With three laps until the end I think I had the same thoughts as everyone else: “He’s not going to let him back through is he?”
Of course I’m referring to Lewis Hamilton’s amicable swap of positions with team mate Valtteri Bottas at the end of the Hungarian Grand Prix. Mercedes initially gave Hamilton five laps to pass Kimi Raikkonen and challenge for the lead of the race, but with the aerodynamic wake of the cars preventing Hamilton or even Raikkonen from overtaking Sebastian Vettel, it turned into a pressure exercise as the trio negotiated traffic.
Even Hamilton himself had to concede that it would take some sort of issue or mistake from Raikkonen in order for him to overtake, moments before he himself threw away his closest gap yet with a mistake at the Turn 6 right hander. Some might say that Hamilton lacked the ruthlessness at the end of that race required for a champion, but with three titles already was it worth risking the trust within the team for the sake of three points?
Lets not forget Bottas is challenging for the title and given the way Hamilton has been talking about the team in recent weeks when questioned about his future, it seems apt that he is wanting to depart away from the awkward years he experienced with Nico Rosberg as his team mate.
It was impressive to see Vettel handle his steering issues and match Hamilton’s pace without leaning on the car too much, a feat I’m pretty sure he would’ve struggled with three years ago at Red Bull.
Vettel’s driving style has changed. Although there is still and air of recklessness – constant reminder of blue flags and driving into Hamilton at Baku – he seems to have adopted a conservative driving style that allows him to manage the pace, somewhat akin to when he mastered how to drive the blown diffusers.
He wasn’t the fastest man all weekend, afraid that has to go to Daniel Ricciardo, but Ferrari knew that he could get the job done without any intervention from Raikkonen. Instead they did their usual and employed their Barichello tactics of yesteryear, something Raikkonen was pretty savvy towards when he radioed in “You’ve put me under massive pressure from Mercedes for no reason” after the pit stops.
Ferrari are expected to retain their current driver lineup for 2018, but with Raikkonen a clear number two you wonder if he wants to play such a role and damage his legacy in the sport – remember he hasn’t won a race since 2013.
It was a case of what could have been for Red Bull as they entered the weekend in high spirits of a potential win on merit, after showing what they are capable of on Friday. It was a shame Max Verstappen committed the cardinal sin of running into the side of your team mate, Daniel Ricciardo was probably about as angry as we last saw him in Monaco last year with that move. An in-race penalty spoiled any hope of Verstappen from getting in on the lead battle as the landscape changed, but post-race at least he had the decency of holding his hands up and acknowledging his error.
You can tell some behind the scenes work has been going on at Red Bull to calm Verstappen down and make him think about things more methodically. The contrast in attitudes between him and Ricciardo are palpable; when he retired in Baku Verstappen went straight to his hotel rather than speaking to the media, whereas Ricciardo wasted no time in telling the awaiting press exactly what he thought of his driving on Sunday. You could of course understand Verstappen’s frustration with yet another DNF, but Fernando Alonso coped with it about as much as he did and managed to turn the whole thing into an internet meme in the process.
As much as I hate seeing Alonso’s talent on-track being hampered by McHonda, at least he is making light of the situation. It’s very easy for a driver amid troubling team performance to go on the missing list (even though Stoffel Vandoorne got a point, he hasn’t been the centre of attention), so to see him revelling in off-track antics is pretty refreshing. Who would’ve thought Alonso would be F1’s pantomime jester?
Speaking of pantomime, it all got a bit heated between Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg on Sunday. In the post-race interviews Hulkenberg came up to Magnussen while he was speaking to Swedish TV and congratulated him on being “the most unsporting driver again” to which Magnussen replied with “suck my balls, mate!”
It’s not often the world of South Park and F1 collide, but it was a rather hilarious exchange. The way I see it Magnussen deserved his penalty for running Hulkenberg out of road, it cost the Renault driver a place to Daniil Kvyat and eventually led to damage that forced him to retire. Hulkenberg had a good outing at Silverstone two weeks ago and apart from his crash in Baku, he has been carrying Renault while Jolyon Palmer crashed out of both Practice sessions on Friday and continues to not score points.
Final words of the weekend go to Paul Di Resta who had to act as Felipe Massa’s stunt double on pretty short notice this weekend. It was all rather bizarre as he was also standing in for Martin Brundle at Sky TV after he fell ill moments before the British Grand Prix, so to see him called up in a rare moment where the reserve role is needed on the same weekend was quite different.
I thought he did a good job considering he only did 18 minutes in the car for the first time on Saturday, and his pace was matching those around him. Just a shame he had to retire with whatever technical issue his FW40 encountered, but the team seemed pretty impressed and were keen on him learning how to handle the wider Pirelli tyres.
The world of F1 will be taking a break for the next three weeks now, no doubt in similar fashion to Alonso and his deckchair. With all the storylines from this race it will be interesting to see what happens in Spa at the end of August.