F1: Hard-won redemption for Ferrari in Hungary

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Ferrari fought hard for redemption in Budapest as the Maranello squad scored another 1-2 finish, the best result possible heading into the long Formula 1 summer break.

After a disastrous outing in Silverstone, the Scuderia Ferrari team pulled up their socks and locked out the front row for the Hungarian GP. The Mercedes team filled the second row and it was an all Red Bull third row. The biggest surprise on the grid came from the much-improved performance of the McLaren Honda team, which saw both drivers into Q3 and locking out the fourth row for the race.

When the lights went out, the Ferrari’s got away fairly well, but the best start came from the Red Bull of Max Verstappen on the 3rd row. The Flying Dutchman rocketed ahead of both Mercedes, but nearly speared into the back of Raikkonen.

In Turn 2, an overzealous move from Verstappen saw him go wide and clatter into the side pod of teammate Ricciardo. With damage to the car, Ricciardo spun and stalled, retiring from the race.

As the Aussie wrestled with the careening RB13, a number of drivers had to take avoiding action. One of the dodging drivers’ was Jolyon Palmer in the Renault who did not need another retirement after coming under fire off late. Palmer was the closest to getting tagged but lived to race again.

Elsewhere, the other Renault of Nico Hulkenberg got out of shape and tangled with the two Haas drivers but all 3 continued for a while, until Romain Grosjean was determined to have a slow puncture from the contact with Hulkenberg. When he came into the pits, he barely made it back on track before he was forced to retire due to a cross-threaded wheel nut.

After the cars of Ricciardo and Grosjean parked it for the day and the Safety Car was called back in, Vettel began to report a steering issue. The car inexplicably was pulling hard towards the left, forcing him to fight the car to keep it on track. 

His teammate Kimi Raikkonen soon caught up to the struggling Vettel, but given the nature of the circuit and the dirty air from the race leader’s car, he was unable to pass.

Soon, the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton caught up to the back of the Raikkonen. With Bottas seemingly unable to attack Raikkonen for second, Mercedes asked both drivers to switch places so that Hamilton could have a shot at taking on Raikkonen.

After the swap was made, Hamilton was told that he had a limited number of laps to make the pass, after which both drivers would swap back. The idea was risky because the sole surviving Red Bull of Max Verstappen was charging ever closer to the Mercedes pair, even after serving his 5 second penalty for taking his teammate out of the race.

As the race neared the end, Hamilton was able to get painstakingly close to the Ferraris but still was unable to pass. To make matters worse, Bottas had fallen far back behind Hamilton and Verstappen was nipping on the heels of the Finns, which added additional risk to the position swap for the Mercedes pair.

Finally, on the last corner of the last lap, Hamilton slowed down just enough for Bottas to pass him for the final podium place, but got back on the throttle quick enough to ensure that Verstappen stayed in 5th.

But they weren’t the only hard fought battle on track. Behind the top 5, Carlos Sainz and fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso were battling hard for 6th position for laps on end, with the McLaren just edging the Toro Rosso at the end. And even further back, Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen were fighting perhaps too hard outside of the points. With three laps remaining, Magnussen forced Hulkenberg off the track and was handed a 5 second time penalty, losing 3 positions, and Hulkenberg retired on the penultimate lap due to damage sustained. But this wasn’t the end of their fight, as the pair exchanged heated words in the post-race media pen.

In the end, it was Vettel who miraculously took the chequered flag from teammate Raikkonen and Mercedes driver Bottas, with Hamilton in 4th and Verstappen 5th.

It was a good day in the office for McLaren Honda with Alonso in 6th with a fastest lap as a bonus. Stoffel Vandoorne also delighted the bosses with 10th and another point for the Woking squad. The other point scorers were Carlos Sainz Jr and the 2 Force Indias in 7th, 8th and 9th respectively.

The 2017 Formula 1 season will resume in four weeks time after the summer shut down, when the action returns to Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian GP.