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Race Watch 10

Formula One:

Hungarian Grand Prix

The third race of the Formula One season sees the first change of venue. With the new circuit challenges, which teams will be happier after Hungary than Austria?

Welcome to Race Watch, a supplementary feature running alongside my blog designed for me to project any opinions that may have arisen from the motorsport events I viewed over the previous weekend.

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After the season-opening double header at Austria, the F1 circus was, for the first time this season, back on the road. With a distance of just 265 miles, the road trip from Spielberg to Budapest is certainly not the most arduous for a Formula One paddock, and the teams would have been glad to be able to ease back into their duties, relatively speaking.

A change of venue therefore meant a change of track layout, bringing with it a whole new set of challenges for the cars. As a result, we are now much more able to judge the overall performance of each team, as opposed to data from purely one layout, which would have undoubtedly favoured some cars over others. So, considering the most interesting part of the Hungarian Grand Prix occurred before the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix, let’s instead look at which teams would have been happy with their pace this weekend, and which ones won’t be.

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Starting with the front of the grid, and it’s safe to say that the 2020 Mercedes is very much in a class of its own. The Hungaroring has historically suited Red Bull due to the circuit characteristics favouring a good chassis and high levels of downforce more so than pure engine power, and yet in qualifying the nearest opponent to the German marque was using its own machinery from last year.

Granted, as we come on to Red Bull themselves, they did have a bit of a shocker on Saturday. It seems increasingly likely that the Bull has a bit of a design flaw with its turn in, as changing the steering lock looks to be causing instability in the rear, hence their habit of spins. Whilst they’re streets clear of the rest of the field in terms of car performance, the distinct gap to the Silver (Black) Arrows puts them in a bit of a limbo situation.

Two teams that would have been happy with their pace showings this weekend will be Racing Point and Ferrari. Personally, my driver of the day was Lance Stroll, as he won the ‘best of the rest’ race at a canter. In race trim, he didn’t put a foot wrong, and quite rightly deserved his fifth place. For Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel’s sixth after a 5-6 in qualifying would probably be considered a pleasing weekend overall, especially in relation to last weekend. Charles Leclerc was a little unlucky with a poor tyre strategy hanging him out to dry a little, but he showed good fight whilst battling with Sainz in particular.

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For McLaren, just the two points from the weekend will be a stark return to reality after an outstanding first two races of the season. A double-Q3 showing once again ratified the underlying pace of the car, however the pitstop melee left the two drivers further down the field on a circuit with few overtaking spots. As mentioned previously, Sainz’s move on Leclerc for (what was at the time) the final points position showed astounding driving skill from the pair, whilst the soon-to-be-trademarked Last Lap Lando struck again, albeit his move on Ocon’s Renault was for an effectively meaningless thirteenth place.

Renault themselves had a fairly unremarkable race. Ricciardo quietly accumulated another points finish, whilst Ocon hasn’t quite yet found the pace of his teammate. A similar story is emerging from the Alpha Tauri team, as Pierre Gasly has comfortably held the performance advantage over Daniil Kvyat, although reliability issues have hindered the Frenchman from gaining the points to back that statement up.

Finally, to the rear of the grid. Seemingly, Haas pulled a strategy masterstroke by pulling their cars into the pits after the formation lap, with the team running both cars in the top five at one point. Naturally they were going to slip down the field, but Magnussen’s ninth on the road was encouraging. The post-race penalty dropped him down the tenth, but it’s still a point for the Dane. Alfa Romeo were understated this weekend. A poor qualifying left both drivers at the back of the grid, and a fairly non-eventful race occurred from there.

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Williams, however, had a stunner of a Saturday. Both cars into Q2, and Russell outqualifying a Red Bull is a fantastic achievement for the Grove outfit. On the flip side, the Williams race pace is not quite so encouraging. Both cars gradually slipped down the field, and Latifi ended up five laps down at the end having gained a puncture from an unsafe pit stop release, and a spin due to getting onto the grass on the entry to the turn 5 hairpin.

With a well-earned week off before everyone heads to Silverstone, the teams will be able to mull over their starts to the season. Who do you think will be best pleased after the first three races, and who do you expect to bring upgrade packages to Silverstone in two weeks? Let me know in the comments below.

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