Verstappen fastest in tight battle with Mercedes: 2021 Hungarian GP practice round-up
Just 0.167sec separated Verstappen in first and Hamilton in third during FP1 at the Hungaroring
The echoes of the Spa Pirelli tyre controversy resonated at Monza. For a while post-race it looked as if it might even lead to the disqualification of dominant race winner Lewis Hamilton.
There was no problem with the tyres this time around, but Pirelli had come into this weekend under massive scrutiny and in response had drawn a line. That line – concerning minimum pressures and camber angles – moved around a bit from Friday to Saturday but was eventually drawn at 19.5psi rear, 21psi front (up from the usual 18 psi all-round). The FIA said it would enforce the Pirelli recommendations.
But there’s an advantage to be gained by running those pressures lower. There’s more grip and lower degradation. Racing people being what they are, there was an immediate assumption of skulduggery. How might they get around this ruling? Artificially and temporarily increase the pressure by overheating the blankets just before they were checked? That would be one way.
Each team has its own Pirelli engineer and he has to see and OK the data before the tyres go on the car. But what about making an offset in the telemetry so that what read as zero was actually 1 or 2? All these things may or may not have been happening up and down the grid.
The point was that the FIA was naturally suspicious and as such its technical delegate Jo Bauer waited until the five minute board went up, clearing all team personnel from the grid, and then did spot checks on the tyre blanket temperatures and left-rear tyre pressures of both Mercedes and both Ferraris.
The Ferraris were fine, the Mercs were not. The blankets were within the regulation 110degC maximum but Hamilton’s left-rear was found to be under the limit by 0.3psi, Rosberg’s by 1.1. The race got underway as Bauer referred the matter to the stewards and the arguing began immediately after Hamilton passed the chequered flag 25sec ahead of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.
On the surface, it seemed Mercedes was bang to rights. A line had been set and it had gone beneath it with both cars, right? It seemed difficult to see how some sort of penalty or disqualification would not follow.
But inevitably it was less simple than that. There was the question of when the pressures are supposed to be measured. They were above the limit when in the blankets and checked by the Pirelli engineer. Inevitably the temperature and the pressure drop once the blankets are removed but the car remains stationary.
There was essentially no proper regulatory framework for the latest on-the-hoof post-Spa changes concerning the FIA’s enforcement of the tyre company’s recommendations. The stewards eventually agreed and noted that it recommended ‘that the tyre manufacturer and he FIA hold further meetings to provide clear guidance to the teams on measurement protocols’.
Hamilton’s 40th career victory – powered by the potent prototype of Mercedes’ 2016 engine – stood and the late race retirement of team-mate Nico Rosberg after his high-mileage old spec replacement engine blew further strengthens Hamilton’s hold on this championship.
As things currently stand, the 2016 interpretation of the engine development token system reverts back to how it was in 2014 – i.e. they cannot be spent during the season, but only between seasons. Combine that with the fact that the first test comes after the February 28 deadline for engine homologation – and with the fact that if you do not spend all this year’s allocation of tokens actually during the season, then you’ve lost them, and to Mercedes HPP it suddenly made a lot of sense to introduce the prototype of the 2016 engine in the 2015 season.
Monza, the toughest track the engines see all year, almost suggested itself once this course of action was decided upon. So it was that the W06s of Hamilton and Rosberg arrived here with a very significant upgrade that used up the remaining seven of Merc’s 2015 tokens (three for a combustion change, four for various enabling changes to support that).
The end of straight speeds they showed on Friday morning – and GPS data tracked by other teams – suggested it is a lot more potent than what was already F1’s strongest power unit. It was run in aggressive trim in this session in order to maximise the useful data, with HPP boss Andy Cowell admitting that the organisation’s CPUs back at the factory were running flat-out, “looking for any issues to check that we aren’t doing something foolhardy.” Thereafter, the units were turned down somewhat, but the whole project speaks of the hawkish attitude of Mercedes in refusing to relax into a comfort zone.
The trigger for the main combustion development – rumoured to be worth as much as 40bhp more – has been advances made by Petronas in its fuel composition. The fuel technology has taken the combustion development in a very fruitful new direction to do with extending the duration of the flame so as to give greater resistance to detonation. “Lots of small evolutionary steps that together make a significant step,” Cowell allowed. “It all comes together beautifully.”
It’s the sort of risk that can be taken more easily when you’re already dominating the world championship. That risk was underlined during Saturday morning practice when the telemetry flagged up a water leak in Rosberg’s engine (from a 2014-spec part), that contaminated the one of only two units so far built. There would be no alternative but to change it – and for a previous-spec unit that had already done five races.
There’d be no time either to re-optimise the downforce settings to the newly reduced power levels. At that moment, Hamilton’s pole position was effectively secured. Worse than that for Rosberg, Ferrari’s own three-token upgrade – believed to be worth around 20bhp and following on from very similar sort of development from Shell to that of Petronas – had given the red cars enough extra grunt to be able to challenge him.
Kimi Räikkönen for once put a flawless qualifying lap together to put himself on the front row for the first time since China 2013, with Vettel half a tenth slower after a small error at Lesmo 1, but still quick enough to edge out Rosberg by half a tenth. In the context of the Mercedes era we are in, this was a fantastic outcome for Ferrari on home soil.
Even Hamilton’s first Q3 lap would have been good for pole, which he eventually took by the margin of two-and-a-half tenths, but giving the impression he could have gone significantly quicker. “My Spa pole lap was definitely better,” he allowed. This was also in the context of a power unit being run less aggressively than it might have been too… Rosberg felt that the quality of his lap wasn’t too bad, but the mileage on his engine did cost a few horsepower, particularly vital at Monza.
The main challenge for Ferrari through the practices was achieving effective braking in this low downforce Monza trim. On Friday both fronts and rears were locking, giving the drivers no way of eradicating it with brake balance. For Saturday morning, an asymmetric cooling solution with bigger ducts on the right than left, apparently cured the problem – and into Q3 with an aggressive new qualifying mode for the new-spec motor, the Ferraris were old-spec Mercedes-fast and distanced themselves from the hitherto challenging Williams-Mercs.
Felipe Massa was the quicker of the FW37s, a couple of tenths adrift of the Ferraris, helped by a distant tow from team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who was in turn a couple of tenths back and one place behind, having tried in turn to get a tow from Räikkönen. A lot of time had been spent at Williams researching the ideal distance for a Monza tow – far enough away that you don’t lose more in the corners through turbulence than you gain down the straights from the reduced drag.
It was found to be a much bigger gap than previously assumed – at around five seconds. Interestingly, this is greater than the distance Massa was behind Fernando Alonso here in 2006 when Alonso was infamously penalised for having compromised Massa’s lap. Back then Symonds and Massa were on different sides – and here Pat graciously accepted that yes, Felipe must indeed have had his lap compromised back then after all and apologised.
The remaining Q3 qualifiers comprised the two Force Indias, Romain Grosjean’s Lotus and Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber. Grosjean slotted between the Force Indias of Pérez and Hülkenberg in eighth. Ericsson was half a second faster than 12th quickest team-mate Felipe Nasr in Q2, but would be taking a three-place penalty for having impeded Hülkenberg in Q1.
Hulk didn’t get to complete a Q3 lap on new tyres as his car stopped in the pitlane with a fuel system problem after he’d completed a used tyre run, which was 0.7sec adrift of the time Pérez would go on to record on his fresh tyres. Grosjean, having as usual handed his car over to Jolyon Palmer in P1, out-paced Maldonado for the 11th time, with Pastor just failing to make the Q3 cut, over a second slower in Q2.
Red Bull and Toro Rosso between them took a bewildering number of penalties for double engine changes plus – in the cases of Ricciardo and Verstappen – failures of new engines. Verstappen didn’t record a lap at all, his Toro Rosso in the garage having its broken engine changed until a few seconds before the end of Q1. In the rush to complete this task the engine seal was broken without FIA supervision – thereby earning a further 10-place penalty!
And that wasn’t even the end of it for poor Max: as he went out to at least record a sector time – to ensure he wasn’t obliged to start from the pitlane – the car’s upper bodywork came adrift and deposited itself on the track for which he would be penalised with a drive-through to be taken in the first three laps of the race.
Knowing that this was going to be the most difficult track for the down-on-power Renault engines and that Singapore will offer good opportunities, the decision to use sixth and seventh engines virtually guaranteed Red Bull and Toro Rosso would be starting at the back – even before the additional failures. Carlos Sainz was actually fastest of the group, 13th in his Toro Rosso, one place ahead of Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull. Daniel Ricciardo didn’t bother to complete a Q2 lap, loaded up as he was with so many penalties.
Even with all this help, the McLarens were unable to capitalise – though they too were taking theoretical 10-place grid drops for new engines. Monza’s straights are far too long to allow the Honda to deploy ers boost all the way down, so they would accelerate normally until part-way down them then be reduced suddenly to internal combustion engine only.
Jenson Button out-qualified Fernando Alonso for 16th place, a bare 1.5sec faster than the Manors of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi. The penalties of the Red Bulls, Toro Rossos and McLarens put the Manors 13th and 14th on the grid – followed by Button, Alonso, Sainz, Kvyat, Ricciardo and Verstappen. All clear?
A beautiful Monza late summer day, the Alps clear and sharp in the distance, a verdant canopy shrouding the track, stands packed with colour and noise. The cars sit in their grid positions, sunlight glinting off their liveries. Engines are started, tyre blankets and other automotive life support systems are removed, cars lowered off their jacks, the personnel cleared from the grid as a horn and a board signal five minutes to go.
Then a slightly different routine from normal: FIA officials with measuring equipment test the temperature of the tyre blankets removed from the cars of Mercedes and Ferrari – and the tyre pressures of those same cars. What they find on the left rears of the silver cars does not correspond to the Pirelli ruling on pressures. Rosberg’s is measured at 1.1psi below the 19.5psi limit, Hamilton’s at 0.3psi below. Too late to change it now.
This was, of course, all a continuation of events at Spa. The tyre shoulders are the main safety concern around here and the increased pressures and reduced camber imposed by Pirelli was to protect those shoulders, shifting the load further to the centre of the tread. This was extra important given that one-stopping is the fastest way to run 53 laps of Monza – because the performance degradation is minimal and the pitlane loss big at around 25sec – and also because long before Spa Pirelli had chosen the soft/medium combination for Monza rather than last year’s more conservative medium/hard.
The soft tyre was something in excess of a second per lap faster than the medium and with a projected wear life limit (of the fronts) of 25 laps. Only after around 22 laps would it become slower than a new medium – the projected life of which was around 30 laps (limited eventually by heat degradation of the rears).
In other words, the fastest way to run this race was to squeeze as many laps out of the soft as possible. Sixteen of the 20 cars on the grid started on it, the exception being Alonso’s McLaren, Sainz’s Toro Rosso and the two Red Bulls – all of which were in penalised grid positions and so would have their opening stints compromised anyway.
While FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer decided what to do about his findings, a race was getting underway. The red gantry lights went out, Hamilton made a clean start, Räikkönen alongside remained stationary for an age – and the tifosi let out a collective groan. The rest of the pack darted this way and that in avoidance of the stationary Ferrari. Vettel was unaffected and got a good enough start to be partly alongside Hamilton as they approached the chicane.
Seb briefly considered contesting the lead with Hamilton at this point, but… “I was a bit deeper on the brakes but yeah – I mean I had to give way, he’s on the inside, the first corner goes to the right. It’s a tricky one. We’ve seen across the various years you can get it wrong so I was quite happy, tried to focus on the exit. He got a magnificent exit so I couldn’t really get a run on him. I was trying – but I couldn’t get a run on him into the second [Roggia] chicane.”
Rosberg, starting directly behind Räikkönen, had to steer particularly hard right in avoidance, this losing him momentum – and places to Massa, Bottas and the fast-starting Pérez. Just behind them, Grosjean made a very quick start, but with the traffic beginning to concertina into the first chicane had to back off.
Ericsson – who had already made an aggressive move between Maldonado and the pitwall off the start – tried to dive down Grosjean’s inside. But it was an unfeasible move and the Lotus’ right-rear connected with Ericsson’s left-front, flicking Grosjean across into Nasr and puncturing the Brazilian’s right rear tyre. The incident also damaged Grosjean’s rear suspension. Ironically, the car of Ericsson – the villain of the piece – was undamaged.
Not far behind, Maldonado was trying to go around Hülkenberg’s outside but was forced across the escape apron instead, then whacking the Lotus over the kerbs hard enough that it had to be retired with a broken floor. Sainz followed Maldonado across the apron, but was adjudged to have made up places by doing so, for which he’d get a 5sec penalty – to be taken when he stopped. Grosjean got out of there in eighth and was able to repass Nasr as they sped through Curva Grande, the Sauber already limping from that slow puncture. Ericsson had been badly baulked as Maldonado had his adventure and was in 10th, behind Hülkenberg.
Räikkönen meanwhile was just one from the back. What had gone wrong? “It went into anti-stall at the first clutch. There was a problem with the second clutch which wasn’t in the right place. I did everything the same as I normally did.” So was it a Kimi problem or a car problem? Maurizio Arrivabene: “We can see he was messing a bit with the fingers to follow the procedure but we don’t know yet…”
The pack accelerated out of that chicane, 190mph by the middle of Curva Grande and still accelerating, around 210mph beneath the trees as they hit the brakes for the left-right of the Roggia chicane. Grosjean pulled off here on the second lap, the rear suspension collapsing from the earlier Ericsson hit. Two laps in and Lotus’s Italian GP was over.
1. L Hamilton Mercedes 1hr 18min 0.688sec
2. S Vettel Ferrari +25.042sec
3. F Massa Williams +47.635sec
4. V Bottas Williams +47.996sec
5. K Räikkönen Ferrari +68.860s
6. S Pérez Force India +72.783sec
7. N Hülkenberg Force India +1 lap
8. D Ricciardo Red Bull +1 lap
9. M Ericsson Sauber +1 lap
10. D Kvyat Red Bull +1 lap
11. C Sainz Toro Rosso +1 lap
12. M Verstappen Toro Rosso +1 lap
13. F Nasr Sauber +1 lap
14. J Button McLaren +1 lap
15. W Stevens Marussia +2 laps
16. R Merhi Marussia +2 laps
DNF N Rosberg Mercedes
DNF F Alonso McLaren
DNF R Grosjean Lotus
DNF P Maldonado Lotus
Through the fifth gear Lesmo 1, accelerating to the fourth gear Lesmo 2 and onwards down the dipping straight beneath the old banking before braking hard for the long, looping Ascari with its tight entry but reducing radius, over the exit kerb already in sixth gear and accelerating hard towards Parabolica, 220mph in eighth before a brief brake and down three gears, back up to eighth again as they exit, Hamilton already 2sec clear of Vettel at the end of lap two as DRS was enabled, Seb in turn unchallenged by Massa, with Bottas, Pérez, Rosberg, Hülkenberg, Ericsson, Button, Sainz, Alonso, Ricciardo (who had made an absolute flyer from the back row), Räikkönen, Stevens, Kvyat and Merhi.
Verstappen had taken his drive-through, Nasr with his puncture had stopped for new tyres. Button’s opening few corners had been particularly opportunistic though with his lack of power he’d soon be a sitting duck to be repassed. The rest of his afternoon would be spent trying to pull out enough of a gap on his soft tyres over the medium-tyred Alonso that he could remain in front when they each swapped compounds at their stops.
Vettel still held out vague hope of being in contention for the first couple of laps – but then Hamilton began to settle into a groove that was simply out of Ferrari’s reach. “It was really just chipping away,” said Lewis, “trying to look after the tyres whilst increasing the gap behind. I was generally able to control it.”
Rosberg was able to slipstream by Pérez into the first chicane at the beginning of the second lap to go fifth, Sergio retaliating through Curva Grande but the Mercedes grinding back ahead up to Roggia, with Bottas’s Williams next in his targets. Räikkönen picked off Ricciardo as they accelerated out of Ascari on the third lap, the pair of them having effortlessly streamed by Alonso the lap before.
Kimi took to the Roggia escape road on the fifth lap in trying to pass Sainz, but did him properly with the aid of DRS into the first chicane next time. Later that lap he went down Button’s inside into Ascari. Now ninth, he was recovering well but already 20sec back from where he would have been. Next on his radar, seven seconds up the road was Ericsson, really going well in the Sauber and putting Hülkenberg under a lot of pressure.
Hulk was grinding through his tyres much more quickly than team-mate Pérez, who continued to pull away from him but was having a lonely time of it, well behind Rosberg who was soon all over the Williams pair, though unable to find a way by.
This presented something of a conundrum for Williams. Massa and Bottas were close enough together that Rosberg could potentially undercut them both in one move, but as ever Williams was nervous that its higher tyre degradation would make it unfeasible to pit early to defend the undercut. Rosberg duly came in the 18th lap – about as early as you could reasonably do while remaining on the faster one-stop strategy – and was fitted with his fresh medium tyres in 3.2sec.
Given that he’d pitted from right on Bottas’s tail, Valtteri was effectively already jumped. The question was whether Massa could be pitted the next lap and still get out ahead of the Mercedes. It was going to be close and had Williams managed a sub-3sec pitstop it would have worked. But, not for the first time this season, the FW37’s wheel nuts took too long to undo.
Previously it’s been the rear wheels, but this time it was all four – and it would be repeated at Bottas’s stop. Massa was stationary for 3.7sec and by the time he got out, Rosberg had flashed by. There is an as yet undiagnosed technical reason why the Williams wheelnuts are proving so stubbornly reluctant to be un-torqued.
Bottas stayed out for a more ideally-spaced stint split, coming in on lap 22. Although he exited now further behind Massa, on tyres three laps newer he was set to be able to come back strong at him before the end of the race.
Pérez’s crew was monitoring whether he could open up enough of a gap to pit without falling behind Ricciardo, who they knew would be running relatively slowly for a long time on his prime tyres. But Sergio couldn’t quite stretch it out to that vital 25sec. He came in on the 23rd lap and the Force India boys got him turned around in a superb 2.6sec – but it wasn’t enough. He exited on the Red Bull’s tail.
Mercedes used Rosberg’s pace on his prime tyres to judge when to bring Hamilton in. Initially, Lewis was quicker on his old softs than was Nico on his fresh mediums. “Just stay out as long as the tyres hold out,” Pete Bonnington advised his driver, by now over 15sec clear of Vettel’s chasing Ferrari.
1 Lewis Hamilton 252
2 Nico Rosberg 199
3 Sebastian Vettel 178
4 Felipe Massa 97
5 Kimi Räikkönen 92
6 Valtteri Bottas 91
7 Daniil Kvyat 58
8 Daniel Ricciardo 55
9 Romain Grosjean 38
10 Sergio Pérez 33
11 Nico Hülkenberg 30
12 Max Verstappen 26
13 Felipe Nasr 16
14 Pastor Maldonado 12
15 Fernando Alonso 11
16 Carlos Sainz 9
17 Marcus Ericsson 9
18 Jenson Button 6
19 Roberto Mehri 0
20 Will Stevens 0
On the 25th lap Rosberg’s tyres suddenly came alive and he set the fastest lap of the race so far. This was also the lap on which Ferrari pitted Vettel – and so Hamilton was brought in next time around and rejoined without losing the lead. This was all looking like Hamilton’s most comfortable win of the season to date. His lead on Vettel was over 18sec and Seb was now being tracked down quickly by Rosberg. “Well, I saw Lewis just disappear from me in the first few laps and it was pretty incredible to see,” related Seb, “so I assumed that Nico was going to have the same pace and it wasn’t that big a surprise when I saw he was catching me.”
Meanwhile Räikkönen’s recovery continued and as Ferrari ran him long in the first stint he was temporarily ahead of Rosberg, who passed the Ferrari using DRS down to turn one on what was Kimi’s in-lap. Coming into the pitlane Räikkönen appeared to mistake an earlier timing line for the pitlane speed limit line and as he braked there it rather caught the following Merhi by surprise, the Manor locked up and slewing sideways as Roberto desperately tried to keep himself from collecting the Ferrari. Disaster was only narrowly averted and the Manor team would thankfully not need to leave the track wearing disguises.
Kimi rejoined tenth, just behind Ericsson, who was still pressing Hülkenberg hard. The Hulk was not at all happy with his car, with no traction or rear end grip. He was convinced something was wrong with it and for a time it even looked like he might be forced into an extra stop. But it remained quick at the end of the straights and this was keeping him ahead of Ericsson. He’d pitted early – on lap 18 – to defend Sauber from trying to undercut him, ensuring he’d be a long time on his second set of tyres.
A few seconds up the road and pulling away, team-mate Pérez was having no such problems, but was continuing to lose time behind the long-running Ricciardo. The Force India may have been much faster at the end of the straights but even on its old, harder compound rubber the Red Bull was going through Parabolica at a different rate and so was much quicker onto that straight.
Pérez finally squeezed ahead on the 29th lap with the aid of DRS down into turn one, Daniel stopping for his soft tyres a lap later and getting back out 15sec down on Ericsson, who had just been passed by Räikkönen for eighth. It then took Kimi only a couple of laps before he was past the troubled Hülkenberg too and chasing down Pérez.
Kvyat was having a quiet race but keeping pace with team-mate Ricciardo who remained always a few seconds up the road, but the Red Bulls had distanced themselves from their Toro Rosso cousins. Sainz was trying to overcome having been forced to stop as early as lap 10 to ditch damaged tyres and the 5sec penalty he served then. Verstappen was recovering from his drive-through and after pitting was running behind the earlier-delayed Nasr but closing him down and would put a great move on him around the outside of turn one.
A long way back even from there, the in-team McLaren race was developing nicely. On his softer tyres Button had pulled out 9sec on Alonso by the time he finished his first stint and had his primes fitted. As Alonso rejoined from his stop three laps later the tables were turned and he was quickly closing down that deficit. Button knew what was coming and was looking forward to the battle because, “Although it was easy for other cars to pass us it wasn’t going to be easy for us to pass each other.”
Up front Hamilton was totally in command, every now and then radioing in just to keep in touch. “Are my brakes OK?” he’d ask. Or “Is this pace OK?” and invariably the answer was positive. It was as if he was looking for anything that might give him something else to do to fill in the time! He was maintaining the gap over Vettel at around 20 seconds.
Rosberg had steadied his challenge on the Ferrari for the time being as he gave his overworked brakes a rest and at the same time tried to ease the strain on his high-mileage engine. The plan was to launch a late attack on the Ferrari and after a phase of maintaining station a few seconds behind, he upped his pace by around half a second from lap 35 onwards. Vettel tried to respond, but the Mercedes closed in relentlessly and within 10 laps was big in Seb’s mirrors.
Back from there Räikkönen closed down relentlessly on Pérez, black brake dust from the Force India’s wheels signalling how he was beginning to struggle. Still further back, Alonso was now right with Button. Fernando had just got to within DRS range of Jenson when his car suddenly lost power. He pitted, but before he’d stopped a switch change brought it back to life so he rejoined – but was back in within a lap to retire. The problem was with the electrical control board.
Rosberg had just been cleared to use a higher engine mode to launch his final attack on Vettel when it finally cried enough. “I’d felt it lose power a couple of corners earlier,” reported Nico after pulling off at the second chicane with flames licking around the back of the car. The crowd roared its approval. A few seconds later it roared again, as Räikkönen nailed a move on Pérez down into turn one, now up to fifth place – but too far back from the Williams pair to progress any further. Now Bottas’s later stop over Massa began to pay him back, closing up as Felipe began losing rear grip.
At just around this time Hamilton’s serene day was suddenly under jeopardy. Very concerned faces in the Mercedes garage signalled some sort of emergency and Lewis was given instructions to lap flat-out, that he needed to extend his gap as far as possible over Vettel. On querying why, he was requested not to ask questions.
1 Mercedes 451
2 Ferrari 270
3 Williams 188
4 Red Bull 113
5 Force India 63
6 Lotus 50
7 Toro Rosso 35
8 Sauber 25
9 McLaren 17
10 Marussia 0
He duly upped his pace by half a second or more. But you can only drive flat-out for a few laps on this generation of tyre and before long the pace was falling off by a few tenths. It was still faster than Vettel but, as he reported: “I haven’t got anything more. Is this enough?” The team had finally received notification about the tyre pressures and that the matter had been reported to the stewards. Extending the gap to Vettel might have allowed Hamilton not to lose position if a time penalty was applied. Ferrari was totally unaware of this drama, otherwise it could have urged Vettel to respond.
Going into the final lap the gap was 24.1sec. Might a 25sec penalty be applied? Hamilton continued to push hard and crossed the line 25.042sec before the Ferrari. Massa continued to hold off a late Bottas attack for third. Räikkönen, Pérez and Hülkenberg were next, while Ricciardo took advantage of Ericsson having got off line when being lapped to dive down the Sauber’s inside into Parabolica for the final time, stealing eighth position in the dying seconds – a great result under the circumstances after a tenacious drive. Kyvat took the final point.
“That was the best race day balance I’ve ever had with this car,” enthused Hamilton, though he carried the worry now that he’d been informed of the tyre pressure situation. “It was just perfect.” Vettel accepted that the Ferrari, good as it was, wasn’t in the same race. “I got updated by radio that the lap times kept dropping so I guess we were struggling more with the tyres than Lewis was because he was able to do the same lap time on lap 22 as he did on lap four, which is quite impressive.”
As the top three stood on the theatrical Monza podium high above the tifosi spilling onto the track, it seemed impossible to imagine F1 ever forsaking the place, yet with the race’s long term future apparently still under threat from F1’s greedy owners, Vettel metaphorically stepped forwards: “This place is incredible. If we take this away from the calendar for any shitty money reasons I think you are basically ripping our hearts out.”
Amen to that.
Just 0.167sec separated Verstappen in first and Hamilton in third during FP1 at the Hungaroring
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