Latest / Feature

Winners and losers - Hungary

25 Jul 2016

For Sunday’s race victor at the Hungaroring, Lewis Hamilton, it was all about the start - that’s where he stole a march on pole-sitting team mate Nico Rosberg. And that Mercedes reversal was mirrored in the championship standings, with Hamilton now leading for the first time in 2016. But who else left Budapest hungry for more, and who had positively lost their appetite by the time they headed for the airport?


The winners…

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton was not happy to see Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg pip him to pole position, especially as his own super-quick lap had been ruined when Fernando Alonso spun his McLaren at the crescendo of qualifying, and Rosberg had arrived just in time for the Spaniard to have recovered.

But in the race he made a better start, thus negating Rosberg’s arguably fortuitous pole at a stroke, and thereafter controlled the race from start to finish, even if at times it looked as if Rosberg was on the verge of a serious challenge.

There is a school of thought that when Mercedes threatened to pit Rosberg first at one stage when Hamilton was apparently struggling on his first set of soft tyres, it was to stop him deliberately taking it easy in the second sector and trying to back his team mate into the pursuing Daniel Ricciardo.

Whatever the truth of that he ruled the Hungaroring, and his fifth victory there put him one ahead of Michael Schumacher. More importantly, his 48th Grand Prix success put him in the lead of the world championship for the first time this season, and brings him within three of Alain Prost’s career tally.

Daniel Ricciardo

After team mate Max Verstappen’s recent run of successes, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo desperately needed to bounce back and establish his credentials anew.

He went to Hungary believing he had a chance of taking the fight to Mercedes and avenging himself of his defeat in Monaco, but though it didn’t work out quite like that thanks to the awesome pace of the Silver Arrows, he was able to remind everyone of his qualities as a racing driver with that sublime pass of Nico Rosberg round the outside into Turn 1 at the start and so nearly took the lead from Lewis Hamilton too.

The fact that he had to settle for third didn’t make him a loser, but the man who got the best from the Red Bull RB12, and who kept Sebastian Vettel’s arguably faster Ferrari at bay for the entire race.

Welcome back Honey Badger!

Fernando Alonso and McLaren

Fernando Alonso could be forgiven for thinking of the number seven all weekend. He was seventh in FP1, in FP2, and in FP3 and he qualified… seventh. He also finished seventh in the race. Once upon a time that would be disaster for McLaren, but this is a time of renewal and rebirth as they emerge from a troubled run since 2012, and that is a process that takes a long time in F1 these days.

It’s tempting to wonder what the MP4-31 might do with a Mercedes motor in the back, but the facts are that Honda have made a lot of progress since their difficult return last year and are now embarked on a coherent and structured programme that is reaping steady rewards.

“It’s a pity we couldn’t improve this afternoon but still I think we were best of the rest today,” Alonso remarked. “Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari are out of reach at the moment for everyone - they’re on another level - so, in the other mini-championship we’re racing in, we were quite competitive and I feel we delivered the maximum we could today.”

Which is what recovery and rebirth are all about.

Jolyon Palmer

The man who spun away his first world championship point, a winner? It sounds incongruous, doesn’t it, yet Renault’s Jolyon Palmer deserves to be credited thus even if the big reward ultimately escaped him.

So far his rookie season in the ‘big league’ has been little short of a nightmare, marred by a difficult car and an unbelievable number of niggling problems that triggered rumours after only a few races that he could be replaced next year. Unafraid to speak his mind, he has nonetheless endured his troubles stoically, so the turning point in Hungary was merited.

He out-qualified and out-raced highly-regarded team mate Kevin Magnussen, and looked like the real thing as he mixed it with the likes of Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg, also highly rated.

He remained mystified as to the cause of his spin in Turn 4 on the 48th lap.

"I wasn't exactly hanging anything out and hadn't had any big moments, everything was under control, but then I lost the car in Turn 4,” he said. “I don’t have a clue why. I have no idea what happened. I didn't do anything different. I didn't do a different line, I didn't do a different engine speed. I never had oversteer the whole race in that corner, and then I turned in and lost the car completely. I had a massive snap and then I was pointing backwards."

Disappointing, but in the overall context of making an impression and proving himself, he could leave Hungary feeling he’d won a small but important victory in his career progress.

And the losers…

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel was adamant after the race that Ferrari had the speed to be on the podium, and at times he showed that the SF16-H was quick enough to run at the same, sometimes better, pace as the Mercedes and the Red Bulls. But the fact remains that it could not do so for the whole race, and he finished 28.213s adrift of Lewis Hamilton’s winning Mercedes, and behind Daniel Ricciardo’s third-placed Red Bull.

"I think we were a lot faster, but we know as well this is Hungary and we need to be not just a lot faster," he said. "I think we had half a second to a second in hand in the end, but it wasn't enough to get past.”

In the weeks leading up to the race, where team principal Maurizio Arrivabene had indicated that a victory was essential, team president Sergio Marchionne had made a special fact-finding trip to Maranello that sounded very much like a mission to get to the truth about the SF16-H’s true potential.

Not so long ago Ferrari were talking about victory being imminent. Now they seem further from it than ever. And it won’t please Marchionne to hear his lead driver say, even through gritted teeth: “The car was fine today, in terms of pace. But obviously we are not matching Mercedes, they seem to be in a league of their own."

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen’s race was compromised right from the start, when Lewis Hamilton pinched him as he tried to go down the inside of the Mercedes into Turn 1, and was left with nowhere to go. And after chasing fruitlessly after team mate Daniel Ricciardo and telling his Red Bull team “I feel like I’m driving like a grandma!” it was ruined when he came out of the pits after his first tyre stop on the 16th lap and found himself trapped behind Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari, which had started on the soft tyres and thus wasn’t about to pit any time soon. The Dutchman’s chance of a podium finish evaporated with every lap he was trapped behind the red car.

In the end he beat Raikkonen after a fierce and at times too close battle, but fifth place was some way off what the combination of the outstanding sophomore and the RB12 had to offer.

Force India

Force India’s quest to challenge Williams for fourth place overall in the world championship for constructors took a knock in Hungary, after a tough race for both Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez.

The former lost a place at the start which proved costly in terms of having to run behind other cars to the detriment of his tyres, and then made a small mistake in his second pit stop when he kept the clutch turning while his tyres were being change and thus lost a place to Jolyon Palmer. That could have given the final point to Renault, had the Briton not later spun.

Then when Perez was switching from a planned one-stop to a two-stop strategy on the 40th lap, nobody was ready for him when he came into the pits.

If, as they say, sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you, the ursine creature was the one who didn’t go hungry and Hungary. It was scant consolation that Williams only scored two points to Force India’s one, since that really translated into another big missed opportunity.