Under strict conditions, Formula One makes a stop in Hungary for the third round of the 2020 championship season. Failure to abide by the country’s strong COVID-19 regulations could land you in jail here, so everyone has been overly cautious around the Hungaroring circuit.
Fridays practice sessions went along fairly smoothly with little drama. Mercedes were dominant as they often are, and Racing Point continued to impress. McLaren too appear to be on the right path, as do Williams. Great news for two of the giants of the sports that have fallen on hard times in recent years.
While some teams are showing solid improvements, others like Red Bull and Ferrari continue to show decline. Ferrari are clearly struggling to find power in their motors while Red Bull seems to lack grip and down force. As we have seen several times so far this season, the Red Bull of Max Verstappen lost its rear traction and spun on the final turn of the third practice session.
To his credit, however, Sebastian Vettel was able to make headway in the wet, placing his soaking wet Ferrari atop of the pack at the conclusion of the second practice session. With very little to celebrate thus far, surely the Ferrari garage staff breathed a collective sigh of relief at the result. Although weather systems seemingly blow in as fast as they disperse, Vettel must be praying for rain on Sunday. Then again, given the thunderous pace of his rival Lewis Hamilton last week in Styria, perhaps not.
With clouds threatening the session, teams were eager to get out early and set a time. Red Bull Racing were on first out, with Mercedes right behind them. In fact, most teams took advantage of the dry track and created quite a bit of traffic early on. Renault, however, took a risk and kept their drivers in the garage. Perhaps hoping to set times once more grip from the melted rubber of the competitors had been laid down a little. Although, they soon changes their minds and would eventually join the party. The rain wouldn’t arrive in this session, but the threat was real. Cloud cover looked to be growing significantly.
See also : Hamilton takes the Grand Prix of Styria
Red Bull’s Alexander Albon struggled to find grip and balance and exited the initial qualifying period with just a 0.900 second bridge from the elimination positions. The two Williams then played spoiler as Russell goes 3rd fastest and Latifi 7th. Dropping Albon into 17th.
The Pink Panthers were top of the field with seconds to go, with Perez first and Stroll second. Norris finished 4th in his McLaren. Albon and Verstappen left it late before claiming spots in the top 15. The Ferrari’s also looked to struggle for grip on a course that was obviously on the greasy side given the light rain.Kevin Magnussen, Daniil Kvyat, Roman Grosjean, Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen were left on the outside looking in. It was the first time both Williams cars made it out on the first period since Monza in 2018.
With fifteen cars remaining, the second session was also under threat of impending showers. But the session stayed under pretty similar conditions to the initial period.
Gasly reported engine issues and fearing blowing the engine and risking grid penalties, the Frenchman boxed and was told the car couldn’t be repaired during this session. Not what a driver wants to hear. Pierre Gasly tried to make do with what he had, but the car gave out on him. His previous time was enough to keep him in the top ten by a hair. Albon criticized his team over the radio, saying “I told you not to release me in traffic.” To which the team responded that they would discuss the matter in private. Red Bull, who are known to have a short patience level with young drivers, and the talented youngster Alexander Albon have had a rocky beginning to their relationship. Then again, this years Red Bull entry has suffered from a variety of issues this far into the young go-around.
Daniel Ricciardo, George Russell, Alexander Albon, Esteban Ocon and Nicholas Latifi were eliminated. While both Racing Points continued to put up impressive times, it was Mercedes that headed the pack once more. Red Bull and Ferrari continued to struggle while McLaren looked good.
And then there were ten. Lewis Hamilton could equal one of Schumacher’s records with a hot lap here. Seven poles on a single track. Given the ferocious lap he put down in the wet in Styria, surely the Briton was hoping for the skies to open up.
Hamilton then set a new track record, going a blistering 1:13:663. Showing again why he is the best in the business. Pierre Gasly stayed put in the garage as his ride most certainly underwent emergency surgery. Verstappen seemed to have engine issues too, as his RB16 bellowed smoke out of its side pod. Rain was beginning to increase with two minutes to go in the final qualifying session. Hamilton beat his new track record, putting in a 1:13:447. Bottas second. Followed by Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez in their hot pink Racing Points. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc were next, followed by Max Verstappen, the McLaren’s of Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz – and the inanimate Pierre Gasly.
Should Hamilton claim victory tomorrow, it will be his eighth in Hungary. Equaling Michael Schumacher’s record. Further cementing his legacy in Formula One and knocking off record after record as he goes.
Renault must be fuming at the incredible pace on display from Racing Point, as their initiated investigation into the legality of the aptly dubbed Pink Mercedes continues to be studied.
Tomorrow should be a cracking race.