Formula 1 and the Gullivers customers headed to Hungary for the 12th round of the championship, and the last before the mid-season break. Who would go into the break at the head of the championship, Hamilton or Vettel?
Friday, everyone settled into one of the 3 centrally located hotels in Budapest. The Roombach on the edge of the historic Jewish quarter of Pest (Erzsébetváros VII), and the Intercontinental and Starlight Suiten Hotel within the historic old town (Belváros V), all 3 hotels within a 15-minute walk of each other.
Everyone headed to the Intercontinental hotel on Friday evening for the drinks reception on the outdoor terrace overlooking the Danube, with the iconic Chain Bridge and Buda Castle as the background. All dispersing later in the evening to find dinner at one of the many restaurants in the area.
Qualifying day, Saturday. We left the hotels in the sunshine to head to the Hungaroring, in the knowledge from the previous day that it looked like it was going to be a Ferrari and Red Bull day. But the unpredictability of the season continued, minutes before qualifying started the rain arrived to liven up proceedings, a light shower stopping just as Q1 started. No more rain fell during Q1, and with a drying track, Vettel led the way. Q2 started in pretty much the same conditions, everyone started the session on the Ultrasoft, apart from Vettel who with an inspired decision to run on Inters led the way in Q2 as the heavens opened and conditions worsened. By the time Q3 came it was full wet conditions, Raikkonen led the way for most of the session, but then in the dying seconds he was pipped first by Bottas, and then by Hamilton taking his 77th career pole. Setting the way for a very interesting Sunday! We had 2 transfers back to Budapest after qualifying so that those who wanted a longer in evening in Budapest could enjoy the sights, and those that wanted to see the F2 and GP3 races could stay and enjoy the races.
The forecast for Sunday was a dry day, with Vettel and the Ferrari looking good in all the dry sessions over the weekend, it looked like it was going to be a hard day for Hamilton and Mercedes. We arrived within plenty of time for the start of the day's programme, the second GP3 race.
As the start of the Grand Prix approached, the temperature increased to 33 degrees. If Ferrari could get past the Mercedes at the start it would be over. But both Mercedes got a great getaway, followed by the two Ferrari’s with Vettel passing Raikkonen for third at Turn 2. The only way Ferrari were going to win was with different strategy, Raikkonen was the first to stop on Lap 15, but was quickly covered by Bottas on the next lap. Hamilton pitted on lap 26, Ferrari opted to leave Vettel out till lap 40 with a short final stint on fresher rubber. But it didn’t work, he got caught in traffic and exited the pits behind Bottas. Vettel was unable to get past until lap 65 when the pair clashed, with Raikkonen following Vettel past. Now with a slower, damaged car Bottas fell into the clutches of Riccciardo, as he made his move Bottas locked up damaging the Red Bull sending it into the run-off, but under instruction from Mercedes Bottas let the Red Bull through. Hamilton claimed his sixth victory in Hungary, followed by Vettel and Raikkonen.
Following the race, we all boarded the coach to head back into Budapest for our last evening before heading home on Monday.
Hamilton heads into the mid-season break with a 24-point lead, only 2 races ago after Silverstone he had an 8-point deficit…... A daunting break for Vettel, a positive break for Hamilton….
- Adrian Newman