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8 Aug 2019
Gallery - Pre-season testing - Daniel Coyle

I offer the following gallery for your perusal with the thanks of fellow reader - Daniel Coyle. Daniel is an amateur motorsport photographer who attended pre-season testing and captured what I think you'll agree are some wonderful images.

 Charles Leclerc puts the SF90 through its paces on the hard tyre

Lance Stroll at the wheel of the RP19 which is outfitted with a lower T-Wing for extra rear-end stability
A nice long distance shot of Valtteri Bottas as he puts the work in with the Mercedes W10
The Alfa Romeo C38 from behind, note the spoon shaped rear wing which helps to trade some downforce for drag reduction
A distance shot of the McLaren MCL33 with its tail fin on the engine cover that displays Carlos Sainz's number in this instance
The Red Bull RB15 in pre-season trim is clearly an evolution of its predecessor, taking into account the teams move to the Honda powerunit
Ricciardo at the wheel of Renault's RS19 which is not only outfitted with a T-wing but also a slimline monkey seat to recover some rear-end downforce and balance

A fabulous sweeping shot of Kimi Raikkonen in his C38 which wowed everyone when it was revealed owing to their front wing design, which featured a very unloaded outer section - the most aggressive adaptation of such a design on the grid
The McLaren MCL33 has a number of novel features and can be seen here with more heavy duty thermal imaging cameras mounted on the airbox in order that more data can be captured in regard to the tyres.
George Russell - the young Mercedes-backed driver, at the wheel of the Williams FW42 which finally made its way to testing, albeit in a trim that would later need adjusting to meet the FIA's requirements

Haas, now in their fourth season in Formula One, underwent a livery rebrand to accomodate their new title sponsor - Rich Energy.
Romain Grosjean puts the Haas VF19 through its paces as the Frenchman deploys DRS
Like Alfa Romeo, Ferrari too opted for the unloaded front wing design as they looked at ways to work around the new regulations. Note the use of a looped double element T-Wing at the rear of the car too.
Toro Rosso entered into their second year with Honda and joined by their sister team Red Bull they hoped to make sizeable gains throughout the campaign.
Charles Leclerc is outfitted with the medium compound tyres as he looks to collect as much data as possible for the team. Also note how Ferrari returned to the triangular airbox inlet for 2019.
Another shot of Russell in the Williams FW42, the Brit looking to get as much time behind the wheel as possible, owing to the delay in getting their car to testing.
The media scramble to get their shot of both Alfa Romeo drivers and the 2019 car
No markings on the Pirelli tyres indicates the use of a prototype compound by Sergio Perez, who was testing out the limits of his Racing Point RP19
Grosjean leaps from his Haas VF19 - having come to a halt out on track the Frenchman takes an unconventional route out of the cockpit as the ERS is still not safe
Max Verstappen attacks the chicane in his Red Bull RB15 on the medium tyres which are showing signs of graining
A long range shot of the Ferrari SF90, taken atop the garage complex we can see the team have applied flo-viz paint to the floor ahead of the rear tyre and the rear wing.
If you, like Daniel, have anything you'd like to share with the wider Formula One community, be it imagery or written work, then please feel free to get in touch, as I will always try where possible to give others a platform to work from -
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5 Aug 2019
Somers column: A strategic and tactical masterclass

As Formula One gets ready to take a break, it's fair to say that the last four races have delivered captivating drama and perhaps some of the best action we’ve seen in years. Every single one of those four races has delivered something a little bit different but each just as rewarding as the last, whether you’re new to the sport or having followed along for years.

As far as the Hungarian GP goes I think there will undoubtedly be those that look at Mercedes strategy to stop Hamilton on lap 48 as just another gamble - a roll of the dice if you will. But, I think there’s plenty more to it than that, rather I see it as a bold but educated strategic call that goes to show how relentless the silver arrows are in their pursuit of the top step.
The opening phase of the Grand Prix was usual cat and mouse fare, with both drivers fully aware that the Ferrari drivers were dangling precariously in their pit window (ie, if they were to stop they would come out in very close proximity to the Scuderia’s drivers, which could be damaging to their pace). This forced Verstappen; and by extension Hamilton, to hold station, drive to a delta and try and extend their first stint without losing too much time.

The problem for Verstappen and Red Bull is that Hamilton was making the timing of their pitstop even more difficult, as being in such close proximity, the undercut was certainly a weapon in his and Mercedes arsenal. Hamilton was also keeping up the pressure out on track too, as the Brit tried to close the gap to the point where he’d have DRS available, but it was obvious both brake and powerunit cooling might scupper his charge as he got within that 1 second window.

At the end of lap 22 things ramped up a notch further, as Mercedes looked to pull the trigger on a stop, only for the crew to go out into the box and then slink away sheepishly as Hamilton rounded the last corner. It’s unclear if this was a tactical decision by Mercedes to throw a dummy and try and force Red Bull into an early stop or whether Hamilton overruled the teams decision by not boxing.

Either way it was clear that at this stage in the race the W10 was the faster package and that if Red Bull and Verstappen continued to extend the stint they could fall back into Hamilton’s grasp on track, let alone through the pitstop phase. Traffic was also beginning to plague them, as Hamilton made better progress through the lapped cars, with drivers suddenly aware that the leaders were coming through, after Verstappen had took the pain. Verstappen’s radio was also alive, as he expressed his displeasure at the teams seeming disinterest that he was suffering from a loss of grip.

Their pace was still good relative to the rest of the field though, albeit lessening lap by lap as the tyres wore and so the team continued to monitor the gap to both Ferrari’s behind, waiting for the window to emerge whereby they could pit for fresh tyres and still come out ahead of them. The moment finally arrived for Verstappen at the end of lap 24, with his crew able to service the car with a set of hard tyres in just 2.6 seconds, which got him out clear of Charles Leclerc and essentially with a pitstop in hand - just going to show the pace deficit that Ferrari had around the Hungaroring.

Bono was straight on the phone to Hamilton to tell him it was HAMmertime, to which most people probably expected a blistering laptime and a stop the next time around. Still happy on the medium tyres but not setting the timing sheets alight it would now mean that Hamilton would have to extend his stint in the hopes that his fresh rubber would see him come good at the end of the race.

Meanwhile, Verstappen was using the fresher tyres to his advantage and actually chipping away at Hamilton’s lead and it became obvious that Hamilton would now have to pass Verstappen on track if he were to take his seventh victory in Hungary. The pitstop itself, which came at the end of lap 31, didn’t help matters, as a sticky front-right resulted in a 4 second stationary time and meant he’d already shipped 1.4 seconds to Verstappen, not even taking into account the laptime loss in the intervening laps.
As Hamilton exited the pitlane the timing board suggested he was now 5.859 seconds behind his rival, a time that stretched out to around 6.5 seconds in the mini loops, as he tried to fire up the hard tyre and reapply the pressure on Verstappen. And boy did he, as he absolutely lit the timing boards up in the next few laps, catching Verstappen and Red Bull napping.

It’s amazing to think that in just four laps he was within half a second of the Dutchman and would now try to use his tyre life advantage to full effect and think about a management phase later in the race. As they crossed the line to start lap 36 it was game on, with Hamilton all over the RB15’s gearbox out of turn one, but he went too deep in turn two and lost some time to Verstappen, who’d now clearly stepped up his pace to try and match Hamilton.

Catching Perez toward the end of lap 37 was Verstappen’s worst nightmare, as the Mexican couldn’t just jump out of the way, as he had nowhere to go. As both drivers went down the straight with DRS and every toy likely being deployed it became obvious that the Mercedes still owns an overspeed over the Honda powered Red Bull and as they rounded turn one, Hamilton was stalking his prey once more.

At the end of lap 38 a similar scenario began to unfold only this time Verstappen was a little more distant from his former teammate - Daniel Ricciardo, as they rounded the last corner and so he had to rely on a more distant tow, DRS down the straight and a rugged defence into turn 1. Hamilton went for a cut back on the run down to turn two and another switch back out of there to get better traction on the short squirt up to turn four. Hamilton, aware of Verstappen on the inside, took a deep line on the outside and ran wide, picking up dust, marbles and debris and effectively nullifying his challenge at this stage in the race.

This pegged Hamilton back, as his tyres now featured cold spots from his adventure on the edge of the track and meant he’d have to spend time reconditioning them and recover the laptime necessary to get back into the DRS window. At the same time his team had become concerned about powerunit and brake temperatures, both of which had climbed as he fought to gain the position and he was asked to do some lifting and coasting to help manage the situation.

A comfortable gap had grown between Hamilton and Leclerc behind (33 seconds) and so both he and Verstappen now had a pitstop in hand. The times now in a see-saw between the two meant that only a mistake under current conditions from Verstappen would see Hamilton victorious and so the silver arrows played their trump card…

On lap 46 they called Bottas into the pits and outfitted him with a fresh set of medium tyres - the Finn’s car then effectively became a moving strategic laboratory, as someone within the team had clearly noticed an angle they could work in order to help Hamilton in the latter phases of the race. That angle revolved around the behaviour of his car in the opening phases of his second stint and with confirmation from the data seen on Bottas’ car that their projections would line up, they pulled the trigger with Hamilton.

At the end of lap 48, with 21 laps to go and teetering around 21 seconds to the leader, the chase was on. Hamilton’s closing speed on the outlap also ruled out a stop for Verstappen, as he’d simply have been undercut by the now faster lapping Mercedes. This left Red Bull with just two choices - an overcut and hope they could beat Hamilton in a wheel-to-wheel battle, with them becoming the chaser or cross their fingers that the tyres hung on and Hamilton’s charge faded.
Of course we know what happened and it would be easy to say that Mercedes only made the decision they did because Ferrari’s pace was weak enough to mean they had a stop in hand but, I firmly believe they actually intended to be aggressive and go after the race win.

The first few laps of Hamilton’s second stint were critical in this decision, as the correlation between a reduction in brake temperatures and subsequently wear came about due to the added retardation that comes from running on fresher rubber. Effectively the grip that’s being generated will slow the car more effectively, meaning you can lean on this to reduce the load on the brakes.

It’s something that was fairly visible in the closing stages, as the dense brake cloud that had previously been ejected from the W10’s front wheel rim was now lessened, suggesting that temperatures had plateaued.

The other advantage to this strategy call is that whilst Hamilton could lap much quicker on the newer tyre, Verstappen was trying to manage the life of his tyre and effectively backing himself into Hamilton. The task at hand was made a little more difficult still for Verstappen, due to the thinner gauge tread used by Pirelli this year, as there’s less surface area on the tyre to retain heat, especially at the end of the tyres life when staying in the operating window is even more critical.

The tactical and strategic intrigue was what defined this particular race, as it became a 'will he or won’t he?' battle amongst two of the sports brightest lights. With somewhat of a wait til the next chapter in this season long war, we must now look at Red Bull - Honda and appreciate how far they've come in a very short space of time and how there is a distant chance that Max can take the fight to Lewis for this years title. Meanwhile, there's the possibility that Ferrari will have a hand in that fight, as it's likely they'll have somewhat of a renaissance in the coming races, given those circuits may suit their lower drag philosophy.

I for one cannot wait for the Belgian GP, especially as I’ll be there, cheering them all on from the sidelines...

If you enjoyed this article then it might be worth noting that it was posted over on my Patreon page first - Patrons get access to my content a little ahead of time for as little as $1 per month.
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4 Aug 2019
'Trumpets' race review - Hungary

`Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale does his very best to dissect another fantastic race, this time in Hungary
Ambient 25° Track 48° Humidity 35.7% Wind 0.8 m/s


The haze hung low on the horizon as puffballs of clouds dotted the sky fancifully, sunshine blazing down onto the paddock, occasionally interrupted as a wayward cloud drifted across the sun. Pirelli predicted a one stop as being the fastest way round, though the ever climbing track temperature might yet provoke a crisis amongst the frontrunners, with brakes and engines, along with tyres, all susceptible to overheating, particularly for those stuck following and those, like Mercedes in Austria, who get their cooling wrong.....

Verstappen on pole will have a hard job defending the long run to T1 from the duel Mercedes threat, with Hamilton potentially having the advantage from the grippier side of the track, and that's before you factor in the less than ideal start that the Red Bull's have demonstrated in the last few starts.... and there you have it, a couple of extra practice starts for the Dutchman reported by Sky as apparently I'm not the only one to have noticed....

Giovinazzi got dinged 3 spots for impeding Stroll (wry jokes appreciated) and Ricciardo and Renault elected to take a new PU meaning the Alfa driver now will start P17 and it's dead last for the Aussie, whose clever PU strategy not only blew up on him in Hockenheim but apparently here as well, but this time due to traffic management and not catastrophic mechanical failure......

On the way to the anthem, Brundle managed to grab Albon who casually let slip that it was MUCH hotter than the teams expected, and that bodes ill for lots of on track action as all the cars will be desperately trying to manage temps instead. Especially with the dearth of FP2 running, some surprises could well be on order....A different kind of management as teams have all agreed on a 22 race calendar for next year, currently without an extra PU although it has been reported that both Honda and Renault would prefer the extra, whilst Mercedes and Ferrari were happy with just the current allocation of three for the season.

The sharp end all start on the Medium tyre and that should be good for 24-30 laps according to Pirelli, at which point a switch to the Hard is pretty much inevitable. In fact, only the Maccas, Grosjean and Raikkonen are on the Softs,required by the sporting regulations, with Ricciardo at the back on the Hards, whilst the rest of the midfield on the Mediums.... And then, on the formation lap Verstappen, lit it up, no doubt to discomfort Mercedes, who prefer much the opposite approach at the start of their race...


Lights Out!!!! Great Start by Verstappen chased by Hamilton and then Max swung all the way to the inside and they were nearly 3 wide going into the first turn. In the middle and on cold brakes Bottas had a big lockup and very nearly went straight on, effectively forcing Hamilton wide and very nearly causing the chasing Ferrari of Vettel to have contact with his gearbox. Lewis was able to maintain more of his momentum and as they hurtled towards the second turn Lewis moved to the inside which switched him back to the outside into the third turn where once again Bottas had a lock up that allowed Lewis to gain the advantage. As he streaked past his teammate into the entry to the next turn, there was incidental contact between Bottas front wing and Hamilton's left rear. This further compromised the Finn and taking immediate advantage was Leclerc on the run down to Turn 5 but as the Ferrari moved over to take the racing line once again there was contact only this time it rather more significantly disarranged his front wing. Sainz got the better of Norris into T2 and given the now visible damage to Bottas' front wing into the second lap Vettel was round him easiy into the braking zone for Turn 1...

Gasly had managed to slide down to P9 at the start as well, and the lap times for Bottas did not augur well at all for him being able to maintain a one stop. Almost 2 seconds a lap it looked going into lap 4 and at that rate he would make lap 9 or 10 before the time loss equalled a pit stop.

Lap 6 and Bottas was in and that kind of indecision is usually a race killer. With the front wing change he was out dead last with the Hard tyre and a long road ahead of him. Leclerc was getting the hurry up at the same time have drifted nearly 5.5 seconds back of Hamilton, who was just keeping pace with Verstappen, both running nearly identical times.

The hurry up was working with Leclerc, and he easily pulled out a 2 second gap and shut down any immediate thoughts of team orders as he was told Plan A. At the back, Ricciardo was up to P17 after taking some time to get them up to temperatures he was on the prowl and chasing Magnussen and almost into DRS on lap 10. Russell had made it up to P14 but lost out to Kvyat and Magnussen, throwing Russell under the Ricciardo bus, who was well inside DRS.

Further up the field, Hulkenberg, in the other Renault, was suffering from an unspecified problem, was being told to save fuel despite having a loss of power and being told he had the pace to get round Grosjean. Hulkenberg reported despite their assurances it wasn't going to get worse, it was, in fact, getting worse....

Ferrari, meanwhile, were in a league of their own, and not in a good way as they were running roughly 0.7 seconds a lap slower and nearly 12 seconds off the leaders. By lap 15 Bottas had made it back to P16, the only hiccup being a bit of contact with Lance Stroll on the way past.

2 laps later and both Stroll and Russell were into the pits and out on the Hard tyre, all the way to the back save Giovinazzi, who had triggered them by going 1 lap earlier. Lap 19 and Kvyat was finally ready to pull the trigger and down the inside he went, but Albon kept his foot into it until finally Kvyat forced him wide out of T4 and took the spot away for good. During that epic battle, Kubica was in for some Hards as well and he emerged behind behind Giovinazzi.

Grosjean was in next along with Perez, and it was too slow from the HAAS team and he was out behind the Racing Point, as Hamilton had been on the move, and was just 1.4 seconds behind Verstappen and well into undercut range. Bottas had finally rocked up behind Ricciardo, on similar tyres and his forward progress had momentarily been stymied. At the front the maths were not working as lapped traffic was beginning to complicate the pitstop window. Lap 22 saw Mercedes out in the pitlane but at the end of the lap Hamilton stayed out.

The following lap and Hamilton was all but in DRS and it was Verstappen chasing a pit stop window vs Leclerc as Lewis put the pressure on from behind. Sergio Perez almost ended Verstappen's race early as lapped the Racing Point car but the close call worked in favor of the Mercedes driver, who was supremely happy with the performance of his tyres, which seemed to surprise him.

Lap 26 and Verstappen gave it everything he had and was in at the end of the lap. Lewis did the opposite and Verstappen was back out just in front of Leclerc but as noted, in the midst of a bunch of backmarkers as Hamilton was pushing in free air. By time they got to T14 Verstappen was by Stroll and just looking at Kubica, whom he dispatched down the main straight, which resulted in him setting a best third sector. by the conclusion of the next lap Max was a full second a lap faster. It was Hamilton's turn to sweat as he was told to extend as Mercedes was now trying to get him clear of the traffic that bedeviled Verstappen. Lap 29 saw Leclerc in and out, just ahead of Sainz who was the leading McLaren.

Ominously, Hamilton then reported smoke coming from the left front brake disc and with the gap having dropped below 18 seconds Mercedes had made their bet on fresher tyres and overtaking at the end. Norris was in and out ahead of Bottas and that triggered both Sainz and Raikkonen, Kimi just behind Gasly and Sainz maintaining his P5. Norris, the victim of a stuck rear left wheel during his stop was the big loser, running P11 and out behind Ricciardo.

Lap 32 saw Mercedes finally bring in Hamilton and it was a 4 second stop, which easily put Max back into P1 and with a near 6 second gap to make up, albeit with just one lapped car between them. Lap 33 and Norris was by Ricciardo.

2 laps later and the gap was halved by Hamilton, running 2 seconds a lap faster as Norris got round Magnussen, yet to stop, and took P9. Gasly had meanwhile finally found his way round Hulkenberg and was chasing Sainz for P5.

Lap 35 and it was into DRS for Hamilton and into T1 he was all over the back of Max T1. All through the middle sector Lewis was just nailed onto the back of the REd Bull and as the approached the final turn Verstappen turned it up and took advantage of a slipstream left him by Albon. Defending to the inside he maintained the position and the battle was reset as they approached the meat of the midfield to lap them. This didn't help Hamilton's cause at all. Lap 37 and Hulkenberg was finally in.

Lap 38 and both cars had DRS down the straight and as they continued to weave their way through traffic it was Ricciardo next up for the pair of them to clear. Much to the Aussie's chagrin, the DRS aiding him down the straight and then using him as a blocker, Verstappen was able to once again maintain the position.

But only until T4 when Hamilton had a serious go around the outside and for a moment it was on, but then Lewis went wide and off track and was forced to yield the spot back. Dirty tyres and rising temps saw him drop a bit off the back even as the team urged him to keep the pressure on. With 29 laps to go....

Interesting wrinkle at HAAS with Magnussen finally in for a set of Softs with 30 laps left in the race. Hamilton remained concerned about his brake temps, but the team was unconcerned, saying it was more about wear than temps..

Lap 45 and Bottas was lapped, putting up little fuss as both Verstappen and Hamilton rocked by. Verstappen demanded full power and was told that he already had it, as the gap was back down to just a second and Mercedes readied it's second assault on the lead. Lap 46 and Lewis was told wear was looking better and for the moment it was a game of waiting and watching. Also getting ready to pop was Gasly, who was just a second back of Sainz with 22 laps to go. Bottas was in on the same lap and he was out in P12 with both Toro Rossos and Perez to catch to regain his position.

And oh my, into the pits the following lap came Hamilton, to force the undercut or bet on going to the end. Bottas' stop on the Hards suddenly made good sense as they will have had accurate information regarding the behaviour of the tyre at the end of it's race. Immediately he was inside Verstappen's pit window, the undercut having been perfectly timed and brutally successful and as Max got ready to rock by Sainz and lap him, Hamilton was chasing in free air. Looking at a second a lap, with 19 laps and 18 seconds. Hilariously Max was yelling at his team for not boxing him, which was a strategy non-starter even as Hamilton was questioning whether or not he had the pace to catch Verstappen before the end of the race....

The following lap, and it was just 0.6 seconds gained by Hamilton as behind, his teammate was back up to P9. Lap 52 saw the end of Grosjean's efforts as he retired his car and as Max got hung in traffic it was 1.5 seconds gained for the Mercedes driver with the gap down to 16 seconds.

2 laps later and it was Hamilton hung in traffic and making no gains as Verstappen was now chasing Vettel with no one in between. This once again changed the calculus at Mercedes and they informed Hamilton that they now expected the catch to be last lap. While that transpired, Ricciardo, on new Softs, chased Magnussen on older Softs, and it was some excellent battling as the HAAS driver was putting on the most robust of defenses against the wily Renault driver.

Lap 58 and with Hamilton now clear of the lapped traffic it was a clean chase and 13.715 seconds between them and 12 laps to go.... End of lap 59 and it was 1.3 seconds closer as the duel between Magnussen and Ricciardo moved ever closer to a potential Safety Car, with Kmag testing the limits of the sporting regs with his defense.

As the chase continued the follwing lap the gap was under 11 seconds and a frightfully exciting finale seemed very much underway as Hamilton continued to chip away in the 1:18's as Verstappen submarined into the 1:20's.

8 seconds then at the start of lap 63, then more than a second in just the second sector as Lewis double checked the state of his brakes on the radio and was told he had margin. End of the lap and it was down to 5 seconds between them and Mercedes could smell blood in the water as Verstappen's times were now down to almost 1:21 with Hamilton still in the 1:18's.... Oh my what a spectacle!!!!

Lap 65 and Verstappen hove into view, 2.5 seconds and down a full second further as they approached T5. By time they rocked into the final turn Hamilton was into DRS and it was looking long odds indeed for the Red Bull driver. Oh and it was so close but up ahead there was traffic, the back of the tail with Kubica up first, but he wasn't going to be close enough for DRS into the following lap.

Onto the straight they went and down, Hamilton going round the outside into T1 and Verstappen defenseless on the brakes. Into the lead went the Mercedes and Red Bull brought in Max for fresh tyres to have a go at fast lap, with no place penalty for doing so. Sainz, meanwhile, had been able to hold off Gasly and on lap 69, Vettel, who had been patiently chasing Leclerc on Soft tyres, finally got the job done, with Charles perhaps a bit surprised as he started to make a late move and then thought better of it as Vettel was already well alongside.

Onto the last lap and Verstappen absolutely killed fast lap with a 1:17.103, scant consolation as Hamilton cruised across the line in first place, followed home by Verstappen and Vettel, experience over youth, anyone? At any rate, brilliant strategic call from a team not necessarily noted for them, and as much as it would've been fun to see Red Bull win 2 on the bounce, there was little room to complain as this race played out exquisitely, highlighting so much of what makes F1 special at a track often dinged for it's lack of action.

It's not all spilled milk for Red Bull as Verstappen moved up to within 7 points of Bottas, who eventually managed to get to P8 and that was not the look he was going for as his future at Mercedes was very much under the microscope. Vettel fans, too, had reason to rejoice as a good strategy call put him onto the podium after a difficult stretch at the office. Gasly did manage to finish where he started, but with a McLaren in front of him the questions will continue about his long term future with Red Bull, the short term being fairly more assured as the only drivers immediately available to take his place were currently racing for Toro Rosso.

In the midfield, McLaren continued to crush all comers, including the factory team of their engine supplier, with relative ease. A good recovery driver from Norris after a balky left rear in his pitstop saw him still able to nab some points. It's been a long road for them but Zak Brown has done a good job and they are now clearly the class of Formula B.

At Williams, Russell was able to confirm his form and finished P16, more good news for the team that has long been lost in the wilderness. Less good news for HAAS, which saw Grosjean retire and Kmag wind up P13, at least able to stay ahead of arch rival Renault, well, at least ahead of the Renault they started ahead of. No points for the French marque, either and it was Raikkonen, picking up the pieces for Alfa.

All in all a pretty good way to head off for summer break, with the iconic circuit at Spa first up after the teams return refreshed and ready for the long haul to the end of the season. It is a circuit that should see Ferrari back in the mix and it will be a real test to measure the progress of the Red Bull and Honda.


And remember to play nice in the comments!!

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3 Aug 2019
'Trumpet's qualifying notebook - Hungary

`Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale gives us a taste of Saturday's action at the Hungaroring
Ambient 24° Track 42° Humidity 54% Wind 0.8 m/s


Massive clouds scudded through the blue dome of sky enclosing the paddock at the Hungarian Grand Prix, the unsettled weather contributing healthily to the uncertainty around a track where overtaking is normally in short supply.

With a rain shortened FP2 spoiling many a team's long runs, and a healthy dose of oil on the track from the entry of T4 to the exit of T5 thanks to an exploding F2 engine, firm conlusions were in short supply, even with Hamilton leading the way to the qualifying session, albeit by just a hundredth over Verstappen in the Red Bull. Mercedes were generally quickest in the third sector, Ferrari in the first, and the second sector, with what appeared to be about half a ton of cement dust to soak up the oil at T4, simply kept getting faster and faster throughout the session.

Vettel was third behind Verstappen at the end of FP3, with the trio at the top covered by an unusually small tenth of a second. Normally that's a formula for Hamilton to dominate, but given the fact that the form of the Red Bull has yet to settle, and the more salient fact that the temperature actually dropped 10C throughout the session it was harder then normal to get a sense of who might have the ultimate advantage. Bottas was perhaps the biggest loser, as he missed all of FP1 with an engine swap and then only managed 18 laps in FP2 and as a result he was nearly 0.3 seconds back of Hamilton. For Ferrari the trick would be managing the tyres as keeping them alive for the third sector looked to be there limiting factor whilst for Mercedes limiting the loss in sector one was going to be critical such was the advantage Ferrari had in the less twisty bits...

Norris was best of Formula B, trailed by Raikkonen and Sainz, but fantastically he was nearly half a second clear of the entire rest of the midfield. Kmag and Grosjean continued to run the dual spec experiment, with Kmag generally about a tenth up on his teammate but the pair of them rocking up in the top 10 fairly consistently. But as always at this circuit, traffic was likely to play a big role in who made it into Q3.......


Green Light!! Stroll was out first on the soft tyre followed by Russell and Kubica, who were running much closer to the back of the pack than usual.

15 minutes to go and Stroll was off on his first go, halfway through and looking good, but Russell was looking better and then he was through, half a second faster than the Racing Point with Kubica 0.15 seconds back of the Canadian.

While the battle for the back unfolded, Macca, Toro Rosso, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari all rolled onto the circuit for their outlaps. As much of the meat of the midfield rocked across the line, it was Raikkonen to the top, followed by Sainz, Kvyat, Albon and Giovinazzi, just 0.2 seconds ahead of Russell.

It was the turn of the Ferrari's next, and Leclerc took the top spot, as Vettel had more than a few slow car's to get round. 10 minutes to go and it was the turn of Mercedes, with Bottas a bit faster than Hamilton and even with a lurid drift out of the last turn, Bottas was 0.2 seconds up on Hamilton as Verstappen, was seriously on it. Round went the Red Bull, and with a purple third sector he was to the top with a 1:15.871, half a second up on the Ferrari's.

Leclerc, on a second go lost the car into the final turn, doing half a spin and was into the wall, rear wing first smashing it rather thoroughly and creating a lovely and expensive shower of carbon fibre. As he limped back to the pits, Bottas took P2 as the speculation about whether he could make Q2 ramped up as damage to the rear crash structure was obvious and the suspension looked to have taken a fairly bad knock.

3 minutes to go and it was Grosjean, P19 out on the track... Grosjean, running on a contra strategy and empty track, jumped up to P8 and as the rest of the midfield circulated back onto the track it was Albon, Kvyat, Giovinazzi, Stroll and Kubica with it all to play for with Russell P15.

Russell led the way followed by Albon and it was P13 for Russel and then P8 for Albon. No improvement for Stroll and with both Raikkonen and Giovinazzi quicker than Russell put him into difficulty. Ricciardo and Perez were unable to do anything and then it was just down to Hulkenberg, who went P12 and finally put Russell out, but he was quickest of the battle for the back and that was indeed a big step for Williams.

So Kubica, Stroll, Ricciardo, Perez and Russell were going no further, off in search of some kolachi, save Russell who was clearly going to be banging down some champers in the Williams garage. On replay it emerged that Ricciardo had lost a high stakes bet trying to go round the outside of Perez in the last turn. Perez shut him down and that was the end of his chances.... That left just the mechanics in the Ferrari garage working feverishly to get Leclerc turned around for the second session.

Q2 opened with Mercedes on, total surprise, the Medium tyre. Gasly and Verstappen were out next, similarly shod and then it was the turn of Ferrari, Vettel leading Leclerc. Bottas was first off with 13 minutes left in the session. Sector 1 to Bottas, Sector 2 to Hamilton and Sector 3 to Hamilton and the early lead, though Leclerc had already surpassed that as he was into Sector 2 on his effort. But first it was Verstappen, splitting the Mercs and just 0.025 off Hamilton's 1:15.548. Both Ferrari's wound up slower than Bottas, a quarter second off and Leclerc ahead of Vettel.

9 minutes to go and it was Hulkenberg, Sainz and Albon in Formula B with the rest on their hotlaps. Kvyat was first through and P11, and then Norris, 0.3 seconds up on Gasly went P6 and both Giovinazzi and Raikkonen P12 and P13, with Grosjean and Magnussen just starting their efforts and 7 minutes to go. Grosjean rocked up to P8 and then Magnussen was only able to go P14 and apparently had some difficulty given the distance to his teammate.

Gasly wasn't able to improve and Magnussen admitted to having just no grip on that particular set of tyres as the mysterious HAAS continued to befuddle its builders... Albon, Kvyat, Giovinazzi Magnussen and Raikkonen on the outside looking in as the track emptied and preparations were made for the final push to make Q3.

2:30 and Norris was first to hit the track, followed by Grosjean and Sainz. Albon, Giovinazzi and Raikkonen were next, with Giovinazzi set to be penalised for impeding Stroll in Q1. Kvyat was next and then it was Magnussen, last out of the gate and mixed up with the sharp end who were out just to cover any potential track evolution.

Norris backed off and it was Grosjean, next up. P7 for him, ahead of Gasly with Sainz immediately topping him. Hulkenberg for P10 then and then Raikkonen sent him out. No improvement for Giovinazzi nor Magnussen and that was that. Hulkenberg, Albon, Kvyat, Giovinazzi and Magnussen were done for the day and off to find some Palinka and drown their sorrows while the rest turned it around for the glories of the final qualifying session.

Q3 started with Hamilton, Raikkonen and Bottas, followed by Sainz and Norris. Gasly trailed out a bit behind and as he rolled through T3 Verstappen emerged from the end of the pitlane. Vettel and Leclerc were next up with Grosjean last out of the gate.

Hamilton was very clearly going for it, kicking up dust as he charged around the circuit and rocking up the early purple and going 1:15.146 but it was Bottas a bit ahead, 0.01 seconds ahead of his teammate across the line as Verstappen rocked in a fastest S2 and all eyes headed his direction. He couldn't quite purple the third sector but with his balanced effort he was into the 1:14's and to the top, provisional pole with 8 minutes to go in the session. Neither Ferrari could get close and as the dust settled it was Verstappen, Bottas, and Hamilton, who'd had a tiny mistake with about 0.2 seconds to makeup, and then it was double that to the Ferrari's with Gasly well off in P6. But at least it was P6.

Norris led Formula B, followed by Sainz, Raikkonen and Grosjean as the track emptied and the teams prepared for their last shot at the hallowed grounds of pole position.

And it was Grosjean, first off the mark with 2:30 left on the clock, then Norris and Raikkonen. Sainz was next up, then Gasly trailed by Leclerc. Verstappen led Bottas and Hamilton and it was Vettel, last up to set a time in the final runs.

Norris was just a skosh off his first run into the first sector, dead even in S2 and then across the line staying P7. Leclerc was up early days, into S1 but behind Vettel eclipsed him. Verstappen briefly claimed S2 before Bottas claimed it. Leclerc was across, still P4 and then it was Bottas, rocking up on Verstappen's time. But it was S3 that was definitive and as Max improved his time to 1:14.572 Bottas fell just short with a 1:14.590, just 0.018 seconds off. Hamilton was next up but he was a tenth back and that just left Vettel who was nowhere in the neighborhood and thus Red Bull claimed it's first pole position of the season. Coming the week after a double podium for Honda it was firm statement that they were now in the thick of it.

Tomorrow's race sets up nicely but the biggest challenge now for Red Bull will be the start, where they have looked less than stellar in their last few outings. Despite finishing P2, the advantage might go to Hamilton as he starts on the higher grip side of the track and with a good look into the first turn from the outside. Further back, it was Norris beating Sainz and then Grosjean ahead of Raikkonen setting the top of the pyramid in Formula B. With no rain predicted it's very much going to be down to managing the tyres and that's where the lack of FP2 running is likely to rear it's head and hopefully provide some fireworks.... But there will be a lot of celebration first at Williams as it appears they have finally caught up to the back of the midfield and made the long turn for home.

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