It’s been a dramatic 24 hours in the world of F1 with bad news for Force India and ending with a masterclass from Lewis Hamilton as he took pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Force India go into Administration
First a quick look at what’s happened to Force India. The team has been placed into administration with debts to their operating company believed to be over £159m and £10m worth of unpaid engine bills owed to Mercedes.
The action against Force India was begun by one of their drivers Sergio Perez who is owed wages by them. He said the move had been taken to “look after the 400 people who work in the team” and was told starting legal proceedings would help the team and secure jobs.
Co-owner Vijay Maliya says he’ll work with the appointed administrator to secure the team’s future and they will be competing in Hungary this weekend. It’s believed there are at least three potential buyers waiting in the wings to take over the team. Whoever takes over may need to get a new driver next year with Esteban Ocon apparently on his way to Renault to replace Carlos Sainz.
Another practice session and more spins to report. Sebastian Vettel was fastest ahead of Valtteri Bottas but the Mercedes driver and his team-mate Lewis Hamilton both had spins on the track as they struggled with grip.
Third place went to the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen with Hamilton in fourth 0.579 seconds off the pace. He was ahead of the two Red Bulls with Ricciardo fifth and Max Verstappen sixth. Seventh place was filled by Carlos Sainz with Nico Hulkenberg in eighth followed by Romain Grosjean in ninth. Pierre Gasly in his Toro Rosso completed the top ten.
Rain hit the qualifying session and that played into the hands of Mercedes who secured a 1-2 with Lewis Hamilton taking pole position. He finished 0.26 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas with Ferrari back in third and fourth with Raikkonen finishing ahead of Vettel.
It was all a bit of a change around after Ferrari had done so well in practice but the change in weather proved vital during qualifying. The biggest surprise was Carlos Sainz taking fifth place in his Renault. He’d been in form throughout the session and was second fastest in Q2 behind Vettel who’d taken the gamble to use intermediate tyres rather than dry-weather slick tyres and prospered when the rain fell.
Another surprise saw Pierre Gasly qualify in sixth ahead of Max Verstappen for Red Bull in seventh. Toro Rosso will certainly be celebrating this evening as they have two drivers in the top ten, not just Gasly but Brendon Hartley in eighth. Haas completed the top ten with Kevin Magnussen ahead of Romain Grosjean.
Daniel Ricciardo could only manage 12th position on the grid after being eliminated in Q2. Nico Hulkenberg will start in 13th place after problems with a fuel bowser.
Speaking after he’d clinched pole, Lewis compared driving on the track to ballet though the chances of us seeing him in a tutu anytime soon look slim. “The Ferraris have been quicker all weekend and we were just trying to be close to them, but the heavens opened,” he said. Conditions were tricky with part of the lap being dry and the rest wet.
It’s the last race before a four-week break and Mercedes will be keen to extend their lead but started the weekend not believing that’d be the case. With Hamilton now on pole and this track being one where overtaking isn’t easy, the start is going to be vital in this race. I’ll be back next week with a look back at the first half of the season, till then enjoy your racing.
Steve Ashfield for Pillow Motor Sports