Sunday 25 March 2018 / 02:57 AM


The last round of the Formula season before the one-month summer break took place on Sunday at the tricky Hungaroring in Hungary, with just 1 point separating Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in the drivers championship.

It was Red Bull’s turn to reap the benefits of major upgrades to their cars on a track that was already best suited to them, with plenty of slow corners and shorter fast sections. The upgrades were immediately effective in Free Practice 1 with Daniel Ricciardo setting the pace, almost breaking the track record. The powerful Mercedes car were expected to find the going tougher here, but both were within eight tenths of a second of Ricciardo. Surprising was the performance of both McLarens and the Renaults, with all four vehicles inside the ten fastest times. Antonio Giovinazzi crashed Kevin Magnussen’s Haas sideways into the barriers and shortly after, Jolyon Palmer rode the curbs and lost a heap of body work as well as damaging his car.

Ricciardo continued his stellar Friday form in FP2, again posting the fastest time and looking very happy and comfortable with his cars set up. Both Silver Arrows and both Ferraris along with Ricciardo’s Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen were all within half a second of the Australian’s time. Both McLarens again featured in the top ten times. After the two red flag incidents in FP1, another two happened in FP2, this time Pascal Wehrlein broke late and then his Sauber hit the wall side-on very heavily, wrecking his car. Palmer then almost copied the incident, continuing his run of atrocious luck this year. Hulkenberg’s Renault required a new gearbox which saw him receive a 5 grid place penalty for the race.

FP3 saw Ferrari turn the heat up on their rivals, with Sebastian Vettel running over a second faster than Ricciardo’s times in FP1 and 2. Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari was the only car to get within half a second of Vettel. Both Mercedes cars were better, but it was again Valtteri Bottas who looked to have the better pace over his team mate Lewis Hamilton. Ricciardo suffered a transmission error which ended his session early. Again both McLarens featured in the top 10 times. At the end of the third practice sessions, Williams’ Felipe Massa retired due to an inner ear infection. His seat was taken by reserve driver and Sky Sports commentator Paul di Resta whose last F1 race was with Force India in 2013.

Qualifying saw both Ferrari’s and both Red Bull’s join Lewis Hamilton as the only cars to set a sub 78 second lap while the McLarens and Renaults continued their strong performances through practice. Both Williams drivers, Lance Stroll and di Resta failed to reach Q2. The second qualifying session surprisingly saw both Force India’s fail to reach the top 10, while Hamilton and Vettel both broke the track record, setting the first ever sub 77 second laps. The third session saw Hamilton struggling with car balance and Bottas with track position as Vettel posted a scintillating 1:16.276 to claim pole from Raikkonen, who ensured Ferrari locked out the front row. Mercedes locked out the second row with Bottas finishing third. The Red Bull’s also ran sub 77 second laps and locked out the third row. Despite running seventh, Hulkenberg’s grid penalty meant that McLaren locked out the fourth row on the grid. Daniil Kvyat also copped a grid place penalty for impeding William’s young driver Lance Stroll in Q1.

All cars on the front three rows got away to good starts. Verstappen tried a move on the outside of Bottas while Ricciardo made play down the inside of Hamilton. Verstappen ran wide after running very close to Raikkonen’s rear. This allowed Ricciardo to slip just past and take the clear but outside line around the next turn. Verstappen carried too much pace into the inside line of the corner, locked up and then shunted Ricciardo off the track. Ricciardo suffered race ending damage and retired.

Very little passing took place on a track notoriously known for being hard to overtake on. Romain Grosjean pitted his Haas on lap 19 with a slow tyre leak, but a cross threaded nut forced him to retire and his team were fined for releasing a car in an unsafe condition. Paul di Resta’s fairytale return ended meekly when he had to retire while in last place, but only a few seconds behind Stroll. And Nico Hulkenberg was forced to retire his Renault with just 3 laps remaining.

Verstappen’s incident with Ricciardo saw him receive a 10 second penalty. This forced a change of strategy which saw him as one of the last cars to pit for a tyre change. He had a frustrated Hamilton behind him the entire time, unable to get past the improved Red Bull. Once he pitted, Hamilton than got the clear to pass his team mate Bottas and set after second placed Raikkonen, who was pressing race leader Vettel. Vettel was suffering from a steering adjustment issue but he battled it for near the entire race. Bottas was struggling to keep up with the front three and soon found himself within range of the penalised Verstappen.

Despite Hamilton’s best efforts, he was unable to pass the Ferrari’s but was several seconds ahead of Bottas. In a classy and clever move, he relinquished his place to Bottas on the very last corner while holding off Verstappen. Vettel winning with Raikkonen on his tail. Bottas finished third with Hamilkton fourth and Verstappen a close fifth. The win saw Vettel extend his lead over Hamilton from 1 point to 14.

Final Standings (Top 10)
1 – Vettel (Ferrari)
2 – Raikkonen (Ferrari)
3 – Bottas (Mercedes)
4 – Hamilton (Mercedes)
5 – Verstappen (Red Bull)
6 – Alonso (McLaren)
7 – Sainz (Toro Rosso)
8 – Perez (Force India)
9 – Ocon (Force India)
10 – Vandoorne (McLaren)

Drivers Championship (Top 10)
1 – Vettel – 202
2 – Hamilton – 188
3 – Bottas – 169
4 – Ricciardo – 117
5 – Raikkonen – 116
6 – Verstappen – 67
7 – Perez – 56
8 – Ocon – 45
9 – Sainz – 35
10 – Hulkenberg – 26

Constructors Championship
1 – Mercedes – 357
2 – Ferrari – 318
3 – Red Bull – 184
4 – Force India – 101
5 – Williams – 41
6 – Toro Rosso – 39
7 – Haas – 29
8 – Renault – 26
9 – McLaren – 11
10 – Sauber – 5

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About the author

Andrew Ferguson

A rugby league historian and stats buff – most notably as the brains behind the phenomenal Rugby League Project resource – Melbourne-based Andrew has written extensively for Rugby League Review and the Men of League magazine, and is a valued addition to CBS’s rugby league stable.

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