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Hungarian Grand Prix: Verstappen stumbles but recovers to finish second

Hungarian Grand Prix: Verstappen stumbles but recovers to finish second

Formula 1 Aramco Magyar Nagydíj 2020 - Budapest
Hamilton wins to take lead in the championship standings

Budapest, Hungary, July 19/20 (GRW): For those who have been complaining that every Formula One race is boring in that they all have the same result, this race in Hungary was ‘something different’. Yes, Lewis Hamilton won the race by an 8.7-second margin over Max Verstappen who held off Valtteri Bottas in third place. But, beyond that, this Grand Prix was unlike any that have been seen in this era of three-team domination.

For starters the grid was exceptional. Yes, the two Mercedes, Hamilton and Bottas filled the front row, but the second row was occupied by the two Racing Point cars – claimed by many to be near-clones of the Mercedes design – of Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez. The third row was made up of the Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, an improvement over their recent showings. This left Verstappen starting way back in seventh place in his Red Bull car while his teammate, Alexander Albon was all the way back in the 13th staring position.

The race day morning started with some light rain – enough to convince essentially every driver to start on ‘intermediate’ tires that resembled old-style ‘knobby’ snow tires – a bad compromise under any conditions.

Then, shock, on the reconnaissance lap to bring the cars around onto the grid, Verstappen’s car lost grip and he slid off into the barrier. He was able to get going again and drive the car around back around onto the grid – probably he should have pulled into the pits where his crew would have been better able to fix it. Nonetheless, they swarmed over the barrier onto the grid to work on his car. It was easy work to replace the damaged nose cone but it took all of the some twenty minutes available to fix the broken steering link. But, fix it they did, and Verstappen was able to drive his car forward up into his seventh place starting spot.

On the start, Bottas misread a signal on his dashboard as a ‘start’ signal. (I thought that the drivers were all supposed to be watching the overhead lights to get the ‘start’). He edged forward but he realized his mistake and he stopped for the smallest instant. But that stop was enough to see him going into the first corner back in sixth or seventh place. Meanwhile, Verstappen had made a great start and he had shot up to second place in the same interval.

Given that everyone had started on the intermediate tires and that the rain had now stopped, they all poured into the pits over the first three or four laps to change over to ‘medium’ slicks. Leclerc was a notable exception, he took on ‘soft’ tires

See the story so far has been much different from most F1 reports, hasn’t it?

Once this tire change business was completed, the order was Hamilton, Verstappen, Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Romain Grosjean (Haas) , Lance Stroll (Racing Point), Leclerc (Ferrari) and, finally Bottas.

By lap 15 of the 70-lap race, The order was now Hamilton, Verstappen, Magnussen, Stroll, Bottas. Leclerc began to struggle on his ‘soft’ tires but his team kept him out a long as they could; he pitted on lap 21 and fell back to 14th place.

Meanwhile, up front, the order was settling in as Hamilton, Verstappen, Stroll (!), Bottas, and Magnussen (a lap down)

Now the lap chart went crazy again as drivers came in for tire changes. It had looked like more rain might be coming and the pit crews were getting ready for that – but the rain missed the track and they went back to opting for more ‘medium’ or ‘hard’ tires. By lap 47, these pit stops were completed and the order had evolved into Hamilton, with a 20-second lead over Verstappen, who had Bottas closing in on him. Then it was Stroll, Vettel, and Albon. Leclerc’s experiment on the soft tires had dropped him back to tenth place.

For the remaining laps, we were watching to see if Bottas could catch and pass Verstappen for second place but, once he closed to within a second of him, he stalled out for the remaining laps – and he finished just under a second behind the Dutchman.

PHOTO HUNGARY VERSTAPPEN AP 24P77FHPN1W11 news 1The Red Bull crew wave congratulations to Max Verstappen for his remarkable second-place result (Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool)

Stroll finished fourth, a career-high result even if he was some 58 seconds in arrears of Hamilton’s Mercedes, making it hard to argue the case that the Racing Point cars were exact clones of the dominant Mercedes cars. Albon brought the second Red Bull home in fifth while Vettel was sixth. Sergio Perez, in the other Red Bull, was seventh. This surprisingly good performance by the Canadian team had to leave one wondering if the rumours that Vettel was considering landing there next year might not have some validity.

The other Canadian, Nicholas Latifi, had a disappointing day, including suffering a puncture. He finished five laps down, in 19th and last place.

“What an incredible race,” Hamilton said. “Honestly, that was one of my favourites that I've raced, even though I was on my own for the majority, it's a very different kind of challenge and I was pushing hard out there - particularly for the fastest lap at the end. We had great pace today, brilliant pit stops, a fantastic strategy and then, as I was managing those mediums for a long, long time, at the end it was the perfect time to get on fresh tires and take that extra point for fastest lap. Everything has just been on point throughout the weekend, so we need to try and keep it up. I can't wait for Silverstone now, although I'll miss the energy the fans bring, so I hope I can perform for them there as I know they'll be watching from home.”

• Click HERE for the results and the points standings after this race in Hungary

• The next F1 race will be the first of a pair of races at Silverstone in England; the first race will be on Sunday, August 2nd and the second on Sunday, August 9.

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