Words by Tony Robertson (Twitter: @TonyRob84).
Welcome back to Overtime Online’s weekly F1 column Life In The Fast Lane.
This week in the world of Formula 1 we had the Hungarian Grand Prix as round three of the 2020 season rolled into town along with two more confirmed seats for 2021.
We also had a lot of speculation on the future of a couple of other drivers with big changes set to happen in the near future at a certain pink coloured racing team.
Williams confirm 2021 drivers:
Williams Racing have confirmed the team’s drivers for next season with George Russell and Nicholas Latifi set to be retained by the British constructor for the 2021 season.
The retention of George Russell in particular, who has been linked with a seat at Mercedes, is good news for Williams as they have a real prodigy on their hands and his racecraft should prove invaluable in bringing Williams up the table as they continue to improve in the current season.
This news brings the number of seats taken for next season up to half capacity with 10 of the 20 seats now filled following the confirmation of Fernando Alonso to French constructor Renault last week.
Racing Point shake up?
Racing Point seems to be the centre of attention in F1 no matter what way you turn at the moment.
Whether it’s lavishing praise on the teams 2020 car nicknamed the ‘Pink Mercedes’ (much to the anger of Renault but we’ll get to that later) or due to speculation surrounding the future of their drivers and who could take the seats there, there is no escape from the spotlight.
This week started with Renault protesting with the legality of the car, saying it was too closely related to the Mercedes of last year. Ironically the week also ended with the same thing as Renault again questioned the legality of Racing Points car following the Hungarian Grand Prix.Embed from Getty Images
Midweek though saw the future of Sergio Perez cast into doubt despite him being one of the aforementioned 10 drivers to be ‘confirmed’ for 2021, with team owner Lawrence Stroll apparently keen to bring four-time world champion, Sebastian Vettel, on board.
Whether this move materialises is yet uncertain since there is a dilemma to be had with who to replace should Vettel take a seat. Lance Stroll, son of Lawrence Stroll, will naturally be favoured because he is the owner’s son but he has also shown good pace so far this year.
However, Perez can still comfortably claim the number one driver slot at Racing Point, with the Mexican so far outscoring his teammate 22 to 18 from the opening three races.
DRIVER STANDINGS: ROUND 3 🏆@LewisHamilton leapfrogs Valtteri Bottas to go top
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 19, 2020
Furthermore, some will say that Perez should be rewarded for his loyalty with the team when he stuck by them and even paid staff wages when the team went into administration back when it was called Force India.
But Formula One is a merciless sport and a notorious meritocracy. Only time will tell what will happen but in this writers opinion, if Mr Stroll is serious about going far with his team, he should pick the best two drivers available, regardless of emotional attachment.
For a race that typically produces drama in wet conditions, this certainly gave us the 2020 edition of that.
Wet qualifying produced some surprise results considering the results of the past two races. However, a completely different type of track and track condition saw why some cars perform so well at some and so poorly at others.
With their new components now introduced to the car Ferrari finally looked more competitive with Vettel achieving a P5 to keep up a record of a top-five qualifying time at the Hungaroring every year since 2008 and Charles Leclerc getting P6.
That wasn’t to say that a driver from the ‘top three’ would not get out of Q2, as Red Bull’s Alex Albon put in a disappointing qualifying performance to only get him up to P13, below Russell’s Williams in P12. Max Verstappen meanwhile, only managed to get P7 in qualifying.
Talking of Williams, what an improvement from them. Both Williams cars managed to get out of Q3 and into Q2 for the first time since Italy 2018, finishing P12 and P15 respectively. Assuming the 2019 Williams position this race was Alfa Romeo who once again were massively disappointing.
Meanwhile, at the top of the order, the front row of the grid was a Mercedes lockout with Lewis Hamilton P1 and Valtteri Bottas in P2. It says a lot that the nearest other car, that being Strolls Racing Point, was +0.930 away from the pole sitter. Even after that, the second ‘Pink Mercedes’ were nearly three-hundredths quicker than Vettel’s Ferrari.
CLASSIFICATION: END OF Q3 ⏱️
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 18, 2020
Now, normally on race day, things get exciting when the lights go out and we go into turn one.
But, in 2020 the drama starts before the races even has the chance to begin.
In wet conditions, Max Verstappen managed to lose his car due to a front left tyre lock up and send it into the wall on the formation lap of all laps. This resulted in the Dutch driver needing a whole new nose wing for the one that broke off of the car when it hit the wall.
Elsewhere both Haas cars pitted to change to slick tyres and proceeded to progress their way up the order and ultimately managed to get their first point of the season through despite being far slower than many of the cars up the field and despite a 10 second time penalty for radio communications on the formation lap which dropped Kevin Magnussen from P9 to P10.
As the race got underway, Valtteri Bottas had a suspected false start but ultimately got away with it. It only took four laps before the other cars followed suit and switched to drier compound tyres. Vettels consequent pit stop turned into a disaster causing him to lose multiple positions.
A lap later saw more pit lane drama, as an unsafe release from Williams saw Latifi get a puncture for cutting in front of Carlos Sainz who managed to finish P9 thanks to the 10-second penalty Haas received.
An interesting battle between two of F1s twitch streamers saw Lando Norris take on Charles Leclerc on lap 32 with the Italian car driver eventually coming out on top in turn two of lap 33.
It was of course Lewis Hamilton, the pole sitter, who broke more records by winning the eighth Hungarian Grand Prix of his career and third in a row. While Max Verstappen managed to finish second to split another potential Mercedes one-two finish.
This result gives Hamilton the WDC lead and extends Mercedes’ lead at the top of the constructor’s championship, with McLaren being leapfrogged by Red Bull into second.
Now, this could go several ways for me because while Max Verstappen did very well to drag Red Bull to second from P7 especially considering the pre-race shenanigans the car went through. There are also other drivers to consider, including Lance Stroll who put in an impressive display to take P4, Alex Albon who cut his way up through the field to finish a respectable P6, and Kevin Magnussen who won his teams first points of the season.
But I can only give the driver of the day to Verstappen, who has had a disappointing start to the season.
Constructor of the day can only go to Haas who got their strategy spot on and scored their first points of the season.
The driver with the biggest day to forget has to be Latifi, simply because he had a pretty horrid time throughout the race.
You can check out last weeks column here.
See you all again next week.