After Hockenheim Formula 1 moves to Hungary for the last Grand Prix before the summer break. Temperatures are rising compared to the German climate: in Budapest drivers will find an almost summer heat, which will be decisive in the choice of compounds. If in Germany the Friday sun had put Mercedes in a crisis, this Grand Prix could affect even more the tyre degradation. In fact, in view of the Grand Prix that will be held on the Hungaroring circuit, Mercedes chooses more sets of Hard tires - as many as five - than the competition. So far, when Mercedes proved uncompetitive it was not Ferrari, but Verstappen’s Red Bull.
The Dutchman won two races in the last three: in Austria, where Bottas came third and Hamilton fifth at the finish line, and in Germany, where the Finn retired and only the ninth place of the English driver. Verstappen reduced the distance from Hamilton and confirmed the third strength of the championship just 22 points from Bottas and 63 from the reigning World Champion. The career of the Dutch driver in Formula 1 began early, and now that Red Bull seems on the right track, we start talking about a possible victory of the World Championship and a possible future in Mercedes or Ferrari, although Verstappen has never expressed particular preferences and has always raced under the wing of the Anglo-Austrian team:
"If with another 25 points I would feel like I’m in the race for the World Cup? With 60 more points I certainly would. I still have a year left for that, but it should happen next year, because this year Mercedes is too dominant. I want to say something about it, even when I was young, I never thought I would drive for Ferrari. I always wanted to be in the fastest car, be it Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull. But I think I can be next year, with Red Bull".
Verstappen then arrives at the twelfth stage of the season in third place, with many more chances to try to win the title of vice-world champion. A third position that was expected to have a completely different colour: Ferrari red. The Maranello team has certainly picked up some important points in Germany, but as Sebastian Vettel says, these results do not count when it is only a car that crosses the finish line.
"If you start from the last place and get on the podium you have to be happy, because it is very long. But we arrived at the finish line with only one car, and it is certainly not what we expected".
The adjective used by Helmut Marko to describe Max Verstappen’s race in Hockenheim was sensational:
"The way he recovered was in the Seine style. With the open road, he was far faster than anyone else. Immediately after the first pit stop, I realized the speed at which he was able to drive".
The Austrian manager is of the opinion that Verstappen has made a further step forward in his maturation process during the current season, especially with regard to:
"Discipline. Risk assessment has improved, as has the condition of tyres. In a duel is almost flawless, unlike the Mercedes drivers, who no longer seem accustomed to the body to hand. Max understood that it is not necessary to be the fastest in each session. Friday is seen as a day of preparation. In this way, he and his engineer got really good results. He certainly learned from his mistakes of last year, the three consecutive podiums are a confirmation".
With regard to the future of Jos Verstappen’s son, there are many who believe that the Dutchman will come to Mercedes. In this regard, Helmut Marko reiterates that:
"We don’t need to send him any more signals to convince him to stay with us. As for his nearest future, I wouldn’t rule out that he still has the chance to play for the title this year".
Speaking of the Hungarian Grand Prix, the protagonist of the scene, Max Verstappen, says:
"I like the Hungaroring, it’s one of my favourite tracks and I can’t wait to go back this year. It is a very technical circuit where you have to attack the apexes to better face each corner. My favourite corner is the 11, the fast right corner, and it feels good when you get it right. A good exit from the last corner is also very important as the straight is very long and you have to bring in a good speed. The whole team is always impatient before this race, it is one of the hottest of the year and is generally a good track for us. Germany was one of the craziest and most difficult races for me, but it was great to win it. We all worked really well together and it’s amazing that the guys got a new world record during my tyre change, in one day we had to do many pit stops".
On the eve of the Hungarian Grand Prix, the Dutch driver’s team-mate Pierre Gasly is also analysing the German race:
"I made a good qualifying, getting the fourth best time, but the race was very chaotic: due to a not ideal start we lost positions, and we had unlucky pit stops. I had managed to get me back in sixth place from the 19th, and it would have been an opportunity to stay there, but unfortunately things did not go that way. It is really unpleasant not to have been able to get to the end".
Regarding speculation about his future, the 23-year-old Red Bull driver admits:
"That’s how it works in this world: it’s not something I can control, people say what they think is right, whether it’s true or false. The important things are what I, Marko and Horner said to each other. It has always been very clear".
Sebastian Vettel is back from a Grand Prix that saw him start last and finish second, a result with the taste of victory. But if you look at the big picture, the Ferrari weekend in Germany is to be considered insufficient. Two technical problems damaged the qualifying of Vettel and Leclerc, and finally the error of the latter, during the race, prevented the team of Maranello to collect a good result. Vettel, the only one promoted, arrives in Budapest with the aim of repeating the results of 2015 and 2017, and confirming that little good seen by the Scuderia Ferrari during last weekend.
"We had a great podium in Germany because we had nothing to lose, but we are certainly not at the level we would like".
The German is now 141 points ahead of Hamilton’s 225, behind Verstappen and ahead of his team-mate by 21 points. Despite the mistakes made, Charles Leclerc had a good start to the season that saw him position immediately behind Sebastian Vettel with the possibility of overtaking in the world classification. Among the mistakes there are many to be blamed on the team, and some of these have prevented Leclerc to secure his first victory in Formula 1. In Germany, however, the faults - excluding those of Saturday - are all the Monegasque driver, regardless of the presence of rain:
"A serious mistake, but the situation was critical for the rain. It’s not an excuse, I’m not kind of looking for it. I don’t feel any particular pressure that I still have a race to win. With the engines off, of course, I look back and think that I could have collected more, but when I’m in the car I don’t think about it. Certainly, in Germany I made a serious mistake, but the situation was critical, and I will treasure what happened".
Despite the podium, Ferrari does not celebrate because the problems are more than the victories so far non-existent. The team of Maranello must avoid all kinds of mistakes from now on and take advantage of every opportunity given to it, be it from an opponent’s wrong strategy or favorable weather conditions, as in this coming weekend. The Hungaroring is a track with high downforce, and the management of the tires is fundamental. The Ferrari team principal, Mattia Binotto, in this regard - in the pre-race analysis - begins as follows:
"Budapest is a traditionally critical track with regard to cooling and requires a configuration of maximum downforce. By type of curves, moreover, the tires are strongly stressed, even on the single qualifying lap".
The Maranello team is in fact presented with some aerodynamic novelties, which affects the central part of the single-seater.
"This race is an important stage to have further confirmation that our car is improved on various types of tracks. We can count on the newly introduced elements to which will be added some aerodynamic changes".
The Ferrari team principal concludes by saying:
"We are obviously focusing on solving the recent reliability problems with the aim of preventing them from happening again".
Even for Mercedes, the weekend just ended was a nightmare, starting from the high temperatures of Friday, and then ending with the rain on Sunday afternoon. Further aggravating the situation was the influence of Lewis Hamilton. The Englishman crossed the finish line only in ninth place, after receiving a penalty and making several mistakes, risking not to take even these two points if it were not for the penalty of the two Alfa Romeo. But the fault for this unrecognizable performance is also due to a not optimal physical condition. Hamilton says he had a fever during the Grand Prix and decided to race anyway, refusing to replace Esteban Ocon, already ready to take the track instead of the Englishman. In fact, the reigning World Champion has canceled all his commitments to get better, as he stated at the end of the German race:
"I have canceled everything I had to do in the next few days, so I will go home and sleep these days and try to recover from this flu virus. I hope to improve at least a little in the next two days. The car is good, and health is so important, also to drive it to the fullest, so I will try to be at my best for the next race".
And he left Germany with these words:
"It’s very disappointing and annoying for all of us to leave this race where I also had an eight-second lead and had everything under control. In the end, we win, and we lose together, and this shows how easy it is to make mistakes, but by staying together we can and must improve to move forward. We did pretty well until the domino effect, so we need to make the most of this weekend and put the negative aside. It was just a race; we just have to look forward now".
When he arrived in Hungary, returning to what happened in Germany, Lewis Hamilton added:
"Black day? Meanwhile, I don’t understand why black and white is negative... it was just a bad day. The weekend was difficult. These things happen, there has been a multitude of aspects that have contributed to make it so. Anyway, the team got together, we had a very clear and honest discussion. I’m not sure that somewhere else, in the same situation, you can be so open and sincere, coming out of it in a positive way. We’ve made adjustments in all areas ahead of this weekend. Updates? It always takes a few races to actually understand whether they work or not. It’s not that you mount them on the car, and they go perfectly. By coming to this weekend, we will already have a greater understanding. I am confident that the car will be better this weekend".
Then he goes on to say:
"Time will tell if it is an opponent for the title, they have done a great job in the last races. In the last Grand Prix, however, we did not do a good job, quite the contrary, I would say. But we must continue to think about ourselves and not distract ourselves by looking at others. They will be fast here and there will be other tracks where they will go well, like Singapore. Slowly they are getting closer. It tends to be easier to chase than to stand in front, in many ways. Seeing them progress is a great thing. We want competition, so we will be ready for battle".
And speaking of the teams fighting for victory, Lewis comments:
"Three teams fighting? I hope so. I hope we will continue to have fun as it has been in the last three-four races. I hope that the progress of the top teams will continue. We will continue to work even harder than in the past. The last race left us a lot of things that we can improve on. The important thing is that we win, and we lose as a team. Communication is always a key aspect, there are four people at the wall who can see the rain in the pit lane, but the situation can be different in turn 6 or turn 12. The information that we drivers give is important and the information that the pits give us is important. Communication is something that we work on all the time".
So, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, is already ready to react to remedy the weekend just ended:
"We spent a painful Sunday in Hockenheim. We made mistakes, made bad decisions and left Germany with only two points. But we love Formula 1 for the challenges it poses while representing an opportunity to improve. On Sunday we were united in our pain; on Monday we were united in our determination to turn our weaknesses into strengths".
It is a small defeat among many successes. The Mercedes team principal continues his speech, declaring:
"We discussed very openly what went wrong and what steps to take to improve. I think one of the strengths of our team is how we handle defeat. We accept responsibility for mistakes so that we can learn and improve, we will come back stronger from this. The good thing is that the next race is just a few days away and we have a chance to redeem ourselves in Budapest this weekend".
Mercedes is by no means an easy opponent, especially if it runs in a completely different championship than its direct rivals. Ferrari has an advantage in tyre management and a new aerodynamics, but the Anglo-German team has its advantage in the low-speed corners of the Hungarian circuit. The goal of the Anglo-German team is just to repeat the victory of 2018, as admitted by Toto Wolff:
"In recent years, the Hungaroring has been a stimulating circuit for us. We managed to win there last year and there are a number of reasons to believe that our car could be more competitive this year than in recent seasons. Ferrari has been very strong on short circuits this year and we expect the same in Budapest. Red Bull also, having won two of the last three races with Max. But we have not lost sight of the fact that we won in nine of the eleven races this year. And we are determined to fight tooth and nail this weekend to get another great result".
For this race, Pirelli, the sole supplier of tyres, carries compound tires C2, C3 and C4. Mario Isola, Head of Formula 1 and Car Racing at Pirelli, said:
"As usual, Hungary hosts the last Grand Prix before the summer break. For the drivers, this is a particularly challenging race from a physical and strategic point of view. It is a rather narrow track on which it is difficult to overtake, as well as being slippery out of trajectory. As a result, position on the starting grid is crucial, as is tactics. This is a race that can reserve surprises and, in the past, we have seen that the Teams can get a good result even with less performing cars. In 2018, with three compounds very similar to those of this year, several strategies came into play, after a qualifying conditioned by rain. We hope to have the same variety of tactics again this year".
Following controversy over the lack of penalty for Charles Leclerc in the previous race, after he had been sent back to the track, at the end of a pit stop, at the arrival of another car, with the risk of accident, the FIA establishes that, from this race, the unsafe release will be punished with a time penalty for the driver. Max Verstappen hereby declares:
"It is completely wrong, of course, if they gave fines to everyone it is clear that everyone would continue to do so. In Munich I took a time penalty for a touch, and already that for me was not correct, but financially sanction one that starts while another car arrives in the fast-lane is incorrect. For Ferrari to pay €5,000 is like peanuts and anyone would do it immediately. That’s why I say it’s wrong, especially when it comes to safety".
On Tuesday 30 July 2019, Mercedes appointed Markus Schäfer as non-executive president, replacing the late Niki Lauda, and Renault also appointed former World Champion Alain Prost as the new non-executive director of the French team.
"The Board has the role of establishing programs, objectives and values, setting strategies and structures, delegating managers and exercising responsibility towards shareholders and each interested party. The Board will have to make key decisions for the company, such as approving annual accounts and contracts with sponsors, partners and drivers".
Former Formula One driver Danny Sullivan is named Assistant Commissioner for the race. The American has also done so in the past, the last at the Spanish Grand Prix. In addition, the FIA establishes two zones for the use of the Drag Reduction System: the first on the right of the pits, the second between turn 1 and turn 2. There is only one point for the determination of the gap between drivers, fixed before turn 14.
Friday, August 2, 2019, takes place the first day of free practice, and it is still time the key factor that sorted the patterns. It seems to have returned to German Sunday, with low temperatures and a race session characterized by rain. At the end of the day the data collected are not entirely significant, as the conditions for the race will be different. For Sunday, in fact, you expect sun, what you would have expected from the beginning of summer. At the end of FP1, Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time. The time of the reigning World Champion is 0.4 seconds lower than that obtained in the same session of the previous year. The phase is characterized by the presence of rain at times, limiting the work that the teams had planned.
Max Verstappen closed the practice at 0.165 seconds from the Briton’s time, just 0.001 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel. The Dutchman of Red Bull Racing is also the author of a harmless spin. Pierre Gasly and Kevin Magnussen entered between the two Ferraris, pushing Charles Leclerc to sixth. Worse for the other Mercedes driver, Valtteri Bottas, who cannot complete a single timed lap. The Anglo-German team, due to the technical problems encountered at the beginning of the session, decided to replace the engine. The Renault of Carlos Sainz Jr. also has a problem with the engine, which limits its participation in testing. Sainz Jr. still seizes the ninth time. The Racing Points are in trouble, with several spins of Lance Stroll.
The rain also affects the afternoon practice, so much so that the list of times is the one determined in the first minutes of the session, held with a dry track. The fastest is Pierre Gasly (on Soft tyres), in front of the other Red Bull Racing driver, Max Verstappen (who, however, tries the Medium tyres). In third place is Hamilton, who uses Hard tires. Behind the World Champion, who is suffering from a brake system problem, the team-mate Valtteri Bottas closes, having missed time in the morning session. The Finn is also the fastest among the drivers facing the wet track, catching a time of one minute and thirty-two seconds. Daniel Ricciardo is fifth, ahead of Kimi Räikkönen and Charles Leclerc. The other Ferrari driver, Sebastian Vettel, closes with the thirteenth time, failing to heat the tires.
"FP1 was a good session. I wanted to jump into the weekend feeling better and get back on my feet. The balance of the car was pretty good from the start: we made some changes between the two sessions, but unfortunately, we didn’t test them much".
Lewis Hamilton said at the end of practice. In the afternoon, the Englishman made only two laps with hard tires and then returned to avoid possible damage, in any case the data would not have been significant for the German team.
"The weather has been a challenge; from the pit lane and the camera it seems to be drizzling, but when you’re driving through it, you realize it’s raining a lot everywhere. The surface is also quite dark, so you cannot really realize whether it is dry or wet".
For his teammate, it’s another story. Unfortunately, Valtteri Bottas could not complete any laps in the morning session, as he complained of a loss of power in his timed lap and was therefore forced to return to the pits. The team opted to replace the power unit, failing to understand the origin of the problem, so as to have the car ready for the second session. A scenario, however, compromised because of the rain.
"During my first timed lap in FP1, I had a problem with the engine and lost power. He entered security mode, so I couldn’t go on and I went back to the pits. The team couldn’t figure out the cause immediately, so we decided to change the power unit for the second practice session. Despite everything the car went well during the few laps in which I drove it. I could feel its balance and get an idea of the things we still have to work on for tomorrow".
Speaking of the possible renewal of the contract, the Finnish driver admits:
"The team will make a decision during the summer break in August, I have made it clear that I want to continue with this team, and I know that they would also like to keep the same pair of drivers, because I am working well together with Lewis. I am optimistic, but at the same time I know I have to offer a convincing performance here in Hungary. Toto Wolff is the leader, a great leader. It can be hard, but it’s also very honest. So, I appreciate it".
In Melbourne, Valtteri Bottas surprised everyone by winning the first race of the season, then repeating himself in Baku. However, it has since failed to repeat itself. Despite this, the Finnish driver believes that it is still possible to win the World Championship.
"I still consider it a realistic goal. I have to drive at my best and recover points on Lewis, which is never easy. I still have to improve in some aspects, like the management of the rear tires in the race. I have to adapt my driving style to the car’s set-up".
Max Verstappen took advantage of the absence of the Finn and placed second, 0.1 seconds behind Lewis Hamilton, repeating himself in the afternoon, positioning himself behind his teammate, Pierre Gasly. Who can boast of a good placement, but still not particularly relevant given the conditions?
"We looked for some things on the car. Initially in FP1 I was happy, then we tried some other solution that didn’t satisfy me in the same way. After that we were pretty strong especially on the back. But it’s important to test these things, especially because in the FP2 we found a good balance on the car and we seem pretty competitive. I still expect the Mercedes to be a little ahead of us, but tomorrow will be an interesting day. Values? Hard to say, but we are close. We are all quite close".
The Dutchman has focused a lot on the start simulation in these two sessions, because of the difficulty suffered in the start in the last Grands Prix held. Overall, despite some difficulties and two spins in the morning, without damage, the results are positive and Max Verstappen is once again running as a possible opponent of the two Mercedes for the race that will be held on Sunday. The Hungaroring weekend has now started well for Pierre Gasly, even in the lead in FP2 having made good use of the soft compound and a moment when the track allowed to push to the maximum.
"This day doesn’t mean much. I think the main thing for us was to be competitive and fast in both wet and dry conditions. I’m happy with the sensations I had in the car, in the few laps we could complete. We will see what the goal for which we will be fighting tomorrow will be. Tomorrow will be unpredictable as today. It was good to do a few laps in the wet and dry. I think the Mercedes are very fast, we saw it in both sessions. I don’t think the Ferraris showed their real pace. They will be there in qualifying, and it will be a very close battle tomorrow but with such unpredictable conditions".
As Red Bull Racing continues its path of improvement and Mercedes returns to normal conditions, Ferrari continues to seek the best performance. Vettel seems to have found the right balance, being third in the morning, just 0.001 seconds from Max Verstappen, and then collapsed to thirteenth place in the afternoon because blocked by the rain, while Charles Leclerc seems more in trouble.
"It’s really hard to assess where we are compared to our opponents after a day like this. It was not easy to get the most out of the car this morning and we certainly have work to do in view of the next sessions. It was positive in the PL2 final to be able to drive with the intermediate tyres because I noticed some improvements compared to the difficulties encountered in Germany. It is clear what the machine needs to improve, it is up to us to find the solution to fix our gaps".
The Monegasque still has the aftermath of the Corsican Grand Prix in Hockenheim and takes sixth place in the morning and seventh at the end of the day.
"After Hockenheim I didn’t want to take too many risks, also because I suffered a lot with the balance, aspect on which we definitely have to work. I had no grip; I will try to cope with this lack of grip giving the best on the track at the level of driving".
While his teammate remains vaguer about a possible podium finish, Charles Leclerc sends a clear and not encouraging message to the fans:
"In dry conditions we are not at the level of our opponents here, especially as far as I am concerned judging by the results of the first free practice session. We lack so much downforce and on tracks like this this this gap is felt. In the rain it would certainly not be easy to play with our opponents, but we would have more chances than a dry qualifying".
The Monegasque therefore hopes in the rain. Just the weather situation is the real unknown of the weekend, as admitted at the end of the day Mario Isola:
"Taking into account the particular situation of the track, it was impossible to get a clearer idea of how the weekend could continue. Except for the immediate start of the second practice session, the track was too wet for the dry tyres, but too dry for the covers. For this reason, there was little action on the track".
Moreover, Isola says that this day helped the teams to better understand the intermediate tyres and the gap between the different compounds on this track: 0.7 seconds between soft and medium tyres, and 0.5 seconds between medium and hard tyres.
"For Saturday drivers can count on an additional set of this compound. It can’t be said that we wasted the day because the stables finally managed to learn more about the Midwayers. The first free practice session proved very important to gather more specific information, which could be of help for qualifying. We could observe how the drivers practiced in long run simulations and fast laps. In free practice all three dry compounds were used and, taking into account the data collected, we can say that all could be used safely in the race. Everything will depend on the uncertain weather of the coming days".
The Ferrari Team Principal, Mattia Binotto, does not hide those expectations were different, and points out that his men, in Maranello, are now completely at work for 2020, the season in which the gaps of the SF90 will have to be filled, in difficulty where a high aerodynamic load is required.
"The balance for now is negative given the expectations. However, we have started a process of improvement that has led the SF90 to highlight progress. 2020 is coming and our commitment to finding weaknesses and solving them is already directed to next year".
Binotto takes advantage of the circumstance to reiterate that the drivers will not change:
"We have two drivers under contract. Vettel will be with us also in 2020, there is no doubt. Leclerc has an incredible talent. Seb now comes from a very good race that will help him morally. He must find continuity, especially in qualifying, and avoid mistakes like at Silverstone. In the race he is fast and must invest in this aspect".
The last session at the Hungaroring ended with the best time of Lewis Hamilton, with a time of 1'16"084. It’s a bit of a hectic session, started ten minutes after the scheduled time, and that lasts only fifty minutes due to a loss of oil from one of the Formula 2 cars that raced the first race of the weekend a few hours before. No sign of rain though and it is expected that the track will remain dry even in qualifying. A few hours later the probability of rain drops to 20% and the temperatures are increasing in view of the qualifications: 24, those of the air and 43, then the asphalt. The favourite is Hamilton, who is ready to match the seven Budapest poles won by Michael Schumacher. We are in Hungary, but the rooting is all Orange in support of the only 21-year-old Max Verstappen, who carries an entire nation.
Qualifying has been hectic since Q1, starting with an amazing Russell. The rookie of Williams immediately showed his excellent form, scoring impressive times given his car, and narrowly placed in seventh position in the fight for Q2. Unfortunately, the drivers behind him improve their time just enough to get in front and finish first of the excluded. Verstappen is equally charged, who after the victory in Germany seems more energetic than usual and marks a time close to the current track record already in the first session, with Dutch shouts in the background. In the negative, however, we find Leclerc, who a few minutes after the end of Q1 prints the rear of his car on the barriers, risking to remain stationary once again.
A risk taken unnecessarily, because it was not the pole position but a simple Q1. Fortunately, the mechanics solved the problem in time for Q2: a job done under the watchful eye of the FIA delegate, Jo Bauer, when the hood of the car was opened. To be excluded from Q1, besides Russell, are Perez, Ricciardo - got stuck in traffic and therefore unable to make the last attempt -, Stroll and Kubica. The first qualifying phase ends with the announcement of an investigation into Giovinazzi’s impeeding of Stroll. In Q2 all the most competitive drivers try to qualify with medium compounds and Hamilton proves once again who is the reigning champion, immediately scoring a record time of 1'15"548.
Hamilton wants to show who is in charge and in turn Verstappen wants to show who is his real rival, stopping just 0.025 seconds from Hamilton. Otherwise, Ferrari gives great proof of itself positioning itself first in speed trap but does not seem to have enough to compete against Mercedes, losing especially in the last two sectors. Instead, the dynamic at Haas is very interesting. The two drivers are on completely different cars, thus raising different controversies. The difference is clear: Grosjean drives the car as it was presented in Australia and Magnussen the totally updated version, but to have the best time is not the latter, which indeed laments lack of friction.
Between the two, at the end of the session, there is a gap of half a second, which sees Grosjean confident in ninth position and Magnussen just fourteenth. Besides the Dane, Hulkenberg, Albon, Kvyat and Giovinazzi are also excluded from the top ten, with the latter finally being penalized and starting from the seventeenth position. Before the end of Q2, Verstappen was engaged in a last and promising time trial with Soft rubber, only to cancel it. It is however an interesting performance, which could guarantee the pole position. The drivers get on track for the last qualifying session. Pole seems like a possibility for everyone, as there is a great balance between the top three teams. Vettel is very fast in the first sector, Verstappen in the second and Bottas in the third, but the only ones who lose out are the Ferrari drivers, who lose a lot of time in the last sector. Verstappen surprises everyone and concludes that lap that he had aborted in Q2, going down under the wall of 1'15"0: 1'14"958, a new track record. Behind him the Mercedes follow at 0.178 and 0.188 seconds, while the Ferraris are in fourth and fifth position for now.
Two minutes from the end the drivers take to the track for the last run: two decisive minutes to crown the weekend poleman. At the moment, Ferrari doesn’t seem to be competing for pole position, while Red Bull and Hamilton are separated by just a few hundredths of a second. Leclerc marks the best first sector and improves in the second, but soon Vettel takes away the time and the Monegasque has not enough to secure the first row, stopping at 1'15"043. Verstappen crosses the finish line, while behind Bottas he seems very competitive. The Dutchman set a new record, 1'14"572, and the provisional pole position. The Finn crosses the finish line himself, but only to finish behind the 21-year-old 0.012 seconds. The two veterans arrive: for Hamilton third time, and Vettel only fifth. It’s official. The hundredth poleman in the history of Formula 1 is Max Verstappen. For him it is the first ever career pole, and it is clear from the screams of his fans who follow euphoric in the stands of the Hungaroring.
"Better late than never".
Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner comments. Behind the Dutchman, Bottas, Hamilton, Leclerc, Vettel, Gasly, Norris, Sainz Jr., Grosjean and Raikkonen crossed the finish line. Immediately after the victory in Germany, Max Verstappen also gave his fans the joy of the first pole position. Seven victories, twenty-six podiums and a few Grands Prix from his 100th race he also won his first pole, all this at twenty-one years.
It was a matter of time; we knew from his first race in not so far 2015. His career began very early, at just seventeen, and this allowed him to break many records: the youngest debutant in a Formula 1 race, the youngest winner of a Grand Prix and now he goes to enter among the youngest polemen, in third place behind Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso. His success is murmuring. There is talk of a possible passage in Mercedes, but for now the contract says differently and Christian Horner jokes:
"Can Verstappen and Hamilton be on the same team? I’m not aware that Lewis wants to come to us. Is Max still fighting the World Cup? We face each race as a Cup Final, there are still ten more, Mercedes has a great car and a huge lead, Lewis has won a lot. But never say never".
For Red Bull Racing it is the first pole position start since the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix, the sixty-first in total. For Honda, as a motorist, it is the first pole position since the 2006 Australian Grand Prix, won at the time by Jenson Button. For this reason, Max Verstappen would also like to thank Honda, as well as the many fans who came to Budapest:
"It was a fantastic day, and the car was immediately performing in qualifying. Finishing in front of everyone is amazing and my first pole position will always be special. It’s also nice to have the pole on an exceptional track like this, as a qualifying lap with little fuel is really fun. You can really feel the car’s grip with maximum downforce and it’s a lot of fun. We are always getting closer to the first and Honda continues to push to optimize everything. Today was another great day for everyone within the team, but that team also includes Honda, so a big thank you to them for flying the car. The hard work is paying off and it’s good to see. I didn’t do a long run this weekend, but lately our car has gone even better in the race, so I don’t feel too worried. We just have to try and start over and get the job done. Also, I didn’t realize that there were so many Dutch people in Hungary, and it was great to see them all in the stands. We are all very close, so tomorrow should be another exciting race".
The Dutchman concludes the interview, saying:
"The best thing about pole? That you’ll stop asking me when I make my first pole".
The Red Bull Racing team principal, Christian Horner, is obviously enthusiastic about the performance of the Dutch driver, as can be seen from the statements made at the end of the session:
"I’m very satisfied. It’s an incredible result for Max, it’s great to see him get his first pole position. Honda is giving us what we expected. In the second part of the season, we hope there will be more updates. There are still ten more races, and we will see where we will be. We live one race at a time trying to make the best possible result. But Mercedes has a great car and a huge advantage. In reality it is impossible, but never say never".
The Austrian also focuses on the scenarios at the start, a situation that saw Verstappen in difficulty in the Austrian and German Grand Prix:
"Even though Max didn’t start well, he always made good races. But after working so hard for his first pole we try to make her count".
Horner also analyzed the qualifying of the other Red Bull Racing driver, Pierre Gasly, who failed to do better than the sixth fastest time and was separated from his team-mate by almost 0.9 seconds:
"Pierre didn’t have a good session, but he’s close to the Ferraris and can definitely make a good race. We want to give him time because he may have been promoted a little too early in the ideal. We see some speed peaks on his part, he misses putting everything together in one weekend".
Verstappen left behind the two Mercedes of Bottas, at 0.018 seconds, and Hamilton, at almost 0.2 seconds. A not disappointing qualifying for the Finnish driver, who secured the first row and the sixth qualifying of the season ahead of his teammate.
"I’ve been troubled all weekend. I missed FP1 while I didn’t do much in the afternoon. I was able to work properly on the car only this morning. Fortunately, I found the pace and things improved in qualifying. I can’t help but be pleased with how things turned out. In the last stages of the session, I was very close to Verstappen, and I couldn’t finish in front of him for very little. But the Mercedes has been really fast all weekend, and that’s what counts".
If half of the fans in Hungary came to the Hungaroring for Verstappen, another good part is for the Finn:
"This has always been the case. There are always a lot of Finnish fans at the Hungaroring watching the race. That’s why I will do my best. I will give everything to do well. We are here to fight for victory. I can say that there is a good battle ahead".
Lewis Hamilton is satisfied with the third position: a good result overall, even if the goal remains the victory.
"Of course, we always aim for first place. But Max did a great job, congratulations to him, and also Valtteri, who managed to make the most of the car during qualifying. It was a difficult session for me, the car was not the same as the third session of free practice, so I had a lot of trouble. But we’re still fighting, and I got a good position for tomorrow. The start and finish in turn 1 will be very interesting. It is not the easiest place to overtake, so strategy will also come into play, which can be decisive. One thing is certain, tomorrow we will give our all and push hard".
Charles Leclerc will start from the fourth square, which error after error still ensures a good starting position:
"Exaggerated? Yes, it was a completely unnecessary mistake. It’s two mistakes in two Grands Prix, so I have to understand and concentrate more. The first error was acceptable, this is not. In Q1, so, you can’t make a mistake like that. Seb was out front starting his lap, I went into the dirty air in his car. I tried to go a little quieter, but it wasn’t enough, I lost the rear and I hit. Thanks to the mechanics and the team because they did a great job to get me back on track. In the end, fortunately, I was able to start again and that was the result. I am very happy with the lap in Q3 even though we are far away today. Affected the car by the accident? Not so much. I think the repairs we did degraded a little, but they weren’t worth three tenths, not one. So no, they had no effect on the result. Surprised by Max? No, because they really do have a lot of downforce, we know that’s their strength, and it’s not ours. We expected to struggle this weekend, and this confirms our opinion".
Sebastian Vettel will start from the third row, supported by Pierre Gasly. The German Ferrari driver admits:
"Impossible to do more? It’s never impossible, but difficult. I’m not 100% happy with my lap at the end. I think that in Sector 2 I lost some time, but in the end, we are not strong enough. We lack downforce, especially in a circuit like this where it serves. Especially in a circuit like this. We are faster in sector 1 because there are straights there, but in S2 and S3 it is very difficult for us with tyres, because we cannot push as we want. For us tomorrow I think it will be difficult, but we will see we need a good start and then the race begins. Let’s see. The car feels good, tomorrow it is important to see the tires and then I hope that we will all do more than a pit stop".
The anti-Mercedes at the moment is Max Verstappen, who has finally won his first career pole position in Budapest. Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto is not surprised:
"We know they have a good chassis, good aerodynamics. This is a track where maximum load counts and counts a lot. We have already seen him in Monte-Carlo. He is in a particular moment of form, so it is not surprising. In this first part of the season, we all worked and pushed trying to recover. Stop and recharge the batteries for the second part, which will be long, is a good thing. We still have some results to collect, on the performance surely, we have not reached the objectives that we hoped, it is useless to hide. The first winter test made us hope for something better. We went to Australia not thinking we were the best, but maybe we could play, but it wasn’t the case. We have suffered more than them - Mercedes - on average on many tracks. We had a hard time understanding this car, fixing it, improving the budget. I think that in these last races we have improved overall. The drivers are happier, the car has grown, but we still lack performance in the corner, even if we think we have identified the right path and filled the gap on the tracks for us more critical, like that of Hungary. Reliability is another negative note of this beginning of the season, too many problems for a top team, must make us think. Different problems, all strange and never happened before for someone like me who has been in Formula 1 for twenty-five years. These issues need to make us think about how to improve our approach to reliability. I’m sure we’ll take this opportunity to improve ourselves. As for the drivers, a very positive note is the talent, of which we were aware, of Charles. We saw him with his speed in qualifying, in the race, his ability to attack and defend, for his maturity, how he reacts to problems and defeats. Some mistakes on his part too, at that age it is not easy for anyone, but in the face of errors he corrects and improves. There is a Sebastian who is also reacting very well, not taken for granted having a teammate like Charles for a four-time World Champion who confronts a boy. They are finding themselves and looking into the confrontation, in the interest of the team itself. We are happy about this. It is a team with the right spirit, very united even in this difficult time. We are all very united with a great desire to do well and with the hunger to win".
Also, for Daniel Ricciardo the qualifying of the Hungarian Grand Prix are to be forgotten. The Australian did not pass Q1, also becoming the protagonist of a maneuver that infuriated Sergio Perez and that, in the end, damaged the last attempt of both drivers. The driver on board the Renault tried to overtake the Mexican in the last corner of the Hungaroring, just before launching into their last attempt. Sergio Perez comments on the episode:
"It was a tough day. I think we could have made it to Q2, we needed a good lap. My last attempt was severely compromised when several cars tried to find space in the last corner. That’s where Ricciardo tried to do something crazy, overtaking me. He ruined mine and also his lap, because I ended up too close to Norris who was in front and Daniel in turn was too close to me".
The Racing Point driver, who finished 17th in qualifying ahead of the Australian driver, accuses his Renault colleague:
"We all know that traffic is difficult in Q1. We talked about this in the driver briefing about the importance of being respectful of each other. For me, he was quite disrespectful, he is an experienced driver and I did not expect it from him".
But Ricciardo answers:
"There was some confusion. We got into traffic and at that point I thought we might know better what would happen at the last corner, deciding if I needed to create space. We didn’t take any and we were all clogged up at the last corner. What do you do? Do you try to pass them and keep the temperature of your tires or wait and start the lap with cold tires? I tried to go, Perez and the others weren’t, and then I got the feeling that he and I just screwed each other. It was too late and the tour was compromised".
The Australian also comments on his difficult time:
"It’s definitely the most troubled moment I’ve had in a while".
Qualifying is definitely more positive for his teammate Nico Hulkenberg, eliminated at the end of Q2 but with the eleventh time, always not to be despised in terms of race strategy, thanks to the possibility of choosing the tyre with which to start:
"I didn’t go far into Q3, but maybe it’s better this way, at least we have a little more flexibility in terms of strategy. Of course, we would have liked to be able to start in P6 or P7, to have free road and do our race, but McLaren seemed to have something more. I think starting P11 is not a bad result".
And George Russell, who almost managed to bring his Williams to Q2, is equally happy, despite the technical and economic difficulties presented by the British team:
"The feeling I have now is the one I had when I was on pole position or when I had the chance to do it with other cars. I felt really good. Of course, you can always do better, but I am really very satisfied with my lap considering that we have always been around a second and even more since Q2, throughout the year. The fact that we arrived just a few tenths from the 14th position makes me really happy".
At 3:09 p.m. on Sunday, August 4, 2019, the tyrewarmers were removed, and the training lap for the Hungarian Grand Prix began. In view of the race the starting grid sees changes: in fact, in addition to the penalty imposed on Antonio Giovinazzi, Daniel Ricciardo is also penalized. The Australian will leave last for having replaced the components of the Power Unit. The start is crucial for Verstappen if he wants to stay in first position, as he has the two Mercedes mastiffs behind him. The start tests give good results: Max Verstappen starts well and keeps the first position, while behind the two Mercedes drivers they fight. The Finn is responsible for two front wheel locks, which allow Hamilton to overtake, and shortly after the Mercedes driver is forced to give up the position to Leclerc.
The front wing of the Finn was damaged by the two small contacts with Hamilton and the Monegasque. At the start of the second lap Vettel also had the upper hand, passing him at pure speed on the straight. The Mercedes men are getting ready for a change of the wing, but Bottas does not return immediately and makes his stop only on the sixth lap probably not to lose too much the gap from the rest of the group. Unfortunately, the stop is slower than expected and the Finn returns to the last place. Verstappen flies away and puts two seconds between him and Hamilton. Behind the latter is Leclerc, who is informed to push as hard as he can because he is already drastically losing ground from the Englishman, 5 seconds just a few laps from the start.
With the current situation, Verstappen takes virtually the second position in the overall standings. In Mercedes, they find themselves with two extremes: a comeback to be made with Bottas and the run-up of Hamilton for the victory. The goal is the sixth place for the first, while the second does not need directions and with his foot on the accelerator tries to recover seconds on the Dutch. Ricciardo is also struggling with a comeback, but not impossible. The Australian starts last for a replacement engine, climbs three positions in a short time and finally overtakes Stroll, starting his real comeback. But it seems to witness three different races. The two in the lead run away two seconds, while behind Ferrari is already ten seconds, while within a group of competitors we find the McLaren of Sainz, twenty seconds away.
While in front they hunt down and start thinking about possible strategies to use, in the rear the two Toro Rosso battle each other. Daniil Kvyat attacks rookie Alex Albon inside. A beautiful fight that starts on the 18th lap. The attempt in turn 1 is null, as the Russian driver takes the trajectory too wide and does not close the overtaking. Albon is next to him inside and the two accompany each other until Turn 2, but this time it is the Russian to keep the inside of the track. Both of them approach the third hairpin bend and the nose of the car 26 is slightly ahead: the two jump into the straight and Kvyat is accompanied off the track, but without ever losing contact with Albon. It is at this moment that the Thai driver makes his first mistake by taking the wrong trajectory and going wide in turn 4, allowing Kvyat to take the twelfth position.
Bottas' comeback quickly brought him behind Ricciardo, who is 14th. The Australian, however, is not an easy opponent and makes him waste a lot of time. Meanwhile, in the lead of the race the first failures are shown: Verstappen complains of lack of grip, while Hamilton is saving the tires. The distance between the two is constant on the second and a half. If Verstappen stopped now he would end up behind the two Ferraris: a risk to avoid, despite the concerns for the Maranello team are other. The two cars of Maranello lose half a second to the lap from the first two and turn on the same pace of McLaren. The gap between the two decreases even more. Verstappen complains about the umpteenth time that he has no grip and is quickly gunned down by Red Bull engineers, who yell at him:
"We figured it out, Max".
The opposite situation for Hamilton, who seems calm: his tyres are more than good, even if due to the doubles the gap rises to 1.4 seconds. On lap 25 comes the call: Verstappen in the pits. The Anglo-Austrian team anticipates Mercedes, and Max gets back right in front of the Ferraris, who are still at the bottom of the straight. Hamilton is now first:
"It’s Hammer Time".
At this stage of the race Hamilton is told to push and use all the rubber he had saved. As soon as Verstappen gets rid of the doubles, he starts to push to recover the 18 seconds that separate him from his rival. Meanwhile, Ferrari has to face a collapse in performance and on lap 28 Leclerc is recalled for the first stop: the Monegasque turned 1'24"0, a race pace even slower than McLaren. Fortunately, the Ferrari driver gets back in front of Sainz, in fourth position. McLaren is having a great race, however, Norris' pit stop is slower than expected, due to a problem with the left rear tyre, which puts the Englishman in an uncomfortable position.
Max Verstappen, with new tire, runs a second faster than Lewis Hamilton, but still the latter does not stop, starting to question the choice of an early stop of Red Bull. Hamilton’s long-awaited stop came on lap 32, and Verstappen returned to the top of the standings with a six-second lead. Hard tires take longer to go in temperature, and it is therefore in this initial part that the Dutchman must take advantage to create a good advantage. However, the gap between the two quickly disappears: the reigning champion has an amazing pace and in two laps he scores new records. In this time, the English driver drives two seconds faster than Verstappen, and gets to 0.5 seconds. After thirty-five laps begins the real fight between the two contenders for the victory: Hamilton changes trajectory and goes outside, but the Red Bull driver closes the door. Lewis makes a small mistake and loses 0.4 seconds.
Verstappen escapes the unbridled attacks of the Englishman using the DRS in the dubbing phase of Perez, on the straight. The attack comes a little later, in the corner, 4 and once again the reigning World Champion makes a mistake in braking, giving the Dutchman a chance to breathe. Thirty-eight laps from the start the ranking sees the fight between the two in the lead, followed by twenty-seven seconds from Vettel, Leclerc, Sainz, Gasly, Raikkonen, Norris, Bottas, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Perez, Kvyat, Albon, Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Russell, Stroll, Giovinazzi and Kubica. In Ferrari the strategy changes once again: in fact, now Vettel is informed that he opts for Plan C and shortly after, during the fortieth lap, the German makes his first stop, which brings him almost a minute away from the first, in fourth position. Suddenly Verstappen is back to being the fastest on track and brings the lead over Hamilton, who is losing ground, to 2 seconds. Lewis opens up on the radio, and he says:
"What more can I do?"
The Mercedes driver begins to complain about the brakes and tires, being in obvious difficulty. The two are preparing to dub Bottas, but the latter is informed of the situation between the two, with Hamilton catching up and then moving on to take over the dubbing. Verstappen asks the team to use the maximum power of the power unit, and to be informed when the Englishman will be in the DRS zone. The Briton is under pressure, and he is driving with the same tyres on lap 25.
"Get closer to Verstappen".
They say from the pits to Hamilton, who starts to push and then, surprisingly, returns to the pits. During the 49th lap Mercedes implements a strategy that astounds everyone and puts in particular crisis the Red Bull team. A set of medium tyres were fitted: the stop brought Hamilton back on track with twenty-one seconds away from the current leader of the race. There are many questions in the minds of the engineers of the Anglo-Austrian team: Verstappen must stop now? Doing so would immediately lose the position and would be difficult, if not impossible to recover. Should you risk and not stop a second time? But the unknowns remains: will they last until the end? Or should you wait, create a small advantage and stop in a few laps?
Hamilton also wonders if the choice is the right one, starting a game of nerves and endurance between the two. On lap 52 they were separated by only 17 seconds, Hamilton gained a second on lap, at the same time Grosjean was forced to withdraw his car, while the lap before Bottas overtook Toro Rosso and moved to tenth position. The English wheels are 23 laps cooler, and the difference is clear.
"You’ll join him on the last lap".
Hamilton exclaims. But there are still fifteen laps left, as many as the seconds that separate them. The two of them run at the same pace and unless Verstappen has a sudden crash, the choice of Mercedes may prove too risky. The five-time World Champion begins to feel a slight pressure and to complain to the team: the situation does not seem to change, but four laps later, at least eleven from the end, hopes return. The Briton’s car seems to be reborn and begins to score new track records at each lap on the finish line. Behind him also Vettel seems to have recovered and turns a second faster than his teammate. Ten laps and 12 seconds. It seems an impossible mission, until the wheels of the 21-year-old Dutch pilot show obvious signs of failure. He has no more.
Red Bull mechanics get their hands in their hair, it could be the end. In the frenzy of the moment, Albon echoes the teammate and enters the points, Vettel is attached to Leclerc after losing 1.6 seconds in a lap. Seven seconds and seven laps, in the stands the Dutch rejoice, perhaps still unaware of the critical conditions facing their darling, or perhaps because full of hope for his possible victory. Silence falls from Verstappen’s cockpit, while the wheels are completely worn. The Dutch driver uses them from lap 25, being forced to stay on track because of the Mercedes strategy: a winning strategy, which brought the reigning champion to three seconds from his opponent with five more laps to run.
Three seconds that are recovered immediately: Hamilton can now clearly see in front of him his rival and could pass it at twice the speed. And in fact, less than three laps from the end, the main straight becomes the launching pad for victory. Hamilton passes. The Englishman is now out of reach and Verstappen can only attempt to make the fastest lap. In this regard, the Dutch driver returns to the pits, mounts the soft tires and forcefully snatches him from the leader of the Grand Prix. In third and fourth position the two Ferraris start their fight for the third place: Vettel, once he reaches the team-mate, passes him on the straight. The Monegasque has not enough speed to react.
Hamilton crosses the finish line and wins by tactic and sheer skill, after a weekend that had seen him stunned by errors and fever. The British driver shows what he is still able to do to an immature Max Verstappen, who despite everything fought with all his strength. Behind the two undisputed protagonists, in one of the most exciting races of this season, Vettel closes in third place, but far more than a minute away, followed by Leclerc, Sainz, Gasly, Raikkonen, Bottas, Norris, Albon, Perez, Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Russell, Stroll, Giovinazzi and Kubica.
This victory, the eighth out of twelve Grands Prix held to date, brings Hamilton to 250 points, 62 more than Bottas. The Englishman can go on holiday knowing he has great chances to reconfirm as World Champion. This is his eighty-first success, the seventh in Hungary. He only has ten wins left to match the Unattainable Michael Schumacher. A lesson that Verstappen will remember for a long time, while other teams can only take notes from this winning strategy. The mastermind behind the victory is engineer James Vowles, the head of Mercedes strategy, who explains:
"In the first part of the race it was clear from the start that to overtake Verstappen, who had a great pace, we had to create some opportunities to overtake with an undercut. The problem is that for several laps we were not sure we could do it because we had Ferraris inside the time window. The truth is that when you’re a second and a half behind a car like Verstappen’s, it’s impossible to make up all that time in just one lap. We have a team that works tirelessly. After observing all the material in our possession, they started making models of how our tyres and Verstappen tyres would behave during the race. And they were right. Just through these simulations we understood that the strategy of the two stops would lead us to a final race heart-pounding because the tires of Verstappen would start to suffer".
However, the strategy was only possible for one reason, and this is precisely Lewis Hamilton:
"Without Lewis in the car, certain strategies can become a boomerang".
The praise of the Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, is addressed to his top driver, all well-deserved after such a spectacular race. These are the words of the World Champion in office:
"I’m tired and that’s right, but I’m also very grateful for this day. Also, for the team, for the work they continue to do, for the way they continue to push to the limit. Taking risks, trying to seize every opportunity. We’ve been together for seven years, but it’s never taken for granted, every victory is something new and I have to thank the guys here and everyone in the factory who made this possible. I’m thankful to be a part of all this. In a race being able to push so much was an incredible fun. I didn’t know if I could get those 19 seconds back from Max, I was afraid the tyres would give out towards the end, but the team told me to keep my head down and keep pushing and I did it and the gap was shrinking from lap to lap. Hat down for the team and I think if Niki were here today, he would take off his hat too".
Valtteri Bottas is disappointed, only eighth. The Finn was hoping for a win, but after the collision at the start of the race his hopes were limited to sixth place. However, this position was not reached either. In addition, Mercedes was followed by Netflix over the weekend. After the poor performances in Germany, the team asked to be revived again to show their recovery, and so it was. The Finn, taken from the second position, was the protagonist of a close duel with Lewis Hamilton, which ended with a contact that preceded the far more harmful one with Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari, in which the front wing of his Mercedes was damaged. In this regard, Valtteri Bottas talks first of all about the contact with his teammate:
"We are here as a team and we want to maximize the result, getting as many points as possible without compromising this aspect. It is obvious that you can also race cleanly without forcing the opponent off the track. Lewis and I have a lot of respect for each other, even though what happened in Turn 3 was a bit on the edge, he didn’t leave me much room. Turn two, I could have done the same. I will know how to act, in the future, in a situation similar to that created in Turn 2, clearly remaining within the limits of mutual respect".
Then it goes on:
"We tried to monitor the situation by understanding what the pace would be like with the damaged wing. We realized it was very slow, so we went back to change it. The ones in front were gone, and at that point I had to worry mainly about who was behind me. The blockages during the first laps were not due to problems with the brakes, but then during the race things got worse due to overheating problems. The pedal became very soft, and its stroke increased. Clearly, I spent the whole race in traffic and the overheating problems were higher than we had anticipated before the race".
However, Bottas is on vacation from second in the overall standings, although now separated by 62 points from Hamilton:
"From the point of view of performance is my best season, in qualifying things are going very well and, in the race, we are improving. Today we do not know what could have been my step. Among the negative aspects I can recall some missed opportunities for team mistakes and my own mistakes".
Max Verstappen crossed the finish line in second place and, although it is not a victory, he can let himself go to the festivities. The young Red Bull driver is proving, in a season where Ferrari is absent, to be the only one among all able to put pressure on the 5 times World Champion and add a bit of enthusiasm to this championship.
"We just weren’t fast enough. I tried them all with hard tyres to keep me in the race, but it wasn’t enough. This second place, although an excellent result, is very important even if at the level of race pace was not our best Sunday. Despite everything, overall it was a good weekend and to succeed from pole was a good step forward for Red Bull in terms of performance. When you start from the first row of the grid, it’s normal, you want to win. But you have to be realistic and take home the second place. Anyway, it’s a remarkable result. Congratulations to Lewis for winning. He pushed me to the limit, and I like that. We tried the race at a stop, they had the opportunity to make it for two and in the end their strategy worked".
While Verstappen has a strong place in Red Bull, as far as Pierre Gasly is concerned there are more and more unknowns. With the summer break the drivers' market also starts to move, and one of the most discussed places of the last period is that of Red Bull. The performance of Gasly is raising a lot of controversy and possible rumors about a replacement even before the end of the championship. It would not be new for the Anglo-Austrian team: in the past it had already happened with Daniil Kvyat in favor of the same Verstappen, while now it is Gasly to be considered. Among the hypotheses there is just the return of the Russian driver, while the most surreal concerns Fernando Alonso, so much so that in the post-race conference there is a small curtain between the top two classified, with Hamilton who begins saying:
"Max, Fernando could be a good teammate for you".
And Verstappen answers:
"Well, you know him, you fought him. You could suggest it to Toto".
Hamilton then retaliates in defence of Bottas:
"No, Valtteri is a winner, a good driver. It is in your team that there is a free seat".
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner avoids talking about the driver market, but explains why beating Mercedes would have been impossible:
"We had the lead on track, but today Mercedes had a car too fast in the race. This allowed them to stop whenever they wanted. Max pulled out of the car everything he could. Losing the lead with a pit stop could not be an exploitable option, the only possibility was to try to continue. They had nothing to lose, and their strategy worked, but Verstappen still had a monstrous weekend, having reduced the gap from Bottas to seven points".
For Ferrari, however, the Hungarian Grand Prix is yet another disappointment, despite both cars have reached the points and the team of Maranello has obtained a podium. But as Vettel says, it is a simple contention because the gap between him and the winner is over a minute. All but Verstappen have been doubled. Vettel remains fourth in the championship, with only 156 points:
"I was there in fourth place and had nothing to lose. We did a very long stint and then we hoped that the softs would last until the end, and it happened. It was the fastest tyre, we were able to close the gap, there was an opportunity, and I took it and I’m happy at least to take this sop. But it’s clear that we didn’t have the pace all weekend. The kids will have to work a lot. We’ll have to recharge the batteries now and then continue with the battle. There will be tracks where we do better, but overall, we must definitely become stronger. Spa and Monza from favourites? I don’t know what others will do with the engine updates. No one will be able to rest even mentally in these two weeks. We hope to bring new ideas for the second half of the season. I want to improve myself, because I am not happy with my performances so far".
The German recognizes that the characteristics of the Budapest track were not the best for the SF90, expected to ransom in the two races following the summer break, the Belgian Grand Prix and the Italian Grand Prix:
"Monza and Belgium are different tracks and maybe more for us, but for me personally I want to do better in the second half' after the break, because I’m not happy with my performance. Then I think the whole team wants to improve and have a car as strong as possible to fight with Mercedes and Red Bull from the next races. The first stint was really difficult. We extended the stay on track, hoping for a Safety Car. In the end, I was better off than Charles, but third or fourth doesn’t make much of a difference. The temperatures were not bad, but we saw our limits yesterday and they were confirmed today. We are very strong on the straights, less on the curves. This was not the track for us, but we continue to progress. We need to improve in the corners. The next circuits may be good for us and the spirit of the team is good, but we have to work hard. Give me a vote? 5, like my number".
His team-mate, Charles Leclerc, finished the race in fourth place, at the end of a weekend that never fully convinced him:
"At the beginning of the weekend it was quite clear that it was going to be a very difficult race for us and that was it. Maybe it was a little harder than we expected. In the first stint the car did not go wrong at the beginning, then I started to have a degradation after six seven laps and Mercedes and Red Bull went stronger and stronger. At the end of the first stint, I started to struggle with the rear end, as well as at the end of the second. There’s something to learn here, I have to figure out how Seb does better on slopes where there is more degradation. The summer break? It’s good to have a break but I just want to get back in the car and see what we can do to try to get closer to Mercedes and Red Bull".
Ferrari today has never been able to compete for victory with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, closing with both cars more than a minute from the winner. A delay that does not surprise the Monegasque driver:
"It wasn’t a surprise today or yesterday. From the beginning of the weekend, however, I was quite clear that it would be a difficult race for us, and it was. Maybe a little more than we expected. Now it’s good to have a break, but I want to get back in the car to see what we can do better and try to get closer to Mercedes and Red Bull".
It then enters the month of rest waiting for September 1, when Formula 1 will meet in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. First, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto examines the Budapest race:
"Our key moment was Sebastian overtaking Charles on the last lap, then it is clear that the fight for first and second place is increasingly important. Sebastian was good at handling the tyres, he was good in the first stint. When we stopped with Charles at that time his back was worn and at the end of life, so there was no alternative. But Seb managed to extend the first stint by putting the tires and managing all the way. In this we certainly give credit to Sebastian. To understand instead with Charles why we have worn so much, also to understand it in view of the upcoming races. At that moment it was important for us to understand the pace of the race. He could potentially slow Seb down, we told him once, but then one sees the timing, understands and manages. Our weakness is the downforce. On these tracks the maximum load is felt even more in the race than in qualifying. On the single lap the grip can be obtained with the tire, but on the distance, if you suffer with the vertical load, the differences are amplified even more. I do not think that the heat helps, indeed it is the opposite. Increasing the heat suffers even more the lack of adhesion".
The summer break will bring Formula 1 to Spa and Monza, two circuits on which Ferrari could return competitive:
"The break is important; the team has worked hard. Next week we are all still busy going over the data, preparing and analyzing and preparing for the next two races where the straights are longer and the part of the performance on the obverse is more important. These are tracks that on paper can favour us compared to Hungary. Let’s not forget that a week ago with the same cars - indeed we brought here a small package - ours was the fastest. It is not that in a week the cars change in values. You change the tracks, and the values change. Spa and Monza are aware that they will be tracks where we should tend to go well. But the others are strong, it’s not that they should be underestimated. The characteristic of our car is that it lacks load and, on this track, does not fit. From track-to-track values can change. The reason we took a minute is because we lack performance. If Toto thinks about the power of the engine, we will all think about our car. A few days to recharge the energy will be important. We spent a lot at the beginning of the season and during the winter, I hope to find a motivated team to return. Two weeks of vacation can be important to unwind and get some rest. Next week we will still be at the factory because there is a lot of work to be done. We have spent a lot of energy in this first part of the season. First there were the winter tests and then we worked hard to try to close the gap that separates us from our competitors. We have spent a lot of energy, and this is the time to take a breath".
How does Mattia Binotto judge the performances of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc in these first twelve Grands Prix?
"Seb, in the race pace, is always very incisive. Both today and in Germany has shown that it is important to capitalize on his pace in the race. Clearly, he made some mistakes, like at Silverstone, and this is not the best, but excluding these episodes I’m very happy with him. He has a lot of experience; he knows how to handle tyres. Charles is a first year at Ferrari and this inevitably brings pressure. He has also made some mistakes but is very focused on understanding how to improve and avoid repeating certain mistakes. We are happy with his progress and how he integrated into the team".
Ferrari finished the race one minute from the winner, how do you judge the updates brought to Budapest?
"A week ago, we had the best car and today we were struggling. As we have often said, I think the performance of our car changes a lot from track to track. Our car lacks maximum aerodynamic load and when we come to run on tracks such as Budapest where maximum load is required, we suffer. Clearly in the race we suffer more than in qualifying because in qualifying we can make the most of the grip of the new tire, but over the distance, when the tires overheat, things become more complex".
The next races will be held in Spa and Monza. Is Ferrari’s team principal optimistic about the chance to win?
"Surely the next ones are motor tracks and therefore we will be more competitive, but there is no guarantee. It is said that we will win. Our competitors are very strong, and we will try to improve ourselves. There is no doubt that things will be very different than in Budapest, and we will prepare these two events in order to win the first victory".
The limit of the car is the lack of aerodynamic load. Is it something that Ferrari is working on in 2020?
"We lack maximum downforce. There are many tracks where the maximum load is not needed and therefore the considerations to be made are different. Certainly, we will try to have more load and during the second part of the season we will work on this aspect, also in view of 2020. We know that our competitors will improve in turn, so the gap to close will be greater than today".
Slow car in slow curves. Is this where Ferrari will develop next year’s car?
"First of all I don’t think this is our only problem. It would also be unfair for the people who work in Maranello. In some circuits we miss downforce. I don’t think that just focusing on next year’s car is a good idea, also because the rules will be the same as this year’s and therefore some changes that work on this year’s car might be good next year as well. For now, no Ferrari victory and this is our goal, so we will do everything we can during this season".
At the summer break, Valtteri Bottas has not yet received news from Mercedes about his possible contract renewal. After experiencing a great start to the season, the Finn has seen the gap in the standings against Lewis Hamilton increase, and with it the doubts about his future in Mercedes. The figure of Esteban Ocon has become cumbersome again and in Budapest, after the Hungarian Grand Prix, Bottas does not hide the fact that he is in an unpleasant situation:
"I would certainly like to hear from the team. It is not a pleasant situation to wait for this type of decision and I hope the team will communicate something to me as soon as possible. What can I do? Even taking some risks, I tried to gain the first position by braking as late as possible and keeping the outer line in turn 1, but clearly, I lost time in the following corners to which the problem must be added to the front wing. It could have been a totally different race. But even if things had turned out differently, I don’t think that would have changed my future. A race doesn’t change anything. I’m not very nervous, we’ll know something very soon. Clearly when you’re in these situations you think of both plan A and plan B and plan C. We’re looking around to see how we can move forward. Surely it is never pleasant to be in an undefined contractual situation as mine can be right now. There are those who think that some drivers can perform better under pressure, but for me it doesn’t work that way. I don’t want to say that at Turn 1 you were thinking about my contract, but it’s not an ideal situation. I just wanted to win this race and I was fine taking that risk".
The last weekend before the summer break in Hungary was quite fiery, especially from a market perspective. Max Verstappen’s name is back in the spotlight again after his father Jos was seen having dinner with Mercedes' Team Principal, Toto Wolff. The Austrian manager spoke on this topic, declaring:
"The dinner story is not entirely true. We never had dinner together with Jos, at most we had a drink together. We talked recently, but we do it often and not for a place in Mercedes for Max in 2020. Nobody knows what will happen in 2020, on any front, but what I can say is that now Max is in the right place at Red Bull. He has grown a lot and he never hears from him a word out of place on the team or on the Honda. He is a driver I really like".
Whatever the decision that will be made by Mercedes, Toto Wolff has assured that he will not abandon anyone to his fate:
"We are responsible for both our two young drivers Esteban Ocon and George Russell, and the owners of the Mercedes team. We’re not gonna do anything to ruin their careers. We will take into consideration the fact that we will have to help the driver left out to find a seat, whether it is Ocon to accumulate further experience or whether it is Bottas at that point in need of a soft landing in some other stable. Bottas deserves it".
Toto Wolff admits how difficult it is to make this decision:
"It’s a difficult decision because I’ve known Valtteri since Formula Renault and Esteban since they made their bones in Formula 3. There’s the big issue of giving a young person a chance. In the recent history of Formula 1 only two drivers have shone immediately with a top team: Lewis Hamilton with McLaren and Max Verstappen with Red Bull. The latter was very good at giving the Dutchman the time to grow, first in Toro Rosso and then for two years at Red Bull. At Ferrari or Mercedes there is a very high pressure... that said, they both deserve the place. I state that we make these kinds of choices exclusively based on the interest of the team, but Lewis has been with us for a long time, so, yes, I submitted our narrow list, asking his opinion: well, he thinks exactly like us, both would deserve to be his teammate".
And in conclusion, asked about Sebastian Vettel, Toto Wolff replies:
"You do not become four times world champions by chance, Sebastian is and remains a pillar of this Ferrari. Then what he will do in 2021 I do not know. After 2020 everything is open".
Lewis Hamilton is also dominating this season and, considering what has been shown so far by potential contenders, it seems now irretrievably thrown towards the sixth title. The Englishman continues in his inexorable march, undermining more and more closely the records of Michael Schumacher. To be convinced of this most of all is Hamilton, who never misses a chance to emphasize his state of grace and his desire to win.
"One day I’ll have to stop but at the moment the way I feel is fantastic, physically and mentally. In my future plans there is still no room for retreat. There is still a lot to do, a lot to win, many goals to achieve together with the team, inside and outside the car. I want the second half of the season to be even better than the first. I am 34 years old, but I feel that I am driving better than I have ever been able to do".
Still, Jos Verstappen is certain that the five-time World Champion and Mercedes already feel under pressure, given the return of Max Verstappen, now very competitive with his Red Bull:
"If we look at how Max drove in the last few races, it’s no surprise. You can also see from Hamilton’s recent statements. Why would he bother answering rumors? He went so far as to say that the Honda engine is currently better than Mercedes but judging by the performance in the straight to me it doesn’t really seem so. The preparatory work is much better than that carried out in previous years. There is a real collaboration and a continuous exchange of ideas between Red Bull and Honda. We try to help them, and they try to help us. They are real winners and so are we, the level of devotion is the same for both. What happened with Senna at McLaren could happen again with Max and this can only be positive".
Finally, Jos Verstappen pointed out that the first pole position in his career, won in the last race at the Hungaroring, did not represent a burden for his son to take off nor did it affect his mental state:
"Max never told me about it, he was calm and focused. The fact that he had not yet won a pole position was never a problem for him, he never let worry about this kind of thoughts".
Will it really be so? Or will Ferrari be able to fill the gap that distances it from Mercedes? After the Hungarian Grand Prix, a long summer break opens, which will culminate with the return to the track on Sunday 1 September 2019. On the occasion of the Belgian Grand Prix. Only on this occasion will it be possible to assess what are the real forces in the field and who, better than anyone, will be prepared to face the final part of the 2019 season.