Last night was the most intense racing of the season so far. The Hungaroring proved to be a fierce contention field.
Our Renault has improved drastically, bringing no less than 3 upgrades to Hungary. Suddenly we were on pace with the top 3 teams, and my teammate, Carlos Saints, showed the pace. Unfortunately, I struggled to find a comfortable setup and the car felt loose on the track. Despite this, we both managed to qualify very well, me in 4th position and Carlos in 3rd. It was only the second time my teammate outqualified me.
The race started and turn one was rather subdued. But turn two was where it all kicked off. Kimi came barging up on my inside, forcing me to take the wider line into turn 2. I understeered following a loss of grip on the colder tires, and Verstappen, who took a penalty, followed Kimi and passed me. I now found myself in 6th, with Bottas right up my cuff.
Bottas and I had narrow moments all through the first 3 laps. The bastard even bumped into me going into the last turn. Nearly spun me out, but I managed to hold the line. But my tires were cooked and losing grip rapidly. Bottas, on the harder compound, seized his opportunity into turn 4 and made a daring pass. Great piece of late-breaking by the AI on display.
And so, relegated to 7th, I was shocked to find my teammate. In the scuffle of the first round, Saints got pinched and left the track, falling down several places. The race was not looking good for the yellow team.
I pitted a lap before Saints. He had a stonking in lap, and as I got onto the straight on the lap he pitted, I found myself jumped by my teammate by the overcut.
We battled closely for lap after lap, and on lap 12-ish I managed to pass him finally.
And then I saw it. All the front runners were being held up massively by backmarkers on 1-stop stints. Their pace not enough to drive away from the faster teams, yet holding them up in the tight Hungaroring track. I saw Stroll locking up into the chicane and Kimi almost slamming into him. I had to cut the corner just to avoid hitting the back of Kimi.
After these cars pitted, the front teams were much more bunched up. But the Ferraris and the Red Bulls just had the better chassis and drove away from me. I found myself in 5th after all the scuffles, with Bottas and Sainz very close behind. For a few laps, I went into an ultra-defensive mode, saving a bit of tire temps making them last longer. I saved up some ERS and fuel in the process as well. After the second round of pitstops, Bottas managed to jump me again with an overcut. But this time I was ready. On the pit straight, I went into rich mix and overtake mode, and late-braked into the first corner. I forced Bottas wide and snatched the position back. Interestingly, my teammate followed and it was a Renault 5-6. With better tires, more ERS and more fuel, I started pulling away from Sainz, always keeping at least a 1 second gap between us. Bottas tried his best in those last laps, but to no avail. We Renault’s fought bravely and ended the race in 5th and 6th.
Quite possibly the most fun I’ve had in a racing game in my life. That was an incredible race!!