It’s nice to see all the drivers so hungry. From the front to the middle to the back of the grid, which isn’t saying much seeing as the grid was compressed to two-thirds its usual size by Lap 2, every overtake was fought for down to the wire. Every pit stop seemed heavily deliberated. A pit-stop brevity record of about 1.9 seconds was even set.
This wasn’t the Ham-Ver face-off that the generators of the 10,000+ message-board comments of the top motorsport sites, had been anticipating. Indeed, the two cars were always separated by at least one car on the grid, and thankfully didn’t get to duel at all on Sunday. As Horner taunted that he’d figured to start both Red Bulls on softs “a different strategy to the Mercedes ahead and that will make it an exciting race tomorrow,” he couldn’t have known that the first lap of the race would have all the drivers scampering for another kind of tyres: the intermediates or wets.
Hungaroring. Last race before the August break. As hard to overtake on as a street-circuit. Venue of eight of Hamilton’s past wins, though this wasn’t to be one of them.
It has been hard to focus amidst the noise: the threats of legal action and insinuations of delivering ‘a good kicking’ to another driver and unhelpful guesses, primarily by Ralf Schumacher, that got picked up by press unafraid to report it as statement of fact. However, that’s how watching sport builds us: seeing how focusing on what you’re there to do is an art. Seeing how remaining quiet and letting the results speak, is the best approach in a space where everyone has a soapbox.
Midweek, Verstappen took part in a 24-hour sim race, iRacing 24 Hours of Spa, and would joke about ‘Lewis and Toto’ being the more appropriate names of the cats “running through the sim”. Which commenters would take as an admission that Lewis and Toto had parked themselves rent-free in his head.
Mercedes must be lauded for being so proactive with their racing strategy, week on week. They seldom say, “just manage the tyres for the next 30 laps, and bring home a podium.” When overtaking seems impossible, they find a way to gain track position through meticulous pit stops. They seem to strive to make both drivers happy, unlike most teams, where everyone, including the ‘second’ driver, seems to rally around one star driver.
Rain seldom makes for a clean start to any F1 race. Bottas and Stroll, who both get a five-place penalty in the next race, unwittingly set off a domino of collisions that took out not only their cars but also those of three or four other drivers, and reshuffled the leaderboard. Later, as Hamilton would struggle around Turn 2 on each lap from about Lap 57/70 to overtake Alonso, and Alonso would defend like life itself depended on it, I realized that this, not knowing what the outcome would be, but enjoying the ride, is why I love motorsport. Happy 40th birthday Alonso, and what a great way to mark it, even if missing podium by a bit, and supplying one too many 40-year-old puns. Thanks for the excellent defending, Mick Schumacher. I once wrote that Verstappen “won’t let you overtake him; yet he won’t let you not let him overtake you” but the last two races have shown that to not be a valid statement anymore, and holding Verstappen up for dozens of laps showed a hunger and a drive that I hope Mick continues to explore.
In the end, Ocon took home the checkered flag, his first ever win, driven fantastically, and for Alpine Racing, to boot. Lewis Hamilton retook the lead of the championship. All of us, driver and spectator alike, are hopefully hungry for what the rest of the season has in store.