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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Ricciardo’s efforts finally rewarded // Aussie proves he can take the fight to Mercedes when luck isn’t against him

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While Hungary has tended to go against the grain, with better races than expected, Sunday was a bit of a return to the norm. It wasn’t terrible, with close racing and tactical battles but overtaking on track was clearly an issue, leaving many to use strategy and quick pitstops, like Renault, to jump up the field. As ever though, the cream rose to the top and there were several strong performances resulting in good points.

Ricciardo’s gutsy challenge comes up short

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing: Started 3rd, Finished 3rd

Had a couple of moments broken differently over the course of the weekend Ricciardo could have stolen his fourth win
Credit: Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Ricciardo feels that the Hungaroring is good to him, with better results than both teammates over the last three years on his way to three podiums in consecutive seasons. While the Aussie did rather play the role of tease, it was clear that he threw everything he could at the Mercedes pair. Had a couple of moments broken very slightly differently over the course of the weekend, Ricciardo could easily have stolen his fourth career win.

Ricciardo thrived in the tricky conditions in qualifying as the track dried quickly following a sudden downpour ahead of the first session. While Ricciardo was one of those whose qualifying result was in doubt having not been within 107% in Q1, from then on the Aussie was a threat, sniffing an opportunity that the Mercedes were now beatable. Ricciardo was comfortably second fastest behind Rosberg as the times tumbled at the end of Q2 before mounting a challenge for a rare pole in Q3, with the rest of the field – including his young phenom teammate trailing behind. An error on his first lap was quickly recovered as the Aussie ended the first run within two tenths of pole.

On a regular day Ricciardo would probably have been satisfied to be that close to the dominant Mercs but instead he was left frustrated. Ricciardo was improving on his final lap of the session until his path was blocked by Alonso’s McLaren facing the wrong way, stopping him from upgrading his position. Had the McLaren not spun, would Red Bull have been able to control the race with Ricciardo starting from pole?

In the grand prix, there was another defining moment right from the get go. Ricciardo played the start beautifully, lining up Rosberg all the way down to turn one and making a bold move around the outside. It looked inevitable that the Aussie would lead exiting the corner, but he carried fractionally too much speed and lost grip on the cement dust on the outside of the track, allowing Hamilton to pass and giving Rosberg a run into turn two.

Even after ending up third at the start, Ricciardo kept the Mercedes honest for much of the first stint but the team overplayed their hand

Even after ending up third at the start Ricciardo, along with Verstappen and Vettel, kept the Mercedes honest for much of the first stint but the team overplayed their hand. Desperate to create a gap to Räikkönen who had started on soft tyres, Red Bull stayed out for a long time in the first stint, and the gap to the Mercs started to increase significantly from lap 10 onwards until Ricciardo pitted on lap 15. In hindsight, Red Bull were caught between a rock and a hard place, they were right to try to stay ahead of Räikkönen as his strategy ruined Max Verstappen’s hopes of a podium.

While Red Bull seemed cautious at the first round of stops, they found their bottle at the second, deciding to pit Ricciardo very early on lap 33 for a second set of soft tyres as the Aussie began to close with the Mercedes also stuck in traffic. Ultimately the move didn’t pay off, Mercedes called Red Bull’s bluff and when they did pit eight laps later the gap had grown to eight seconds with fresher tyres to see the Silver Arrows home.

With the Mercedes now out of reach, Ricciardo had to turn his attention to his mirrors. Without the pressure of Ricciardo, the Mercedes pulled away and Vettel began to close with far fresher soft tyres. On the end, it led to a five lap duel at the end, with Ricciardo coming out on top to move up to third in the World Championship, as well as helping Red Bull move to within one point of Ferrari.

Räikkönen silences the doubters – for now...

Kimi Räikkönen, Scuderia Ferrari: Started 14th, Finished 6th

Kimi was knocked out in Q2, though more through luck than judgement
Credit: Ferrari Media

The Finn rather saved his bacon in Hungary. With much of the paddock confused by Räikkönen's extension at Ferrari, he was knocked out in Q2, though more through luck than judgement, as his early lap put him to the top of the timesheets, only to quickly drop back down as times tumbled.

Nonetheless, starting 14th clearly complicated his race, but Ferrari had a plan, namely using the innate pace of the car by running soft tyres in a long first stint, ending up in the Red Bull/Ferrari battle before eventually stopping on lap 29, largely through Kimi's impressive pace. The soft-supersoft-supersoft strategy gave Räikkönen a lot of speed late in the race, and having held Verstappen up at the end of his first stint, he chased the Dutchman down with fresher, softer tyres.

Verstappen was strong in defence, and at times over the line, moving several times in the braking zone and breaking Räikkönen's front wing. The aggressive defence left Räikkönen sixth but with a strong race performance that couldn’t be ignored.

Alonso cashes in on rare McLaren pace

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Honda: Started 7th, Finished 7th

Regardless of the error, Alonso started seventh and showed good pace
Credit: McLaren/LAT Photographic

You can never doubt Fernando Alonso’s consistency but the Hungarian GP took this to another level as he finished seventh in every session. On a weekend that clearly showed that McLaren really are taking big steps in the right direction, Alonso claimed best of the rest behind Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.

Alonso made one error throughout the weekend, on the final runs in Q3, having shown strong pace over the course of the weekend. In truth, the spin probably helped Alonso more than anything, clearly unable to match Vettel’s pace, although it left him behind Sainz, and thwarted the final runs of the bottom of the pole shootout contenders.

Regardless of the error, Alonso started seventh and showed good pace, passing Sainz off the line and staying within a respectable distance of the top five. The aim of the race was then to hold Sainz off for best of the rest. The Spaniard lost out to Räikkönen after his long first stint but running in clear air effectively allowed Alonso to run his own race and McLaren ran the traditional two stop race to hold off his young compatriot as McLaren showed that they are on the way back.

We don’t know exactly how strong Alonso's pace was, as Button’s race was ruined with a hydraulic issue in the opening laps but to finish best of the rest, albeit on a track that clearly suits McLaren was a very reassuring sign.