was taking me a second a lap, but following here is complicated. When he got to me at about a second it was more difficult for him. On the last lap we also had traffic ahead which didn't make things easy for me as I had old tyres. But I held on and finished second. As a victory? Yeah, I didn't even think I would be racing”.
Kimi Räikkönen, on the other hand, sets a new record by completing a race counting towards the Formula 1 World Championship for the two hundred and forty-sixth time. Among the lapped drivers are both Ferraris. It hasn't happened since 2008: at the time, however, it had simply been a bad race for Massa and Räikkönen, during a season which had seen Ferrari win the Constructors’ Championship, while here in Budapest it's all wrong. It’s a hard blow, especially during a weekend in which Ferrari seemed to be showing signs of improvement. But Sebastian Vettel, who finished sixth, says he is not surprised by the result:
"This performance for me was better than the first race in Austria. However, in hindsight, we would have been better off taking a few more risks and stopping on lap 3 instead of lap 4 to switch from intermediate to dry tyres. I lost a lot of time in the pits waiting for several other cars to pass before they signalled for me to go. I think we would have been able to get a fifth place at best. I struggled a lot with the tyres in the closing laps and couldn't fight with Alex as I would have liked to have done. Unfortunately we are not where we want to be, but at least today we can say that we really gave everything we had. Unfortunately we are back to normal, the first race in Austria was an anomaly".
Rergarding the Mercedes performance, the German driver admits:
"The Mercedes' show of strength? For me it wasn't a surprise at all. It was clear from before the race that they would have lapped us...".
It’s worse for Charles Leclerc, who finished eleventh and is therefore outside the points, partly due to a penalising strategy. That’s not all: at the end of the race he was overtaken by his future teammate, Carlos Sainz.
"In the early stages I wanted to switch to slick tyres, in retrospect we can say that the choice of softs was not the right one. We have to learn, but in my opinion it doesn't change much, even if we had made the right choice at the end of the race I would still have been in trouble, in the end it was very difficult, on the car we have to look at the data properly because I don't understand why on Friday and also yesterday, although in terms of performance we would like to be further ahead, the balance was there, while today it wasn't and I don't understand why. We haven't made any big changes to the car, we have to analyse this. In qualifying I was better than I thought I would be, but looking at the race it's hard to salvage anything, we still have a lot of work to do".
Team principal Mattia Binotto doesn’t hide and bitterly comments on the result:
"A really disappointing Sunday, a result that is very difficult to digest. In qualifying we were able to bring out the best of the potential currently available but in the race it was not so. Being lapped burns us and all our fans. We knew about our difficulties back in February at the Barcelona test, but this start to the World Championship is more difficult than expected. We are not only slow on the straights, but also in the corners. We have to analyse the performance of the car and also of the team, review every aspect of the organisation, have the courage to change course, this dynamic is not acceptable. Too many things are not working, it will take time to fix them. How long? I don't have the answer".
The season was shaping up to be a difficult one right from the Barcelona tests; difficulties were foreseen, but the current setbacks weren’t. At Maranello, it is now time to examine the project and understand what needs to be corrected. Project coordinator Enrico Cardile and aerodynamic engineer David Sanchez are under scrutiny. Enrico Gualtieri, who manages the engine specialists under the leadership of Wolf Zimmermann is also on the team. Simone Resta, chief designer of the 2017 and 2018 World Championship-contender cars, has recently returned to the Scuderia (after a brief stint at Alfa Romeo) with the task of correcting the car after alarms went off during winter testing in Barcelona.
Though Binotto has received the trust of President Elkann and managing director Camilleri on several occasions, outsiders believe he may be at risk. Fifty-three-year-old Antonello Coletta, who holds a degree in Economics from the Sapienza University in Rome and has been at Ferrari since 1997, is currently in charge of the Gran Turismo programme and might substitute him. It will therefore be a complicated few weeks at Ferrari before heading to Silverstone. Straightening the course as much as possible, or changing it completely, is crucial. This third round of the 2020 World Championship comes to a close, with an unreachable Mercedes already preparing to collect yet another title. The date to look out for is 2 August 2020 at Silverstone, for the British Grand Prix.
Translated by Livia Alegi