By Sean Kelly, C4F1 statistician
‘Lewis Hamilton was eliminated from contention for the 2018 world championship on Sunday.’
You might think that to be a crazy statement considering the British driver just clocked up his fifth win of the campaign, extending his points lead to a season-high 24 as the summer break begins.
Hungaroring history suggests otherwise.
Hamilton has now won there on six occasions, tying his best record on any one circuit (he’s also won in Montreal six times), but he’s never won the world championship AND the Hungarian GP in the same season.
In fact, nobody has since Michael Schumacher claimed his seventh and final drivers’ title back in 2004.
Hamilton will surely be happy to take his chances with fate, and back-to-back wins were the best way to head into the break. While it may seem the pendulum has swung back in his direction, Sebastian Vettel is far from out of the reckoning yet.
Hamilton won four consecutive races prior to the summer break in 2016 and still lost the title to Nico Rosberg, while Vettel found himself 42 points adrift at the same stage in 2012 before coming back to win it.
What is not in dispute is that Hamilton has taken the two largest margins of victory in 2018. His 17.123-second gap over Vettel on Sunday is beaten only by his 20.593s victory in the Spanish GP.
For Vettel the race proved to be something of a save, after being outfoxed in the torrential rain of qualifying and ending Q3 in fourth, his worst performance of the season. He was also out-qualified by Kimi Raikkonen for the first time since the opening round in Melbourne.
For his part, Raikkonen ensured Ferrari took a double-podium finish in Hungary for the second year running, in a difficult week for the team following the passing of their former boss Sergio Marchionne.
The Finn claimed his fifth consecutive top-three finish, something he hasn’t done at any time since winning the 2007 world championship.
Sunday was also Raikkonen’s ninth podium finish at the Hungaroring, two more than anyone else in the circuit’s history. If the 38-year-old proves not to be part of Ferrari’s future plans, he at least appears to be in a good run of recent form.
Raikkonen: "Is the drink on now?"— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) July 29, 2018
Ferrari: "We forgot to connect it Kimi. We’re sorry."
Raikkonen: "No, is the switch on or not?"
Ferrari: No Kimi. You will not have the drink."
Raikkonen had no drinks bottle connected in his car... #C4F1 #HungarianGP pic.twitter.com/nwPg4pGrUk
In contrast, Red Bull have hit the doldrums of late.
Daniel Ricciardo started a lowly 12th, missing Q3 for the second consecutive weekend after only doing so once in the previous 58 grands prix. He was able to salvage fourth but only after having to get the elbows out with Valtteri Bottas, who found himself going backwards in the late stages for the second time in the last three races, and ended up a frustrated fifth.
Ricciardo was Red Bull’s only representative for much of the race after Max Verstappen’s car broke down – the eighth time this season that a Red Bull has failed to reach the chequered flag, and the seventh time one of their cars has not been a classified finisher.
While one side of Dietrich Mateschitz’s F1 racing empire was imploding with frustration, the other half was jubilant.
On a circuit where they’d scored points for the previous four years running, Toro Rosso claimed a top-six finish courtesy of Pierre Gasly, who briefly ran as high as third. This was another big boost for Honda, who prior to Sunday had only completed a grand total of 12 laps in a podium position in the entire turbo hybrid era.
Haas’ Kevin Magnussen had never scored a point in Hungary in his F1 career, but that run came to an end this weekend as the Dane finished seventh, moving the US team back ahead of Force India and into fifth in the constructors’ championship.
A long way behind him came Fernando Alonso, who was driving in a grand prix on his birthday for the third time in his career. As with the previous two instances (Germany 2001, Hungary 2012) he finished in the top 10, although eighth place was his worst result in any Hungarian GP since a DNF in 2009.
The race was briefly neutralised with a VSC on Lap 6 when Verstappen became the second retirement with a mechanical glitch— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) July 29, 2018
Verstappen: “No power! Mate, really?"
We can't bring the rest of that exchange as we'll run out of asterisks! #C4F1 #HungarianGP pic.twitter.com/Pg6zhWZsI9
Carlos Sainz had a sensational Saturday when he put his Renault fifth on the grid, matching his career-best performance. That came in the 2015 Spanish GP with Toro Rosso, which was only his fifth race start, so it’s been a long time coming for the man from Madrid.
Alas, a poor first lap rather set him back, and although he scored for the third consecutive year in Hungary, ninth place would likely be considered a disappointment given his starting position.
The final scorer was Romain Grosjean, as Haas increasingly look like the biggest threat to Renault’s grip on fourth in the championship. They’ve outscored Renault 47-26 in the last five races, and in that period Haas are the only team other than Ferrari to have got both cars into Q3 on every occasion.
Although once again in the shadow of his team-mate Gasly in Hungary, Brendon Hartley reached Q3 for the first time in his career, and the New Zealander was only 1.355 seconds away from pipping Grosjean to the final point.
After his impressive P5 at Hockenheim, Nico Hulkenberg failed to score this time for Renault, but this may not be considered as surprising as at other circuits – the German has only managed one point at the Hungaroring since 2010.
Force India will take part in today's #HungarianGP despite going into administration - but what future does the financially-troubled team face?— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) July 29, 2018
Watch @therealdcf1's analysis of the situation ⬇️ https://t.co/d2Z9KLKj12
If ever Force India could have needed a morale-boosting result, it was in the week the team went into financial administration.
Unfortunately, they got the exact opposite – a double Q1 elimination was their first since the 2015 Spanish GP, and Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez were a lapped 13th and 14th in Sunday’s race, with neither driver getting within 2.8 seconds of the best lap of the grand prix (set by Ricciardo).
Such pain has become a regular visitor at Williams recently. Last season their two cars lined up 17th and 19th in Hungary, and this year somehow they managed to go one step further and have one car last on the grid and the other one starting in the pit lane.
Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll ended up as the two last-classified race finishers, two laps adrift.
At least they finished.
It was further heartache for Vandoorne when he became the third retirement of the race with mechanical issues on his McLaren— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) July 29, 2018
Ben: “It looked as though it was going to be a double score for McLaren, but it’s not to be.” #C4F1 #HungarianGP pic.twitter.com/CzvdUpabSc
Stoffel Vandoorne was enjoying one of the strongest races of his season, running in ninth position less than three seconds behind team-mate Alonso when his gearbox failed.
Of the other two DNFs, Verstappen made very clear on team radio his frustration over his bad luck with mechanical reliability, employing post-watershed language as the car ground to a halt.
Charles Leclerc had the shortest day of his rookie F1 season, stopping his Sauber due to accident damage at the end of the first lap. On a weekend in which he suffered his first Q1 elimination in nine races, he probably couldn’t have picked a better time.
Steve: "That’s the first half of the 2018 season, it's been dynamite. We’re back on August 25th, live in Spa. We hope to see you there."— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) July 29, 2018
Enjoy your summer break, and we look forward to seeing you back again at one of the best circuits in the world #C4F1 #HungarianGP pic.twitter.com/R3Tok2s7uz
After a whirlwind run of five grands prix in six weekends, F1 now goes into summer hibernation.
It will re-emerge on August 26 at Spa-Francorchamps, where Vettel has never won for Ferrari and where Mercedes have taken the last five consecutive poles … but such records are made to be broken!