A classic head-to-head between Hamilton and Verstappen
The potential has always been there for a rivalry to develop between these two – and we got a big glimpse of it at the weekend in Hungary. Both men were exceptional and treated us to a brilliant fight for victory as they were in a league of their own.
Verstappen aced qualifying to take his maiden pole, while Hamilton slightly underperformed and qualified 3rd. However, the Brit made up for that with a brilliant move on Valtteri Bottas on the opening lap – and after the Finns contact with Leclerc, it left us with Hamilton vs Verstappen.
After both of them made a stop, Hamilton - on six-lap fresher tyres - almost got through at T4 on lap 39, but he ran wide and was forced to concede the position.
However, with such a big gap to the Ferraris, Mercedes brought him in at the end of lap 48 to fit fresh medium tyres to his car. The strategy call paid off as Verstappen tyres ran out of juice and Hamilton made the decisive move with four laps to go.
Ultimately, the faster car won thanks to a great call for Mercedes. It was an epic showdown between the best drivers in Formula 1 at the moment. Let’s hope we see much more of these battles in the second part of 2019.
McLaren and Sainz continue to be the midfield benchmark
McLaren’s massive improvement in 2019 following a difficult few years is one of the best stories of the season so far. In Hungary, they were the fourth quickest team once again.
Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz locked out the fourth row for the team and if it wasn’t for a problem at the pitstop for Norris, they would have likely finished in P5 and P6. Nevertheless, to have scored 82 points and to be 4th in the Constructors’ Championship is a superb achievement by the Woking-based team. Their hard work over the winter has paid off.
On the drivers’ side, Carlos Sainz has been outstanding in recent races and continued his great form in Hungary. For the fourth time in the last seven events, he was ‘best of the rest’. The Spaniard even finished ahead of Gasly on merit as he finished a brilliant P5 yesterday.
He now sits just 5 points behind the Frenchman in the Drivers’ Championship and 27 ahead of Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo. This is Sainz’s strongest season in Formula 1 to date. Let’s hope the cameras show him a bit more after the summer break if he keeps up this fantastic form.
Raikkonen is carrying Alfa Romeo
He may turn 40 in October, but the Iceman is still showing his class in 2019. Following the disappointment of losing P7 in Germany, he brushed that off and drove very well in Hungary.
Raikkonen just about made it into Q3 and started 10th. A strong opening lap + the downfall of Bottas saw him move into P7. He remained there after his only stop and despite lots of pressure in the closing stages from Bottas, Kimi held his fellow Finn off. He only finished 4s behind 5th placed Sainz, too.
The 2007 World Champion has scored 31 of the 32 points Alfa Romeo have got so far in 2019. His calmness, speed and consistency is helping his team out in such a tight midfield battle. To be P8 in the standings with his current package is a testament to his ability.
Motivation and hunger? He has both of these things in spades.
Haas and Renault’s struggles continue
Leaving Williams aside, these two teams are by far the most disappointing of the midfield runners in 2019. After finishing 4th and 5th respectively in the teams’ standings last year, they’re both struggling a lot in 2019. Hungary proved to be no better.
Renault lost a car in Q1 and Q2 and finished a distant 12th and 14th in the race. For a team with their resources, it’s simply not good enough.
Daniel Ricciardo’s first season with the team is turning into a nightmare. On the other side of the garage, Nico Hulkenberg was far from happy “I think we need to ask ourselves some serious questions and review a couple of things internally. But there’s been far more lows than highs unfortunately. Not really satisfying.”
Meanwhile, at Haas, their unpredictable car continues to leave them baffled. After scraping through Q1, Romain Grosjean got into Q3 as his car came alive in Q2. It was the complete opposite for Kevin Magnussen. The Dane was P4 in Q1 – but then went 0.9s slower in Q2 and ended up P15.
Grosjean dropped back in the race as Haas’ problems on a Sunday resurfaced. He ultimately retired, with Magnussen 13th.
These two underperforming squads have a lot of soul-searching to do over the summer break.
George Russell displays his very promising talent once again
It’s always quite difficult to show your talent to the top teams in a rookie season if your car is at the back of the field. Nonetheless, George Russell is managing to do that this year; much like Fernando Alonso at Minardi back in 2001. Hungary may have been his best weekend in F1 yet.
The Brit’s performance in qualifying was extraordinary. He was 1.293s quicker than Williams team-mate Robert Kubica. He missed out on Q2 by a mere 0.053s as he qualified a superb P16. Considering the lack of speed from his car, it’s got to go down as one of the qualifying performances of 2019.
Some great overtakes on lap 1, plus Bottas’ incident, saw him run in 13th during the early stages of the race. Ultimately, the lack of pace from his car meant he dropped back and finished 16th. However, Russell did manage to finish in front of Stroll and Giovinazzi. He also ended up over half a minute ahead of Kubica by the end of the race.
Russell is consistently delivering some superb performances and this must be catching the attention of Mercedes and the other top teams. While he seems set to stay at Williams next year, the Brit will likely play a big role in the 2021 driver market if he keeps up the form we’ve seen from him so far.
Driver of the weekend? He’s certainly a candidate.