Martin Brundle column: The verdict on F1's Hungarian GP
Assessing the early-season realities created by Mercedes' latest supreme winning machine and reviewing the performances that caught the eye at the Hungaroring
Last Updated: 21/07/20 3:54pm
Now it's 86 victories and leading the world championship for Lewis Hamilton, along with his 90th pole position underpinned with fastest lap on his final tour.
The incredible pace of the Mercedes-Benz ensures many other drivers had their season's ambitions and hopes thoroughly realigned in Budapest, and not in a good way.
I've never seen an F1 car stick to the track like that, especially in challenging corners like Hungary's turns 4 and 11. Arrive and drive, a couple of gears higher than you'd ever imagine, and barely a lift of the throttle. And seemingly never needing to counter steer into any significant slide.
We should of course be celebrating the excellence of this team creating such a device which is so fit for purpose, but my heart sinks a little. The fact that they are a barely believable 10 seconds per lap faster than their own dominant cars from the early hybrid era just six years ago can only really be fully appreciated from the side of the track, or behind the wheel.
Ferrari have given up a lot of power and straight-line speed due to tightening of the regulations, and Red Bull appear to have stepped on their own tail with aero set-up, hopefully temporarily.
Observing Ferrari sitting fifth in the Constructors' Championship is just painful. I don't have a great deal of sympathy for them as I feel mislead by their performances last year when they were clearly pushing the regulations way too hard, at the same time as we cheered hard and celebrated to finally have a serious challenger for Mercedes.
And given this is largely their 2021 package too, albeit with a few 'tokens' available to improve performance like everybody else, then it's likely to be a while before they are at the front again. They were lapped last year here too but it was still a powerful image when Seb Vettel had to move his Ferrari to one side heading up to turn 4 in order to be lapped by Hamilton.
Mind you, if Lewis hadn't pitted for fresh tyres to steal the fastest lap world championship point, he'd have lapped everyone apart from his team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen in the Red Bull.
Max had a wild moment going to the grid, and then actually properly crashed in turn 12 when locking up his brakes on a wet track, breaking the left track-rod and suspension pushrod. Miraculously he got it to the grid and, with less than 30 seconds to spare, the team impressively repaired the car.
Normally a team would spend a considerable amount of time setting up corner (or cross) weights, ride heights, and other geometry of the car. The replacement parts would be manufactured to precise tolerances and any shims would have been re-used on the grid, but nevertheless it's impressive that he could describe the handling as 'like brand new' in the parc ferme interview post-race.
To split the Mercedes was a sensational effort from Max, notwithstanding Bottas having a jumpy start and falling back. Only Verstappen's prodigious talent and determination can trouble Mercedes in the dry right now.
Valtteri was pretty downbeat in the post-race interview, he'd been outpaced again by Lewis for a second consecutive weekend and had lost the championship lead. As I know well, there's always a Hamilton, Senna, or Schumacher or suchlike around to spoil your day. He somehow needs to get into Lewis's head at Silverstone.
Superimposing the latest Mercedes performance onto a track like Silverstone is bordering on scary, it will simply be immense around the theatre of speed.
Racing Point dominated the second row of the grid to every team's consternation except for Mercedes, their trade supplier of motors, gearboxes, suspension and items such as brake ducts (in 2019) which are under protest yet again by the Renault team.
It has to be Renault because Red Bull might be nervous about some hand-me-downs to sister team AlphaTauri, the same with Haas at Ferrari. Williams have a Merc engine and McLaren will be similarly powered next year. Diplomacy might be sacrificed, however, if Racing Point start to really fulfil their potential.
Lance Stroll had a cracking weekend in his Racing Point, carrying even more speed than the Merc boys in a couple of corners in qualifying, and bringing it home fourth. A good reminder that cloning the all-dominant 2019 Mercedes is fine for a decent lap time, but it still doesn't make you the works team and drivers.
As always there was some great racing in the midfield. These are wide, long and heavy cars, but the likes of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz at McLaren, and Charles Leclerc and Seb Vettel at Ferrari, were throwing them around in very close company as if they were toys. Very enjoyable and impressive to watch.
Drivers like Daniel Ricciardo at Renault had solid days at the wheel, and it was great to see Alex Albon having the confidence to slide his Red Bull alongside many rivals despite his clashes recently. It was a drive to fifth which should give him a lot of confidence and self-belief, both in his head and in the team. Red Bull seem very keen for it to work out with Albon.
It wasn't the greatest Grand Prix, but I've commentated on worse there. But we did get F1 back on the road these past three weekends in fine style, and in a safe and responsible manner. Seventeen races are planned in total between now and mid-December, let's see how far we can get. It may well seem a short few months for Mercedes, but much longer for some other teams and drivers.
Next stop for Formula 1: Silverstone! Watch the British GP, the first of two consecutive races at the famous circuit, live on Sky Sports F1 on July 31-August 2.