By Callum Springall
Ferrari took a win against the recent run of results in Mercedes’ favour at the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix which, despite coming on a track that suits the SF-70H’s characteristics, hints at the possibility of further success after the summer break.
In spite of the Italian team’s woes during Friday practice, Ferrari emerged on Saturday morning in ominous fashion and appeared to have made a significant step forward overnight. This they had done, principally by working on the car until midnight while Antonio Giovinazzi worked tirelessly in the simulator on the car’s setup.
The consequential reward was a comfortable pole for Sebastian Vettel and a front row lockout, which was as good as a win around the Hungaroring where overtaking opportunities are at a premium and turbulent air plays a more significant role than it would at lower downforce circuits such as the next two coming up – Spa and Monza.
While it would seem Mercedes would have a clear advantage, there is some light at the end of the tunnel for Ferrari, as the Scuderia plan a development drive to tip the balance in their favour.
They are believed to have been hamstrung in recent rounds by directives on flexible floors and oil burning engine tactics, so a gain in power relative to the reigning champions before Monza could couple up with their strong traction to gift them a potential – and fanatically popular – home win.
Albeit a sporting move, Lewis Hamilton could have cost himself the world championship by letting Valtteri Bottas through on the line, as per their team agreement. Or so say some ‘bigwig’ journalists – not that I’m hinting at any disrespect.
In reality, it cost Hamilton three points on a weekend when Bottas largely had the upper hand and put together a better qualifying lap, so arguably deserved to finish ahead anyway. Aside from such niceties, it means Bottas is inclined to repay the favour when a more handy points gain is on offer – should Bottas drop out of the title race himself. After all, the gap still stands at less than the payout of finishing 3rd, so keeping team harmony and playing the long game would be the smart, if not painful, thing to do – contrary to many a Twitter meltdown, which is inherent in a generation of sports fans evermore blinded by short-termism.
From two leading lights to a sleeping giant in McLaren, who woke up – to some description – to take a double-points finish and move ahead of Sauber in the constructors’ championship.
Coming into the weekend it was clear the layout of the Hungaroring would play into the hands of the McLaren chassis. Even so, going from scraping into Q3 in Monaco, to achieving a comfortable top 10 for both cars is a sign of the development of the car over the course of the last few months, while the track puts more of an emphasis on engine power – so to match Renault for pace, not to mention beating Force India in all major sessions, is a reasonable step in a short space of time.
Red Bull were another team to make a step up in performance, although the full effect was likely not felt due to the overnight improvements of Ferrari and Mercedes, as well as Max Verstappen‘s ‘amateur’ mistake that sent him into the side of his team-mate, knocking him out of the race while Verstappen was out of contention thanks to a 10-second penalty.
In all, the punishment did fit the crime as the Dutchman was conclusively out of control and out of order in diving up the inside, drawing comparisons to a similar move from Hamilton on Daniel Ricciardo (one of those ‘why always me?’ scenarios) in the 2015 Hungarian Grand Prix, for which he was awarded a drive-through penalty. So a 10-second penalty for Verstappen – in an era where said penalties are far more lenient – is fully justified.
Another manoeuvre to be penalised was Kevin Magnussen‘s defence against a charging Nico Hulkenberg late in the day, in which he was judged to have forced the German off the track. Hulkenberg debatably didn’t have a significant portion of his car alongside the Haas, although Magnussen’s defence was – as usual – borderline to say the least, and fell within the margin of error for the stewards to wrongly penalise him. But after all, he was almost off the track himself.
In response, Hulkenberg approached Magnussen in the media pen to express his disregard – only to be told to “suck my balls, honey”.
Well, it’s all right for some.
♦ Callum Springall is a member of The NR F1 Podcast crew. You can follow Callum on Twitter @callumspring18