Rain in the build-up and the field starting on intermediate tyres on a damp-but-drying track meant I expected a bit more from the Hungarian Grand Prix. It was still enjoyable and with plenty of storylines to follow, but I have to admit I was hoping for something a bit like Hungary 2006!
I want to start with two performances that I thought were really great. The first might seem obvious but no, it’s not Lewis Hamilton. It’s the Red Bull mechanics.
Team boss Christian Horner told us after the race that it would normally take 90 minutes to change the trackrod and pullrod on the front left of Max Verstappen’s RB16 in the garage. He crashed on his way to the grid less than 25 minutes before the start of the race, and they did the bulk of the repair work in 12.
Horner might be exaggerating it as a 90-minute job for effect but it’s clear that what the mechanics did on the grid was done in ultra-fast time. In the post-race press conference, which you might not have seen, Max was asked what he was told had been repaired and how he found it on the formation lap to the grid.
“The track rod was broken I think, the pull rod was broken, so not the easiest things to quickly change but they did an amazing job to do that,” he said.
Then a shocked Lewis Hamilton butted in: “They did that in 12 minutes?!”
Verstappen replied: “Yeah, 12 minutes they managed to repair that, which is crazy.
“I was sitting in the car, I could see the mechanics screaming at each other like 10 seconds, five seconds, put the wheel on, everything.
“I don’t know if there was a final piece of tape on the suspension to make sure it was sticking!
“I put my thumbs up and they were like, yeah, yeah, it’s fixed, so I said OK, well then here we go, let’s see.
“I was doing the formation laps, I was checking the wheels, I was like this feels alright, yep and during the race, nothing happened, nothing weird happens so it was fully repaired.
“So yeah, crazy.”
But doing the change is only part of it. It also needs to work! So seeing Verstappen charge from seventh to third by the first corner, and go on to take an unexpected second place finish given how much the team struggled, I have to say I was really pleased for the Red Bull mechanics.
The other performance that jumped out was Kevin Magnussen’s. Strategy put him in a massively unrealistic third place but his Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean showed that track position means nothing if you don’t execute a fast and clean race from then on. Magnussen did that, he was able to hold off Racing Point’s Lance Stroll for a few laps without costing himself time, and when he did have to cede positions to faster cars he did so without fuss. In clear air, he was quick, more than quick enough to deserve a top-10 finish. He was helped by Charles Leclerc holding some cars up in the midfield, but who cares. I really think this was one of Magnussen’s best drives in F1. Haas doesn’t seem to have a terrible car but Ferrari’s bad engine means Haas will struggle to ever make it out of Q1, especially as it’s not upgrading its aerodynamics. Magnussen and Grosjean have to fight with what they got, and what a great job K-Mag did on Sunday.
It’s just a shame it wasn’t rewarded with more. Even ninth place and two points felt like it wasn’t a lot to show for an excellent drive, but to get the time penalty and drop to 10th? That was nonsense.
If you don’t know, the reason both Haas drivers were punished for “driver aids” was because their team messaged them over the radio on the formation lap to box for slick tyres. Basically, the FIA doesn’t permit any messages on the formation lap other than for safety reasons.
I guess a penalty was fair, because if other teams did NOT message their drivers to tell them to pit for slicks because they knew it was against the rules, then Haas gained an unfair advantage.
But I can’t see any logical reason for that rule, or at least for it not to allow drivers and teams to communicate about tyres in changeable conditions. So the penalty is sort of understandable but the rule shouldn’t be there in the first place!
I’ve written about the big teams and their performances a lot over the first couple of races so I thought this time I’d focus on something else. But of course the Mercedes vs Red Bull fight took a disappointing turn last weekend, with Red Bull seriously confused by its car not working properly.
And Ferrari didn’t really make much more progress on a less power-sensitive track, did it? Obviously it was better, especially in qualifying. But it shows there’s much more than a bad engine at fault for its 2020 form.
The British Grand Prix could be painful for both Red Bull and Ferrari if they don’t unlock extra performance quickly.
If you’ve got any questions about what we saw in Hungary, or about the coming races, write it in the comments. And I can answer them in our British GP preview next week!