The Hungarian Grand Prix was one of the most thrilling, unusual and telling races of the season. Looking back, here are 5 key things we learned this weekend at the Hungaroring.
5. Ferrari is back
Ferrari who have truly struggled this season seem to finally be getting a handle on the so far woeful F14T. Alonso put on perhaps his best drive since winning last year’s Spanish Grand Prix and Kimi backed that up with a strong drive from 17th to 6th. Three quarters into the race they were for a moment, the two fastest cars on track. On a grueling, high downforce track like the Hungaroring, that is a sure sign of progress. Clearly something Mattiacci is doing with the team is working, and it couldn’t have come soon enough; Monza is only five weeks away.
4. All good things must end
Force India, the longtime stalwart of them midfield has well and truly punched above their weight this year. The duo of Hulkenberg and Perez have been consistently duking it out with the likes of Ferrari, Williams, even Red Bull at times. Hulkenberg has managed to score points in every race this season, a feat matched only by Alonso, until it all came crashing down at the Hungaroring. A collision between Perez and the Hulk put the German out and then Perez suffered the most dramatic crash of the race, loosing it on the wet astroturf coming out of the final corner, he spun and careened into the inside wall. Force India’s first double retirement and first race out of the points all season.
3. Nico vs. Lewis is only getting better
Most teams would look reasonably happy to finish third and fourth in a grand prix, but neither Hamilton or Rosberg was pleased with the result on Sunday. Hamilton somehow knowing that were it not for his horrendous luck, a step or two higher on the podium would have been his. Rosberg sulking because from pole position he lost out to his team mate that started from pit lane. The German clearly frustrated by Hamilton disobeying team orders and a last lap squeeze that kept Rosberg just behind. Mercedes has since come out and backed Hamilton for not listening to them, and the move Hamilton put on him was identical to one Raikkonen put on Vettel on lap 42, a move no one has criticized. All the hype around such minor things highlights just how tense things are in the Mercedes garage. The problems within may grow to be bigger than the problems without.
2. Ricciardo may be the hero we’ve been waiting for
On lap 26, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo radioed into his team and said, “We can win this” and so the like-able Australian proved. Ricciardo put in another show stopper of a race where he not only once again out shined his 4 time WDC team mate, but out shined the rest of the field as well. As he passed Fernando Alonso for the lead of the race he shouted over the radio, “that’s how you do it ladies!” Ricciardo has clearly won over his team with his effervescent mixture of high enthusiasm and hard edged race craft. He has now beaten the might of Mercedes twice, and with the silly double points final in Abu Dhabi, he may yet have a chance to play the spoiler and steal the title right out from under Mercedes’ silver noses.
1. Mercedes isn’t going to have it all their way anymore
Sunday was the first race this season both Mercedes finished, but didn’t win. Not only did they not win, they didn’t even come second. You can talk about the rain, or the safety car hurting them, but it boils down to the fact that the others are catching up. They are not going to be miles ahead after the summer break and the next three races might be their most vulnerable. Williams has proven itself the class of the field in straight line speed and their low downforce set up may make them the favorites when it comes to Spa and Monza. Red Bull, in the form of Sebastian Vettel has owned the Singapore Grand Prix for the past three years in a row. The street circuits high downforce nature will play into their hands and it may prove the defending champ’s path to redemption. Vettel has far and away been the best driver in the second half of the season the past several years, so expect he and Ricciardo to be there just about every round. The next great threat will be Ferrari. Both Alonso and Raikkonen have made a lot of good noises about Maranello’s progress this weekend and if they can maintain it, they may yet find their way to the top step of the podium. It’s a long way to go to Abu Dhabi.