Following on from the excitement of one of the most dramatic grands prix in recent memory at Hockenheim, fans and experts alike feared a let down of sorts in Hungary on Sunday.
Yet, despite the clement weather conditions and circuit that led itself to few overtaking opportunities, we were treated to another classic race for different reasons.
Here, then, are the key talking points from another fascinating and memorable grand prix.
Hamilton vs Verstappen could be a rivalry for the ages
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 5, 2019
All the talk before the Hungarian Grand Prix focused on the battle between the current king of Formula One and heir apparent Max Verstappen after the Dutchman’s brilliant victory in the German Grand Prix. Truth be told, for fans of the sport and journalists alike, this has been the battle that most have been looking forward to for some time.
No disrespect to Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, but the Ferrari pace just hasn’t been there in recent races and, arguably, Red Bull (under Verstappen at least) is now the major challenger to Mercedes’ supremacy. Yes, Vettel is a four-time world champion, but has made some uncharacteristic mistakes over the previous two seasons. And, despite flashes of brilliance, his powers seem to be on the wane of late.
Leclerc is perhaps also a champion in waiting, but the styles and personalities of Hamilton and Verstappen seem to knit perfectly into a rivalry for the ages. Neither is prepared to give an inch both have qualifying brilliance and race pace in abundance and fans will certainly be licking their lips in anticipation of what is to come.
Big names under pressure approaching F1’s ‘silly season’
With nothing for Formula One teams and fans to do but twiddle their thumbs for the next three weeks, talk will inevitably turn to what driver changes teams have in mind for 2020.
Much of that talk centres around drivers from the top three teams, most of all Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly. Despite recording a pair of wins so far in 2019 and showing glimpses of brilliance, Bottas has also endured some messy races, suggesting the consistency that eluded him in 2018 may well be returning. Conversely, after impressive showings for Red Bull sister team Scuderia Toro Rossi in 2017 and 2018, Gasly has so far failed to live up to the hype, with only 55 points so far this season in a top machine and a 12-1 quali and race deficit to Verstappen.
Only the biggest of doomsayers are suggesting Vettel has run out of motivation and is also at risk at Ferrari, but controversial column inches sell papers, and his name has also been mentioned. It appears nobody is safe, with Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg also apparently fearing for their race seats. Who knows, but there will certainly be plenty of hungry drivers with lots of motivation when racing begins in earnest once again.
McLaren emerging as ‘best of the rest’
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 4, 2019
After several seasons of doom and gloom and a lengthy ‘bedding in’ process with returning engine supplier Honda, the famous name of McLaren at last appears to be turning the corner.
The pairing of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz appeared at the outset to be one of the strongest on the grid and they have certainly not disappointed, delivering the team 82 points this season. Of those, former Toro Rosso and Renault man Sainz has 58 to his name. Yet, interestingly, Norris has the qualifying edge over his more experienced teammate.
Of course, the team won’t be close to challenging the established top three, possibly for some time yet. But they look to be edging clear of what is a fascinating midfield battle this season.
Kimi Raikkonen continues to entertain and impress
Getting into the car on a warm day to find everything too hot to handle is a problem we all face 😡
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 5, 2019
Nobody will ever forget the 2007 Formula One finale, when Kimi Raikkonen beat Lewis Hamilton to the world drivers’ championship by a single point in a dramatic end to the season.
Of course, Raikkonen has been a stellar driver since his debut with Sauber in 2000 and a fan favourite ever since due to his blasé attitude to media commitments and interviews and, of course, his famous radio outbursts from his car cockpit.
Up against Sebastian Vettel on his return to Ferrari, however, Raikkonen appeared a shadow of his former self and never mounted a serious challenge on his teammate. It was a surprise to many, therefore, that Raikkonen accepted the offer of a drive with Alfa Romeo for the 2019 season when retirement seemed beckoning.
Yet a move to a smaller team and out of the spotlight seems to have reignited the Finn’s love of the game and he has shone this season as Alfa’s lead driver, only failing to score points in four races and laying a creditable eighth in the drivers’ standings. If this is to be the evergreen Raikkonen’s final season, he’s certainly providing us with entertainment aplenty and proving what a great driver he is and how much he will be missed.