Hungarian Grand Prix – In Formula One, the very first person you have to beat is your teammate. So who did just that in Budapest? Let’s go through the teams and hand out the TMB points!
1 point is awarded to the driver who sets the faster lap.
3 points are awarded to the driver who performs best in qualifying.
5 points are awarded to the driver who performs best on race day.
Sauber, not for the first time in recent years, are the most anonymous team in the sport. Amazing then, that they managed to score a point in Hungary after a weekend of toil. The Sauber duo locked out the second last row of the grid in qualifying, with Ericsson getting the better of Nasr by just 0.1 seconds. While significantly clear of the Manor cars, the Swiss team appear to have finally been put away by McLaren as the Woking team start clawing their way up the grid. An indication, then, of how little development work is being done on the C34, considering the strength of the Ferrari power unit in the back of it.
The two Sauber drivers put in almost identical races, on almost identical strategies, and ran almost nose to tail for the entire race. Ericsson never fell behind Nasr, and they finished just over four seconds apart. Ericsson finished P10, with Nasr just behind in P11. Hoping for high attrition isn’t the best way of going racing, but that’s all Sauber seem to be clinging to at the moment.
Fastest Lap: Marcus Ericsson (5.5 – 4.5 to Marcus Ericsson) (after Round 10)
Qualifying: Marcus Ericsson (18 – 12 to Felipe Nasr) (after Round 10)
Race: Marcus Ericsson (32.5 – 17.5 to Felipe Nasr) (after Round 10)
- Sauber: 55 – 35 to Felipe Nasr (Total After Round 10)
A week of complete distraction for Manor as they had to cope with the loss of Jules Bianchi. While John Booth & Graeme Lowdon unquestionably had to handle the majority of the public handling of the situation, the majority of the current Manor team is still made up of the men and women who worked directly alongside Jules last year and they would have been privately hurting. The two current drivers did very well to handle the team’s attentions being diverted slightly towards a man they never raced with in F1, and produced solid weekends.
Roberto Merhi has started to look quite strong alongside Will Stevens in recent races, and this continued in Hungary. Outqualifying the Englishman on Saturday, Merhi was a full half second clear in Q1 as Stevens put his deficit down to not having confidence in the car. At the start of the race, Merhi briefly jumped up to P17 and got ahead of the Saubers. He was quickly back down to last though, as he ended up having to pit early on due to a loose head rest. As a result of the early stop, himself and Will ended up being on tyres of different ages throughout the race and swapped position throughout the pitstops. The safety car allowed Merhi to get in front due to having made his stop for medium tyres on Lap 30, while Stevens still had to fit Medium tyres at the time. This meant Merhi got in front properly, and pulled away consistently until Stevens retired due to a wheel vibration.
Fastest lap: Will Stevens (7.5 – 2.5 to Will Stevens) (after Round 10)
Qualifying: Roberto Merhi (18 – 12 to Will Stevens) (after Round 10)
Race: Roberto Merhi (27.5 – 22.5 to Roberto Merhi) (after Round 10)
- Manor Marussia: 48 – 42 to Will Stevens (Total After Round 10)*
- *Rounds 1 & 2 were adjudged to be split points, due to non-participation of one or both.
Both Lotus drivers picked up penalties during the Hungarian Grand Prix, but for vastly different reasons. Grosjean was blameless for his unsafe release from his first pitstop, having been given the all clear by his pitcrew. But Pastor Maldonado…well, that’s a different story. Having started on the Medium tyres, the only man to do so, Pastor was understandably reluctant to lose positions as those who had pitted already started to come past him. Sergio Perez was one of those, having pitted just three laps prior, when he passed Maldonado into Turn 1 and left room for his rival on the exit. Maldonado didn’t do a whole lot to avoid his car from running into the Force India, clipping and spinning Perez.
Then, later, Maldonado picked up two more penalties. One for speeding in the pitlane, and one for overtaking Will Stevens before the safety car line at the resumption of the race. An appalling trio of offences for during a race, and surely deserving of more punishment than the penalty points he got for the first offence with Perez. As usual for a Maldonado race, it’s not so much that his pace was lacking. By the time he took his first visit to the pits for a drive through penalty on Lap 24, he was ahead of Grosjean by two seconds. While Grosjean had already stopped, Pastor had gotten the slower tyre phase out of the way. With the safety car thrown in later on, a clean race for Pastor should have resulted in him being right up there, if not ahead, with Romain. Another points finish thrown away for no good reason.
Fastest Lap: Pastor Maldonado (6 – 4 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 10)
Qualifying: Romain Grosjean (25.5 – 4.5 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 10)
Race: Romain Grosjean (35 – 15 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 10)
- Lotus: 66.5 – 23.5 to Romain Grosjean (Total After Round 10)
So why did Toro Rosso pit Max Verstappen ahead of Carlos Sainz at the first round of pitstops? It completely changed the dynamic of their races. Verstappen was the quicker man in qualifying, having beaten Sainz by less than 0.1 seconds. That miniscule difference was enough to leave the Spaniard consigned to P12, with Verstappen going on to take P9. However, at the start, Sainz proved to have the cannier first lap and ended Lap 1 in P11, with Verstappen dropping to P13.
The two Toro Rossos ended up getting bottled up behind the struggling Felipe Massa during the first stint, with Sainz ahead of Verstappen. That was until Verstappen was called in at the end of Lap 14 for a fresh set of boots. Sainz came in the following lap, but Verstappen’s undercut meant he emerged in front. Sainz fell behind Fernando Alonso, and ended up battling with his compatriot until the end of the race.
Understandably, Sainz wasn’t very happy about this decision after the race. He also wasn’t very happy about being left out on track during the safety car, while Verstappen was brought in for a fresh set of tyres. Having been on the same pace as the Dutch driver throughout the first two stints, Sainz fell to over twenty seconds behind Verstappen as he began to struggle with old tyres and a power unit problem. The length of Sainz’s final stint would have ended up being 33 laps on the Medium tyres, while Verstappen spent a grand total of 9 laps on his Mediums. A rather odd disparity in terms of strategy, considering the two driver’s relative proximity and competitiveness.
While Verstappen did nothing wrong and unquestionably earned his P4, Sainz would have been a very viable threat for that same position had Toro Rosso made the same pit calls with him as they did with Max. In fact, considering Verstappen ended up having to serve a drive through penalty after failing to stay above the minimum time behind the safety car, Sainz has every right to feel aggrieved. Great driving from both of the Toro Rossos, but fortune favoured Verstappen on this occasion.
Fastest Lap: Max Verstappen (6 – 4 to Max Verstappen) (after Round 10)
Qualifying: Max Verstappen (18 – 12 to Carlos Sainz) (after Round 10)
Race: Max Verstappen (27.5 – 22.5 to Carlos Sainz) (after Round 10)
- Toro Rosso: 49.5 – 40.5 to Carlos Sainz (Total After Round 10)
A dramatic weekend for Force India, as they seemed to be caught out by something they have done in their recent updates. The higher downforce requirements of the Hungarian circuit seemed to trigger something within their new package, and their relative lack of understanding of the problems is worrying. Thankfully, they do have time to figure it all out by the next race. Sergio Perez hinted after qualifying that his suspension failure was linked to something upgrade related, as Force India took off some of the upgraded parts in an effort to understand what had failed.
P11 & P13, after such a massive mid-season upgrade, was probably indicative of how off balance the team were having had to compromise their car at such short notice. That was until both drivers produced stonking getaways; Hulkenberg jumping up to P5 by Lap 2, with Perez vaulting into P8 by the end of Lap 1. With both running ahead of the eventual 4th place finisher Max Verstappen in the early .Sp5rl!47rs, the team could have been on for a very strong points finish. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Perez was spun around by Pastor Maldonado immediately after his first pitstop, leading to the Mexican driver dropping as low as P16 as he recovered. The contact had also resulted in damage to the right hand side of the VJM08 and, as the race progressed, Perez began to struggle with fading brakes. He was eventually forced to retire due to the brake issue.
Hulkenberg was eliminated from a strong P7 after his front wing collapsed. In a failure reminiscent of Rubens Barrichello’s suspension failure at the same corner in 2003, Hulkenberg was powerless to slow down or steer away from the tyre barrier and was fortunate to walk away completely unscathed. At the time, Hulkenberg was running directly in front of Daniil Kvyat. While Hulkenberg’s crash was the catalyst for the safety car and the resulting incidents afterward, it was a case of missed opportunity for the team as they now scramble to figure out what exactly has gone wrong with their new designs.
Fastest Lap: Nico Hulkenberg (5 – 5 to each) (after Round 10)
Qualifying: Nico Hulkenberg (24 – 6 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 10)
Race: Nico Hulkenberg (30 – 20 to Sergio Perez) (after Round 10)
- Force India: 54 – 36 to Nico Hulkenberg (Total After Round 10)
For the very first time this year, there seemed to be a little bit of needle from one of the McLaren drivers after the race. With both men actually finishing the race and in the points to boot, their competitive instincts shot forward. Fernando Alonso outqualified Button by 0.2 seconds on Saturday and never relinquished that slight edge throughout the remainder of the weekend. Having been on almost identical strategies for the first half of the race, the gap between the pair was just 6 seconds with Alonso in P10, Sainz P11 & Button P12.
However, the safety car changed the complexion of how the remainders of their races would go. The plan was to keep both drivers out and finish the race on their Medium tyres but Fernando Alonso was called in to the pits due to climbing brake temperatures. A discarded tear-off visor was found in his brake duct and removed, while a fresh set of Soft tyres were also fitted. This meant that while Button was ahead at the race restart, he was immediately passed by Alonso. The Spaniard went on to claim P5 while Button, on his older Medium tyres, lost 20 seconds in 18 laps to finish up in P8. Button seemed smilingly annoyed in his post race interviews but, as Alonso essentially lucked into the better strategy, that annoyance should fade pretty quickly.
Fastest Lap: Fernando Alonso (6 – 4 to Jenson Button) (after Round 10)
Qualifying: Fernando Alonso (16.5 – 13.5 to Jenson Button) (after Round 10)
Race: Fernando Alonso (30 – 20 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 10)
- McLaren: 47.5 – 42.5 to Fernando Alonso (Total After Round 10)
If my life depended on choosing a driver to lead a race from the start and having him go and win the thing, Sebastian Vettel would be the driver I’d choose. The pieces are slowly falling into place to show that dominance from the pairing will happen; it’s more a question of when, as opposed to if. Hungary showed signs that the Vettel/Raikkonen pairing is a very very good one, and once Raikkonen emerges from the other side of his slump (and who wouldn’t bet on that starting at Spa?), Mercedes ought to be worried.
This year is finally allowing Sebastian Vettel to grow the reputation he has been earning the right to since 2010. While his victories with Red Bull can be attributed to ‘the best car’, there is no question that his two victories so far this year have come at the wheel of a car that plays second fiddle to Mercedes. Shades of 1998 really, where Michael Schumacher dragged his Ferrari to championship contention against the dominant McLarens…and that went down to the final race.
There is absolutely no criticism that can be made about Sebastian Vettel’s Hungarian weekend. Missing out on practice time on Friday due to some technical trouble put him slightly on the back foot, but he recovered to qualify P3 – the highest position that can be reasonably expected of the SF-15T. Leading by Turn 1, he simply didn’t look back. He didn’t need to. Kimi Raikkonen’s race, if you were to mark it out of 10, was 9/10. Qualifying again made life a little bit more awkward for him than it needed to be when he let Daniel Ricciardo nip in front of him, but his opening 500 metres of the race were equal to, if not better, than Sebastian Vettel’s. While he lacked the last tenth or two that Vettel was able to unlock, Raikkonen looked on for P2 before his race unravelled through no fault of his own. While he picked up a time penalty behind the safety car, he still would have finished P2 based on how the race unfolded for Rosberg & the two Red Bulls.
Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (5 – 5 to each) (after Round 10)
Qualifying: Sebastian Vettel (24 – 6 to Sebastian Vettel) (after Round 10)
Race: Sebastian Vettel (42.5 – 7.5 to Sebastian Vettel) (after Round 10)
- Ferrari: 71.5 – 18.5 to Sebastian Vettel (Total After Round 10)
What a bizarre race weekend for the Williams team. Having been the stars of Silverstone, the contrast of a two car finish outside the points on a day where Mercedes threw it all away must sting. Their attitude going into the weekend was bullish, suggesting that the Austria test last month had enabled them to rectify some of the downforce problems that hampered them at Monaco in May. While qualifying suggested that the team had improved their car’s abilities on a twisty circuit, the race just fell apart for them.
Having qualified in P6 & P8, Massa immediately had his race compromised by picking up a penalty for being unable to see his grid box. Williams’ Rob Smedley seemed confused by his problem afterwards, saying that Bottas had had no issues and that Massa essentially sits at the same height in the car as his Finnish teammate. Whatever the problem was, Massa was nowhere near his grid box for the first attempt at a race start and was still not aligned perfectly for the second. Falling behind the Force Indias at the start, Massa was able to briefly hold off the recovering Lewis Hamilton before the Merc inevitably got past. This shuffled Massa down to P10 before he had even taken his penalty. When he did so, he emerged in P17 on the Medium tyres. His afternoon didn’t improve from there. Struggling with the Medium tyres, he swapped to the Softs again on Lap 29 and then another set of Softs on Lap 54. He couldn’t get any of the tyres to work meaning that, despite the safety car intervention, he struggled home in P12.
Valtteri Bottas had a better race and was jousting with Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the restart after the safety car, but had it all ruined immediately when his rear tyre got scraped by Verstappen’s front wing. The resulting puncture meant he had to slowly limp back to the pits but a points finish was lost. Despite his puncture after the safety car, Bottas finished just five seconds behind Felipe Massa – a clear illustration of just how off colour Massa was during the race.
Fastest Lap: Felipe Massa (7.5 – 2.5 to Felipe Massa) (after Round 10)
Qualifying: Valtteri Bottas (18 – 12 to Felipe Massa) (after Round 10)
Race: Valtteri Bottas (30 – 20 to Valtteri Bottas) (after Round 10)
- Williams: 45.5 – 44.5 to Felipe Massa (Total After Round 10)
Daniil Kvyat’s willingness to play the team game is certainly causing him no harm at this point in his career, particularly as the race eventually fell into his lap – meaning he comes out smelling like roses. Team boss Christian Horner said after the race that the pre-race tribute to Jules Bianchi had distracted the young Russian, but this didn’t stop him from sneaking in front of Ricciardo when the Australian tangled with Valtteri Bottas. After producing a great qualifying, Ricciardo appeared to have greater pace and bore this out by quickly catching back up on Kvyat.
Instructed to move aside, Kvyat retorted to say that he was being held up by Nico Hulkenberg and swore at the pitwall when the instruction was repeated. However, he did as he was told and allowed Ricciardo through. Daniel justified this decision by quickly passing Hulkenberg and setting off after Bottas. Enjoying a strong race, Ricciardo got the Medium tyre out of the way in the middle section of the race and lost 16 seconds to Sebastian Vettel between Laps 23 & 41. However, the decision was vindicated by the appearance of the safety car. Able to take on the Softs, Ricciardo suddenly sprang into contention for the race win – particularly as he pounced upon Lewis Hamilton at the restart. Catching up on Rosberg, Ricciardo had to get imaginative due to his car’s lack of power by comparison to the Merc. This resulted in his dive on Rosberg. While it was a move that was never going to work as Nico spotted it coming, the resulting damage when the pair made contact on corner exit meant that his chance was gone.
Daniel’s additional stop meant Kvyat was back in front but the Russian had picked up a 10 second time penalty for exceeding track limits while overtaking Lewis Hamilton. Finishing 5 seconds behind Sebastian Vettel on track meant a classified 15 seconds behind, but this was still 10 seconds clear of Daniel Ricciardo. While the Australian undoubtedly had the superior pace on this particular occasion, Kvyat gets the race points due to his one error being less catastrophic than Ricciardo’s.
Fastest Lap: Daniel Ricciardo (5.5 – 4.5 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 10)
Qualifying: Daniel Ricciardo (18 – 12 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 10)
Race: Daniil Kvyat (27.5 – 22.5 to Daniil Kvyat) (after Round 10)
- Red Bull: 46 – 44 to Daniel Ricciardo (Total After Round 10)
This particular pairing is one of the toughest to differentiate between on this occasion. Rather than thinking in terms of who performed better, it’s more a case of thinking who performed least badly. Lewis Hamilton, having looked peerless throughout the weekend after a seemingly effortless practice and qualifying, threw it all away on the first lap. Nico Rosberg made fewer errors, but never looked a threat for the race win – something that should be unthinkable for someone driving a car of the W06’s performance.
As I said in my post race column, I don’t think the impetuous and somewhat inconsistent Lewis Hamilton of a few years ago has fully disappeared. While he has undoubtedly matured as a racing driver over the same time period, the relative performance advantage of his recent Mercedes cars would enable any driver of his calibre to appear clinical, methodical and metronomical. But when cars manage to get in front, Hamilton still makes errors. Austria, Silverstone & Hungary are all evidence of this. But while he still makes more mistakes, Lewis is capable of reaching higher heights than Nico Rosberg. Rosberg’s 2014 title challenge was one based on consistency, and 2015 looks like a repeat of that. While Nico’s Friday preparation in Hungary was compromised by Mercedes making errors with ‘the car’s configuration’, he never looked capable of unlocking the pace Hamilton had all weekend. Worse, once the Ferraris were in front, he never looked capable of launching an attack on them – let alone actually getting back in front. His racing incident with Daniel Ricciardo towards race end was clumsy, but nothing unusual between two drivers who both think they have left enough room.
So who gets the nod for race points? The man who threw away a Grand Prix that could have and should have been his, or the man who made no significant errors but would have taken a nice, safe podium had he not picked up a puncture? On this occasion, I’m going to give the race points to Rosberg. Fewer errors win out in a battle with the faster man.
Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (5 – 5 to each) (after Round 10)
Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton (27 – 3 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 10)
Race: Nico Rosberg (35 – 15 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 10)
- Mercedes: 67 – 23 to Lewis Hamilton (Total After Round 10)
- Sebastian Vettel – 71.5 points
- Lewis Hamilton – 67 points
- Romain Grosjean – 66.5 points
- Felipe Nasr – 55 points
- Nico Hulkenberg – 54 points
- Carlos Sainz – 49.5 points
- Will Stevens – 48 points
- Fernando Alonso – 47.5 points
- Daniel Ricciardo – 46 points
- Felipe Massa – 45.5 points
- Valtteri Bottas – 44.5 points
- Daniil Kvyat – 44 points
- Jenson Button – 42.5 points
- Roberto Merhi – 42 points
- Max Verstappen – 40.5 points
- Sergio Perez – 36 points
- Marcus Ericsson – 35 points
- Pastor Maldonado – 23.5 points
- Nico Rosberg – 23 points
- Kimi Raikkonen – 18.5 points
- Kevin Magnussen – 3 points*
*Due to split points in Melbourne