Hungarian GP | Sebastian Vettel wins despite steering issues

Sebastian Vettel wins the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix.

The summer break engages with Sebastian Vettel leading the championship, after victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Hammering home his pole position advantage and continuing the dominance of the front row at the Hungaroring. Whilst Hamilton fought but handed third to Bottas, falling back in the standings after surging to just a point behind.

The fight for victory appeared guaranteed for Ferrari as Vettel and Raikkonen eased away from Bottas in the early stages of the race. Leaving Hamilton stuck behind Verstappen, despite the Red Bull ace carrying a penalty for causing a collision.

Pit stops then moved Hamilton to within touching distance of his team-mate, as technical gremlins eased to allow Lewis to fly. Moving ahead of Bottas in a friendly manner, later returning the favour as Vettel led a Ferrari one-two.

Despite victory, however, race day did not start perfectly for Vettel.

For on Sunday morning, Ferrari noticed a hydraulics issue in Vettel’s gearbox. Leaving the team under the watchful eye of the FIA to ensure all parts repaired or replaced would not lead to a penalty that would demote Vettel from pole.

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Sebastian Vettel securing pole position at the Hungarian Grand Prix, Ferrari’s 211th in F1. Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari.

A pole position Sebastian secured with a new track record lap at the Hungaroring. Blitzing Hamilton’s best effort on a day that the Briton could have matched Michael Schumacher’s all-time career pole record.

Instead, Lewis began the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix from fourth on the grid amidst a weekend he’s spent searching for better balance and fewer vibrations. Never truly feeling as if his Silver Arrow was where he would want it to be, and still asking for grace by the FIA to balance the wheels on race day.

Also left searching in qualifying was Paul Di Resta, as the ex-Force India racer stepped in at the last minute for an unwell Felipe Massa. Taking to the wheel of the Williams for the very first time, after three and a half years out of Formula One.

Despite the lack of running, the Mercedes DTM driver ended qualifying in 19th place. Just seven-tenths of a second behind Lance Stroll, and improving with every one of his four flying laps.

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Scotland’s Paul Di Resta at the wheel of the FW40 after replacing an unwell Felipe Massa at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Photo credit: Williams Racing.

Regardless of the early woes, when 2 PM local time rolled around Sebastian Vettel eased out of pole position to engage the formation lap with his Ferrari team-mate right behind in a Scuderia front-row.

Then when they returned, the five red lights illuminated. Swiftly fading away once more, to begin the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix. With Vettel once again easing away from pole, but with a marginally slower start than Raikkonen.

The minor speed difference meant Vettel was left defending from the off. Forcing his team-mate to tuck in behind, with Bottas following suit as the front four had like-for-like launches.

That was not the case for Max Verstappen, however. Getting the best start of the front runners to move alongside Hamilton and take fourth place around the outside.

Verstappen then continued to look at gaining further places on exit. But as Bottas squeezed the line and left Max running wide, Ricciardo leapt ahead to leave Max looking to make the ground back immediately.

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Max Verstappen during the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix. Photo credit: Red Bull Racing.

A lock up into Turn 2, though, saw Verstappen make contact with his team-mate. Taking Ricciardo out of the race with a puncture at the rear and a damaged radiator leaking oil.

Oil on track, and the stricken Red Bull, meant the safety car was called for on the opening lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix. Neutralising the race after just four corners, but enough time for Perez to make up five places and move from 13th to 8th to split the McLaren’s.

On the other hand, first corner contact between Hulkenberg and Grosjean sent Romain down the order as Nico understeered into the corner and forced the Haas pilot wide.

Paul Di Resta, meanwhile, moved up into 17th place after a calm start let Ericsson gain a place but the two Sauber’s stopping under the safety car promoted the Scot.

Come the restart, Max Verstappen continued in his lively fashion as he tucked behind Bottas through the penultimate corner. But attacking too early left him prey to Hamilton – who looked for a move around the outside of Turn 1, only to be blocked off on exit.

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Lewis Hamilton leads Max Verstappen at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Photo credit: Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

Verstappen would have to remain lively as the race unfolded, too. After the race stewards deemed Max solely responsible for his team-mate’s retirement and handed the Dutchman a 10 second time penalty.

Liveliest at the restart, though, was Vettel and Raikkonen as the Ferrari pair checked out from the race to pull clear of Bottas.

Contrastingly, Hulkenberg was opting to drop his pace to back away from the train beginning to form behind Carlos Sainz. As, despite greater pace than his team-mate ahead, there were no opportunities for the German to move ahead and begin attacking Ocon, Vandoorne, Perez or Alonso.

Nico’s patient approach did not last long, however, as the team asked Palmer to let his team-mate move ahead. Braking earlier into T1 and dropping to 12th place.

Fresh air meant Hulkenberg could now attack and gain on the cars ahead. Swiftly moving inside DRS range of Ocon, as disaster befell Grosjean.

Romain had been running in the midfield as the team noted a slow leak of air coming from his front left tyre. Leaving Haas calling for an early stop, that unfortunately saw Grosjean leave with a cross threaded front right that meant he had to slow and ultimately retire.

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Box, box, box. Romain Grosjean stops for a change onto the soft Pirelli’s during the Hungarian Grand Prix. Photo credit: Haas F1 Team.

Problems were also befalling the leaders. With Vettel reporting his car beginning to pull to the left. While at Mercedes, both drivers were affected by radio gremlins leaving the team unable to hear either driver.

Vettel’s issue saw the leader begin to lose pace to his team-mate. Having to stay off the kerbs and hold the steering wheel to a marginal angle to straighten the car.

While issues befell Vettel and Raikkonen gained, the Silver Arrows gained, too. Leaving Bottas looking at the undercut to move ahead.

A slow 3.5 second stop, however, saw Bottas lose heavily to Hamilton when he stopped a lap later. Exiting the pits with Valtteri just ahead, and no longer with Verstappen between them.

While Mercedes pitted their drivers, Vettel pleaded with his pitwall not to stretch his stint. Possibly thinking back to Silverstone, where late punctures destroyed Ferrari’s race.

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Sebastian Vettel, leader of the Hungarian Grand Prix, during his initial stint on the supersoft tyres. Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari.

Ferrari may have been, too. As just one lap later Seb pulled in for a three-second pit stop. Losing minor ground to Raikkonen, as the Finn followed up with a 2.7 second stop. Any faster and the lead of the race could have changed hands.

Staying in the pits, a duel unfolded by McLaren and Toro Rosso as their Spanish racers came in nose to tail.

Despite a slower stop for Fernando, the McLaren exited on the offensive. Trying a run into Turn 4 but forced to back off as Carlos covered the line. Alonso then looked at Turn 6, but a mistake at the chicane left Alonso shortcutting the corner.

The fight was not over, however, as Alonso dove down Sainz’s inside at Turn 1 only to run wide. Attacking again around the outside of Turn 2, and finally gaining the position.

Meanwhile, Hamilton was on the attack. Closing in on Bottas, but still understeering as both Silver Arrows began to catch the Ferrari’s ahead. Something Raikkonen proved aware of, as he asked the team if Vettel was going flat-out in the lead in fear of being caught out in his turbulent air.

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Take the next left. Kimi Raikkonen flicks his Ferrari during the Hungarian Grand Prix. Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari.

The Mercedes gaining would soon no longer be the biggest issue facing Raikkonen, as the radio gremlins at Mercedes lifted. Leaving Lewis finally able to tell his crew of the pace he held, should Bottas move aside.

Something Bottas swiftly agreed to, as he eased to the outside of Turn 1 to leave Lewis with a clean line. Handing Hamilton third place, and the chance to attack as he moved into Strat-3 and instantly took a second away from Raikkonen.

With Lewis charging, Kimi and Seb both replied to Hamilton’s pace. Yet Lewis continued to gain, and Raikkonen moved within DRS range of the leader. All the while backmarkers became an issue as Magnussen and Hulkenberg ahead scrapped over 11th place.

First, though, came Kvyat, with the turbulent wake leaving Vettel with understeer. Although the Toro Rosso swiftly pulled aside to allow all three a clean passage.

Hulkenberg, too, pulled clean out the way to allow the leaders through. Sacrificing his own race as he heavily dropped away from Magnussen – who in part moved out of the way of the Ferrari’s but remained on the racing line when Lewis took to the first bend.

Not long after, Hulkenberg was able to close back in on Magnussen. Attacking the Haas, whose aggressive defence saw Nico forced off track and fall behind Kvyat. While Magnussen received a five-second penalty, but Hulkenberg later retired. Elsewhere, Paul Di Resta, running in last place, returned to the Williams box to retire from his stand-in appearance.

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Paul Di Resta hitting the home straight before an oil leak brought his Hungarian GP to an early end. Photo credit: Williams Racing.

All the while, Verstappen continued to quietly close in on Bottas for fourth as the Finn struggled with backmarkers, and a lack of pace compared to the much fresher Pirelli’s fitted to the Red Bull.

With every lap Verstappen gained, the threat to Mercedes grew greater and greater. Moving closer to Bottas, and threatening the switch back Mercedes promised Valtteri.

In the end, Hamilton was left running in third until the very last lap. Backing away from the Ferrari’s as Vettel won from Raikkonen, allowing the traffic to unlap themselves and Bottas to edge back ahead through the final corner. Covering Verstappen to the line, and abiding by the team’s strategy call that allowed Hamilton to attack earlier on.

Falling back to fourth, while Vettel won, meant Lewis no longer sits just the point behind Vettel in the Drivers’ Championship. Instead, Vettel extends his margin to 14-points with his 46th career Grand Prix win.

Also in the points came both McLaren’s. Securing the team’s first double points finish of the season, with Fernando Alonso even securing the fastest lap of the race.

Now, though, it is time for the summer break and F1’s two-week enforced shut down. Returning August 25th, at Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix.

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Fernando Alonso prepares for the Hungarian GP, and his holidays, by the mural embracing his 2015 Brazilian GP deck chair moment. Photo credit: McLaren.

Cla Driver Team Engine Gap Points
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 1:39’46.713 25
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 0.908 18
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 12.462 15
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 12.885 12
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG 13.276 10
6 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1’11.223 8
7 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Renault 1 lap 6
8 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1 lap 4
9 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1 lap 2
10 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 1 lap 1
11 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1 lap
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Renault 1 lap
13 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault 1 lap
14 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1 lap
15 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 2 laps
16 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 2 laps
17 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault DNF
18 Paul di Resta Williams Mercedes DNF
19 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari DNF
20 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG DNF

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