Verstappen can’t stop Hammertime

2019 Hungarian Grand Prix review

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Max Verstappen took a swipe at Lewis Hamilton ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, telling the world the five-times champion had “never really had big pressure from his team mates”.

That statement was true of both drivers in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix. Only one Red Bull and one Mercedes were in contention for victory at the Hungaroring, but even with the Ferrari pair also out of the equation, that was more than enough for a scintillating battle.

Bottas blows it

Valtteri Bottas arrived at the Hungaroring having squandered a chance to slash Hamilton’s championship lead the previous weekend, leaving him 41 points adrift of his rival. The rumours around Mercedes indicated this was his last chance to prove Mercedes should keep their faith in him and not Esteban Ocon for 2020.

Beating Hamilton to second on the grid behind Verstappen was a good start, but he undid his hard work before they even reached turn four. Trying to get around the outside of Verstappen at turn one he locked up, flat-spotting a tyre, which caused him to run wide at turn two.

Start, Hungaroring, 2019
A bad start for Bottas ruined his day
There he made sure to give Hamilton space – perhaps too much space, he later admitted – and his team mate swept by. Compromised, Bottas then found Charles Leclerc sweeping past on his right. The two came together, breaking Bottas’s front wing. Five laps later he was in the pits for repairs, his hopes of a decent points haul over.

Bottas’s demise evened things up at the front a bit. Pierre Gasly’s poor qualifying effort – he was eight-tenths of a second off Verstappen – meant he started sixth. He was therefore unlikely to play a role in the fight at the front to begin with, and when his medium-tyred Red Bull was passed by three soft-tyres rivals at the start, he was on course for a day every bit as demoralising as Bottas’s.

Leclerc kept Sebastian Vettel behind at the start but as early as lap 10 the pair were over 10 seconds behind race leader Verstappen. The stage was set for a 70-lap fight between the sport’s most successful current driver and the man most widely tipped to succeed him.

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Verstappen holds on

Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Hungaroring, 2019
Hamilton tested Verstappen’s defences
By lap 17 it was becoming clear the leaders would be able to make their pit stops and come out in front of the Ferrari drivers if they timed things correctly. But Verstappen and Hamilton were leaving the field behind at such a rate they were already lapping the stragglers, who now also became a factor in the timing of their pit stops.

Hamilton’s pace made him an obvious threat. he was almost, but not quite, quick enough to get within range of Verstappen’s DRS. The first lap on fresh tyres offered a significant ‘undercut’ advantage, and Red Bull were the ones to grab it.

It was a risky call – Verstappen emerged from the pits with Antonio Giovinazzi ahead of him, but the Alfa Romeo driver swiftly made way. Eyeing Verstappen’s sector times, Mercedes quickly realised that bringing Hamilton in would only guarantee he’d fall behind the Red Bull again. The best option was to extend the stint.

Hamilton came in six laps after Verstappen, giving him the benefit of slightly fresher tyres. He lost over a second due to a slow pit stop, but gained that and more back as he reeled off a series of hot laps when he rejoined the track. Hamilton ripped two seconds a lap out of Verstappen; the Red Bull driver was told to turn his power unit up and found another nine-tenths.

But as the pair continued to pick their way through traffic, Verstappen’s compromised line through the final corner gave Hamilton a chance to test the Red Bull driver’s famously uncompromising defences. Verstappen covered the inside at turn one as they lapped Daniel Ricciardo. Hamilton kept pressing, forcing Verstappen to cover the inside at the next two corners.

He gave it a go at turn four as well, but the short, fast and slightly blind curve is one of the hardest places to effect a pass. Hamilton ran wide onto the asphalt apron and Verstappen held his lead.

The sustained attack had taken its toll on Hamilton’s brakes, and for several laps he had to back off and give them a breather. By lap 43 he was back on the cusp of getting within range of Verstappen’s DRS zone. But if he hadn’t been able to pass the Red Bull when his tyres were at their peak, his chance now seemed slimmer.

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Hammertime

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2019
Hamilton’s second pit stop was a race-winner
Mercedes therefore decided to bring Hamilton in for a pit stop. Afterwards Christian Horner described this as an “obvious” move, whereas Mercedes characterised it as a risk which involved switching to a two-stop strategy which they had rejected in their pre-race briefing.

Undoubtedly a two-stop strategy was an inferior option in a ‘normal’ race where more than one car was within the leader’s pit stop window. Pirelli’s pre-race guide indicated one-stopping was the only realistic strategy.

But Hamilton’s circumstances were different from the norm: he would not lose a single place by pitting, and therefore the risk was far less. Hamilton called the move a “big gamble” but the stakes were actually low. Mercedes were not risking a low points finish in pursuit of a higher one.

As it turned out, there was a chance Hamilton could have passed Verstappen without the extra pit stop. His tyres were six laps fresher than Verstappen’s, and the Red Bull driver’ rubber hit ‘the cliff’ with seven laps to go. The real importance of switching Hamilton’s strategy was it meant Verstappen could not afford to nurse his rubber to the end. Hamilton was 19.2 seconds behind him at the end of lap 49, and Verstappen had to keep Hamilton’s gain at less than one second per lap.

It was ‘Hammertime’ for Hamilton, but to begin with a clutch of lapped cars compromised his charge. He gained less than four seconds over the first six laps. Verstappen seemed on course for his third win in for races.

The picture changed quickly over the next 10 laps. First Hamilton, free of traffic, started to bury his laps well into the mid-1’18s. Still Verstappen was in the high 1’19s, which was just good enough. Then his tyres hit the cliff. On lap 63 Hamilton took 2.3 seconds out of him, and he continued at the same rate.

This time there was no wheel-to-wheel dice: Hamilton was so much faster he simply cruised up behind the Red Bull, pressed his DRS button and motored past for his eighth win of the season. Verstappen played his final card, pitted for a set of soft tyres, and nabbed the bonus point for fastest lap.

Vettel denies Leclerc

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2019
Vettel snatched third from his team mate
After Hamilton took the chequered flag there was a one-minute wait for the Ferraris to appear. They were led by Vettel, who had run a patient opening stint then switched to the soft tyres to reel in Leclerc.

As Vettel closed, Leclerc was advised that, unlike in Australia where the roles were reversed, the Ferrari drivers were “free to race”. Vettel surprised his team mate with a lunge down the inside of turn one for the final podium place, after which Leclerc reported his ‘K1 plus’ power mode had not worked.

A quick Red Bull pit stop for Gasly and a slow McLaren one for Lando Norris accounted for some of the position changes in the second half of the top 10. Carlos Sainz Jnr impressively delivered another fifth place finish for the Woking outfit, leading home Gasly. Red Bull must look at Sainz point’s tally, just five shy of Gasly with a much slower car, and wonder how they let him slip through their fingers.

Mercedes also have some thinking to do about their driver line-up. After a strong start to his third season at the campaign, Bottas delivered his second weak performance in a row at the worst possible time. He followed Kimi Raikkonen home.

Sergio Perez and Daniil Kvyat fell off the same cliff as Verstappen and the beneficiary was Alexander Albon. He claimed tenth place behind Norris, and ironically may have benefited from being passed by his team mate earlier on and ending up on a superior strategy as a result.

Neither Renault driver scored: Nico Hulkenberg toiled away with an engine problem which confined him to 12th behind Perez. Daniel Ricciardo spent virtually the whole race stuck behind Kevin Magnussen, infuriated by the Haas driver’s late defensive moves. For Magnussen’s part, his engineer told him that was the best drive for 13th place he’d seen.

Williams seemed to make a step in Hungary. At least, George Russell, who followed up his unexpected 16th in qualifying with the same in the race. In his hands, the FW42 looked like a car which belonged in the midfield rather than merely aspiring to it. He was followed home by Lance Stroll, Antonio Giovinazzi (who had some unspecified problem with his first set of tyres) and Robert Kubica, whose thousands of passionate supporters were not deterred one iota by the largely dire return he is enduring at Williams.

“This is awesome”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2019
Hamilton is on course for another title
While another Hamilton championship now seems a foregone conclusion, the emergence of Verstappen and Red Bull as serious contenders for race victory has injected fresh life into the 2019 season.

We’ve had occasional skirmishes between Hamilton and Verstappen before, but he Hungarian Grand Prix served up the first prolonged encounter between the two. And what a treat it was.

“It’s really fantastic to see Red Bull’s progress,” said the race winner, who hopes the next round will see more than just two cars fighting for the victory.

“I think it’s going to continue for the races to come. Even the faster circuits, the engine’s going to be great in Monza, so hopefully we’ll see this battle continue for the rest of the season. And, fingers crossed, Ferrari also will take a step back towards us at some point over the next races. But going into the break, this is awesome.”

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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54 comments on “Verstappen can’t stop Hammertime”

  1. Hamilton’s pace made him an obvious threat. he was almost, but not quite, quick enough to get within range of Verstappen’s DRS.

    1. Sorry, meant to click quote, not post!
      I was going to add, that was a bit ambiguous in the first stint since Hamilton later said on the radio for the team to tell him when to close up. It seemed he was keeping a 2-second distance on purpose, ready to add pressure at the right team.

      1. Yeah, Lewis could follow easily without ruining his tyres. He was faster all race in the Mercedes than Max in the redbull

        1. Car set up for race rather than qualy?

          1. Yep, he’s been doing it at least since 2015

          2. Not likely. Obvious was his DRS in his last attempt was not used. That compromised his last attempt .
            With it, he probably would have matched Bottas.
            Looking at his eager to get poles and his trackrecord in getting them he is very focused on poles.

  2. F1 fans love DRS now.

    1. Anon A. Mouse
      6th August 2019, 2:56

      Of course they do. It provides the spectacle and all the overtaking they clamored for. It may not make for spectacular and organic racing, but that’s secondary to the show these days.

      1. Nope, and thankfully it’ll be gone after next year.

  3. Lewis pushed Max hard and caused Verstappen’s tires to be shot, Verstappen had to pit earlier than Lewis despite running in clear air, shows Lewis is the superior tire manager compared to Verstappen. Good race though but i believe Lewis decimate Verstappen when they are in the same team.

    1. I think there are many ways to read the race and explain to why Lewis won…. some forget logic… and I’m afraid your one of them.

      Max was never faster on track, he wasn’t able to create any kind of gap despite he was in clean air, Lewis closed in when told to close in with great easy…showing his overspeed. Out of 70 laps Lewis was stuck most of the time, though still did 42 faster laps than Verstappen… equaly in the first stint, faster in the 2nd and 3rd.

      After the first pistops Max did a 1:20.928, Lewis a 1:19:653… a difference of near 1.3 sec….
      It’s not like RBR have become the team to beat over the course of two races, Mercedes is still the benchmark

      1. The difference between a car set up for the race and a car set up for one-lap qualy glory?

        1. Or maybe Mercedes can run their engine at a higher output over the whole race compared to Honda who can only do it over 1 lap which would be my guess. Nobody here really knows as none of us are in know (despite what some on here claim).

          The big tell-tale for me was when Lewis came out of the pits after the first stops he demolished a 5 secong lead in 2 laps. You can’t do that unless you have a machine that is superior no matter how good a driver you are.

          1. Alex, The thing is, Verstappen was lapping quite a bit slower on those laps where Hamilton took a large chunk out of his lead, and I believe that traffic was part of the cause for those slow laps.

            From lap 29 to lap 33, Verstappen’s lap times were in the low 1m22s to high 1m21s bracket – as Keith notes in the article, that dropped quite sharply to a mid 1m20s lap time on lap 34. Whilst it might have only taken a handful of laps for Hamilton to catch back up, that was really more down to Verstappen lapping in the order of 1-2 seconds slower than his ultimate pace – it’s a flawed comparison in performance.

        2. Keep repeating the same line over a dozen times across articles, it doesn’t make it any more accurate.

          1. It’s just my opinion. You’re correct, it doesn’t mean it’s true though. However, at least I’m open to other possibilities it’s just this one seems most likely at the moment given the evidence.

        3. @gnosticbrian
          Keep telling that set up argument! So Max Verstappen is the second fastest to ever finish the Hungarian grand prix in the 3rd fastest car set up for one lap glory… making him by default the greatest driver in the history of F1.
          That brain of yours…..lol!

      2. Max had much traffic in his out lap out of the first stop. You are looking at worthless figures.

    2. Often Max has been one of the better tire managers amongst the grid. Max and RBR forced LH into a gamble strategy due to the rare occasion for LH to not lose a spot in second with the extra pit. On the same team these two drivers would be extremely close and of course as a Max fan I’m going to say Max would prevail, but LH decimate MV? No way. Let’s give Max the same amount of time to gel in a WCC car for years like LH has had, and tell me LH would ‘decimate’ Max.

      1. Max and RBR forced LH into a gamble strategy

        Not really forced, there was still a reasonably good chance of Hamilton getting past Verstappen with better pace and fresher tyres. That’s why Hamilton called pitting for a second time a gamble – he was a second behind and faster versus 20 seconds behind with a ton of backmarkers to clear. The only issue in continuing to pursue MV so closely was brake overheating.

      2. Often Max has been one of the better tire managers amongst the grid

        Was worse on Sunday though.

    3. The facts are both Lewis and Max were whining on the radio about grip and wanting to pitt for new tires. Red Bull granted Max request while Mercedes didn’t grant Lewis his request. Thats the only difference between them. Red Bull shouldn’t listen to Max just like Mercedes shouldn’t listen to Lewis. If Mercedes listened to Lewis he would have lost in Monaco and this race to be honest.

    4. This race was interesting because it was won by a Mercedes strategist outfoxing Red Bull. Hamilton had the advantage of a free pitstop and Verstappen did not. Hamilton is on the peak of his driving skill. He is in the best car within the best team, for now. Max Verstappen keeps improving. Red Bull and Honda keep developing. Together they will reach a point that will minimize the margin for free pitstops of trailing cars and soon after that they are out of reach.
      What a prospect.

  4. As Vettel closed, Leclerc was advised that, unlike in Australia where the roles were reversed, the Ferrari drivers were “free to race”. Vettel surprised his team mate with a lunge down the inside of turn one for the final podium place, after which Leclerc reported his ‘K1 plus’ power mode had not worked.”
    Well, I have already forgotten that in Australia Leclerc was not allowed to pass Vettel. For me this doesn’t matter, but it matters for Vettel and Leclerc statistics which will be misleading after this season.

    1. digitalrurouni
      7th August 2019, 13:04

      I would think since Ferrari is sucking so hard right now and Red Bull is on the up and up they would like to be ahead of RB in the WCC. So all the points will matter so I would reckon they would see from the pitwall if one of their drivers is making inroads well maybe they should not get held up?

  5. Well about the Bottas-Ocon dilemma. Bottas has been a perfect no.2 driver for Hamilton. Now when Verstappen and Red Bull Honda have raised their game if Mercedes wouldn’t have Hamilton the championship would likely go to Milton Keys rather than Brackley. But if Ocon will be sitting on the grid next year (in Mercedes) will he find himself fighting against Hamilton or his seat.

    1. Bottas will soon be promoted to the Mercedes FE team, position wingman.

    2. It all depends on what Hamilton and Mercedes want to do after 2020:
      If Hamilton quits (quite possible) then I Mercedes will miss ‘star’ power with Ocon and possibly Russell as teammates. Same with a move from Hamilton to Ferrari.
      If Mercedes wants Verstappen in 2021 I can’t see them pairing him with Ocon (those two both have too big ego’s to get along nicely).

      Two major ifs, but they’re still lingering under the table. To get rid of them for now it’s easier to keep Bottas who is still 2nd in the championship and is performing reasonably well as a #2. In 2021 they can promote Russell. Then it’s between Hamilton and Verstappen which is an easy choice if Hamilton continues in F1 and wants to continue with Mercedes.

      So in short: extent Bottas for 1 year.

  6. How can the statement that both men have never been pressured by their teammate be true for both?

    1. Why can’t it be true?

      1. Well, because Hamilton has had a 2 time champion, a 1 time champion and an eventual 1 time champion for teammates. Everyone agrees Alonso is a formidable opponent, most people would say Button can drive a very good race in a good car, and Rosberg shouldn’t be underestimated. Kovalainen and Bottas (so far) haven’t really been that much of a threat to Hamilton. So that’s 7 seasons of his career Hamilton’s had a teammate who could win on any given Sunday vs. Hamilton.

        Now compare with Verstappen, who the closest thing to serious competition he’s had was Ricciardo– and I firmly believe he left for Renault because he knew he wouldn’t be allowed to compete with the great dutch hope.

        However, back to the original question, I think it’s a bit of clumsy wording where the editor tried to work in Verstappen’s comments as well as the fact that neither Hamilton nor Verstappen faced a serious challenge from their teammates this weekend.

        1. @grat I’m pretty sure Max wasn’t talking about a head count of WDCs LH has faced in his career. He’s talking about real, sustained pressure in his WDC years from, for example, a teammate who is faster than him at least half the time, throughout a season, meaning he had to be on it full-time. Right down to the final race. Even when Nico beat him, LH often had that extra tenth over him.

          Otherwise, Max wasn’t making a statement about, nor comparing his own experiences, as he has not been in the necessary WCC car yet for that to happen. Once he has that, he won’t be caught, and I predict he also will not feel much pressure from his teammates.

  7. @keithcollantine

    …the emergence of Verstappen and Red Bull as serious contenders for race victory has injected fresh life into the 2019 season.

    I think the jury is still out on this. The circumstances around the last handful of races (extreme heat, changeable conditions, and a track with few straights) has offered the opportunity to jumble the order somewhat. But even in this weird interlude you’ve got 2 of 4 Merc/Hamilton wins and 4 of 8 possible podiums—and could have easily been 6 without the offs in Germany.

    My point is, we aren’t out of the woods of a Mercedes rout just yet. Fully expect the gap to widen rather than shrink. We’ll see.

    1. Of course the jury is “still out on this”. Only at the end of the season we can see what has happened.
      For now its obvious Red Bull made some excellent development steps and is a real contender for podiums and race victory’s. There are several tracks in the second half where the Red Bull could be the better car.

      1. And one of those was the Hungaroring. I have no idea what’s happened to Ferrari, but at least Red Bull should be keeping the Silver Arrows honest.

        I don’t think Max is in contention for the championship because Hamilton would have to have a meltdown worse than 2011 for that to happen. Max could win every race from here on out, but as long as Lewis finishes at least second, and someone other than Max gets a couple fast lap points, it’s still going to be Lewis for a 6th WDC.

        I think Ferrari have a good shot at Spa and Monza this year, and maybe even Suzuka. Of course, for Monza, Mercedes gets to take a lot of downforce off their car too, and I think the Mercedes has better mechanical grip than the Ferrari right now.

        Red Bull can obviously compete with Mercedes over one or two laps, but I think Mercedes still has more overall power, and I think for once, the Mercedes is easier on it’s tires than the Red Bull.

        So I don’t think it’s going to be all Mercedes all the time for the rest of the season, but it’s still going to be pretty common.

    2. Yep that’s what I’m thinking too. I think we’ve been watching a driving masterclass from Max combined with that Honda PU cranked right up (I can’t be the only one who was surprised that it didn’t blow either here or Austria) .

    3. @hobo I don’t disagree. Gotta give the nod to Mercedes as the dominant team this season, obviously, and LH did beat Max after all was said and done, and he will win more races this season unquestionably. But at least the odds for Max for now are that he seems to have displaced both Ferraris and one Mercedes on what might become a regular basis. As you say we’ll just have to see, but if indeed RBR/Honda have sorted some things making Max more at one with his car, and he can keep ahead of the Ferraris, then yeah he is a serious contender for victories for the duration of the season. Not for the WDC, but for victories…sure.

      Put another way, with his near-win this weekend, nearly making it 3 this season, Marko’s bold prediction of 5 wins sure doesn’t seem outlandish any more.

    4. In response to everyone, especially erikje, what I meant was that whenever we have a great race someone (usually a driver or team boss) will say something like, “See! F1 is exciting, we don’t need any changes for better racing!!!” Which is disingenuous because while not every race can be super exciting, it shouldn’t only be interesting once or twice a season.

      So what I was saying was, I’m not sure a couple of races with extenuating circumstances (heat, rain, etc.) really means that something has changed. Maybe it has. Maybe Max will make this season interesting if not close. But I’m not there yet.

  8. Another heroic drive from Lewis Hamilton. I never get tired of hearing his accounts of another gritty, underdog effort in a car less capable than the Red Bull and Ferrari. Give me a break…

    1. Where did you read him saying his car was less capable than the Red and (particularly) the Ferrari, Bob?

      1. From the voices in his head, obviously.

      2. “We’re in a good position in terms of working as a team tomorrow,” said Hamilton. “We’re in a fortunate position, potentially, if we can hold on to Max to be able to work together to pull him closer to us and give him a bit of a run for his money.

        That was Saturday.

        Seriously, I’m not questioning his obvious talent but he’s had the best car on the planet for six and a half years now

        1. He may have the best car – but he still has to deliver a performance commensurate with that car, and he did that with the help of the team didn’t he.

  9. No doubt, Verstappen is an exciting prospect. But I find it amusing, particularly when Max says “HAM has never had pressure from team mates” because let’s look at Max’s CV in F1:
    – Beat Sainz, who was never far behind.
    -Defeated by Ricciardo in 2/3 seasons. Max fans will want to point out reliability this and that. Well, by that logic we would need to do the same thing to HAM/ROS in 2016. Max was defeated, same way HAM was defeated.
    – Gasly. Less said the better.

    I often find that Verstappen’s hype supersedes his actually ability. When Max finally beats WDC team mates and delivers multiple championships then I can take comments like that seriously. Till then, HAM is a proven multiple WDC; Max has potential to be one. Whether Max will realise that potential- time will tell.

    1. @blazzz For sure Max can only speak from his as of yet non-WDC stance, and he was opining on LH’s road to his WDCs, and not making any statements about how it has been for himself so far. He’s not claiming he has been pressured, and I have no doubt that once Max is in a WDC car that fits him like a glove for several years running he too will not be all that pressured by his teammates. The one caveat on that might be that the closeness of teams and the close racing amongst the cars due to the 2021 reg changes may make Max’s WDCs a little harder fought. After all, that is what all the drivers have been wanting for a long time and making it more about the driver is something Liberty and Brawn want to achieve.

    2. @blazzz It was 2/1 Ricciardo/Verstappen in the WDC , there is no qualifying champion ship.

    3. $100 Max will be WDC within the next 3 years. Taking all comers.

      1. Only after Hamilton retires will Max win a WDC. So it all depends on Lewis.

      2. No if he is in a Red Bull

      3. @Iana At the rate they’re going at RBR, I wouldn’t bet against that. Come 2021 all bets are off wrt a continued Mercedes domination, so…who knows, maybe Max will even be a legit WDC force all season next year, rather than just as the first half was winding down. They could make real strides through this year and the off-season and come out swinging next year.

  10. RocketTankski
    6th August 2019, 9:47

    These are all good points, but the real mastery here is Keith’s expert use of an MCHammer lyric :-)

  11. It’s a bit unfair claiming ‘Hammertime’ when no other driver, inc Verstappen has that luxury of a car to do this with.
    Lewis didnt even agree with the strategy, again. Left to their own survival skills, we’d see all sorts of outcomes and mistakes.
    Lewis is good at keeping the car on the black stuff whilst the software and extra power of the motor do the rest.

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