Formation flying for Ferrari

2017-08-02 06:02

THE Hungaroring was always a circuit slated to suit the characteristics of the 2017 Ferrari and the Italian team drove home their advantage with a controlled one-two victory.

As in Saturday qualifying, the Ferrari driver pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were line astern in first and second at lights out.

As the pair cleanly led at lights out, the Mercedes duo, Bottas and Hamilton, had their hands full of fast starting Red Bulls. However, while the initial start went relatively well, Max Verstappen clouted the side of his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, in a clash that would ultimately come with a hefty price.

The coming together put Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen incurred a 10-second stop/go penalty for his part in the incident.

While Verstappen’s move was rather silly there was clearly no intention on his part, which made the penalty somewhat harsh.

Initially, the pace set by Vettel and Raikkonen was much too quick for Bottas to live with who quickly fell seven seconds behind in the opening stint. Vettel too seemed to have the measure of Raikkonen in the opening laps, but as the race drew towards its pitstop phase, the Finn was clearly the quickest of the two Ferrari’s and easily maintained a second gap to his race-leading teammate.

Despite the track temperature soaring in the mid-50 degree range and fears of increased tyre degradation, the Pirelli compounds held up well, perhaps a bit too well. It’s no secret that Pirelli’s approach to the manufacture and construction of their 2017 tyres has been conservative. It is this conservatism that has led to drivers being able to make one stop per race.

It is likely that Pirelli’s conservative approach stems from an apprehension that the quicker, and heavier, 2017 cars needed more robust tyre construction. Here’s hoping that with all the data gathered this season that 2018 sees a malleable range of compounds.

While Vettel wrapped up the 46th victory of his career, it was clear that he was not the fastest Ferrari driver on the day. For the majority of the second half of the race teammate Raikkonen ran within a second off the leader clearly illustrating his superior pace.

But as the Hungaroring is notorious for lack of overtaking second, is what the Finn was confined to. It didn’t make for a comfortable afternoon for Ferrari though as both Mercs of Bottas and Raikkonen started closing down the leading pair at a rate of knots.

There was a suggestion that Ferrari swap Vettel and Raikkonen so as to ensure a comfortable victory, but this move never happened.

Contrary to many on social media, who slated Ferrari’s unwillingness to swap its drivers around, it was the right move. The reality of the team orders debate is that you can’t have it both ways. In Monaco, Ferrari handing Vettel the optimum strategy and ultimately the race win was rightly criticised. If this was unacceptable from Ferrari, it shouldn’t have been accepted, or called for, in Hungary either.

While it ended well for Ferrari in Hungary, Mercedes and Hamilton would’ve won a few more fans with the spirit they displayed.

On the instruction of the team, Bottas had let Hamilton, with better pace, through to third with the aim of catching the Ferrari pair and giving back the place if he couldn’t do so.

However, by the start of the final lap Bottas was seven seconds adrift and under pressure from a recovering Verstappen. Nevertheless, Hamilton, in a superb show of sportsmanship, slowed significantly in the final corner to return Bottas’ third place.

While Hamilton gave up three points by finishing fourth, his move has earned respect. Verstappen, apologetic after the race for the clash with his teammate, eventually finished fifth. Amazingly, Fernando Alonso set the fastest lap of the race and finished a solid sixth ahead of Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz in seventh.

The Force India drivers continued to keep each other honest with Sergio Perez in eighth and Esteban Ocon in ninth as the second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne scored the final point in 10th.

Williams’ Felipe Massa’s withdrawal from the Hungarian GP with an inner ear issue meant that reserve driver Paul di Resta was subbed in almost literally at the last minute.

While he ultimately retired with an oil leak, the Williams reserve driver did his reputation no harm with a measured performance in a car he’d never driven before.

The majority of the 70 laps of the Hungarian GP were nervy for Ferrari, but they emerged with an important one-two finish. It allows Sebastian Vettel to stem Mercedes’ momentum and to take a crucially 14-point lead into the month-long break.

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