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Ferrari throws away a certain win

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The Prancing Horse needed different shoes at the Hungarian Grand Prix as Charles Leclerc found himself on hard rubber because of a Ferrari strategy failure. 

Ferrari’s failure in the Hungarian Grand Prix saw Mattia Binotto shake his woolly head and stump through the garage to the Scuderia’s luxurious motor home before the race was over.

It would have surprised no one if his departure had been followed by the crashing of anything he could pick up to throw at the walls.

Ferrari, instead of finishing one-two as they might have expected, managed to turn victory into defeat with the wrong strategy and the wrong tyres.

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The team principal later returned to claim Ferrari’s misfortunes were because of  “a lack of pace.”

What was obvious to everyone watching was that Leclerc, who finished sixth after leading the race, was defeated by the change to hard tyres.

Carlos Sainz finished on softs, but it was too little too late as he finished fourth.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell stood on the podium with Verstappen, which was as encouraging for Mercedes as Ferrari’s lack of tyre management was for the Scuderia.

In the cool-down after the race, Verstappen, Hamilton and Russell shared a laugh about  the Ferrari brain fade.

“Ferrari were on the hards?” asked Hamilton. Russell and Verstappen grinned and said, “Yeah.”

Leclerc, clearly frustrated, said later:
“I wanted to stay out and I don’t know why I was called in. I was confused by that. I lost the race on the hard tyres and I don’t know why. We need to speak about this inside the team.”

The Ferrari boss, whose curly mop of hair has seen him dubbed Binotto the Clown (think Krusty the Clown in the Simpsons) did not seem to understand that hard compound tyres were like skates on ice on a cold day at the Hungaroring.

“So today the car was not behaving well,” said Binotto. “I think that’s the point that for the first time this season in 13 or 12 races, the first time it’s not working as we are hoping for. We’ll try to understand the reason of it.”

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Few others, if any, were searching for answers other than the obvious, but while Ferrari has almost certainly lost any chance of taking out the world driver’s and constructor’s championships this year, Hungary proved a triumph for Red Bull.

Max Verstappen started 10th on the grid after suffering an engine failure in qualifying but turned the race into a master class.

Leclerc had led the race on the soft tyres he so badly needed at the end but the Red Bull driver was in a class of his own.

An inexplicable spin towards the final laps saw his luck hold as the car rotated 360 degrees, losing only one place before continuing in the right direction.

Verstappen finished nearly eight seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton in a resurgent Mercedes with teammate George Russell another 12 seconds behind.

Daniel Ricciardo was 15th in another dismal result for the Australian driver after running as high as seventh.

His double pass on the Alpines of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon was the Ricciardo of old.

“Let’s fucking go,”  he yelled on team radio. But it was not to be. He was on hard tyres later in the race and understeered into Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin, incurring a five-second penalty.

But the double pass was the move of the race and some said the best pass of the season.

It was reminiscent of the King of the Late Brakers of old, as the Honey Badger used to be known.

In spite of denials by Ricciardo and the McLaren team, the rumours persist that the Australian will be shown the door.

His teammate, Lando Norris, continues to out qualify and out race the Australian and there is a glimmer of a turn around, if not in performance, then in self-confidence.

The next race after the summer break is at Spa on August 28.

The track with F1’s most demanding. corner, Eau Rouge, is not for the faint hearted.

Eau Rouge draws its name from there the red-coloured stream that runs under the terrifying sweep down and then up to a blind crest. It is one for the crazy brave.

There are 10 races to go with the last race at Abu Dhabi, where the driver’s championship was decided last year.

Australian ice director Michael Masi who made the call that decided the championship lost his job and has left the FIA.

Masi says he has received death threats and been subjected to vile abuse  since his decision to clear lapped cars from between Hamilton and Verstappen changed to fresh tyres under a virtual safety car and swept into the lead.

It caused the biggest controversy in the history of F1. Mercedes said Hamilton was cheated of an eighth world championship.

Masi said at the weekend he has been through “some dark days” with “people saying they were going to come after me and my family. I was looking at people wondering if they were going to get me.

Masi, who was deputy director of Supercars in Australia before replacing the late Charlie Whiting as F1 race director, said he could not discuss his decision at Abu Dhabi because of  non-disclosure agreement with the FIA.

But, he said, the months following the race were “hellish.”

“I was confronted with hundreds of messages,” he said in a Sky Sports interview. “They were shocking. Racist, abusive, vile. They called me every name under the sun.

“And there were death threats. And they kept on coming.”

The 44-year-old Australian said he has been living “in a bubble” and talking only with his “close family and felt he was “the most hated man in the world.”

F1 qualifies as the world’s most dangerous sport for those sitting in the driver’s seat. For Masi, the risk has been from outside the cockpit.

In other news after the Hungarian race, Fernando Alonso’s decision to switch from Alpine to Aston Martin to replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel opens the way for Melbourne F2 and F3 champion Oscar Piastri to join the F1 grid.

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Author: Peter Coster

PETER COSTER is a former editor and foreign correspondent who has covered a range of international sports, including world championship fights and the Olympic Games.

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