A controversy on the behavior of Mercedes could not be missing, even in Hungary. After the race accident at Silverstone, with the now infamous Hamilton-Verstappen contact, this time it was the qualifying that ended up under the magnifying glass of fans and professionals. Many have pointed the finger at Lewis Hamilton’s latest attempt in Q3. The English world champion launched with Verstappen and Sergio Perez’s other Red Bull behind him. At a first television image, the world champion’s tour seemed deliberately slow, so much so that the orange driver avoided the checkered flag for a few seconds, while Perez was not even able to make his last lap.
Lewis’ final Q3 outlap was faster than his previous outlap, and middle of the range overall through quali. He did a couple quicker and a couple slower.
– Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@ MercedesAMGF1) July 31, 2021
Mercedes and Hamilton, however, categorically denied having implemented particular strategies to slow down their direct opponents. In this case, even Red Bull team principal Christian Horner did not point the finger at Brackley’s team. Indeed, looking at the times of the exit laps of all qualifying, you can understand how Hamilton and his team are right. The seven-time world champion in fact completed his last launch lap in a time of 2: 10.249. Verstappen, behind him, turned in 2.11.531. Previously, however, Hamilton had completed some much slower out laps. In the lap that earned him pole, for example, he started with a lap of 2: 14.531. In Q2 he even shot in 2: 17.077.
Conversely, it is true that Verstappen’s last out lap, behind Hamilton, was about nine seconds slower compared to that of his first attempt. Despite this, the Dutchman still improved his time, albeit not enough to earn at least the second position on the grid. Mercedes herself, in one of her tweets, highlighted how Hamilton’s last out lap was faster than the previous ones.
Finally, several television commentators referred to the time limit in which to travel a lap imposed in a note by the Race Director Michael Masi, arguing that Hamilton, Verstappen and many other drivers would not respect him. However, it should be noted that this time limit, 1:31, refers to the return lap (in lap). Then on the lap following the timed one, when the driver returns to the pit lane. On the other hand, there is no time limit for the launch lap (out lap). In this case, in fact, reference is simply made to point 27.4 of the sporting regulations, which says that the driver must not drive too slowly in an “unnecessary” manner. This case, however, as mentioned, is not attributable to Hamilton, who covered the last out lap more quickly than the previous ones.