The Formula 1 World Championship continues its journey with the Hungarian Grand Prix 2021, the eleventh round of the season and the last one before the summer break. The week leading up to the Hungarian race opens under the banner of the still heated confrontation between the two protagonists of this World Championship, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, who were involved in a spectacular accident during the first lap of the British Grand Prix. The collision caused the Dutchman driver to leave the track, impacting the barriers with a force of 51 G and causing a damage of about $1.8 million, and a ten second penalty imposed on Lewis Hamilton, to be served in the pits, which for the purposes of the classification did not determine what the real loss was. The incident obviously ignited tones between the two drivers contenders for the world title, with Verstappen commenting on the incident as follows:
"You still can't change the result. I'm not happy with what happened, especially losing so many points to someone else, but it is what it is".
However, if the Dutch driver closes the case by classifying it as a normal racing accident, his words about Hamilton's celebration of victory after the race - which was missing for the English driver since the Spanish Grand Prix - are definitely harsher:
"When one guy is in the hospital and the other guy is waving the flag like it's nothing, well, you've pushed the guy into the wall at 51 Gs of force. And not only that, but the whole team reaction. That's no way to celebrate a win, especially the way they got it. That's what I found really disrespectful and in a way it shows how they really are. You come out after a pressured situation, but I wouldn't want to be seen that way. I would have been upset with myself for a move like that, had it been the other way around, and I definitely wouldn't have celebrated like that".
For his part, Lewis Hamilton defends both his driving and the victory he achieved:
"I tried to give him space, but I was already very much on the inside of Turn 9 and neither of us let go and that was the end result. I let him go, I moved to the right for that space and I was quite close to him, but then I saw that he wouldn't back off, we went towards the corner and collided. When someone is too aggressive these things are bound to happen. There's not much else to say, I hope he's okay because obviously I'd love to have a wheel-to-wheel battle throughout the race, I love racing with him and I'm looking forward to it, but I'm never going to back down from anybody and I'm not going to be forced to be less aggressive. I think today, this weekend, we needed the points. There was a space, he left a space and I took advantage of it".
Not only the drivers, but also Toto Wolff and Christian Horner release heavy statements, feeding the challenge that by now is no longer only on the track. The words pronounced by Red Bull's team principal, Christian Horner, immediately after the accident let all his anger shine through:
"I think it was a desperate move. He couldn't overtake in the first part of the lap, which he was obviously ready to do, and then to put a wheel on the inside was just a desperate move, something you don't do. Corpse is one of the fastest corners in the world, you don't stick a wheel on the inside of your opponent. That's dirty driving".
But of course Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is unfazed by Horner's words, and defends the actions of his team and driver:
"It's a high-speed corner... these things are ugly to look at, but there's a clear regulation and put in black and white on paper, and as a driver you can have a different perspective from the car, but you have to understand that if the front axle is in the middle of the car on the outside, the corner is yours. Now you can say, is that curve equivalent to all the others? Maybe not, but again, an accident involves two drivers".
But in addition to the alleged unethical celebrations and dangerous trajectories, it was the penalty awarded to Lewis Hamilton following the accident that raised the most controversy. The predominant voice is of course Red Bull, which considers the British driver's penalty to be insufficient and unfair, which is why the team is submitting a request for a review on 23rd July 2021 with the aim of obtaining a harsher one, Lewis having been judged by the stewards to be mainly - but not entirely - at fault for the collision at Corpse corner.
"I don't think the penalty was fair, because you basically take out your main rival, and especially with the speed we have in our cars, we're far from, let's say, the third best team. We're easily 40-50 seconds ahead under normal conditions, so a ten-second penalty does nothing. Definitely that penalty should have been more severe".
Declares Max Verstappen. The choice of the Red Bull team to appeal shows how tight this championship is, which will probably be played out until the last races, where every single point - even the one for the fastest lap - can make the difference. Following the British Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton has in fact significantly reduced the gap to Max Verstappen in the drivers' classification, since the latter was unable to complete the race. But there is another issue that has to be taken into consideration and that has a not inconsiderable weight in the course of the World Championship: the budget cap.
In August 2020, all teams signed the new Pact of Concord, an agreement that regulates the participation of the various teams in the Formula 1 World Championship, as well as their economic treatment within the competition. The financial aspect is one of the main points of this new agreement, which aims to create a more sustainable structure from an economic point of view, with the objective of recalibrating the competition and reducing the gap between the top and middle field teams.
One of the most significant innovations in this regard is the approval, starting in 2021, of the imposition of a spending cap that teams will have to respect during the championship. The limit imposed for 2021 has been set at 145 million dollars, while there will be a gradual decrease for the years to come, which will bring it to a lower limit of 140 million in 2022, and 135 million for the three-year period 2023-2025. This new directive forces the three top teams - Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari - to make major cuts in their finances, as their expenses had risen to over $400 million respectively, and introduces an additional consequence that was not previously a serious consideration: the monetary cost of an accident repair in the new era of FIA financial regulations.
The issue had already been raised in April of this year, during the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, when Bottas destroyed his car in a collision with Russell's Williams. Mercedes had estimated damages of about $1 million, money that, as Wolff pointed out, was lost and taken away from potential development projects on the current car. The incident between Hamilton and Verstappen generated even more costly damage to the Dutchman's car, so much so that Horner states that this damage account will have massive ramifications throughout the team's work and production chain, not to mention the possible replacement of damaged mechanical elements on the car, with consequent penalties to be served in the upcoming Grands Prix. Another reason why Red Bull decides to appeal and requests a review of the penalty assigned to Hamilton.
Following the request for review submitted on July 23rd 2021, the FIA announces that the case would be discussed via video conference on Thursday, July 29th 2021, close to the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix. The FIA's International Sporting Code allows for the right of review if a significant new element is found that was not available to the parties requesting the review at the time of the decision in question; therefore, in an interview with German broadcaster RTL, Helmut Marko, the current consultant for Red Bull in charge of the youth program, says he is optimistic that the team would bring new facts that were not available when the entire matter was addressed. To address the appeal, Red Bull is presenting four new pieces of evidence, all generated by the team itself:
- GPS data available to them from both Hamilton's and Verstappen's cars;
- GPS data showing "several alleged comparisons" to the trajectory Hamilton followed when he passed Charles Leclerc to take the top spot near the end of the race in the same corner;
- Alleged simulations of the accident lap;
- What has been described as a re-enactment of Hamilton's first lap at Silverstone based on a lap allegedly driven by Alex Albon.
The last element is collected thanks to a test organized on the Silverstone circuit, conducted by Alex Albon, driver for the team from 2019 to 2020 and now reserve driver, who had to perform, using the 2019 RB15, what was a real reenactment of the trajectory conducted by Lewis Hamilton both on the overtaking of Verstappen and the one that took place against Charles Leclerc. In addition to the new evidence, Red Bull would have also attached a letter containing some accusations that the Commissioners would have noted with some concern, accusations that obviously have not been made known, but that have also been viewed by representatives of the Mercedes team.
In spite of the new elements and the optimism with which Red Bull put forward the appeal, it was rejected by the Commissioners, who, after reviewing the information presented to them, considered that it did not qualify as significant and relevant new elements, adding also that some slides presented by the Milton Keynes based team were not discovered, but created specifically for the purpose of reviewing the case and this was done on the basis of evidence available at the time of the decisions, which is why they would not meet the requirements of Article 14.
Hamilton's penalty, therefore, remains valid and unaltered, as does his victory. Following the decision, Mercedes releases a statement, published on the team's social profiles, in which they announce that they accept the Commissioners' verdict, and accuse Red Bull's top management of trying to besmirch Lewis Hamilton's good name and sporting integrity. Regarding the reason for these words, Toto Wolff states:
"I think we wanted to bring some respect back to the discussion. We understand that tempers can flare and it's always a matter of perspective and perception, but it seemed to us that that line was crossed. I think that the comments that were made following the incident between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were dictated by emotion and hurt a seven-time world champion like Lewis Hamilton, also triggering tides of rather sharp reactions, polarizing public opinion. A drift that we, who have a responsibility as protagonists of this sport, must stem. Words like amateur maneuvering should not be pronounced. In any case anyone can choose a precise methodology to communicate. If Red Bull wants to do it in a hysterical way it is free to do so. For our part, however, we will always make sure that what is said is in line with reality".
Christian Horner, however, has a way to respond to the strong statements against his team during the Friday press conference, trying to turn the page and leave behind what happened at Silverstone, to focus on the new race weekend:
"The stewards felt that it was not new evidence within the confines of the regulations, so the case was not opened to further hearing and we accept that. This competition is all about marginal gains and leaving no stone unturned, and of course when an incident of such speed and impact happens, you are naturally inclined to do a full investigation. But as far as we are concerned the chapter is now closed, the stewards have made their decision and we are now extremely focused on this weekend and the rest of the world championship".
Regarding the accusation of trying to besmirch Lewis Hamilton's name, the British manager adds:
"It is in no way a personal attack on Lewis Hamilton, who is a seven-time World Champion and everything he has achieved speaks for itself. Obviously, as a result of the incident, tempers got heated: we had a driver who needed further checks in hospital after an incident that would have knocked out any human being, and we lost a car in its integrity under the budget cup regime for something that the stewards didn't feel was Max's fault. So it's nothing personal, but even a seven-time World Champion can sometimes make mistakes or make errors in judgment, that's a fact, but it was never personal against Lewis. If it had been any other driver on the grid, we would have acted in the same way".
That however it is not the intention of the Red Bull team to offend the professionalism of the British driver is demonstrated by the fact that on Friday 30th of July 2021 the management of the Austrian-English team fired one of its employees following an exchange of private messages, published on social platforms, with a racist stamp. This is the note from a team spokesperson:
"We condemn racist abuse of any kind. We have a zero-tolerance approach to racist behavior within our team. The person in question is no longer an employee of Red Bull Racing. We will not comment further at this stage".
Regarding the choice made by the stewards, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto also expresses his views:
"Our personal opinion on the size of the penalties is that it should not be based on the result of the accident. That would be wrong. One should judge the maneuvers themselves. However, the same maneuver can be different in different corners, depending on the safety of the corner. What we think is that certain maneuvers done at Copse definitely pose a high safety hazard. That's why, possibly, the size of the penalty can be judged differently based on where you do it. This is a discussion that we could take forward between team principals, the FIA and the Formula 1 commission. So that we can be sure for the future that - if necessary - we are doing something different or better".
With the British Grand Prix out of the way, the race weekend can finally begin with the usual Friday free practice, characterized by good weather and a particularly hot track, which puts the compounds chosen by Pirelli for the Hungarian Grand Prix, i.e. C2, C3 and C4, to the test. In anticipation of the Hungarian Grand Prix, qualifying will once again be held on a regular basis; however, with regard to the Italian Grand Prix - scheduled for the following 12th of September 2021 - it is established as the second event of three planned for this season, after the British Grand Prix, where the Sprint Qualifying format will be used. The Federation also announces the scheduling of the event, following what was already established at Silverstone.
On Friday, the first free practice session is held from 14:30 to 15:30, with the traditional qualifying held from 18:00 to 19:00; on Saturday, the second free practice session is scheduled from 12:00 to 13:00, with the new Sprint Qualifying format scheduled at 16:30; on Sunday, the starting time for the Grand Prix is set at 15:00. For the Italian race, unlike the 2020 edition held behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, spectators are allowed to attend the Grand Prix, but only those with the EU digital Covid certificate required for the management of health emergencies, with capacity set at 50%.
After the experimentation of the Sprint Qualifying format that took place for the first time in the history of Formula 1 in the British Grand Prix, race director Michael Masi declared himself to be open to a possible revision of some aspects of this new format, already starting from the next Italian Grand Prix where the race program includes this session. Many drivers, in fact, did not appreciate the choice of assigning the pole position of the Grand Prix to the winner of the Sprint Qualification. Moreover, the Federation considers to assign higher scores in the future as the Sprint Qualification lasts one third of a normal race.
The organizers of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, which marks the debut in the Formula 1 World Championship scheduled for the following December 5th 2021 at the Jeddah circuit, are bidding to host the third Sprint Qualifier of the season, in case the debut of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix scheduled for November 7th 2021 at the Interlagos circuit is cancelled on the calendar due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, however, could be moved to the last round of the season, in a date swap with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The United Arab Emirates are part of the group of countries that the United Kingdom is monitoring with regards to travel related to the quarantine on the health emergency. Formula 1 personnel travelling to the country would therefore have to undergo a ten-day quarantine before returning to the UK.
On Saturday July 26th 2021 the FIA announced that the winter tests for the 2022 season will be held in two three-day sessions, but in two different locations. The first session is scheduled at the Catalunya circuit, home of the Spanish Grand Prix, from 23rd to 25th February 2022, while the second will be held at the Manama circuit, home of the Bahrain Grand Prix, from 11th to 13th March 2022. For this race, the Federation establishes two zones for the use of the Drag Reduction System: the first on the pit straight, the second between Turn 1 and Turn 2. There is only one point for determining the gap between drivers, set before turn 14. The Federation establishes three points on the track where drivers are obliged to respect the limits of the latter. The points in question are the exit of turns 4, 11 and 12. Going beyond the limits of the track in these three points, the drivers will see their time cancelled by the race direction and immediately the next one if they do not respect the limits at the exit of turns 11 and 12.
In addition, the Federation issues a new directive regarding pit stops, which are slowed down from this Grand Prix, with the aim of making them safer and thus limiting the risk of cars re-entering the track or the pit lane with the wheel nuts not perfectly fixed with the resulting safety risks. But then it is established that, starting from the next Belgian Grand Prix, the Federation will eliminate part of the directive, so that the minimum reaction time of 0"15 will be eliminated and the two tenths between the release of the car from the stand and the restart will instead be transformed into a permissible gap of one tenth. Former Formula 1 driver Vitantonio Liuzzi is appointed assistant commissioner by the FIA. The Italian has performed this function on several occasions in the past, most recently at the Monaco Grand Prix. For this Grand Prix, the German car manufacturer Mercedes provides the safety car and the medical car.
The Grand Prix is held in its classical location in the calendar, between the end of July and the beginning of August, after the 2020 edition was held, for the first time, well in advance, in July, as the event saw the inversion of dates with the British Grand Prix, thus bringing forward by two weeks the dispute of the Hungarian race compared to the original date planned, due to issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Unlike the previous edition held behind closed doors due to the health emergency, the Grand Prix, like most of the races held in the central part of the championship, allows fans to follow the race from the stands, but only after passing strict controls. The public can attend the award ceremony only by staying in their seats in the stands. In addition, to enter the facility must necessarily have a special bracelet, which certifies immunity from SARS-CoV-2.
On July 22nd 2021 it is announced that starting from this Grand Prix, the FIA will prohibit intrusions into the stewards' office, after the behavior in the previous race of Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, team principals of Mercedes and Red Bull Racing respectively, due to the incident during the first lap between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. For those who do not comply with this new guideline, there are concrete penalties. They range from a reprimand to a fine, up to the deduction of points and, in extreme cases, disqualification, as stated by race director, Michael Masi:
"Access to the stewards' office is strictly limited to the stewards, the stewards' secretary and the stewards' operator. Access is allowed only with the prior approval of the Stewards or following a decision by the Stewards to summon a competitor and/or driver".
Following the incident on the first lap of the previous British Grand Prix between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, the significant damage, including to the power unit of the Dutchman's Red Bull RB16B, could force the Austrian team to replace the engine. For this reason, the power unit is sent to the Honda factory in Sakura, where it is examined by engineers. A negative outcome of the analysis could force the replacement of the unit, but in any case no penalties would be foreseen, since the Dutchman before Silverstone had used the second specification and the regulatory limit is set at three. On July 20th 2021, the checks carried out show that the power unit is intact, as admitted by Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda manager:
"When I saw the pictures of the car I immediately thought there was a lot of damage. In reality, it seems to me that the damage may be less than initially thought. However, it is too early to make a precise assessment. It depends on where the impact happened".
News also confirmed by Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko:
"Honda has now given the engine the green light. It can continue to be used. This means we no longer have to worry about having a grid penalty at some point. The engine is safe, thank God. If there are no further difficulties or technical issues, we will get through the season with the three allowed engines, so there should be no penalty for Max in the race. The damage will force us to recalculate resources. We don't want restrictions for 2021, but we have to save on other sides, that's what the financial experts and the engineers are doing now, we have to design it in such a way that there is no drop in performance for Max".
Those, on the other hand, who are convinced that they will not be able to aspire to victory - despite their second place in Silverstone - is Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, who on Thursday, July 29th 2021 states:
"I feel we can be strong, but I don't think we will be at the level of performance we showed in Monaco. I hope we can be the first of the others, which is the reality of our positions this season. And that's going to be the most important goal of the weekend and I'm confident we can achieve that if we do a good job. You need to be very clean, but I tend to have a bit too aggressive a driving style and I have always struggled here, relative to my teammates in the past. At Silverstone the victory was close and to have lost it is a bit frustrating. But there are many positive aspects: we had the pace of the Mercedes, especially in the first stint, but in the second stint we were in line with what we expected and in general it was a very positive weekend".
And the following day he adds:
"I think it is clear that great progress has been made compared to last year, and credit for this must be given to the whole team, on track as well as in Maranello. Carlos and I have contributed by working closely together to help grow the SF21 in all areas. We are both very competitive and try to beat each other, but always in the interest of the team".
It’s no coincidence that Max Verstappen got the best time at the end of FP1. Friday 30 July 2021 the track is characterized by a very high asphalt temperature of 57 °C. The Dutchman uses Soft tires, but is also penalized, in his best attempt, by the presence of traffic on the track. The car seems to be able to provide an excellent performance also in the race simulation, using Hard tires. Less than a tenth of a second away is Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, able to leave his teammate Lewis Hamilton more than a tenth of a second behind. The top three are the only ones able to close the lap in less than 1'17". The session is also interrupted with the exposure of the red flag, when there are twenty minutes to its conclusion, after Yuki Tsunoda loses control of his AlphaTauri in turn 4. The car, after a spin, ends its race against the barriers. Fernando Alonso also loses control of his car, in the same corner, but without the car ending up in the escape route.
There are two times cancelled to the drivers for exceeding the track limits at the exit of turn 4, while one time is cancelled for exceeding the limits at turn 11, during the first free practice session on Friday. In the first case Antonio Giovinazzi and Mick Schumacher have their times cancelled; in the second case Nikita Mazepin's time is cancelled. It is important to underline that before the start of FP1, Fernando Alonso's car has its MGU-H replaced with the third unit, while Max Verstappen, Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly have their exhaust system replaced with the fourth unit, as well as Esteban Ocon's car, where the seventh unit is installed. All the drivers will not be penalized as all the new components installed are within the maximum number of replacements.
In the afternoon session on Friday the situation changes. Still with a high asphalt temperature, in this case 63° C, at the end of FP2 the Mercedes set the pace, with Bottas bettering Hamilton by a few thousandths. Verstappen, the best of the morning, is third. His car seems to have balance problems. Behind the top three, who confirm their superiority in both sessions, is Esteban Ocon, who is ahead of Sergio Pérez. In the afternoon, the first five drivers are the ones to go under 1'18"0. Tsunoda, after the accident in the first session, completes few laps, due to the protracted interventions on his single-seater.
Also in this case, three times were cancelled for drivers exceeding the track limits at the exit of turn 11, during the second Friday free practice session: Nikita Mazepin, Antonio Giovinazzi and Lewis Hamilton had their times cancelled. At the end of FP2 on the cars of Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel the transmissions are replaced; however, both drivers are not penalized on the starting grid as they did not complete the previous Grand Prix at Silverstone. At the end of the first two practice sessions, Carlos Sainz Jr. confirmed what had been Charles Leclerc's feelings:
"It was a strange day. I think in FP1 we were quite happy with the results, while in the afternoon the car hadn't changed much. It was still going well, it's just that the others managed to improve more than us. With an even hotter track we went a little bit back in the standings. There is something to analyze there, for sure. Hopefully for tomorrow there will be a risk of rain and some cloud cover over the circuit, so everything can suddenly reshuffle. I'd rather the temperature could drop but not have rain, that would be perfect for us. I think I can like this scenario, it should help me but also everyone else, because the temperatures we were running in today reduce the cars and the tires very, very much to the limit. Hopefully we will benefit more than others though. Unfortunately, we knew before we came here that we had some weaknesses in our package and in our car; we knew that in certain corners the car would not be particularly efficient. We saw that today. In Monte Carlo we would never have been out of the top ten: today unfortunately something went wrong, and it shows that we are much more vulnerable on this kind of track. We hope to extract a bit more potential for tomorrow's qualifying, because in the race overtaking will be quite difficult. Overall, it wasn't the easiest of Fridays".
Even Charles Leclerc, at the end of practice, admits that the results have changed - abnormally - between FP1 and FP2:
"We followed our plan today, obviously the track changed a little bit between morning and afternoon, but apart from that we are quite happy with how we feel in the car for now. We'll see the performance tomorrow in qualifying, but the feeling is pretty good. Tomorrow we'll have to try to do everything at 100 percent, but we're on the right track. For qualifying we hope to extract a little bit more from the car, because it's going to be tricky to overtake here, so we'll have to be a little bit stronger on Saturday. That's why our focus this time will be more on Saturday than the other races. The heat is strong, but it's there for everyone and we have to adapt. Today also in the race simulation we seemed to be quite strong. The weather for the next few days? If the temperature would drop but without rain, it would be perfect".
And Max Verstappen, at the end of the first day of practice, complained about the heat in Hungary:
"We tried some adjustments from FP1 to FP2, this is to try to understand well which things work and which don't. The track was also very hot, so in these conditions it's never easy. There are many aspects to analyze, from single lap to long runs, but nothing shocking. Problems? It's nothing so big that it can't be overcome. It wasn't an easy day because of the temperatures on the track, but we will analyze everything. I remain optimistic for Saturday and Sunday".
While waiting for FP3 to take place, in the night between Friday 30 July 2021 and Saturday 31 July 2021 Ferrari, respecting the time limit set by the regulations, takes advantage, without receiving penalties, of the first of the two possibilities granted for the operations to be carried out on the cars. Before the start of Saturday's free practice session, the internal combustion engine, turbocharger and MGU-H are replaced on Carlos Sainz Jr.'s car, with the third unit being fitted, along with the exhaust system, where the fifth unit is installed. Also on Max Verstappen's car, the electronic control unit is replaced, mounting the second unit, while on Sergio Pérez's car, the exhaust system is replaced, mounting the fourth unit. All drivers are not penalized on the starting grid as all the new components are within the maximum number of replaceable components. Starting from the third free practice session on Saturday, the teams have an additional set of intermediate tires at their disposal as rain is forecast for the rest of the Grand Prix weekend.
The top three drivers who had shown to have the most competitiveness during Friday's FPs are back again on Saturday. This time, however, it's Hamilton who sets the best time by 0.088 seconds to the detriment of Max Verstappen, beating Valtteri Bottas by over 0.2 seconds. Hamilton and Verstappen are the only ones to go under 1'17"0. The two Ferraris, in difficulty on Friday, climb the classification, while Mick Schumacher goes off the track at turn 11: during FP3 his car ends its race against the barriers at the edge of the track, and the race direction is forced to interrupt the session. At the end of Saturday's free practice, the team will be forced to replace the gearbox on his car. Schumacher - theoretically - is therefore penalized by five positions on the starting grid; however the driver will not take part in the qualifying, but will still be allowed to take part in the race by the stewards.
During FP3 two times are cancelled to drivers for exceeding the track limits at the exit of turn 11, during Saturday's free practice session: Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Räikkönen, both on Alfa Romeo. Antonio Giovinazzi is summoned by the stewards for being sent back to the track after leaving the pits in unsafe conditions while Lance Stroll was approaching in the pit lane; subsequently, Alfa Romeo Racing is fined 5,000 euro by the FIA. Giovinazzi is also summoned together with Pierre Gasly because he obstructed the French driver during a fast attempt of the latter, and in this regard the Italian driver receives a reprimand, the first of the season.
Just about the Alfa Romeo team, it is important to underline that on Thursday 29th of July 2021, Cristiano Fiorio, previously linked to the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group where for several years he held various roles within the company, is appointed head of Alfa Romeo in Formula 1. Fiorio assumes responsibility for the project, focused on maximizing results, following Alfa Romeo Racing's announcement of the multi-year renewal of its partnership with the Hinwil-based Swiss team Sauber on the eve of the British Grand Prix.
At the beginning of the qualifying session the air temperature is 29°C, while the asphalt temperature is 58°C. In the first minutes the drivers of the second tier teams set the best times, until the arrival of Valtteri Bottas (1'16"610), immediately beaten by Lewis Hamilton (1'16"424) and Max Verstappen (1'16"214). Pierre Gasly gets in behind Bottas while Daniel Ricciardo is sixth. The two Ferraris seem to be able to put themselves in a quiet situation, with Carlos Sainz Jr. climbing to fourth and Charles Leclerc seventh. The Spaniard appears to have blocked Tsunoda coming out of the pits, but the stewards take no action on that.
George Russell, who entered Q3 in the last two Grands Prix, is unable to repeat himself, so much so that, due to a mistake in the last attempt, he is eliminated, for the first time this season, in Q1. Vettel, Räikkönen and Stroll improve. Tsunoda, Russell, the other Williams driver Latifi, as well as the Haas drivers are eliminated. The mechanics of the U.S. team were not able to repair in time the single-seater driven by Mick Schumacher, who therefore did not take part in the official practice.
In anticipation of Q2 the heat continues to increase on the track, so much so that the asphalt reaches 63° C. In Q2 Hamilton sets the fastest time, (1'16"553), while Max Verstappen stops at two tenths; both drivers opt for Medium tires. Alonso, third, as well as Vettel and Pierre Gasly, the other two drivers who complete the top five positions, use Soft tires. Shortly afterwards Leclerc, also on Soft tires, takes second place. In the following moments Sainz Jr. loses control of the car due to a gust of wind, and crashes at the last corner of the track. The session is interrupted with a red flag, when there are little more than six minutes to the end of the session; at the restart of the qualifying, Norris, Stroll, Räikkönen, Sainz Jr. and Giovinazzi are the drivers in the elimination zone.
At the restart Gasly is able to set the best time (1'16"394), soon overtaken by Verstappen (1'15"650). The Dutchman of Red Bull Racing, however, has changed strategy, looking for the best time on Soft tires, which then become his choice for the start of the race. Norris is second, while Pérez is fourth, also with a strategy that now foresees the start on Soft tyres. Ricciardo, Stroll, Räikkönen, Giovinazzi and Sainz Jr. do not advance to the decisive phase.
The first driver to set a time in Q3 is Esteban Ocon, but the Frenchman's time is immediately beaten by Leclerc. Then it's Hamilton who takes the lead with a time of 1'15"419, three tenths ahead of Bottas and half a second ahead of Verstappen. The Dutchman complains on the radio about the poor feeling with the tires. Vettel is the only driver to make a single fast attempt, coming out onto the track when all the other nine drivers are in the pits, finishing with the eighth fastest time. The others wait for the last moments to enter the track for their second attempt. The two Mercedes proceed, in the launch lap, slowly, followed by the cars of Verstappen and Pérez. The latter, due to this slow pace, is unable to start in time, before the checkered flag is shown.
So, Lewis Hamilton confirms to be first, without improving his performance, ahead of Bottas and the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez; for the British driver it's the eighth pole position in the Hungarian Grand Prix, the 101st in total. Gasly, on the other hand, improves, taking fifth place. The French driver precedes Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, Esteban Ocon, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, who closes the top ten. At the end of the qualifying, also as a result of the decision to proceed slowly towards the finish line, not allowing Sergio Perez to improve, many whistles rained down on Lewis Hamilton from the public, but the British driver responded to the criticism by declaring:
"Amazing qualification and fantastic lap, but also amazing teamwork from everyone this weekend, including Valtteri. We are trying to make the car grow with development. The guys in the factory are also leaving no stone unturned. It was great to see everyone pushing each other. I appreciate the great support I have here. Those who boo me don't reach the goal, because it gives me extra charge, so I don't mind. Strategy? There is a long way to go to turn one. They with the softs will gain at least five meters, it will be a good battle. Then we will see. It's very positive to be on the front row after so long. I thank everyone at the factory, I hope there will be good weather tomorrow and that everyone will enjoy the sun. Stay safe everyone".
Valtteri Bottas, second in his Mercedes, confesses that it wasn't as easy qualifying as you might think:
"Giro was quite good. In Q2 I had lost a bit of rhythm when we used the Medium tires. It was not easy to find the rhythm with the Soft tires, because grip difference is great. We hogged the front row and Lewis did a very good lap in the first attempt, unlike me. Nice to see two Mercedes in front again. It will be exciting tomorrow. Red Bull have Soft tires, we have Medium, it will be a good battle tomorrow. Nice to see so many people back".
Max Verstappen, third with his Red Bull, disconsolate admits that it is difficult to understand the reason that led to such a high gap from the poleman:
"Four tenths of delay? Hard to understand where exactly this gap comes from, but we were behind all weekend. In qualifying we proved it again. It's not what we wanted but in any case we're still there, in third position, and we'll see what we can do. So far certainly not what I wanted. Strategy with Soft tires? It will be different, the grip is much higher with those tires and we will find out tomorrow. It will be very hot, so a Soft tire won't last as long as a Medium. But in any case we will have a good opportunity at the start. We with the Medium probably would have risked not passing the cut. We decided to go out on Softs to qualify".
Later, Max will add:
"Of course it will be different, the grip is a bit higher with these tires. It will be very hot, so the Soft tire won't last as long as the Medium, but it will give us a good opportunity at the start. The others were on the Soft tire and were improving their times. My time on the Medium would have been really borderline to get into the top ten, so that's why we decided to complete the lap on the Soft tire".
And he gets angry when asked to comment on what might happen in Turn 1:
"Turn 1 tomorrow? Can we stop dwelling on that? We've already received so many questions on this topic. It's ridiculous. We were answering these questions all Thursday long. So, can we just stop? Please. We are racers and we will race hard. We're going to keep pushing each other".
Those who remain unhappy about qualifying is Sergio Perez, who confesses:
"I certainly had the impression that I was making good progress in the car. It was a shame to lose the last lap because I thought we had good potential. At that moment we thought we had a decent margin before the flag, unfortunately we were wrong and this prevented me from starting the lap. We knew that Mercedes would be very strong today, but I really hope that tomorrow we will be able to put a lot of pressure on them. We have a different strategy and we are looking forward to the race, this is a Grand Prix where with one or two right corners you can take a lot of tenths. In an ideal scenario we will overtake them at the start and keep the position, but the race is very long and anything can happen".
On the other hand, Pierre Gasly is happier, who once again managed to complete an exceptional qualifying session by setting the fifth fastest time:
"I am delighted, it was a bit of a surprise to be ahead of McLaren and Ferrari. I am very happy with my lap time. In the end we are in a good position for tomorrow. Just beaten by Norris and Leclerc? Yes, but I look ahead and that is also very close. Fourth place was almost possible, but we are very happy".
Then, to those who point out that he is close to the second Red Bull, Pierre replies:
"Close to the second Red Bull? I don't think about these things, I try to do the best for my team. But it's a nice surprise and I always try to do my best. Today was a great performance from our side. Driving the second Red Bull in the future? We'll see. If I were Horner would I consider myself? Yes of course".
And returning to talk about the Grand Prix, the Frenchman concludes by saying:
"For tomorrow we know that McLaren and Ferrari are faster than us. But we know how important track position is here. We start in the best possible position, ahead of them. The start will be important to maintain this position. After that, even though they are faster, it is very difficult to overtake. It will be a long race. There will be tight battles, but I'm excited".
The sporting director Laurent Mekies is undoubtedly more unhappy, commenting on the qualifying of the two Ferraris at the Hungaroring circuit:
"When the result is below expectations there is a bit of disappointment, needless to hide it. Given the times of Q3 we could have legitimately aspired to a place on the second row, but when the gaps are so small, it takes nothing to lose or gain many positions: sometimes this has worked in our favor, others - as happened this afternoon - it was not so. In addition, we paid dearly for losing Carlos in Q2 because he had shown he had the potential to fight for fourth place. Now we have to focus on the preparation of the race, which will be very tough for drivers and cars, especially for the high temperatures we will find. Yesterday the distance performance was not bad but we know how difficult it is to recover positions on this track. Strategy and tire management will be the decisive factors".
Precisely regarding the mistake made, Carlos Sainz Jr. admits:
"Today the conditions were not easy, but they were difficult for everyone, so I don't want to have any excuses. I'm surprised by what happened. When I got back to the pits, I immediately went to see what I could do differently. But seeing the data I entered the corner 5km/h slower than I did in Q1, so I wasn't too aggressive. And even though I entered the corner slower there was a wind gust of 35-40 km/h of wind, while in Q1 I had 10 km/h. That maybe led me into oversteer. It's not an excuse, it's just the data. I have to learn from this and apologize to the whole team because we have a lot of work to do tomorrow. Problems with the gearbox? I don't know, it's too early to know. I tried as always to restart to see if there was some solution, but in the end the best thing to do was to stop. A comeback race? It will be difficult, it's not easy to overtake here. The start and the strategy will count a lot. If we do well in both, we can maybe take some points. But more than that I think it will be difficult to get".
While Charles Leclerc, for his part, confesses all the difficulties encountered in qualifying:
"It's a shame, however today we struggled more, at least I sweated from Q2 onwards. The first lap in Q2 was very difficult, the rear was moving a lot with the change in the wind. After that we struggled to adapt to these new conditions. Today a seventh place has arrived, the race pace is good but it's a track where it's still difficult to overtake. So it's a bit complicated. With Carlos I spoke a little while ago, about the accident he just told me that he lost the car in the last corner, but with him I was talking more about the conditions, because they were very difficult. I almost got surprised too, but I was more lucky than him. The race pace is there, but to prove it you need to be in front of the group, while for now we are behind. That will be the difficult part. At the start there is always a lot to gain, but also a lot to lose. So I'll try to make the best possible start to be ahead".
For Lando Norris it was also not an easy qualifying because of the strong wind:
"Qualifying was difficult because of the wind and the temperatures. The wind was a bit up and down, the car was often sliding and this is never pleasant. It was difficult to look for the limit without overdoing it, as happened to Carlos, who made a mistake in Q2. It was not easy. Maybe there was a small chance to finish fourth, but we should have done everything perfect. Sometimes you have to be content and this is one of those cases. Me, half a second faster than Ricciardo? The characteristics of the car can change from time to time, a lot is in being able to anticipate them. That can change the way you have to drive the car. A lot is in that, it's a matter of experience. He's a different driver than me, I can't be sure of the reasons. But he's still there, he did well last weekend and I'm sure he can do well in the race as well. A lot of fans for me? Yes they love me. No, just kidding, I don't know. I have a lot of fans here in Hungary".
On Sunday, August 1st 2021, the sun no longer shines high over Budapest, and indeed gave way to rain-laden clouds, which soaked the circuit before the start of the race, forcing the drivers to choose intermediate tires - with the exception of Giovinazzi, who returned to the pits immediately after completing his formation lap to mount wet weather tires. Before the start of the Grand Prix on Max Verstappen's car, the internal combustion engine, turbocharger, MGU-H and MGU-K are replaced, the third unit being fitted, along with the exhaust system, where the fourth unit is installed. The Dutch driver is not penalized on the starting grid as all the newly installed components are among those that can be replaced within the maximum number set.
The start will mark the course of the entire Grand Prix: at the start Lewis Hamilton keeps the lead, while Valtteri Bottas starts badly, being passed by several cars. Arrived at the first corner the Finnish driver crashes into Lando Norris, who in turn ends up against Max Verstappen's car. Bottas, continuing the race, hits the car of Sergio Pérez. Lance Stroll also makes a mistake, runs into Charles Leclerc who, in turn, hits Daniel Ricciardo. The race direction first decides to send the safety car on track, then opts for the suspension of the race.
At the time of the break Hamilton leads the race, ahead of Esteban Ocon, Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz Jr, Yuki Tsunoda, Nicholas Latifi and Fernando Alonso. Bottas, Pérez, Norris, Leclerc and Stroll can no longer continue. Verstappen and Ricciardo, although with a damaged car, can restart. A few moments later, out of his car, Lando Norris comments on what happened at the start:
"All of us are in Formula 1 for a reason. We are all good drivers and we know where to brake, where to judge the braking zones and so on, especially when it's wet, especially on the first lap of the race. But obviously somebody misjudged it completely, that's the annoying thing. You expect a little bit more when you're racing with the top team drivers, racing in the front rows. But [actually] they don't race as much, because they are often on their own and not in the fray like us, so maybe they don't experience it enough and they need to learn a little bit more".
Pierre Gasly, an Alpha Tauri driver who finished a wonderful fifth, also commented bitterly:
"I don't know what to say except that Valtteri screwed everything up, he basically knocked out the first six cars, so... Fortunately we [Alpha Tauri] didn't suffer much damage compared to Max and Lando. And Checo, too".
In the minutes between the race neutralization and the subsequent restart, Red Bull mechanics use this time to try to repair Max Verstappen's car. The car shows significant damage, as a part of the bottom has been completely sheared off, as well as the bageboards, now no longer present. In the meantime the weather conditions improve, but all the drivers decide, at the restart, to keep the intermediate wet tires. All of them, with the exception of Hamilton, at the end of the starting lap, go back to the pits to switch to slick tires. Hamilton finds himself alone on the starting grid. In the chaos of the tire changes Kimi Räikkönen is sent back on track when Nikita Mazepin arrives; in the contact the Russian gets the worst of it, and is forced to retire. To justify Hamilton's decision not to return to the pits, at the end of the race Andrew Shovlin will declare:
"When we actually left the pitlane, at that point we were talking about going on slicks because we could see the track drying out. But at that point our primary goal was not to slip back or get involved in any accidents. So we decided to be cautious and go ahead with the intermediates. What happened next was very surprising, seeing the entire starting field come back into the pits and pull away behind us. Having the last pit stop available, and all of us coming back together in a queue, the risk of a collision for Lewis with whoever would have been the first to go back to the pitlane was concrete. When you are at the first garage you have the disadvantage of having to look for a gap between the other cars that are coming from behind and have stopped before you. Since there was no way for Lewis to gain five seconds on a formation lap to get back in safely, we thought it was better to keep him in. Worst case scenario we would have ended up behind and we did. But the mistake was another one: not going out right away on dry tires, we could have won the race easily but we didn't take the chance, but we all agreed and we made a mistake together. No blame, it's a lesson we learned and we will treasure it in the future".
Hamilton, after only one lap, pits, to switch to dry tires. The Briton re-entered the race last, while the Grand Prix - after Russell returned his positions to avoid a penalty following an irregular start from the pits - was commanded by Ocon, ahead of Vettel. The two of them immediately build a nice margin over Latifi, who acts as a bit of an obstacle to Tsunoda and Sainz Jr. Verstappen and Hamilton, both at the back, manage to pass Schumacher. The Briton stops on lap 19, to fit Hard tires. He is sent back on track ahead of Verstappen and Ricciardo.
On lap 21 Russell stops, followed by Tsunoda and Latifi. All choose the harder compound. At this point Sainz Jr. has climbed to third, and is ahead of Alonso and the AlphaTauri duo. Behind these two rises Hamilton. The Mercedes driver passes, on lap 32, Tsunoda, for fifth position, recovered after Gasly's pit stop. Also on lap 32, Sainz Jr. made his stop. Between lap 36 and 37, Vettel and Ocon change tires. This allows Alonso to be in the lead, until lap 39, when the Spaniard also changes tires. The Alpine driver returns to the race fifth, behind Hamilton. The other driver of the French team, Ocon, is still in the lead, ahead of Vettel and Sainz Jr. Vettel gets closer to the Frenchman, but never manages to trouble him for the first place.
On lap 47 Hamilton stops again, to fit Medium tires. The Briton is back in the race behind Alonso. His pace, however, is remarkable, so much so that he laps three seconds faster than all the other drivers in the race. From this moment, the British driver engages in a long battle with Alonso, which ends only on lap 65, with the overtaking of the Spaniard. At this stage, after some hard defensive maneuvers of Alonso, Hamilton complains via radio for the conduct of the Spaniard defined dangerous at this speed:
"He goes everywhere. Guys, did you see that he just jumped towards me? Come on... at that speed it's dangerous".
After passing Alonso, Hamilton caught up with, and passed, Sainz Jr. in a couple of laps, who was in an obvious crisis with his tires, and managed to get closer to the leading duo, without however having the chance to play for the victory. Esteban Ocon can thus win his first career Grand Prix in Formula 1, preceding Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. He follows in fourth place the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz Jr., then Fernando Alonso, Pierre Gasly, Yuki Tsunoda and the two Williams of Latifi and Russell, for the first time in the top ten since the 2018 Italian Grand Prix.
For Alpine it is the first victory since it changed its name. Under the previous Renault name, the last success was in the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix with Alonso. The French team returns to victory on the Hungaroring track after eighteen years with the same Alonso. The Renault engine takes victory for the first time since the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix with Daniel Ricciardo on Red Bull Racing. Gasly seizes, for the third time in his career, the fastest lap, after having mounted Soft tires, in the last laps. The AlphaTauri gets its first fast lap since changing its name. When the race is over, Esteban Ocon walks back to the pits, running, and before stepping onto the podium to celebrate his first career victory, he stops at the pitch designated for interviews:
"What a moment! Too good a feeling. My first victory is especially sweet. I'm back in Formula 1 and we've had some difficult moments this season. But we managed to overcome them together with the team. We found a fantastic pace again at Silverstone and after this victory what can I say? It's fantastic. Congratulations to Fernando, I won thanks also to the defense he made. Big thanks to the team for the trust that everyone is pouring on me. In difficult moments, when you don't get into Q2 or you're eliminated by a few hundredths, you don't know what to do. The team has kept great faith in me and now we are back where we want to be. Sebastian was great throughout the race. He put a lot of pressure on me but we managed to keep him behind. Fernando? Fantastic to work with him. He has been since the beginning of the year. We're working together and pushing the team to improve to get closer to the top positions on the grid. A lot of people were telling me things about Fernando before he arrived. But they were all wrong. He is a great guy who works very well in the team. I really enjoy working with him. I wish my parents were all here with me, but they will come early in the morning and we will have a great day together".
And Sebastian Vettel, another protagonist of the race who couldn't get past Ocon, is equally happy, but takes a valuable second place:
"I'm a bit disappointed because I felt I was a bit faster for most of the race. But Esteban didn't make a single mistake and I was never able to get close enough. It is not a track where it is particularly easy to overtake, I pushed hard but he always stayed on the track. I could only follow him and he got his first victory. Obviously when you're that close you're aiming for the victory, but I still came second. That's how it went. Turn 1? I had a very bad start, but in the end it turned out to be the best place to be. A lot of things happened in front of me. I stayed calm, got on the inside and stayed clean, I was basically ahead of everyone else and that turned the race around for us today. Second podium? Yes, we were very close to Esteban, we were in terms of pace. I pushed hard, I tried to force him to make a mistake. But it was difficult because in the last sector it is complicated to stay close, otherwise I would have tried something. But he defended very well and he was good not to make any mistake".
In third place, after an exceptional comeback, Lewis Hamilton congratulated Ocon and commented on his race in this way:
"Congratulations to Alpine and Esteban. He is a shining star, he has been waiting for this victory for a long time. I'm happy for him. It's great to see that he got his best result, but he will get many more. The crowd was fantastic, I thank all of them. Today was a tough race, we always make life difficult. To think that I was alone on the grid is crazy. These are not things that happen. I gave everything, I have nothing left. Second start? I was talking with the team about how the track was drying out during the lap. They said it was going to rain again...clearly they had different information. Championship leadership? We came here this weekend not knowing how it was going to go. Considering the circumstances today I'll take this podium very gladly".
The tiring race conducted by Hamilton leave their mark, since already at the exit of the car, and still after the podium ceremony, the British driver suffers from a slight indisposition and is visited by the Mercedes doctor, who later communicates that it is fatigue and slight dizziness. Toto Wolff adds:
"A race like this, with the heat and lots of overtaking, is exhausting. He should be fine, but prevention is better than cure".
Having recovered rather quickly, Hamilton will appear regularly at the press conference, and regarding his physical condition he will declare:
"I'm fine. I got really dizzy and everything got a little blurry on the podium. I've struggled all year just with my health, staying fit after what happened at the end of last year and it's still a battle (the Mercedes driver refers to the Covid-19 infection suffered at the end of 2020 that made him miss the Sakhir Grand Prix)".
And speaking of Hamilton, in the interviews at the end of the Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso replied in this way to the words of the British driver, expressed via radio regarding his race conduct and his way of defending himself from attacks:
"Lewis is always complaining. I haven't heard anything from the FIA, so I guess it's okay. I didn't know that this would probably be enough to hold Esteban's victory, but anyway we were with ten laps to go, we tried to hold the position but in the end it was not possible. Lewis had an incredible pace, it wasn't enough. Honestly, I think Lewis made a little mistake in the last two corners before the straight, that's my honest opinion. Because he had so much pace, you can't lose eight laps to pass with that pace advantage. And indeed, after changing some lines, he passed Sainz Jr. on the next lap. His overtaking wasn't difficult, but it took him four or five laps to figure it out, that's my opinion".
On Alpine's excellent result, Alonso adds:
"Obviously for the team the victory was amazing. Esteban was lucky in the first start, but we've been unlucky in other races, so we won't say we're sorry for being lucky here".
The joy is also tangible in the Williams box, where finally, after so many attempts, the team managed to earn its first points.
"I am so happy for everyone, I have no words".
Admits Geroge Russell, who after so many unfavorable situations managed to gain the ninth position (he will move to eighth place following the disqualification of Vettel's Aston Martin). The Briton, reduced to tears by the enormous emotional strain of these last months, admits:
"Ninth position? I don't believe it, really. It was an incredible race. My final stint was probably the best of my whole career because I was fighting like crazy against Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. I'm so happy for everyone because personally it's been two and a half years of big sacrifices, and for the team it's three and a half years. These points are really well deserved. Congratulations also to Nicholas, he made an incredible start and drove great. Finishing eighth and ninth, we couldn't have done much more today".
Even better was Nicholas Latifi, who like his teammate struggled to contain his excitement:
"This is an incredible result for the team, and I'm so happy for us. The team has been close to the points for several races, now to be both in the top ten and to move into eighth position in the constructors' standings is incredible. The race on my part was very difficult to handle, obviously the start in turn one was what allowed me to be up there at the front. We struggled in qualifying yesterday and to come away with a result like this is better than anything we could have hoped for. Overall, it's a really nice way to head into the summer break".
If in the paddock there are those who rejoice, at the same time there are those who fail to reap satisfaction. And so, in his first statements after the race, Verstappen cannot help but underline the role of his opponents in the last two episodes that have heavily penalized his and Red Bull's run-up to the title:
"Thrown out again by a Mercedes... this is not what you want. Some people exaggerate at the start? Well, Valtteri today made a huge mistake, he braked too late and he ran into Lando. Lando couldn't do anything and then of course he bumped into me. I think something noisy came out of his brain. The kind that stinks. It was obviously Valtteri's fault, again a Mercedes car. Obviously he ran into Lando, but eventually he rammed my car as well. After that I suffered a lot of damage to the car. I lost too much downforce. I lost the whole side of my car, even the bottom was damaged. It was almost impossible to drive to be honest. I did my best and picked up a point, at least it's something, but not what we want. This moment is just disappointing. When we restart after the summer break, I will come back and do my best. I hope my car is competitive, we'll see. They were very strange moments that cost us important points".
Regarding the incidents caused by Bottas and Stroll at the beginning of the race, the FIA decrees penalties that are in line with what the regulations foresee: two points less on the Superlicense of the Finnish driver and the Canadian driver, and a five position penalty on the starting grid of the next Belgian Grand Prix for both. In this regard, Valtteri himself declares:
"I lost positions after bad start. I had a blockage at the first corner, to avoid Lando, and there I lost control and everything happened. It was difficult to understand where the braking point was. Obviously I tried to find the right point and the right position but I made a mistake. Am I responsible? Certainly these things happen, everyone makes mistakes".
An embarrassing mistake also for Toto Wolff, who apologized to his Red Bull rivals in the post-race:
"I fully understand their feelings, all I can do is take the responsibility on us. It was a small mistake, he went too late on the brakes and took out Lando and the two Red Bulls. Things shouldn't be like that, but in the rain it can be very difficult. I think he got in the way. Then the moment they closed him down they braked a little bit later. It was a small mistake that caused a very big accident. It cost them a lot of points and maybe the chance to have two cars on the podium. Apology? I will make them in public, as I am doing here. I will apologize. Things happen and you know how it goes with karma, maybe it was meant to be that we didn't have to take maximum points today. To be honest I think we absolutely did the right thing, there's no one on the team that would have done it differently. As a lead car, it's always hard to make decisions. If you're the only one back, you come out last. Plus there's the difficulty of getting out of the pit lane, because everyone else is also pitting. The fact that we were left there alone on the grid obviously played against us".
Excuses that, however, are not accepted by Christian Horner, team principal of Red Bull, who resplies:
"Bottas has done a great job for Mercedes, there's no denying it. Toto apologizes? Ok, but then maybe he should also pay the bill for the repairs of our cars. In any case, that's how racing is and it certainly wasn't Wolff at the wheel of the car, just as I'm sure it wasn't Bottas' intention to cause an accident. For us, however, the consequences are very serious and, given that we are in the era of the budget cap, perhaps the FIA should consider this issue. Certainly the damage done in the last two races will not help. We have a lot of damage from crashes and potentially two engines that we lost due to bad maneuvers by other drivers. It's very frustrating. Let me just say that I think Mick Schumacher had more downforce than Max in the race. So Max had to drive with his heart, he gained two points that could be crucial at the end of the year. The damage to the bargeboard and the bottom was just too much. The mechanics did what they could before the restart, but the damage to the bottom was really big. Thankfully Mercedes made a strategic mistake today in the race at the Hungaroring. Fernando Alonso looked like he was driving for Red Bull. In the end we limited the damage. These could have been even greater. Now we have the summer break and we have seen how easy it is to turn things around. We've seen it for ourselves. The road, in this World Championship, is long".
Who then adds an important detail regarding the challenge to the World Constructors' Championship, as the engine fitted to Perez's car is unrecoverable, and this will mean a replacement and therefore a penalty on the grid by the end of the championship:
"From the first indications I don't think the engine is still usable. It's frustrating, also for Honda, because this is not a reliability problem but a breakage caused by an accident in which we were not at fault".
Helmut Marko adds:
"We will continue to investigate whether the power unit can be recovered. But, at the moment, we have to assume that we will have to use a fourth power unit, which will mean a grid penalty. And it's all because of the Silverstone incident".
Sergio Perez, disconsolate, also has no words to define this unhappy moment:
"I don't know what to say. To be hit like that at Turn 1 is unbelievable, and it's a huge blow for us as a team. I had a good start and I was in third position. We would have had a good opportunity in those conditions, but there was nothing I could do. I watched the replays because it was hard to tell exactly what happened behind me. All I knew from inside the car was that I had received a big hit. Bottas made a big mistake, he braked too late in turn 1 which took out a lot of cars, including mine, causing serious damage to Max's car as well. He came to me and apologized. He knew it was his mistake, even though he didn't do it on purpose and these are things that sometimes happen. However, that doesn't make a difference to us and the final result, as the large amount of damage done ended our race and the opportunity to score points".
But Mike Elliott, technical director of Mercedes, explains from his point of view what happened in the first few meters of the Magyar race, which lasted only a few seconds for Valtteri Bottas and the other drivers involved.
"In the reconnaissance lap the track was yes wet, but not that wet. When Bottas passed at that point he felt he had more grip than expected. In the time between the passage and the actual start, however, it started to rain more persistently and the drivers found a very different situation. The conditions were difficult and it should not be forgotten that they had been practicing starting and braking in the dry all weekend. We didn't change anything in the clutch mapping and the result was that Bottas had a lot of skidding with the rear tires when the lights went out. And then in braking after being passed by several drivers he found himself a bit crushed. When he chose the braking point he blocked the tires and at that point there was nothing more to do. He was really sorry for what happened, an accident for which he took all the responsibility".
A situation that will also involve Ferrari, which was damaged by Lance Stroll's mistake at the start; also in this case, as the note from the Scuderia di Maranello states, there are fears at Ferrari that the engine mounted on Charles Leclerc's car is damaged to the point of having to replace it:
"There are still twelve race weekends left and it is therefore highly likely that the team will be forced to fit a fourth ICE on Charles' car, incurring a penalty on the starting grid".
A situation that certainly does not make Ferrari's team principal, Mattia Binotto, happy. In this regard, he hypothesizes a change to the budget cap regulation, essentially asking that the teams that cause certain incidents should pay for the damages:
"We will have to discuss with the Federation a change to the rules that would provide for some sort of compensation when a team is clearly damaged by an opposing driver's maneuver. Today I am disappointed, I say it in English. It started to rain just before the race. We knew it was a good opportunity for us today and we were even creating it. Charles started cautiously and found himself in second-third position, at that moment he had made the turn and had a clear way. Then he was literally rammed by Stroll, who didn't know where he came from and didn't have control of his car at all. It's a shame because it would have been important points for him as well. The opportunity was important. With Carlos we started from the pit lane to change the tires, it was the right choice; we made a very good pit stop under two seconds, then we stopped because we know it's dangerous in the pit lane with all that traffic. With the unsafe releases there are clear rules, but none of the others respected them, they came in without looking at who was coming. Even for Carlos it could have been a different race, he could have been behind the top two, but instead he was blocked for most of the race. In general, Carlos had a great first few laps and we're happy with his race. Coming in at the end was more of a missed opportunity, but not through any fault of ours. It's a shame about the result".
And talking about the penalties given to Stroll and Bottas, considered quite light, the team principal says:
"The penalties to Stroll? Before that I comment the maneuver. That is a maneuver that for a professional driver does not make sense, period. I would have liked to see what Charles could do today, the race pace with the medium tyres was good. We are showing progress on the pace, today came a confirmation. Overall we had a solid weekend, despite a less than perfect qualifying. Now the first part of the season is gone, we will stop for a couple of weeks. We look forward with optimism and desire to do well in the second half of 2021".
Charles Leclerc also comments bitterly on what happened at the start:
"It was a good game of bowling on a Sunday before the vacations. I don't know how it's possible, honestly. It's shit. Stroll was five-six positions behind, all this makes me quite frustrated. We knew we had a chance to do well. I was very cautious at the start for that very reason. In the past I have sometimes overdone it in the first corners, but for sure this time it was impossible to think about gaining five-six positions in one corner, it's not realistic. That's how it is. Now I'm just frustrated. I am not the right person to judge and evaluate possible penalties. The stewards will do their job, but I'm sure they saw that it's very obvious what happened".
But Lance Stroll, on the matter, tries to defend himself by admitting:
"I tried very hard to avoid the accident when I saw what was happening to the cars in front of me I tried to take the inside to put myself out of any risk, but I blocked the tires as soon as I braked. I immediately understood that I wouldn't have been able to stop the car in time and make the turn so I tried to move further to avoid contacts, but I didn't succeed".
If nothing else, Ferrari can rejoice in the fourth place obtained by Carlos Sainz Jr. (who will move up to third place after the disqualification inflicted on the Aston Martin driven by Sebastian Vettel), despite the accusations concerning the poor defense against Hamilton's attack. Precisely in this regard, Carlos Sainz Jr. tells some interesting details:
"Defense with Lewis? I missed the tires, for sure. He made me push a lot with the hard tire, at the beginning of the stint he was behind me and I had to go hard to keep him behind. There I ruined the tires quite a bit and I also used a lot of fuel. At the end of the race I did the last ten laps saving a lot of fuel. In that moment then there was Ricciardo who at the last corner didn't give us a hand and did some blocking, allowing Lewis to be closer. But there were still six to seven laps to go and I think Lewis would have passed anyway. Overall, in the first half of the season I was very fast, I felt great with the team and the car. However, I think we still haven't had full weekends where we put everything together. This weekend is a good example of that. I made a mistake in qualifying yesterday and today we missed two details. Had it not been for those, we could have even been fighting for the win. We have to keep improving on that, I'm sure the second half of the season will be better".
At the end of the race a debate rages on about the Same Love shirt on a rainbow background, worn both during the We Race As One moment and during the solemn execution of the Hungarian national anthem by Sebastian Vettel. And it is here that the procedural offence takes place, which then results in a reprimand to the address of Sebastian and Sainz, Bottas and Stroll, who in turn forgot to remove the classic black t-shirt, as explained by race director Michael Masi:
"Earlier this year we clarified. And following an internal discussion with the FIA and Formula 1, we said that we wanted to continue to give all drivers the opportunity to have the moment to actually show their support for We Race as One, but then the national anthem of a particular country should be respected with the drivers all wearing their race suits. So it was made clear that once that moment is over and the drivers have shown their message, they should remove their shirt or whatever they were wearing and go to the national anthem in their race uniform. This is the first event where this has happened since then, there were four or five drivers who kept their shirts on, not just Sebastian, they all received a reprimand for not following the race director's instructions. It was observed by a number of people, including the media delegate who was out there. Myself on television. I reported it to the stewards, it was a violation and that's why there was a reprimand for the first infraction".
Vettel himself, questioned on the subject, is not very positive towards the investigation for the incorrect use of the rainbow t-shirt:
"Me under investigation? Then let them disqualify me, I would be happy, really. I put that shirt on for all the people who are suffering in this country because of laws that, instead of protecting children, threaten them".
A protest also shared by Lewis Hamilton:
"I'm proud of him. There's no rule that says what color t-shirt you have to wear, and supporting the LGBTQ+ community is beyond reproach. This is bullshit, bravo Seb. Next time I'll have the same t-shirt too".
But while Vettel declares to be even willing to auction the rainbow jersey worn in Hungary to raise funds to support the LGBTQ+ battle, Tamas Deutsch, Fidesz MEP, publishes a photo depicting the spectators of an entire stadium engaged in the Nazi salute during the 1936 Berlin Olympics and responds violently to Vettel's peaceful message through an unpleasant juxtaposition to Nazism; the post will then be removed from the Facebook page of the political exponent of the Hungarian majority party.
"The Germans have always been quite good at using politically correct symbols during sporting events to influence public opinion. They do it in a subtle, cultured, European way. Those who want to understand, understand".
As if that wasn't enough, a few hours after the end of the race the FIA issues a statement announcing Sebastian Vettel's disqualification after race officials failed to take the required fuel sample after the end of the race. In accordance with the Federation's normal verification procedures at the end of the Grand Prix, only 0.3 liters of fuel can be taken from Sebastian Vettel's car. For this reason an Aston Martin technical delegate is summoned by the stewards. Vettel, who came in second at the finish, is disqualified from the race as, according to the regulations, each car must be able to provide the Federation with a sample of at least one liter of fuel at the end of the race.
However, according to the calculations of the British manufacturer, which is asking to readmit Vettel in the result of the Hungarian Grand Prix, after the extraction of the infamous 300 milliliters there would still be 1.44 liters of gasoline left in the car, probably ended up inside the pumps and the various pipes. So, while the FIA delegates try to take another 700 millilitres from the tank, Aston Martin's defensive argument also ties in with the demonstration that 0.3 liters is enough to prove the regularity of the fuel used, as the British team principal, Otmar Szafnauer, explains:
"We have ninety-six hours to go and I confirm the willingness to appeal. According to all our calculations, there should still be 1.44 liters of fuel left in the car after the 300 millilitre sample was taken. The Federation has access to this data because through the flow meter it knows very well how much fuel has been used. The rule of the liter of gasoline that must be extracted from the car is old and goes back to seasons before all the measurements to which fuel has been subjected in recent years. We'll get to the bottom of it, the fuel must have stayed inside the pumps. We just have to show the FIA where the gasoline is that was left in the car and that the stewards couldn't extract".
Having expressed its intention to lodge a complaint against the exclusion of its driver from the final classification of the race on Thursday, August 5, 2021, within the ninety-six hour time limit set by the Federation, the British team requests to exercise its right of review against the decision made by the stewards. The complaint, to be considered, must include significant new elements that were not available when the commissioners disqualified the German driver on race day.
"After Sebastian Vettel had finished second in the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday, August 1, the German driver was disqualified following the failure to take a sample amounting to one liter of fuel from his car at the end of the race. There was and is no suggestion that the AMR21 #5 car benefited from a performance advantage from the alleged rule violation, or that it was committed deliberately. Because the team's data indicated that there was more than 1.0 liter of fuel in the car after the race, the team immediately reserved its right to appeal, and requested to exercise its right to review in addition to the appeal process because it discovered significant and relevant new evidence that was not available to the FIA commissioners at the time of the decision".
But on Monday, August 9, 2021, the Federation, despite Aston Martin's claim that there was a fuel system failure on the car, which would have effectively caused the fuel inside the tank to fall below the one-liter limit imposed by the technical regulations, rejected the team's right of review against Sebastian Vettel's disqualification, finding that it did not matter why there was less than one liter of fuel left, but that there was little left and that this represented a violation of the technical regulations.
"The Stewards have rejected the competitor's request for reconsideration under Article 14 of the FIA International Sporting Code".
At first, according to what Aston Martin team principal Otman Szafnauer said, the team would seem willing to continue the dispute by making use of the appeals process:
"We felt that the evidence we presented was relevant and would prove to the FIA that Sebastian Vettel should have been reinstated in the finishing order of the Hungarian Grand Prix after his disqualification. Unfortunately, the FIA had a different view and despite the fact that the accuracy of our new evidence was not challenged, Sebastian's disqualification was upheld on the basis that the new evidence was not considered relevant. This is disappointing, we will now consider our position with respect to the possibility of being able to go through the full appeal process".
However, on Thursday, August 12th 2021, the team, after having initially considered appealing, decided not to go ahead with the request, after having had its first request submitted to the Federation rejected, leaving second place to Lewis Hamilton, who thus increases his lead in the standings over Max Verstappen, and allowing Ferrari to take another precious third place with Carlos Sainz Jr. Kimi Raikkonen, who had come eleventh with his Alfa Romeo, also won the point for tenth place.