Motorsport

Motorsport Monday: Duncraig Dan in Hungary and the Czech MotoGP

Jack Miller- back on the podium! (Still: MotoGP)

The Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix

Track: The Hungaroring

Source: Racingcircuits.info

Hungary- The first Eastern Bloc country to enter Bernie’s unholy circus.

The last race before the summer break, and the Hungaroring has been the scene of some amazing moments- Nigel Mansell winning from 12th in 1989 thanks in no small part to pulling the ballsiest move ever seen on Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill nearly winning in an Arrows in 1997, Jenson Button winning his maiden Grand Prix from 14th in 2006, and I’m biased, so I’ll throw in Dan The Man winning in 2014 in a very rare wet Hungarian GP.

If Mercedes had a horror show in Germany, then Renault’s season was summed up perfectly on Monday, when their team truck crashed on the highway to Budapest.

I knew it was a bad idea letting Nico Hulkenberg drive the truck.

Budapest is also noted for the hordes travelling European fans- There used to be a massive Finnish contingent that would fly down to watch Mika Hakkinen and then Kimi Raikkonen, there’s the usual Dutch army that follow Max Verstappen, and this year, the organisers expected some 35-40,000 Polish fans to fly down and watch Robert Kubica in his first Hungarian GP since 2010, fresh off scoring a point last weekend!

Qualifying

The team truck crashing into the woods might have been the best part of Renault’s weekend, because Q1 was a monumental piss-up, as Dan was knocked out after butchering his last flying lap when he misjudged Sergio Perez’ Racing Point.

Supposedly it was caused by Dan’s engineer telling him that he only had 30 seconds left to set a lap time…. he had a full minute.

Renault claimed they’ve now reached 1000bhp on their power unit… they are fair dinkum kidding themselves- That car could have 2000bhp, and it would still be akin to being flogged with warm lettuce.

Other than that, Charles LeClerc smashed into the Barrier on the exit, but was somehow able to keep going once the mechanics smothered the Ferrari in duct tape, and capping it off, he was faster than Vettel in Q2 and Q3.

But in Q3, after some incredibly nervy moments thanks to the usual murderous late flurry by Mercedes, The Dutch fans went WILD, because after so many starts from 2nd, Mad Max claimed his maiden Pole Position, becoming the 100th different driver to claim a Pole Position in the history of Formula One, the first Dutchman, and the first for a Honda engine since Jenson Button in a factory Honda in Australia in 2006.

Funnily enough, the 100th different race winner was also at the Hungaroring- Heikki Kovalainen in 2008.

Source: F1 Twitter

Bottas also had a much needed little win by out-qualifying Hamilton, and Pierre Gasly’s performances against Verstappen were again in the spotlight, as he qualified almost 0.9 behind the Dutchman.

The Race

Given that Dan was already starting from the rear, Renault decided to make things even more painful, pretty much replacing the whole Power Unit on the Aussie’s car, sending him to the absolute rear of the grid.

Given the Hungaroring’s tight profile and being very tough to pass cars, it was basically like raising the white flag- Very fitting for a French team.

Verstappen made a better start than he did in Germany, holding the lead into Turn 1, while Hamilton fought past Bottas for 2nd, as the Finn almost clipped Hamilton’s left rear tyre, before damaging his front wing in a fight with LeClerc at Turn 4, costing him serious downforce, and dropping Bottas behind both Ferraris to 5th.

Footage: FOM

Mercedes ultimately brought Bottas in on Lap 6, dropping him down to last, while Dan began picking off the stragglers on Soft tyres, moving up to 16th on Lap 11 when he took Stroll on the outside of Turn 3, in a move that was a dead ringer for his move on Hamilton in 2014.

The race soon turned into a two horse war between Verstappen and Hamilton, with the margin remaining consistent at 2 seconds.

The Toro Rossos put on a display of perfect teammate racing, as Kvyat and Albon raced wheel to wheel for several corners on Lap 18, and ultimately the Russian took 12th when Albon had to go wide at Turn 4.

Footage: FOM

The tough passing nature of the Hungaroring was proven when Bottas was stuck behind Dan on Lap 21- Who was simultaneously fighting Magnussen- Which murdered Bottas and pushed his deficit to the leaders out beyond a minute.

By Lap 24, Verstappen was badly losing grip, and the gap to Hamilton had dropped below a second, as both Red Bull & the Mercs were depending on the gap back to the Ferraris.

Vertsappen ultimately pitted for Hard tyres on Lap 26, and the Red Bull crew provided their usual slick service, putting him out ahead of LeClerc, as Mercedes continued the guessing game, and with clear track, Verstappen was comfortably matching lap times with Hamilton.

Hamilton pitted on Lap 32, and Verstappen would emerge some 6 seconds ahead of Hamilton, due to a slow right front, and Bottas finally got past Ricciardo on the next lap.

Surprisingly, by Lap 35, Hamilton was right up on Verstappen’s rear, and the race was back on!

Renault made their biggest impact on the Race on Lap 38, when Ricciardo was caught up in the Verstappen-Hamilton war down the pit straight, and for several corners the Mercedes monstered the Red Bull, and Hamilton swooped around the outside of Turn 4, but ran wide, gave the place back, and the status quo resumed.

Footage: FOM
The closest Renault will get to the fight for the lead.

Bottas finally pitted on Lap 48 and rejoined in 12th, as did Dan for his only stop of the race, and our man rejoined way down on 15th, and pretty much out of the race.

Mercedes threw the cards on the table and went all in, throwing Hamilton onto Softs the next lap (Given the margin to LeClerc, 2nd was secure), and thus began the epic battle, as Verstappen missed the chance to pit, and thus he had a 20 second gap with 20 laps to go to fend off the ravenous Silver Arrow.

Verstappen had lapped everyone up to Sebastian Vettel in 4th, which pretty much summed up how much the Top 2 had smacked everyone, and with clear track, the Dutchman was able to limit the massive chunks that Hamilton was taking out of the lead.

Ricciardo spent the end of the race battling Magnussen, who was swerving under braking to keep the Renault at bay for 14th- For some reason, the race director seemed to really enjoy it.

Source: F1 Twitter

With 10 Laps to go, Hamilton was smashing out lap records that had stood since the V10 era, and the gap was down to 12 seconds and falling fast.

By Lap 64, it had become a matter of WHEN, not IF Hamilton would pass the Red Bull, as Max’s tyres were now deader than dead, and by Lap 65, the gap was down to a second.

On Lap 67, Hamilton went the long way around at Turn 1, and the superior grip meant that Max could run, but he couldn’t hide, and the Brit was into the lead, and Mercedes had pretty much bankrupted the casino.

Footage: FOM

Red Bull ultimately pitted Verstappen on the next lap, knowing the win was now gone, so they decided to chase the lap record, while Vettel was crawling all over the back of LeClerc, and he flew down the inside of Turn 1, and claimed the final podium spot.

Footage: FOM

But in the end, the man with more wins at the Hungaroring than any other driver, won at the Hungaroring for the seventh time, and Verstappen ultimately did claim the fastest lap bonus point, while Vettel and LeClerc trundled home as the last cars on the lead lap, over a minute behind.

Dan finished in 14th, having spent pretty much the entire back half of the race behind Magnussen- Who fittingly finished in 13th.

Source: F1 Twitter

It’s also worth noting Carlos Sainz racked yet another lonely 5th placing in his McLaren, extending his lead in the Formula 1.5 Championship, plus Kimi recorded yet another points finish for Alfa Romeo.

Post Race

This was Hamilton’s eight win of the season, and his 81st victory, moving him to within 10 wins of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record, and beating Verstappen by ironically pulling the same move that Red Bull had used in Austria, which ultimately won Max the race there.

So as we hit the summer break, Hamilton’s 6th Drivers’ Championship is pretty much sealed, as he leads by 62 points to Bottas, with Verstapen hot on the Finn’s tail in an inferior car, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Red Bull said adieu to a certain Frenchman in the coming weeks.

Table: BBC.com

And at the Summer break, it appears the only thing to benefit from Dan’s offseason move to Renault is his bank account in the Cayman Islands- Which is currently under assault from his former manager.

Of course, they’ll be back at the start of September for what many would argue is the best track on the calendar- The Belgian Grand Prix at Spa!


The Czech MotoGP

Track: Brno Circuit

Source: Racingcircuits.info

After a month off, MotoGP returned to our screens for the always bloody Battle of Brno, although Jorge Lorenzo’s comeback will have to wait another two races, after opting to take the conservative approach in his recovery from a back injury.

Meanwhile, in some more good news for ‘The Jackass’, he’s now at the handshake stage on a new deal with Pramac for 2020, and the upgrades are on the way from the Ducati factory in Bologna, which should put Jack closer to parity with Dovi and Danilo Petrucci in the 2nd Half of the season.

Qualifying

Practice was affected by rain, which carried into Qualifying, and had the effect of opening up Pole Position to basically everybody who was capable of timing their run.

Alex Rins and Marc Marquez don’t like each other at the best of times, but it became very heated in Qualifying, when Marquez tangled with his compatriot, leading to Rins saying that he “Has no respect for the other riders”, which he did apologise for.

Pramac were able to perfectly time Jack’s run on slicks, as he flew into 2nd just before the rain picked up again, while Honda did the same for Marquez, who predictably flew to the top of the time sheets on a dry track, and claimed pole by a lazy 2.5 seconds to our Jackass, who did end the session by crashing at the wet Turn 14.

It was Marc’s 58th career pole, equaling Mick Doohan’s all-time record, and KTM also had a superb afternoon, with two bikes qualifying in the Top 6 for the first time!

Jack has typically translated good qualifying performances to

The Race

There was genuine excitement for fans- For the first time all season, we had a Wet race… or so we thought.

It had me cautiously optimistic for the Jackass- Of course, his only win was at a soaked Assen back in 2016, in a race where Marquez threw up the white flag and settled for 2nd.

The safety car(s) checked the state of the track, and the race was shortened to 20 laps for safety reasons, especially as the track was wet on the pit straight and Turns 1 & 2, plus Turns 13 & 14, yet it was bone dry everywhere else.

I wonder how viewers around the world must’ve felt when they tuned in, and the first 10 minutes were basically a battle between the BMW Safety Cars.

Ultimately, the pit lane opened at 2:35, and the race was underway 5 minutes later.

Marquez made a great start, while Dovi found his way past Jack into 2nd, and just a few corners later, Johan Zarco had a horror start, and ended up colliding with Franco Morbidelli at Turn 4, sending the Italian off, and taking out Joan Mir in the process.

Source; MotoGP Twitter

Maverick Vinales also had a stinker in the Yamaha, dropping from 9th to 15th, and pretty much killing off any hope he had of a decent finish.

Rins got past Miller for 3rd on Lap 3 at Turn 3 (Numerology candidate right there), but Jack was comfortably trading lap times with the Top 3, and latched on to the back of Rins right until the end.

In terms of lap times, the Top 4 were in a class of their own, and within 5 laps, they’d put a gap on Valentino Rossi heading a train in 5th place.

Although Dovi comfortably held pace with Marquez, the Ducati never seriously looked like getting past the Honda, and with 10 laps to go, Marquez got the message from his pit wall to push hard and put the race away, and he responded beautifully, pushing the gap out past a second, which Dovi (Nor anybody else) had an answer for.

In fact, Dovi was looking like he was starting seriously struggle, and Rins smelt blood and began to close in, as did Miller, who had saved his tyres long enough to have a crack at a podium, and was closing right up on the Suzuki.

Jack nearly took Rins at Turn 1 with 2 laps to go, but Rins pulled a criss-cross and held the positon for a few more corners, but Miller took him downhill into Turn 5, as Rins gave up the ghost with no grip left, narrowly avoiding a hat-trick of race falls.

There was no stopping the Honda though, and Marquez domination continues without much fuss, as the championship leader coasted over the line for another triumph in 2019, becoming the 4th rider to win at least 50 races in 500cc/MotoGP racing, and tying the legendary Mike ‘The Bike’ Hailwood on 76 wins in Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

Dovi returned to the podium in 2nd, and it was a hard fought and well-earned result for our Jackass- His second podium of the season!

The podium back in the USA might have been a tad fortunate with Marquez falling, but there was no fluke about this one- Well done Jack!

Three happy campers (Source: MotoGP Twitter)

STANDINGS

NEXT RACE- THE AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX THIS COMING WEEKEND!

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