SPY: Oooof!

Afternoon All, Spy here, slightly bemused. Is that glass-half-full, or glass-half-empty? Is it a glass at all, or did I order a schnitzel? I really don’t know anymore.

Yesterday’s Hungarian Grand Prix was an interesting experience, with Mercedes doing to us what we like to do to other teams. It isn’t very nice! It hasn’t been the narrative in recent years: we’re the team that snatches the lead in the last couple of laps; it’s us who tends to strap on a late set of tyres and chase hell for leather after the guy at the front. It’s bewildering when positions are reversed. Spy remembers Seb leading every lap in Canada back in 2011 and contriving to not win – but that was a weird day anyway. This is a different sort of weird.

But it’s mid-summer, there’s the shutdown upcoming, and Spy feels an urge to look at the positives. First pole position for Max – good; first pole for our Honda partnership – good; leading (the wrong) 67 laps of the race – good. Another pot (literally, this time) for the cabinet – good. The ultimate positive from a race we didn’t win is putting the car into a position where Mercedes had to surprise everybody (themselves included) to beat us. That hasn’t happened very often in the last six years. 

The negatives are simple: we didn’t win. With a bit more luck, we would have, but luck doesn’t cut it. You make your own. Things were a little flat at pack-down last night. 

Was there something different we could have done? Everyone in the strategy team is asking themselves that same question. Our choices in Hungary were limited. Had Max pitted the lap after Lewis, he’d have come out behind. Could he have pre-empted Lewis’ pitstop?  Hindsight’s a wonderful thing but even now, knowing it worked, that looks like the sort of crazy-person thinking that doesn’t win motor races. In Merc’s position, it’s definitely the sort of beautiful madness we’d have embraced because they didn’t have anything to lose. Leading the race, there’s quite clearly everything to lose. 

So, there we go then, we were victimised by being really good. I feel better already. 

What else is there to say. From where Spy is standing F1 looks pretty healthy at the moment. That’s four snorting races in a row and the crowd in Budapest looked properly mammoth, bigger than it’s been for a decade. The rumour mill is insisting there are also venues falling over themselves to secure a grand prix and lots of talk of 22 races next year. That’s… a number. Where it comes up for public discussion the big cheeses are always keen to stress that looking after the worker bees is the first priority. That’s a lovely sentiment. Spy remembers it being expressed when the season first expanded to an unthinkable 19 races, and again to 20 and 21. Will anything change? Of course not. Don’t be silly, that’s not how F1 works – but chances are, next year, after the first dozen races of the F1 season, we’ll have a 13th before the summer break. However exciting the last month has been, going to another race right now wouldn’t be top of Spy’s wish list. Though obviously if we’re winning them, that’s a different story…