Ferrari lock out the front row at the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel hung on to win a tense race despite problem with his Ferrari ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen who was used as a buffer for the larger part of the race by the team against the rampaging Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. It is the Prancing Horse’s first one-two in Hungary since Michael Schumacher led home Rubens Barrichello in 2004.
Vettel took the chequered flag on his 50th Ferrari start ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who was clearly frustrated at being forced to spend the race behind his ailing teammate despite repeatedly urging Ferrari to let him past.
With that second place finish, Raikkonen has now scored six second place finishes and eight podium finishes in his 15 races in Hungary. The race was not just a significant milestone for the Finn, it meant a lot for the race winner, Vettel too – it was the German’s second win in Hungary and 46th overall career win.
On a day when the Silver Arrows had no answer to the Scuderia, Valtteri Bottas took third ahead of teammate Hamilton. The Mercedes drivers swapped places twice during the race. The last change of positions came on the final lap as Lewis Hamilton restored Valtteri Bottas to the final podium position. Bottas had previously let Hamilton by into third to attack the Ferraris.
Lewis Hamilton’s sportsmanship ensured that Valtteri Bottas collected his fifth successive podium – the longest current streak on the grid. By contrast, Hamilton now has just one podium in his last four races.
A chastened Max Verstapen took fifth place for Red Bull after collecting a ten-second penalty for hitting his team mate on the first lap. Daniel Ricciardo retired after the contact at turn two. The Red Bulls had both passed the slow-starting Lewis Hamilton in the opening moments, with Ricciardo undercutting both the Mercedes driver and Verstapen on the inside of Turn 1.
Daniel Ricciardo was so furious that the Australian was convinced Verstappen simply did not like seeing the other Red Bull get ahead. Max Verstappen’s unnecessary clash with Daniel Ricciardo on the first lap meant that for the sixth time in 11 races Red Bull saw only one of their drivers score points.
Fernando Alonso gave McLaren their best result of the season so far with sixth position. He overtook Carlos Sainz Jnr and set the fastest lap on the penultimate lap. Stoffel Vandoorne took his first point of the year in tenth place, separated by his team mate by Sainz and the two Force Indias. Stoffel Vandoorne’s hard earned point was his first since he scored on his debut in Bahrain last year during a one-race cameo substituting for Fernando Alonso.
On a weekend that Vettel led from pole to the chequered flag and extended his championship lead to 14 points, the complexion of the championship remains relatively unclear as Formula One heads into its four-week summer break.
Ferrari [Sebastian Vettel, P1; Kimi Raikkonen, P2]
Sebastian Vettel drove a magnificent race managing to keep the lead despite the problem with the steering wheel. The German spent more than half the race coping with a severe handling problem but was in the fortunate position of having teammate Kimi Raikkonen as a buffer between him and the threatening Mercedes.
It was a difficult situation for Vettel, who after having led off the line, was staying off the kerbs and not driving at full speed, he had Raikkonen on his tail throughout, but despite the Finn’s many pleas to the team to be let through, they would not oblige and left their drivers to battle out on track.
Vettel’s problem was a setback but it was far from debilitating. Ferrari faced a straightforward dilemma: Keep Vettel ahead through the pit stops or allow Raikkonen to jump ahead of his team mate? The former was obviously preferable from a championship point of view as Vettel arrived in Hungary with more than twice as many points as his team mate.
Arguably it was also the sensible thing to do to give them the best chance of scoring a one-two in the race, as Raikkonen could protect Vettel from any threat from behind. Whichever argument tipped the debate, Vettel stayed ahead because Raikkonen was brought in to the pits immediately after him. “I had the speed to stay out,” Raikkonen grumbled on the radio, no doubt remembering this was exactly how Vettel had been allowed to beat him in Monaco.
Mercedes [Valtteri Bottas, P3; Lewis Hamilton, P4]
It was no doubt a difficult weekend for the Silver Arrows. The defending constructors champion failed to capitalise properly on Ferrari’s troubles during the race. The failure has been attributed to loss of data at the pit wall.
Drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas spent part of the race unable to communicate with their engineers when the team encountered technical difficulties during the race. With eventual race winner Sebastian Vettel encountering steering problems and Lewis Hamilton closing in on the Ferraris in the second stint it looked like Mercedes was ready to snatch a win, but the lack of data left both cars in a compromised position.
The issue meant Mercedes had to rely on its sophisticated set-up at its UK bases who helped keep the pit wall informed of what was going on.
However, talks within Mercedes garage have been dominated by Hamilton’s decision to ‘let his heart rule his head’ during the final lap of the race. The situation evolved in the second half of the race, as Mercedes found they had the pace to close on the Ferraris, who had dominated until the pit stops.
Once the drivers had completed their first and, for the most part, only pit stops. Hamilton had regained his fourth position, and was rapidly closing on his team mate. Hamilton had wanted to extend his first stint but was unable to tell his team due to aforementioned radio problems.
His pace remained strong after changing to the softs and now he was bearing down on Bottas. To his relief, Mercedes solved their radio trouble and Hamilton was able to urge them to swap positions between their cars.
Mercedes allowed him through on the condition that he would give Bottas his position back. Hamilton quickly got after the Ferraris, taking up to seven-tenths of a second out of them per lap. Hamilton could not overtake Raikkonen and kept his word to let Bottas back through, doing so at the final corner to allow the Finn to claim the final podium spot.
Red Bull [Max Verstapen, P5; Daniel Ricciardo, Retired Lap 1]
Verstappen will have some explaining to do after the race following the first-lap incident in which he took out team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
The Australian had passed Verstappen on the outside on the run to Turn Two, after the Dutchman was forced wide by Bottas on the exit of Turn One.
But although Ricciardo was clearly ahead, Verstappen left his braking too late on the inside, and slid into his team-mate, smashing his radiator. Ricciardo spun into retirement on fluids from his own car at Turn Three, bringing out the safety car.
Ricciardo said: “It’s frustrating. It’s not even an overtaking move. It’s an emotional response – sees me pass him, wants to make it back and messed it up.’’
Verstappen’s move earned him a 10-second penalty, served at his pit stop, which made it more difficult for him to challenge the Mercedes at the end. Further punishment may follow for the young Dutch.
McLaren [Fernando Alonso, P6; Stoffel Vandoorne, P10]
The two-time champion Fernando Alonso delivered another bravura performance to claim ‘best of the rest’ honours at a track where the disadvantage of McLaren’s Honda power unit was minimised. He spent the first half trying to get past Carlos Sainz, then followed the Toro Rosso into the pits for their only pit stop. He pounced once they rejoined the track, sweeping around Sainz on the outside of turn two.
Stoffel Vandoorne ran long in the first stint in a fruitless bid to get in front of the Force Indias. He nonetheless claimed his first point of the season with tenth place, taking the chequered flag right on Esteban Ocon’s tail.
Toro Rosso [Carlos Sainz Jnr., P7; Daniil Kvyat, P11]
Carlos Sainz had a very good start, went around the outside of both McLarens into Turn 1 and held onto his position into Turn 2. He attempted a pursuit of the Mercedes, but decided to play it safe as the work was already done for him. From then onwards it was a very tough task to defend from Fernando, who was much faster. In the end, Sainz was able to hold on to seventh position after being eventually passed by Alonso.
Daniil Kvyat was in a very difficult situation; starting from P16 after the three-place grid penalty he was given before the race. He started on the soft tyres and gained two positions straight after the start. He was left out for as long as possible on those tyres while the other cars, racing on supersofts, were coming in to pit. This allowed Kvyat to race in free air, even though he did find traffic at times – especially at the end with Magnussen, who was on the supersoft and it was therefore difficult to overtake him. In the end, Kvyat finished in eleventh position – which was the best possible result for him.
Force India [Sergio Perez, P8; Esteban Ocon, P9]
It was a competitive Sunday for both Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon as they both secured six points for the team.
The two drivers had solid race pace and made the most of an aggressive first lap which brought them into the top ten. From there it was a routine afternoon with both cars executing one-stop strategies.
The team has scored points in ten of the eleven races so far this year and had double-point finishes in nine of those races. Force India heads into the summer break edging over the 100 points mark.
Renault [Jolyon Palmer, P12; Nico Hulkenberg, P17]
Fortunes did not smile on Renault on a hot Sunday afternoon in Budapest with Jolyon Palmer finishing twelfth and Nico Hulkenberg returning to the pits three laps shy from the chequered flag, following a contact with Kevin Magnussen.
Jolyon Palmer started the race from P10 on a new set of Supersoft tyres. After running as high as P8, he pitted from P11 on lap 46 for a new set of Soft tyres.
Nico Hulkenberg started the race from P12 on his qualifying Supersoft, pitting from P6 to change to a set of new Soft tyres on lap 45. His pit stop was slow due to a recalcitrant wheel gun. Contact late in the race from a subsequently penalised Kevin Magnussen pushed Hulkenberg off track and he subsequently retired due to issues with his brake and gearbox. Hulkenberg was classified seventeenth at the finish.
Haas [Kevin Magnussen, P13; Romain Grosjean, Retired Lap 20]
Romain Grosjean lost places at the start after contact with Hulkenberg forced him wide. He had to pit ahead of schedule for a slow puncture but worse was to come when he was sent back out on track with one tyre incorrectly fitted. He was ordered to pull off track, for his first DNF since Russia.
Kevin Magnussen did not fare much better – he too was battling Hulkenberg, but at one stage defended too robustly, forcing Hulkenberg onto the grass. The stewards awarded him a five-second time penalty for his trouble, and he came home outside the points.
Williams [Lance Stroll, P14; Paul di Resta, Retired Lap 60]
Williams had not looked on the pace all weekend and so it proved come race day. Lance Stroll kept out of trouble in the incident-filled start, and drove a lonely race ahead of the Saubers from there on.
Paul di Resta who was a late replacement for the unwell Felipe Massa was cautious in the first few laps but soon got into the swing of things, battling with Wehrlein before being forced to retire late on with an oil pressure issue.
Sauber [Pascal Wehrlein, P15; Marcus Ericsson, P16]
It was a difficult Hungarian Grand Prix weekend for Sauber as Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson struggled to finish the race in P15 and P16 respectively.
The team was forced to put the two drivers on different strategies after both drivers’ forced pit-stops. Ericsson was the first to come in for an early pit stop due to a flat spot during the safety car period, before Wehrlein was also forced to pit due to a slow puncture.
They kept the fight clean though and late second stops did not help them take the fight to Williams’ Lance Stroll ahead.
My Take on the Weekend
The pressure had built on Ferrari ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix. Hamilton had reduced Vettel’s lead to a single point.
But at a track which suited the Ferrari well Vettel shrugged off his handicap and took maximum advantage. While Ferrari demonstrated a clear preference for the contest between their drivers, Mercedes showed an even-handedness which could come back to haunt them.
Hamilton gave up three points in Hungary. He lost last year’s title by five. But after the summer break come a pair of high-speed tracks where he surely expects his Mercedes can overwhelm the Ferraris.
Ferrari and Vettel need to be wary of this win in Hungary. The last Hungarian Grand Prix winner to win the world title in the same year was Michael Scumacher in 2004.
It remains to be seen if Vettel, whose victory was his second in Hungary, his fourth of the year, his first in five races and his 46th overall, will break that streak this year!
Soliu Adeyemo is a renowned Formula 1 Expert. Follow him @SolihuF1 on Twitter and Instagram for more updates and analysis.