DE­BRIEF

When it rains, he reigns. A wet-track pole po­si­tion set up Lewis Hamil­ton for this against-form win

F1 Racing (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Re­ports from the Ger­man and Hun­gar­ian GPS

Lewis Hamil­ton’s wet weather prow­ess did it again. For­tune smiled on Mercedes when Q3 rain re­quired ex­treme wet Pirellis and fa­cil­i­tated Lewis’s sixth Bu­dapest pole. Valt­teri Bot­tas se­cured a Mercedes front-row lock­out and pre­sented Fer­rari with a rid­dle which they couldn’t solve on Sun­day. For a sec­ond suc­ces­sive race, Lewis grabbed 25 points that Se­bas­tian Vet­tel had the car to take.

QUAL­I­FY­ING

The ses­sion dis­tilled into a straight Q3 shoot-out on full wets in heavy rain. No sur­prise when Lewis Hamil­ton lapped in 1m35.658s right at the death for his sixth Hun­garor­ing pole, just as Valt­teri Bot­tas (1m35.918s) looked set to nail him for the sec­ond suc­ces­sive year in Bu­dapest.

Kimi Räikkö­nen, mean­time, reck­oned the red cars felt bet­ter in the wet than he could re­mem­ber and had the pace to have taken pole had he not en­coun­tered Ro­main Gros­jean on his last lap. Vet­tel’s face spoke vol­umes as he con­tem­plated P4, 0.03s slower than Kimi and be­hind the two Mercs.

Car­los Sainz, another wet ace, was de­lighted to put his Re­nault fifth. In the dry Re­nault had been frac­tion­ally bested by Haas but with Kevin Mag­nussen and Ro­main Gros­jean only ninth and 10th in the wet, this was a timely per­for­mance from Car­los. Team-mate Nico Hülken­berg was a sur­prise Q2 ca­su­alty: a fuel bowser prob­lem leav­ing him in the pits when he should have been on track.

Toro Rosso were on cloud nine too, as Pierre Gasly qual­i­fied sixth and Bren­don Hart­ley – a first Q3 – lined up eighth.

And the Red Bulls? Alas, the same be­nign tyre us­age that al­lowed Max Ver­stap­pen to do such a quick, long ul­tra­soft run on a scorch­ing Fri­day af­ter­noon, worked against him now and sev­enth was the best Max could do. Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, mean­while had only squeaked through Q1 by a cou­ple of tenths but couldn’t re­peat the feat when rain re­turned for Q2. He missed the favourable con­di­tions and would start only 12th.

RACE

With wets used in qual­i­fy­ing, ev­ery­one had free­dom of start­ing com­pound. Both Mercedes driv­ers and Räikko­nen had opted for ul­tras while Vet­tel’s Fer­rari was on softs: strate­gic vari­a­tion guar­an­teed even within the sin­gle-stop strat­egy pre­dicted to be fastest. Sainz had also gone for softs with the re­main­der of the top 10 on ul­tras.

It was vi­tal for Mercedes to con­vert their front row lock-out if they were to sub­due pre­dicted su­pe­rior Fer­rari race pace and they did that as the lead­ers got through Turn 1 with­out in­ci­dent.

Fur­ther back Charles Le­clerc, start­ing a lowly for him 16th, was pin­cered by the Force In­dias and be­came a first-lap re­tire­ment and a dis­grun­tled Max Ver­stap­pen joined him five laps later as he was told to switch off and pull over.

Up front Hamil­ton made good his es­cape while Bot­tas dropped back to best con­serve his rub­ber and make Vet­tel’s task harder. Hamil­ton was 3.5s ahead af­ter five laps while Gasly ran an ex­cel­lent fifth, ahead of Mag­nussen, Sainz, Hart­ley, Hülken­berg, 37th birth­day boy Fer­nando Alonso’s Mclaren, Gros­jean and the re­cov­er­ing Ric­cia­rdo, who had taken a healthy thump from Mar­cus Eric­s­son’s Sauber at Turn 1 on the open­ing lap.

The first sig­nif­i­cant move came from Fer­rari when they pit­ted Räikkö­nen early on lap 14 from fourth, four sec­onds be­hind Bot­tas. This forced Mercedes to re­spond to pro­tect against the un­der­cut, mean­ing 55 laps on a set of softs to the end if Valt­teri was only go­ing to make the one stop.

When Bot­tas pit­ted, sec­ond-placed Vet­tel was 8.7s be­hind Hamil­ton’s lead­ing Merc but on a clear

“IT WAS VI­TAL FOR MERCEDES TO CON­VERT THEIR FRONT ROW LOCK-OUT IF THEY WERE TO SUB­DUE PRE­DICTED SU­PE­RIOR FER­RARI RACE PACE AND THEY DID THAT AS THE LEAD­ERS GOT THROUGH TURN 1 WITH­OUT IN­CI­DENT

track for the first time. It was on the harder tyre of course and the gap stayed pretty con­sis­tent. Vet­tel would ob­vi­ously run a longer open­ing stint and be on the faster ul­tras at the end.

Mercedes ex­tended Hamil­ton’s open­ing stint for as long as his times were com­pet­i­tive and pit­ted him on lap 25 for fresh softs, He re­joined 13s be­hind Vet­tel with Bot­tas was a fur­ther 8s down and Räikkö­nen another three in ar­rears. Bot­tas wasn’t go­ing as quickly on his fresh softs as Vet­tel was on his start­ing set, which sug­gested there was less degra­da­tion on the softs than might have been ex­pected in the blis­ter­ing heat.

Vet­tel wanted to reach around lap 40 to leave just 30 laps on ul­tras to chase Lewis. On lap 30 he had a fairly com­fort­able pit win­dow over Bot­tas’s third-place Mercedes (23 sec­onds against the nec­es­sary 21), but then he hit traf­fic. The blue flags and back mark­ers were not kind to him and on lap 37 the gap was down to 21.8s. Mar­ginal.

Suc­ces­sive quick laps from Bot­tas meant this was go­ing to be tighter than it should have been and when Vet­tel’s front left did not lo­cate prop­erly and he was sta­tion­ary for 4.2secs, the Fer­rari came out be­hind the No77 Mercedes.

Vet­tel was now 9s be­hind Hamil­ton, who was on the slower softs, with 30 of the 70 laps still to go. Seb needed to ne­go­ti­ate Bot­tas quickly, be­fore the edge went off his ul­tras. He couldn’t.

As Bot­tas’ softs fi­nally started to go away, Vet­tel ac­cel­er­ated along­side out of Turn 1 and chopped across into Turn 2. Bot­tas re­sisted for all his worth but couldn’t get the car stopped and dam­aged his nose against the left rear of the Fer­rari. Räikkö­nen fol­lowed Vet­tel through and Bot­tas was left to try to fend off Ric­cia­rdo’s charg­ing Red Bull. The Aussie fi­nally made it by on the last lap, though Bot­tas had earned him­self a 10s penalty for run­ning into Dan.

Gasly took best-of-the-rest hon­ours af­ter a great race to sixth in the Toro Rosso, while the Mclarens ben­e­fited from a long open­ing stint on softs which jumped them ahead of the Re­naults and Gros­jean. Van­doorne stayed within a cou­ple of sec­onds of his more il­lus­tri­ous team mate, but re­tired 20 laps from the end with no drive. Eighth was Alonso’s birth­day present as Sainz and Gros­jean com­pleted the scor­ers.

Hamil­ton con­verted pole into the lead at the start (above) and never looked back. His cause was helped by Bot­tas de­lay­ing Vet­tel (be­low) af­ter the lat­ter emerged be­hind him fol­low­ing his stop

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