By Neil Leverett
- Sebastian Vettel wins at Hungaroring in Budapest ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen
- German extends points lead in Drivers Championship
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY – Sebastian Vettel takes lead into Formula 1 mid-season break over Lewis Hamilton.
German extends World Championship lead
Sebastian Vettel’s fourth win of the season ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, gives the Ferrari driver a 14-point advantage over rival Lewis Hamilton, before racing resumes at Spa in Belgium on the last weekend of August. As the Formula One Grand Prix circuit takes its mid-season interval, the tension in this season’s Drivers’ Championship was revved up further in Budapest over the weekend.
So what else did we learn at the Hungaroring?
Tension remains between rivals
As Hamilton ceded his third place on the podium to his own team-mate Valtteri Bottas on Sunday, the mindset of the Briton was clear. As the three-time World champion stated in The Guardian:
“I want to win the championship the right way. “I don’t know whether that will come back to bite me on the backside or not but I said at the beginning of the year, I want to win it the right way. I do think today was the right way to do things.”
The right way was the chivalrous approach to racing, but Hamilton’s words were clearly meant to be within ear-shot of Vettel, following their infamous altercation in Baku just over a month ago. Both drivers have said that they will move on from the incident in Azerbaijan, but there clearly remains a simmering personal rivalry. Notwithstanding, the Brit is keen to keep the moral high ground – for now.
Hamilton keen to keep ‘nice guy’ persona
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Bottas took the final step on the podium on Sunday, after the the Finn was allowed to pass on the final lap at the Hungaroring.
Hamilton is seen in the media as something of a bad boy, but his nice guy demeanour is never too far away from the Stevanage-born pinup boy of racing.
That side of his character once again made an appearance this weekend, going with team boss Toto Wolff’s wishes to let Bottas pass in the closing stages of the race, in the hope that the Finn’s faster running engine would catch compatriot Raikkonen.
Hamilton’s gesture was one that needed no obligation, more what the former world champion unerringly described as ‘the right way to do things.’
If Sunday did no harm to his public persona, his decision could yet cost him where others in the past may not have been as charitable. Would for example, Michael Schumacher have let his heart rule his head in the same instance?
There can be no refuting Hamilton is ruthless in the sport, but does he still lack a killer instinct that both Schumacher and Vettel possess? More pertinently, will the three points that the Briton handed over on a plate cost him come the end of the season?
Bottas proving worth to Mercedes
Hamilton’s move may have won the psychological duel for the Briton, but was the play to have Bottas take the third finishing position a sign that Mercedes have full faith in the Finnish driver, to make the Championship a three-horse race this season?
With still nine races to go on the calendar, Bottas sits just 33 points off Vettel at the top of the standings.
That may seem an insurmountable deficit, but considering the more long-term durability of the Mercedes-Benz during the latter half of the season – as we have seen in previous years – the task is not a impossibility.
The Finn has two wins under his belt already, taking a spot on the podium in his last five Grand Prix. Mercedes’ decision to name Bottas as the man to replace Nico Rosberg was initially one to raise more than a few eyebrows, but with an already handsome lead in the Constructors Championship, the new man is becoming an asset to his team already, even if an inaugural world title is unrealistic this term.
Team politics roll on
Almost flying in the face of Mercedes’ team directives, Vettel’s refusal to let Raikkonen pass for Ferrari during the the race conclusion in Budapest, mirrored the decision of Hamilton to maintain team harmony, on the opposite side of the paddock
Raikkonen’s protests over the team radio that he was the faster of the two drivers on the track fell on deaf ears, instead being instructed to ‘hold guard’ over their rival cars in third and fourth respectively.
As has been the case in more recent seasons, team orders have often sided with the driver with the more clout on the track and so events at the Hungaroring proved again.
Whilst Ferrari pose a threat to Mercedes as the winning constructor of the world champion elect, said directives are set to remain in place, not least for the workman-like ethic of Vettel. Such decisions however will ruffle more than just a few feathers along the way.
If the growing animosity between Formula One’s two big head-butting stags wasn’t enough for baying motor racing fans, the emerging dissent between Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo saw a fresh blue touch paper lit in Hungary.
Ricciardo was less than enamoured with his team-mate after Verstappen took out the Australian on the opening lap of the race.
After Ricciardo had passed the Dutchman, Verstappen hit the brakes late and slid into his team-mate. The air was turned blue over the team’s radio waves from a frustrated Ricciardo.
The Perth driver in the heat of the moment accused Verstappen of being a sore loser, but has since said that he will move on from the incident if ‘he acts like a man and admits the mistake’, as he told BBC Sport.
On Monday, Ricciardo stated he was looking to move on from what happened this past weekend, but with egos aplenty at Red Bull racing, this one could yet grow in intensity.
The Formula One season resumes 25-27 August at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
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