The reigning world champion team Mercedes once again showed at yesterday’s Hungarian Grand Prix that its 2020 car, the W11 is untouchable in any kind of conditions and on any kind of circuit.
The Formula One field made the short trip from Spielberg to Budapest, home of the Hungarian Grand Prix, the third round of the delayed and curtailed 2020 F1 season. After Mercedes dominated that the start of the championship at the Red Bull Ring, the picture has hardly changed despite the Hungaroring that presents a different set of challenges to the race cars than the Red Bull-owned circuit.
In fact, the Brackley-based outfit extended its competitive advantage around the narrow and twisty Hungaroring, making itself unbeatable and untouchable both on low- and high-fuel load. At the end of the race, Lewis Hamilton had a „free” pit stop advantage ahead of Max Verstappen. Capitalizing on that, the Briton pitted for soft tyres with only four laps to the end to set a new race lap record with a time of 1m16.627.
Pirelli’s Head of car racing Mario Isola stressed that the unpredictability of the weather has added an exciting challenge to the race as teams and drivers were unsure whether the rain will return during the race.
“The overnight rain that persisted into this morning washed away any rubber that had been laid down, so we had a green and slippery track for the start of the race, which was run in quite cool conditions. However, the surface dried quickly, which was pivotal to the strategy. Uncertainty over the weather remained though, which led some drivers to extend their stints, just in case they needed to switch to intermediates again.
„In the end, it stayed dry for the whole race, and so we saw a certain degree of degradation on the front tyres in particular, which is to be expected in these unusual conditions. Most drivers stopped twice but some chose to stop three times, looking for extra performance to pass a rival or claim the championship point for fastest lap,” Isola concluded.
When its comes to the strategies, the picture was rather colourful. Rain before the start of the race influenced all the strategies yesterday, with the grand prix getting underway on a damp track. Everyone went to the grid on the Cinturato green intermediate tyre, apart from the Haas of Kevin Magnussen on the blue full wets.
However, the Haas team changed its mind on the formation lap with asking Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean to pit for dry weather tyres ahead of the race. Thus, they became the only drivers in the entire field not to use the intermediate tyres.
After building up a gap of over 25 seconds over the second-placed Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton made a very late tyre change in order to secure the additional point for the fastest race lap. Valtteri Bottas also visited the pit lane for a fresh set of mediums on lap 49 to try a different strategy in order to overtake Verstappen.
Disregarding these extra pit stops, 16 of the 18 drivers who saw the chequered flag completed the race with a one-stop strategy after the initial damp track phase. The C2 hard and the C3 medium compounds showed great durability in yesterday’s race, albeit the soft tyre suffered severe degradation. The latter phenomenon was expected following Friday’s long runs completed at the end of the first practice session. Therefore, it was surprising to experience that Daniel Kvyat, Charles Leclerc, George Russell and Antonio Giovinazzi opted for Pirelli’s softest compound available at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
AlphaTauri’s Russian driver completed the longest stint on the hard compound, racking up 51 laps, equivalent to 73 per cent of the grand prix distance. Daniel Ricciardo completed the longest stint on the yellow-walled C3 compound after deciding to extend his middle stint due to the threat of a rain shower. Ferrari’s Monégasque driver registered the longest run on the red-walled soft compound by completing 18 laps in total.