As Formula 1 packed up for the traditional summer break after the Hungarian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton looks assured in pole position for the drivers’ championship after yet another race win, however, the final race of the summer did teach us a few things ahead of the final part of the campaign.
1: Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton will battle for the title in 2020
If there was one takeaway from Sunday’s race, it was the intense battle for the win between Max Verstappen and Hamilton. Buoyed by his win in Germany, the Dutch driver qualified on pole on Saturday and it was only a mistake in strategy from his team which cost him a second successive victory.
Even though Hamilton, on fresh tyres, was able to catch up a lot of speed on the Dutch driver, the actual battle for the place was intriguing. Verstappen did his best to defend before he lost all grip and wasn’t able to hold on until the checkered flag.
At just 21 years of age, Verstappen is going to be around for a long, long time and it would be difficult to argue against the fact he’s one of the best drivers on the circuit right now. Hamilton is entering the latter stage of his career, but will be competitive for a few years yet, and provided Aston Martin Red Bull Racing can provide a competitive car, this will be the title battle in 2020, Verstappen has the mettle for it.
2: McLaren have quietly got their act together
Gone are the days of Fernando Alonso doing his best to guide an ailing McLaren car to simply finish a race. The team have worked diligently behind the scenes and have got their act together, proven by Carlos Sainz Jr’s fifth-placed finish in Hungary.
It was a fine drive from the Spaniard, but when you consider how this car finished ahead of both Renault F1 Team cars and one of the Aston Martin Red Bulls, there is every reason to suggest the team are back in business.
After finishing fifth at the Hockenheimring too, Sainz Jr strung together a second successive 10-point haul and drove expertly. There were no signs of the car failing and with continued improvement, McLaren can expect to finish the final part of the year very strongly indeed.
3: Valtteri Bottas mistake could have cost him his Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport drive
All the talk prior to the Hungarian Grand Prix was about the future of Valtteri Bottas with Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport, especially with the talented Esteban Ocon waiting in the wings. The Frenchman is currently the reserve driver for the team, but traditionally decisions are made on the future of drivers during the summer break.
Bottas had to perform well on Sunday, and he didn’t. A slow start from third on the grid saw him collide with both teammate, Hamilton and Charles Leclerc. Front wing damage was the result and an earlier than planned pit-stop left the Finnish in eighth place and he never recovered.
It wasn’t a major error, these things happen, but it was simply the fact that it came at a time when Toto Wolff is thinking about the future, and it may not include Bottas with Ocon ready to return to the big time.
4: Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow have a lot of work to do
A disappointing weekend for the Italian team saw multiple strategy mistakes and a lack of cohesion in the team plan. The fact that Sebastian Vettel and Leclerc still finished third and fourth respectively is a testament to the size of the team and the baseline quality they have.
However, despite all the pre-season debate about this finally being the year they took back their crown of dominance in the sport from Toto Wolff and co, the Italian team have fallen short.
Straight line speed isn’t a problem, they’re the fastest team in that regard by some distance, however the balance hasn’t been there.
Both Vettel and Leclerc’s inability to challenge for the victory in Hungary proved this and there will be serious improvements that need to be made over the course of the three-week break.
5: Pierre Gasly is facing a battle to keep his drive
If the Hungarian Grand Prix showed the absolute best of Verstappen’s current form, it showed just how much his teammate, Pierre Gasly, is struggling.
In the last seven races the Frenchman has scored points, but we have to be realistic, this is an Aston Martin Red Bull Racing car that is capable of challenging for the podium every single race. Gasly needs to start extracting more of a performance out of both himself and the vehicle. At 23 he is still relatively young and can improve, and to a degree is unfortunate to be partnered with a generational talent in the Dutchman.
Christian Horner intimated that the Frenchman needed to improve, and this is always a red flag when such a prominent Team Principal speaks publicly about you. Alexander Albon has really impressed this term and could be in line to replace the Frenchman, and in the final stage of the year, Gasly really needs to begin to deliver, otherwise his stay with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing will be short lived.