Oh dear. We have been here before, haven’t we? Lewis Hamilton’s 90th career pole position was another milestone in a remarkable career, but it all felt a bit like déjà vu.
Here are the main points of discussion about qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Mercedes era at a glance
This result seemed to sum up perfectly the modern era of Formula One and how dominant Mercedes was. Not only did the world champions comfortably place first and second, but Racing Point – nicknamed the ‘pink Mercedes’ for its striking resemblance to last year’s title-winning car – finished third and fourth.
While it’s nice to see a new team step onto the podium (see more on Racing Point below), it was a deflating session to watch.
Only two cars were within a second of Lewis Hamilton’s pole time. One was Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes, the other was Lance Stroll, 0.9 seconds off the beat. In F1 terms, a second in a single qualifying lap is huge and suggests that the 2020 World Champions’ car is on a different level than the rest.
The most deflating of all was Red Bull. It was hoped that they would be closer to Mercedes here – if not in qualifying, at least able to attack on Sunday, but the team are clearly behind. Worse still, Mercedes and Racing Point have comfortably ahead of the others and Both will start on the medium tire, not the soft, which seems to be the ideal race strategy for Sunday afternoon.
We could have a crazy race if the rain comes in time for Sunday’s race, but even then this Mercedes team will be pretty tough to beat at most venues this season.
Sorry to be a party animal, but the 2020 season could be a long slog for anyone who doesn’t support the Mercedes team.
More control for the copier
We’re so used to seeing Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari leading the grid that the sight of two pink cars in the second row will be a bit of a shock on Sunday. However, it is something that we will no doubt get used to this year, as Racing Point has emerged from the early races as the clear leader in 2020.
While it is clear that Red Bull underperformed on Saturday in Hungary, Racing Point is a really fast racing car. Its similarities to last year’s Mercedes did not go unnoticed and are undoubtedly the key to its success, opening up a wider philosophical debate in F1. If it is possible to copy the fastest car on the grid and get results, why isn’t everyone doing it?
Racing Point has not denied basing the RP20 on photos of last year’s Mercedes W10, but insists it can prove that it designed the car itself. This evidence will be put to the test at an upcoming steward hearing on the legality of its brake lines, which rivals Renault have identified as remarkably similar to Mercedes’ 2019 design.
Until this question is resolved, an air of suspicion will weigh on results such as those of today. Racing Point insists this is the car he wanted to build for several years but didn’t have the funds to do so, but if he regularly turns out to be ahead of the Red Bulls and Ferraris, he will question what it means to be a constructor in F1.
All teams watch each other to some degree, but very few have been so overtly similar to a rival in the history of the sport. The rules for the next two years (a chassis freeze in 2021 and a complete change in 2022) will exclude any other team, thus openly copying a rival, so if Racing Point has found a key to success, it will reap the benefits of the next at least two seasons.
Russell’s star continues to rise
Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc are already established as stars of the future, but it seems more and more that they will not be alone.
Lando Norris turned heads in the first two races with outstanding performances at the Red Bull Ring, but George Russell is also emerging as an exceptional talent. For anyone who has followed his junior career, this will not be surprising, but it was easy to overlook his performance in a sad Williams last year.
However, he’s armed with a semi-competitive midfield car in 2020 and it’s getting harder and harder to ignore him. For the second weekend in a row, he qualified 12th, demonstrating an ability to outdo his machinery in both wet and dry conditions. His hard work paid off in Austria when he found himself in the gravel at the start of the race last weekend, but on Sunday he will have another chance to prove his race.
At the start of the weekend, he confirmed that he would stay with Williams next year, despite a young Mercedes driver contract. But if it continues to perform at this level, it will be part of a Mercedes drive in 2022.
Russell defends Albon out of form
After excelling on the track, Russell also launched a passionate defense of his friend Alex Albon, who once again struggled for Red Bull. Albon’s form has taken a worrying trend since his heart-wrenching retirement from the Austrian Grand Prix.
The Thai driver was far from the pace of Verstappen at the Styrian Grand Prix and he was eliminated from Q2 on Saturday, finishing behind Russell.
Russell hinted that Albon is not getting the tools he needs to show his true talent.
“I’ve known Alex for 15 years, being in the same paddock as him,” Russell told Sky Sports shortly after the session. He’s one of the best drivers we’ve all raced – Max, Charles [Leclerc], we will all say.
“He has always been at the forefront in everything he has done, and I don’t know what’s going on. I feel really bad for him because he is made to look like an idiot and he is absolutely not. He’s won in everything he’s done, so I don’t know what’s going on, but they have to fix it for him. ”
Albon appeared frustrated with Red Bull following his elimination in Q2, with a radio message aired about his release into traffic. He later said this affected his preparations for the final timed lap in Q2, although he refused to make any apologies for the result.
“I am not satisfied with my performance in qualifying,” he said. “I felt my first run wasn’t ideal so I definitely made some mistakes. We certainly would have been in Q3 if it wasn’t for that.
“Yet it is not a top five as we should be. It’s hard to drive when the car isn’t doing what you want it to do. ”
The Thai driver looked rather optimistic during his Zoom multimedia session, and it was hard not to think about Pierre Gasly’s behavior during his media sessions during his stay at Red Bull last year. Gasly was never able to shake that curse of bad form – we all know what happened next, with Gasly demoted and Albon promoted to the summer break – and with this year’s races getting thick and fast at the Over the next two months, with eight more in the next 10 weeks, Albon will have to be careful not to get stuck in a similar funk.
Take a walk on the form
Lance Stroll is a fairly easy target to criticize, and he gets his fair share, so it’s worth giving him credit when he is due. The Canadian driver followed the rhythm of Racing Point to qualify in third position.
This is not a position that Racing Point has been used to qualifying for in recent years, perhaps best shown by Stroll appearing to forget he was allowed to park his car by the number three board in the parc fermé, rather than in the parking style section behind the top three. Considering the quality of Racing Point this year, Stroll may want to revisit the protocols for a car that finished in the top three.
Sergio Perez will join him on a second all points racing line, although it was a more complicated session for the Mexican driver.
“I didn’t feel 100% physically,” he said. “I was dizzy during qualifying, it’s not great. I have to check with my physio what’s going on. It should be fine for tomorrow.
“I managed to get by with a good result, it was very complicated, my P4 qualification again is a good start for tomorrow. ”
The Hungarian Grand is live on ESPN at 9:05 a.m. EST Sunday.