Is the Mercedes back? Looking at the difficulties suffered in Austria by the Brackley team it seemed that the team led by Toto Wolff was forced to admire the state of form of Red Bull and Max Verstappen as a privileged spectator. Then something changed.
At Silverstone the Stella team brought small updates to the track that transformed the W12 and the Black Arrows are back to flying. Of course, on the home track the return to success was propitiated by the controversial contact at Copse between Verstappen and Hamilton, but since qualifying – and also on the occasion of the Sprint Qualifying – it seemed clear that Mercedes had managed to find the key to the problem. .
The confirmation of the “resurrection” took place in Hungary. With very high asphalt temperatures, the W12s of Hamilton and Bottas were immediately very fast, while the Red Bull, unexpectedly, struggled more than expected.
In qualifying Verstappen was unable to do better than the third time and had to pass the Q2 cut with the soft ones and then pay a gap, at the end of Q3, of 4 tenths from the pole signed by Lewis Hamilton.
In the race, then, the Dutchman was involved in the initial crash caused by a serious mistake by Bottas and could not help but bring his extremely damaged car to the finish in eighth position, however, seeing himself overtaken by Hamilton in the standings.
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, and Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B, collide
Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images
The Englishman now leads the ranking with 195 points, while Verstappen follows at 187. In the Constructors, Mercedes has regained the lead and now occupies the first place with 303 points followed by Red Bull with 291.
Andrew Shovlin, head of Mercedes’ track engineers, spoke to analyze what happened last weekend in Hungary, and said he was amazed at the performance achieved thanks to the new aerodynamic package introduced in Great Britain.
“We used the same upgrade kit seen at Silverstone and the performance was positive. The car performed well in Hungary, especially in running the tires. To be honest we were especially surprised by the margin we had for pole ”.
Shovlin then underlined the amazement of the team to see the much better performing W12s of the Red Bulls on a track, on paper, favorable to the cars of the Milton Keynes team.
“Actually yes. We thought the Hungaroring was a suitable circuit for them. We are always worried when we go racing on a heavily loaded track, such as Monaco. They managed to excel in that appointment, but perhaps they couldn’t find the right balance here ”.
“We were surprised to see them run with a small rear wing and we don’t know why they made this decision.”
The Bottas crash
The Bottas argument was treated without particular hesitation by Shovlin. The head of track engineers stressed that the fault lies entirely with the Finn, who was misled by the precarious grip caused by the wet asphalt.
“He was sorry and apologized to all the riders involved, but he had a bad start conditioned by the rain that fell on the formation lap which reduced grip. When he arrived in Turn 1 he was behind Lando and lost downforce. Then he missed the braking point and blocked the wheels, and when you block in the wet you are just a passenger ”.
“He’s not at his best, but he couldn’t help but apologize for what happened. He could also have considered mitigating circumstances, but he preferred to take all the blame ”.
The choice of intermediates
The Hungaroring race showed an unusual scenario. When operations resumed, the only driver to line up on the track after the formation lap was Lewis Hamilton, while all the others were called back to the pits to mount dry tires.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12
Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images
The strategic error was evident, and even Shovlin admitted it, but the motivation for the choice to keep the intermediates was dictated by other factors.
“When we left the pitlane we were discussing whether it was appropriate to mount slicks because we saw that the track was drying, but we preferred to stay on the intermediate to be on the safe side and not risk being involved in an indicative”.
“We were surprised when we saw the whole group heading towards the pitlane, but we also have to consider the positioning of our garage. We occupy the first garage and when in such a situation you enter the pitlane you are forced to wait for the other cars to pass and then find the opening necessary to exit. Furthermore, in that situation, there were contacts in the pit lane ”.
“The real mistake was not to get back on the grid immediately with dry tires, as everyone should have done. We had an easy opportunity to win the race and we didn’t take it, but we made this decision together and we made a mistake together. No one has been blamed for this, but it has been a teaching that will prevent us from repeating the same mistake ”.
Despite having sunk to fourteenth position, Hamilton managed to climb up to third (second if Vettel’s disqualification were confirmed ed.) Thanks also to an apt strategy of the team that patched up the initial mistake.
However, the end result left Mercedes a bad taste. According to Shovlin, if Lewis managed to get rid of Alonso right away he would have a chance to go on to win the race.
“Hamilton had the pace to win easily, but when you get stuck behind other cars then you go nowhere. If Lewis had managed to overtake Fernando faster he would have been able to attack Sebastian and Esteban ”.
Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12
Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images
“This, together with Monaco, is the worst circuit to lose positions and, as mentioned, it all comes down to how fast you can overtake because if you get stuck behind someone with fresh tires everything starts to go wrong.”