Hungarian Grand Prix: Ricciardo On Top

Daniel Ricciardo stormed his way to his second victory of the season (and his career) at a thrilling Hungarian Grand Prix. For the first time in a long time it seems, Ferrari graced the podium with Fernando Alonso finishing second. While, on a track where you can’t pass, Lewis Hamilton passed 19 cars to take home third.  The sopping track conditions at lights out saw spray obscure the field’s view (unless you were pole sitter, Nico Rosberg), as the grid cautiously filed through turn 1. Bottas made a smart move, keeping to the outside of the track, and out of the spray to take Sebastian Vettel for P2, while Fernando Alonso made a quick move passed both the Red Bulls of Ricciardo and Vettel. Despite a very slippy track, everyone emerged unscathed from the first lap, even Massa. The only opening lap incident was Hamilton spinning at turn 2 as he caught he way up from the pit lane.

Ricciardo had a faultless race, consistently setting fastest lap times throughout the race. Making his way from P4 on the grid, the Australian managed his tyres on a three stop strategy, holding his position while others pit again. After passing Hamilton on lap 67 on the inside of turn 3, Ricciardo set his sights on Alonso for the lead. The two replicated their performance from last week, with Ricciardo wasting no time in attacking. Just one lap later, Ricciardo lined up the Ferrari on the run down in to turn 1, taking the lead and subsequent win. Vettel very nearly repeated the manoeuvre that sent Sergio Perez into the barriers. On lap 33, Vettel got onto the astroturf at the exit of the final corner, sending the RB10 into a nice little pirouette, grazing the pit wall before throwing it back in gear and charging back down the pit straight. Vettel had been running in P4, and the incident saw him fall down the order to P13. Vettel managed to make up six positions to finish P7.

Almost as surprising as Hamilton’s podium appearance was Alonso’s place on the second step in the less than competitive Ferrari F14 T. Alonso inherited the race lead following the second safety car period, building up the gap by setting fastest lap times. For a moment it looked as if a Ferrari might win a Grand Prix for the first time this season. Daniel Ricciardo saw to that however, with Alonso happy to finish P2. The surprises in the Ferrari garage continued as Raikkonen sneakily made up ten positions to finish P6.

It was refreshing not to see Mercedes walk away with the race result. Mercedes were already brought down a peg or two as the Hungaroring favours downforce rather than sheer speed, but Rosberg found it difficult to overtake, and struggled with his brakes to give way for a more hair raising race. The rules didn’t seem to apply for Hamilton, who found no issue in overtaking on the startling narrow circuit. Starting from the pit lane, the Briton made up 19 positions on a two stop strategy to finish on the podium. The only car that Hamilton failed to pass was Alonso’s F14 T. By the end of the race, Hamilton’s tyres were dead and the Mercedes power just couldn’t make a move stick against the Ferrari. Hamilton was hungry for the points, and was never going to move aside to let Rosberg through (who was on a different tyre strategy). Rosberg couldn’t catch up to his team mate in racing conditions until the final lap. Rosberg was on fresher tyres than Hamilton, and the two engaged in an intoxicating wheel to wheel battle for third. Not letting up, Hamilton forced Rosberg wide at turn 2, with Rosberg losing time and settling for P4.

It was a double points finish for Williams as Massa finally seems to have shaken his new talent of being crashed into, with the Brazilian finishing a very competitive P5. Bottas had a strong start, cleverly keeping to the outside line into the first corner to avoid spray and make up a position against Vettel in the opening lap. The Finn continued to defend against the Red Bull, who even with DRS wasn’t able to pass the Williams. As the race progressed, Bottas’ pace dropped off and the Williams’ complained of understeer, eventually finishing within the points in P8.

Vergne had his best race of the season, strategically right before the summer break and “silly season”. Whether Vergne is feeling the pressure to prove his potential in the team, or the Hungaroring favours the STR9, it was a fantastic race for the Toro Rosso driver. Making his way up to fifth, Vergne defended his position from Rosberg, who on fresher tyres was eager to get back to the lead. Vergne slipped passed the Mercedes after Rosberg tried and failed to pass Magnussen at turn 1 on lap 16. It can’t be said that Vergne held up the Mercedes, as the Toro Rosso was still lapping at a competitive pace clearly benefiting from the wet track and high downforce. By lap 27, Vergne was up into second, and again defending from Rosberg. Despite it being the Mercedes, and the Toro Rosso not having DRS, Vergne again managed to keep Rosberg at bay, until pitting on lap 35. As the grid settled down following the pit stops, Vergne finished in P9 to collect two happy points for the team. For once over shadowed by his team mate’s performance, Kvyat finished outside of the points in P14.

McLaren should have finished higher in the order, if it weren’t for their risk in tyre strategy not paying off. The team played a gamble on the reappearance of rain, keeping Button out on the intermediates after the first safety car period. For a while, it looked as if the strategy had paid off, with Button being able to easily swoop passed Ricciardo on slicks for the lead at the race restart. As the race wore on, the rain never came and the rest of the field on slicks got up to temp. On lap 16 McLaren pitted both Button and Magnussen for soft compound tyres, but Button was unable to make his way back to the front of the grid, only on lap 30 managing to pass Sutil at turn 1 to get himself into the points. Button would finish the race in that position to collect a single point for the team in P10. Starting from the pit lane after his crash in qualifying, Kevin Magnussen made up 9 position throughout the race to finish P12.

Sutil had an uneventful race, with the Sauber driver starting and finishing in P11. Despite the number of non-finishers in the race, Sutil couldn’t manage to get the C33 into the points. The only racing action that Gutierrez encountered was going wheel to wheel with Sergio Perez on the exit of the pit lane. Under the first safety car period, made the dash in for medium compound tyres. After being released at the same time, the two went into a kind of Mexican stand off (pun intended) on the exit of the pit before Gutierrez yielded, allowing Perez out in front. Unfortunately, as the race progressed Gutierrez added himself to the list of race retirements on lap 32 after the MGU-K system failed in his C33.

Maldonado was lucky to finish the race in one piece, spinning at turn 1 and clipping the Marussia of Jules Bianchi on lap 18, eventually finishing P13. The Lotus driver suffered from understeer during the race. A typical issue due to the set up of the car for the circuit, though it made the E22 trickier than usual to handle. Adding to the teams woes, both E22s struggled for tyre temp (especially under the safety car periods)… Poor Grosjean.

Though not picking up any points, both Marussia’s finished the race. Bianchi made up one grid position throughout the race to finish P15. Max Chilton had a quiet race at the back of the grid, being promoted to finish P16 as the rest of the field dropped like flies.

Force India leave the Hungaroring without any points, with neither driver making it to the chequered flag. Perez takes the award for most spectacular crash of the afternoon after crashing into the pit wall barrier on lap 22. The Mexican dipped a wheel onto the astroturf at the final corner, flicking the VJM07 across the track. Perez however was lucky to make it to lap 22 after an on track incident with his team mate several laps earlier. Hulkenberg had clipped the back of Perez going into turn 14, Perez was able to control and recover with minimal damage, but the contact sent Hulkenberg’s Force India into the barriers and out of the race.

Caterham made up the second double retirement of the afternoon, albiet one driver ‘retired’ with a little more force than the other… Marcus Ericsson had brought out the first safety car of the afternoon. At lap 9, track conditions were still slippy (even on the inters). Ericsson lost traction and dropped it on the entry into turn 3, spearing his CT05 straight into the barriers. Kobayashi came to a stop at turn 12 on lap 24.

The Hungaroring always promises a good race, but this year the circuit delivered some of the best action all season. Another win for Ricciardo, and a Ferrari finally on the podium. Hamilton and Raikkonen chose to ignore the “it’s next to impossible to pass at the Hungaroring”. The wet weather and cooler track conditions send Ericsson, Perez, and Vettel into spins. While the high understeer and downforce of the set up saw Hulkenberg and Maldonado very twitchy. Overall, a pretty good race to end the first half of term with (and we thought this season was going to be boring). We’ll return from the summer break at Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgium Grand Prix and the stunningly beautiful, Eau Rouge. Until then, goodnight. – Alex

Qualifying Pole Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
Podium Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Fastest Lap 1:25.724 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)

Hungarian Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

Nico Rosberg just snatched pole position from Sebastian Vettel in the final moments of qualifying, with Valtteri Bottas just a tenth of a second behind the Red Bull. Qualifying was a bit of a mixed bag with track conditions, and grid positions. Rosberg topped the time sheets throughout all three sessions, though Hamilton’s potential in the session will never be known. A fuel leak to Hamilton’s F1 Wo5 meant the Brit’s qualifying went up in flames only a few minutes into the first session, literally. The team now have the choice for Hamilton to start from either the back of the grid of the pit lane.

The second sector played right into the Red Bulls hands, as both Vettel and Ricciardo put in good qualifying performances. The RB10 benefit’s the most from the low-speed-high-downforce nature of the Hungaroring. Vettel kept the pressure on Rosberg all through qualifying, as he even managed to out qualify Ricciardo with a 1:23.201, which for a brief moment looked good enough for pole position. Ricciardo was just 0.190s behind Vettel, taking P4.

Bottas split the two Red Bull after a very clean qualifying session. The Williams driver ran well in all three sessions, keeping up at the top of the time sheets with every timed lap. The Finn only went out on one timed lap in the second session, but managed to get it in before the double waved yellows for Kvyat’s spin at the final corner, securing him a place in Q3. Massa was less than a second behind his team mate through out the afternoon though couldn’t improve on his final lap in Q3, settling for P6.

Ferrari had the strongest strategy in qualifying*, keeping both Alonso and Raikkonen in the garage at the end of the first session. Alonso was safe, making it through to Q3 to put in a time of 1:23.909 on the soft compound tyres for P5. Assuming that both drivers were safe to go through to the second session, Raikkonen’s 1:26.792 on the medium compound tyres was knocked into the drop zone with P17 by a late run by Bianchi in the Marussia. To add insult to injury, the Ferrari Academy driver is rumoured to replace Kimi at the Scuderia when the Finn retires.

McLaren’s MP4-29 has benefited from the banning of FRIC, and the high downforce circuit. Button finished the session in a strong position for the team, sitting in P4 with 1:24.294 on the soft compound, until Massa and Alonso improved on their times. Ricciardo’s final run pushed Button down to start P7. Magnussen’s session was cut short only a few minutes into Q3. On the run down into turn 1, the track conditions suddenly changed from dry to wet. The Dane had no grip, or opportunity to reduce his speed as he careered side on into the barriers. The hefty impact red flagged the session with 9:59 mins left. With no time set, Magnussen will start from pit lane.

It was a good session for Vergne, who in the Toro Rosso made it through to Q3. Vergne steadily improved throughout the afternoon, until damp track conditions in the final session saw the STR9 a little more tentative on the lap. The light rain at the start of the session wasn’t enough to bring out the inters, so on the soft compound tyres Vergne put in a 1:24.720 for P8. Kvyat span at T12 at the end of Q2. The STR9 looked to have an issue with the brakes, losing the back on the final corner and causing double waved yellows. The Russian’s time of 1:24.706 before his incident was good enough to put the Toro Rosso in P11.

Force India were slow to get it together in qualifying. Hulkenberg sat near the drop zone in Q1, as even on the soft compound tyres he couldn’t get the VJM07 to bite into the corners. On a late run in Q1, the Force India got it together and pulled himself out of danger. The grip improved as the session went on, with Hulkenberg eventually putting in a 1:24.775 in the final session for P9. Sergio Perez was another mechanical casualty in qualifying. A hydraulic leak put a premature end to the Mexican’s session, set to start P13.

Both Sutil and Gutierrez made it through to Q2 for Sauber, despite the C33 looking less than compliant at the Hungaroring. Even on the grippier** soft compound tyres, the Sauber didn’t appear to bite down into the corners. Sutil battled the C33 to put in a 1:25.136 for P12. Gutierrez was unlucky to get caught in Kvyat’s yellow flags, backing off and unable to improve on his 1:25.260 for P14.

Grosjean was the only Lotus out in qualifying. Maldonado barely made it passed the pit exit before his E22 called it a day, forcing the Venezuelan to park up on the side of the track. Grosjean, like the Force India, was slow to get it together in Q1, but pulled himself through with an impressive late run at the end of the first session. Grosjean improved on his Q1 time, but not enough to make an appearance in the final session. The best the Frenchman could get out of the E22 was 1:25.337 for P15.

Marussia have a lot of reason to celebrate in one half of the garage, with Bianchi making an impressive appearance in Q2 by knocking out Kimi Raikkonen at the end of the first session. Bianchi qualified P16, though his final flying lap was compromised by double waved yellows. Chilton had a less exciting session, with a fuel pressure issue leaving him with a slower than usual lap, qualifying P19.

Caterham unsurprisingly round out the back of the grid, with Kobayashi qualifying P18 ahead of Ericsson’s P20. A small positive for the team, Ericsson’s 1:28.643 was this time within the 107% time (1:30.886) this session.

Usually, it would be expected that Hamilton would make his way through the field easily from the back of the grid. At the Hungaroring, where overtaking is extremely difficult, it would be lucky if he made it into the points… if he weren’t Lewis Hamilton. As much as I hate to admit it, the Mercedes driver is one of the only drivers on the grid who’d be able to drive to the kind of calibre to overtake the majority of the field. Even with the playing field somewhat levelled, Mercedes power continue to dominate, though this is Red Bull’s best chance of a win since Canada. In any case, tomorrow’s race will be unmissable.

– Alex

* That’s sarcasm in case you couldn’t tell.

**Another technical term there

Hungarian Grand Prix: Track Analysis

Szervusz és Üdvözlet a Magyar Nagydíj! The final round before the mid term break takes us to Budapest, and the Hungaroring. The 4.381km circuit is known as “Monaco without the barriers”, and it’s not hard to see why. The track is very narrow, with a slow sequence of corners in the second sector making it very difficult to overtake. Teams must rely on the best possible mechanical grip for their setup, rather than straight line speed. This puts teams with superior downforce, such as Red Bull, in a more competitive position. MGU-K comes into play with heavy braking zones in the hairpin at turn 1, and turns 6 and 7. Only 55% of the lap is taken at full throttle, with the two DRS zones in the first sector giving the best chance for overtaking. Once again, the absence of FRIC has seen some off moments for cars running wide at turn 11, though slightly less so than at Hockenheim. The Hungaroring is a fantastic circuit to race on, it looks more like an F1 car on a go-kart circuit.

– Alex

German Grand Prix: Home Victory

Nico Rosberg extends his championship lead by 14 points after winning the German Grand Prix, ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. Safe to say it was a good week for Germany, and the Mercedes team, and powered engines. It was another superb performance for Bottas to hold his P2 position throughout the race. Lewis Hamilton, unsurprisingly stormed his way up to the podium making up seventeen grid positions throughout the race. Rosberg got a clean getaway from lights out, but further back on the grid Bianchi was caught sleeping. We were racing for a good 10 seconds before the safety car made it’s third first lap appearance for the season. On the entry into the first corner, Massa in P3 cut back across the track into the path of Magnussen on P4. The McLaren unable to avoid, clipped the Massa, sending the Williams somersaulting off the track. Thankfully Felipe was unharmed, though unlucky to be caught up in another first lap incident. Daniel Ricciardo was lucky to avoid the fray, escaping off the track and dropping ten-places in the process to P15. The safety car was in on lap 3, and we were racing again for a brilliantly weird race.

Rosberg’s drive from pole to chequered flag could not be faulted. Despite the Mercedes having to somewhat lift and coast on his final stint, the homeboy still lead the from Bottas by 20.7s at the end of the 67 laps. Hamilton demonstrated the almost indestructible competitiveness of the F1 W05 after charging his way from the back of the field. The Mercedes lost part of his front wing after turning into the Button at the hairpin, yet still somehow managed the fastest lap of the race. Slight cracks started to show as Hamilton stalked down Bottas in the final laps, with the Mercedes unable to pass the Williams, relegating Hamilton to P3.

It was a bittersweet afternoon for Williams as Massa didn’t make it passed the first corner. Bottas however, maintained his qualifying position, to finish on the second step of the podium. Even on 42 lap old soft compound tyres, the Williams driver still defended his position from Hamilton in the final stint of the race, making sure the door was closed on the Mercedes. It could easily have been a double Williams podium finish if Massa hadn’t crashed.

Red Bull are getting the most out of the least competitive Renault engine to have both Vettel and Ricciardo finish firmly in the points. Vettel experienced the catch-22 of Formula 1 when having both to push to overtake Alonso, and lift to save fuel for the race. Ricciardo was quick to avoid the first lap theatrics, but at the cost of several grid positions. The Australian was quick to guide his way back through the field, with Hamilton pushing him from behind early on. The best battle came between Ricciardo and Alonso, who tussled for P5. The two went side by side out of the hairpin, with Ricciardo managing to stay ahead into turn 7. Just a few laps later however, Ricciardo lost the place to Alonso at the hairpin, with the RB10 couldn’t keep up with the F14 T on the straights.

The Ferrari was more competitive in the cooler track temperatures, with Alonso delivering his expected composed performance. Choosing to favour the hairpin, and straight into turn 7 to make his move, Alonso stalked his way passed Vettel and Hulkenberg on lap 39. As mentioned, the Spaniard was caught in a brilliant tango with the Ricciardo to obtain his P5 finishing position. Raikkonen was the opposite of composed, treating his F14 T more like a bumper car than an F1 car. It was refreshing to see some pace back in the Finn, who on the supersofts after his first stop hustled his way around the circuit. It’s the first time this season that Kimi looked like he was actually having fun. Unfortunately, the Ferrari couldn’t handle the tyre management, and a three stop strategy dropped Kimi down to the middle of the field, to finish just outside the points in P11.

It was a double points finish for both Hulkenberg and Perez as the Force India’s benefited from the cooler track temperatures. Hulkenberg was somewhat uncomfortable with the amount of understeer in the VJM07, though managed to maintain a competitive pace to make a two stop strategy work. In contrast to qualifying, the Force India actually gained 1.2s a lap on his final stint to pass Button for P7. The smart strategy in the Force India garage carried through to Checo too, who managed to undercut Kimi in the pit stop to take the final point in P10.

A positive day for McLaren with Button finishing P8 and Magnussen in P9. Button was involved in a politely English incident with Hamilton on lap 31. The Mercedes turned into the McLaren at the hairpin, with Button losing a place to Hamilton. Luckily the MP4-29 was unharmed, and a stop soon after for soft tyres saw him back out with a pleasantly competitive pace. Magnussen too was involved in a less polite incident, being caught out as Massa turned into the McLaren’s path on the opening lap. Magnussen lost sixteen positions following the incident, but raced well on a three stop strategy, picking up two points in the process.

Lotus only had one driver see the chequered flag. Grosjean’s E22 gave up on lap 28, the Frenchman pulled off the track at turn 2 to become the second retirement of the day. It was up to Maldonado to bring some points home for the team, however the Venezuelan driver just missed out, dropping two positions to Perez and Raikkonen in the final laps.

Vergne was the sole Toro Rosso to make it home, finishing in P13 after serving a 5 second stop-go penalty for leaving the track to gain advantage on Grosjean. Kvyat gave a lively performance today, though making an error in an attempt to pass Sergio Perez at turn 8 on lap 9. Kvyat made contact with Perez, spinning the STR9 to face the wrong way, and dropping the Russian five places to P15. Kvyat later retired on lap 48 from overheating and loss of power*.

Gutierrez finished P14, with the Sauber managing to unlap himself from Alonso in the later stages of the race. After dropping it into the final corner on lap 50, Sutil decided that the start finish straight would be a good place to demonstrate his ability to do donuts, until he stalled the C33 becoming the final retirement of the race.

Bianchi was superb in the Marussia, keeping his distance from both the Caterhams and his team mate. The French rookie finished P15, ahead of Chilton’s P17. Kobayashi finished a quiet P16, while Ericsson rounded out the last of the remaining drivers for P18.

Surprisingly the safety car only made one appearance throughout the race. Even with the Toro Rosso catching fire, and the Sauber parking right on the racing line, the stewards made the bizarre decision to keep the race going under yellow flags. The only thing more reluctant than the safety car to make an appearance was the rain, which held off until a few drops fell on the final lap. There is no break in the calendar as the championship moves straight to the Hungaroring (and the race that I cannot pronounce – Formula 1 Pirelli Magyar Nagydij), so I will see you shortly. Until then, gute nacht.

– Alex

Qualifying Pole Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
Podium Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
Valtteri Bottas (Williams-Mercedes)
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Fastest Lap 1:19.908 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

* This may be owing the the fact that his car was on fire.

German Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

It was a hot and dry qualifying session, with the Mercedes powered engines exerting dominance on the rest of the grid. Nico Rosberg secured pole position with 1:16.540s for an all Finnish front row*, ahead of the Williams of Bottas and Massa. The field headed out on the soft compound tyres in the early session, before swapping the the supersofts. Q1 was split into two sittings following a visit to the barriers for Lewis Hamilton. The remaining sessions unfolded in a much smoother fashion.

Though securing pole position, Nico Rosberg had a scrappy qualifying, making several mistakes in the first session. The Mercedes team are running without FRIC this weekend. Though the change in set up hasn’t significantly affected the F1 W05’s pace, the Mercedes is definitely looking less tame for both drivers. Rosberg settled down as the sessions progressed, answering the Williams’ challenge for pole. Q1 was Red Flagged at 7:21 following Hamilton’s venture into the barriers at turn 13. The Mercedes driver lost his front right brakes, and locking up coming into turn 13 dragging the F1 W05 into the barrier at around 265km/h. Hamilton’s initial lap time in Q1 of 1:18.683 on the soft compound tyres was more than enough to see him qualify for the second session, even if he could not run in it. Mercedes later confirmed that the crash was due to a brake disc failure. The Briton will therefore start from P16**, though don’t expect to see him there for long.

Williams took a while to get on the pace, fiddling with the setup through the practice sessions, though clearly got it right for qualifying. Both Bottas and Massa kept Rosberg on his toes. Bottas’ qualifying performance was skilfully controlled, not to mention quick, qualifying just 0.219s behind the pole sitter for P2. Massa was, too on form during qualifying though unfortunately was 0.319s off of his team mates pace for P3.

Perhaps McLaren heeded my advice from last race to stick to their wet weather set up, because Magnussen looked magnificent all qualifying. The Dane rounds out the second row on the grid in P4 with a 1:17.214 on the supersofts. Button however couldn’t match his qualifying pace from last round, going out in Q2. Unable to get comfortable with the balance or grip of the MP4-29, Button complained of oversteer throughout the sessions. The veteran was out qualified by his rookie team mate by a solid 0.979s, starting P11.

Red Bull were the quickest non-Mercedes-engine in qualifying, with Ricciardo out qualifying Vettel for the seventh time this season. Ricciardo continues to look completely at home at Red Bull, guiding the RB10 smoothly through the Hockenheimring. Though the Renault powered Red Bull cannot match the pace of the Mercedes engine, the RB10’s high downforce set up played advantage for Ricciardo. The only time in the session where he looked off the pace, was towards the end of Q3, when he set a 1:18.234s on scrubbed supersoft tyres. Ricciardo quickly rectified this with 1:17.273s for P5. Vettel complained of understeer in the RB10, making him wait to get back on the power out of the corners. Even some purple sector three times weren’t enough to see Vettel higher up the order. The reigning world champion’s final lap in Q3 was scrappy, landing him P6 on the timesheets with 1:17.577s on fresh supersofts.

Alonso and Raikkonen continue to look like they’re driving two completely different teams, with 4 grid positions grid positions and 0.624s separating the F14 Ts. Alonso wrestled his Ferrari through the circuit, throwing the car to the track limits. The Spaniard’s best effort put him P7 with 1:17.649. Kimi meanwhile guided his way around the circuit in a much smoother (albiet slower) fashion. Raikkonen’s 1:18.273 failed to get himself through to Q3, starting from P12.

Kvyat continues the theme of the young drivers out-qualifying their matured team mates, as the Russian rookie secured P8 ahead of Vergne’s P13. Kvyat had a few wide moments at turn 1 throughout the day, but kept on the pace to just make it through to Q3 on a very late run. In the final session, the STR9 on fresh supersoft tyres placed in front of both Force Indias with 1:17.965s. Vergne suffered from similar control issues, locking up and running wide at turn 8 on Q1. Unlike Kvyat, Vergne’s pace was affected with his 1:18.285s on the supersofts saw the Toro Rosso eliminated in Q2.

Both the Force India drivers ran out of steam (or grip) at the end of qualifying. Hulkenberg and Perez had been quick throughout the day, setting the pace of Q2 and Q3 both on the supersofts. Hulkenberg’s pace was no surprise. Perez was the last to run in Q2, giving him one attempt to make the final session. The pressure paid off however, with the Mexican easily making it through. However, in the top ten shoot out Hulkenberg and Perez set their times on considerably scrubbed supersofts. Hulkenberg’s 1:18.014 and Perez’s 1:18.035 quickly fell down the order for P9 and P10 respectively.

Sauber have performed well over the weekend, with the C33 agreeing with the circuit to look more competitive over the weekend. Though during qualifying, the C33s pace somewhat fizzled out. Gutierrez qualified for the second session, but couldn’t improve from his Q1 time of 1:18.739, setting a slower 1:18.787 for P14. Adrian Sutil missed out on Q2, by 0.749s for P18. It was strange to see the Sauber’s pace go backwards so early on in the session. Adding to the unfortunate session, Gutierrez holds his three-place grid penalty from his payback to Maldonado from Silverstone.

Lotus had a bipolar qualifying with only Grosjean making it passed the first session. Maldonado struggled to keep the E22 on the black bits, running wide on several occasions. Grosjean had better control on his E22, leapfrogging his way out of Q1 on his final lap. Like the Sauber however, the Lotus’ pace disappeared in Q2 as Grosjean failed to improve his time. Grosjean’s 1:18.983 saw him qualify P15, ahead of Maldonado’s 1:20.195 for P19.

Rounding out the back of the grid are the usual suspects of Marussia and Caterham. Bianchi’s qualifying performance does distinguish himself from the back end of the field. The rookie driver broke into the 1:19s with his MR03 for P18. Chilton’s performance, not so distinguishing, once again qualifying last in P21. Caterham have had a difficult week, and weekend suffering from mild overheating of Ericsson’s CT05 in practice, to severe overheating when Kobayashi’s CT05 just plain caught fire. Kobayashi qualified P20, with Ericsson racing at the stewards discretion.

It’s a roll of the dice as conditions could be different for tomorrow, with the suggestion of rain in the forecast. If it is a dry race, incredibly high temperatures play havoc for the degradation of the tyres. It’s even possible to see blowouts like Silverstone 2013. However, if it is a wet race, tyre management is less of an issue, and downforce comes into play. A wet track is a good track in my eyes, so I’ll have my fingers crossed for that.

– Alex

* How many nationalities does this guy have? (Half German, half Finnish, raised in Monaco – you sir, are a TCK)

** Overnight the team changed Hamilton’s gearbox, incurring a 5-place grid penalty.


German Grand Prix: Track Analysis

Hallo und herzlich willkommen zum Großen Preis Santander von Deutschland! Round ten of the 2014 season takes us to Germany, and the Hockenheimring. The 4.574km circuit is designed to encourage racing with two sequential DRS zones, though some of the hottest track temperatures adds an element of unpredictability to the weekend. Track temperatures so far over the weekend have been 55°c putting pressure on the tyre management, especially the super soft compound tyres. The Hockenheimring is a fast flowing circuit, with drivers at full throttle for two thirds of a lap and pushing 330km/h.  Superior balance, and tyre management are key for this weekend. Overheating is another issue to watch for, as Kobayashi will testify to after turning his CT05 into a BBQ in FP2. The curve into turn 6 is full throttle and designed for slipstreaming for overtaking into turn 7. Turn 8 offers another opportunity for overtaking, as drivers can come up side-by-side into the corner, making the move stick on the exit. The track narrows considerably at turn 10. Turns 15 and 16, are (in the words of Lotus F1) squiggly*. Since the last round, the front rear interconnected suspension system (FRIC) has been banned along the Paddock. This has translated in to visibility rogue cars on track, as can be seen with running wide at turns 1 and 8. Alternating with the Nurburgring to, the Hockenheimring is a demanding circuit, though is missing somehow that true race-track feel.

– Alex

* Love when technical terms are used

British Grand Prix: Hamilton at Home

Lewis Hamilton took out his home Grand Prix after inheriting the lead from his team mate’s retirement. Valtteri Bottas stormed his way to the second step of the podium, making up twelve places throughout the race. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo just managed to keep his tyres intact to fend of Button to come home in P3. It was a very long first lap at Silverstone. Rosberg maintained the lead from lights out through the first sector. Vettel was caught sleeping off the line, and immediately conceded a place to Button and Magnussen. Lewis Hamilton had a good start from P6, coming up to challenge Vettel for position. The two made contact through the Farm Curve, but kept control of their cars. Hamilton took the place from Vettel however, pushing him back to P5. Further back in the pack, Perez was turned around by Vergne, pushing him off track at the exit of Abbey. The race was only to continue for another hundred metres after a terrifying incident involving Kimi Raikkonen saw the race red flagged. Kimi ran wide at Aintree to avoid contact while trying to pass Gutierrez. As he came back on track the Ferrari appeared to catch a bump, immediately losing control and sending the F14 T straight into the barriers. It was a terrifying moment watching Kimi be flicked from the barriers across the track, narrowly missing the Caterham of Kobayashi and Williams of Massa in the fray. Massa was bogged down at the back of the grid when his anti stall kicked in. As he caught his way back up to the field, Raikkonen’s crash was blocked from view by the Caterham. It was extremely smart driving, and lightening quick reactions on Massa’s part to avoid Kimi. Only the monocock and right rear tyre remained of the Ferrari, while the Williams suffered rear suspension damage. Just to give us another reason to love him, Kimi’s first reaction over team radio was “is Felipe OK?”. It was over an hour before race restart. Eventually the grid snaked it’s way back through the circuit behind the safety car and the race resumed in a less theatrical manner.

Hamilton had a competitive race, getting off the line well to make up for his poor qualifying position. Unsurprisingly, the Brit made easy work of passing the McLaren’s and Red Bull, and was playing catchup to Rosberg by lap 3. The shoe was on the other foot for the Mercedes driver, as it was Hamilton’s turn to keep his F1 W05 racing while both cars suffered from mechanical issues. Rosberg led the race from the start (both of them), though gearbox issues for downshifting saw the points leader retire on lap 29. While Rosberg was lapping Chilton the Mercedes got stuck in fifth gear, slowing down and passing the lead on to his team mate. The win for Hamilton shrinks the points gap with Rosberg down to a 4 point difference, putting him back in stronger contention for the championship.

It was a bittersweet day for Williams after such a promising race for the team. Massa unfortunately never made the race restart after getting caught up in first lap fray. Bottas had a flying start off the line, and throughout the race demonstrated the more than competitive pace and aerodynamic advantage of the FW36. The Finn appeared to effortlessly carve his way through the field, choosing the favour the outside of Stowe for overtaking.

Ricciardo changed his MGU-K was changed in Parc Ferme before the race. The energy recovery unit failed after qualifying, with the RB10 looking much more competitive during the race. Ricciardo made up a brilliant five positions during the race to finish, once again on the podium and ahead of his team mate. Vettel amazing battles between Alonso, but the RB10 just didn’t have the pace on the straight to keep the Ferrari at bay. The battle for position between the two world champions was the highlight of the race. The Red Bull would catch up in the corners, before the Ferrari would extend the lead again on the straights. Every move the Red Bull made to over take, the Ferrari would have a counter move to match. Finally, Vettel put it all on the line, moving alongside Alonso with DRS assistance, the Red Bull outbroke the Ferrari going in to Brooklands and took P5.

Perhaps McLaren should stick to their wet weather set up, even for a dry race, as the MP4-29 hasn’t been this competitive all season. The podium once again eluded Button at his home race, though he was unlucky not to take the final step. Button maintained his competitive qualifying position throughout the race, and was closing on Ricciardo for P3. However, there just weren’t enough laps left in the race, and just too much grip left in the Red Bull’s tyres. A P4 finish at their home Grand Prix is still a huge success for Button and the team. Kevin Magnussen was also on form in the McLaren, finishing P7 making it a double points finish for the team.

Ferrari get full marks for theatrics after Alonso delivered a spectacular race from the back of the grid, putting it all on the line to make up ten places throughout the day. It wasn’t an easy race for the Spaniard. From the first race start, Alonso lined his Ferrari up halfway through his grid slot. Though the advantage was short lived, he was handed a 5-second stop-go penalty. Despite the penalty, Alonso raced to take Hulkenberg at Stowe for P5. However, it was Alonso VS Vettel that delivered the most exciting battle of the race. The two played cat at mouse during the final stages, demonstrating just how world champion drivers should race. Alonso was defending his P5 from Vettel, skilfully closing the door on any attempt from the Red Bull to pass. A highlight of the battle occurred on lap 35, where Vettel had managed to take the position coming into the corner, Alonso flicked the F14 T back in front on the exit of Copse. Magnussen, who was following the two, ran wide at the corner no doubt in awe of what he had just witnessed. Eventually the Ferrari’s tyres started to go, and Alonso conceded the place to Vettel, finishing P6. Despite being a short race for Kimi, he too added to the Ferrari spectacle, but not in the way we would have preferred. Thankfully Kimi avoided serious injury from his accident, suffering from a bruising to his ankle and knee. It will be a fortnight of rest, ice, and pain killers for the Finn*. In all seriousness, we wish you a full and speedy recovery.

Hulkenberg got off to a flying start, though he seemed to lose steam throughout the race. The Force India driver was involved in several cat and mouse battles for positions against the Red Bulls and the remaining Ferrari. The team chose to run a one stop strategy for both Hulkenberg and Perez, which didn’t exactly pay off. Hulkenberg’s second stint on the more durable hard compound tyres, kept him within the points though only for P8. The team put Perez on the medium compound tyres after the race restart, leaving him just outside of the points in P11.

It was a good day Toro Rosso, with both Kvyat and Vergne picking up points. The race unfolded largely without incident for both drivers. Similarly to Force India, Kvyat opted for a two stop strategy, finishing on the hard compound tryes to finish P9. It appeared to be the more competitive strategy, as Vergne on a one stop finished P10.

Lotus had a disappointing race with Grosjean finishing outside of the points, and Maldonado retiring on the penultimate lap. Grosjean was lapping around a second faster than his team mate, though he spent the entire race outside of the points in P12. The E22 looked to have improved slightly over the weekend with better balance and grip, but wasn’t competitive enough for the race. Maldonado was involved in a racing incident (which wasn’t his fault…) with Gutierrez in the early stages of the race. The E22 became airborn after a shunt from the Sauber, and it was with some skill on Maldonado’s part to keep the Lotus in control as all four wheels made it back on track. Unluckily for the team, Maldonado stopped on lap 50 due to exhaust damage.

Sauber continued to have a difficult weekend with the C33. Sutil was the sole Sauber to finish the race back in P13, though complained of brake issues throughout the race. Gutierrez’s race was short lived after retiring following accident damage on lap 11. The Sauber driver made contact with Maldonado’s Lotus while attempting an overtake into Vale. It appeared that Gutierrez failed to turn in to the corner, resulting in payback for Bahrain with Maldonado’s E22 being flicked up into the air. The collision caused damage the C33, and Gutierrez went off into the gravel pit shortly after.

Marussia finished just behind where they qualified due to race retirements. Bianchi’s race unfolded without incident, finishing P14 ahead of Chilton’s P16. Chilton served a drive through penalty after the race restart for entering the pit lane after the race had been red flagged.

It was another retirement for Ericsson, as the Caterham came into the pits on lap 12 with a very wonky looking CT05. On a positive note for the team, credit needs to be paid to Kamui for avoiding an out of control Kimi on the opening lap. The Caterham was close behind, and made the split second decision to move left across the track to avoid further collision. Escaping over the grass, Kobayashi suffered nose damage which was repaired before the restart. While his team mate suffered from mechanical issues, Kobayashi kept his Caterham running until the final lap, finishing P15.

As the season progresses, the Williams developing incredibly, matching the Mercedes for competitiveness. It’s only really due to bad luck collisions and tyre strategy that the margin isn’t smaller. Though Mercedes are still set to walk away with the constructors championship, the gap for the drivers between Hamilton and Rosberg has shrunk down to four points. The championship moves on back to the mainland for the German Grand Prix in a fortnights time. Hopefully Williams will have some better luck, until then, goodnight.

– Alex

Qualifying Pole Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
Podium Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Valtteri Bottas (Williams-Mercedes)
Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Fastest Lap 1:37.176 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

* Vodka is a painkiller right?

British Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

‘Allo, and welcome to the British Grand Prix. The unofficial home of Formula 1, takes place at Silverstone. The 5.891km circuit is fast flowing, but puts a lot of pressure on the tyres. The mix of slow corners through turns 6 and 7, and high speed corners through 10,11,12,13, and 14 requires a balance of aerodynamics and grip. The stewards are continuing their strict attitude to exceeding disallowing lap times, focusing on exceeding the track limits at turns 9 (Copse) and 18 (Club). Saturday delivered a drizzly qualifying (but could we really expect anything different from an English summer). The grid headed out on intermediates, but  some swapped to the medium compound tyres with a dry line emerging, before more rain forced strategies back to the inters. The variety of conditions played Russian roulette with tyre strategies and scrambled the starting grid. Adding to the confusion of the session, double yellows caused by Sutil kept the Ferraris and Williams in the drop zone and pushed both Marussias into Q2, leaving a “what on earth happened?” feeling for many of the teams. In the final flurry of times in Q3, Nico Rosberg snatched pole from Sebastian Vettel by 0.294s. Jensen Button achieved his best qualifying result since Brazil 2012 starting from P3.

Mercedes were once again consistently quick at the circuit, though the team didn’t manage a front row lock out for the second year running. Lewis Hamilton, feeling comfortable with 1:39.232 (for provisional pole) backed off as the session ended so Rosberg could have a final flying lap. Unfortunately for the ‘crowd favourite’, not only did his team mate lap quicker, but so did half of the field who were also on their final lap. A, no doubt confused and unhappy Hamilton has to accept starting from P6. Though, as Austria showed us, don’t count on Hamilton staying behind for long.

The pressure was on the reigning world champion in Q2 after his 1:44.085 (putting him at the very top of the time sheets) was deleted for exceeding the track limits at turn 9. By the time the decision had been made, Vettel had already pit for slick tyres. In Q3, Vettel aborted his first flying lap on the medium tyres as the track became wetter. At the two minute warning, Vettel went out on the medium tyres for his only timed lap, he pulled it out of the bag taking provisional pole with 1:37.386, until Rosberg crossed the line, pushing him down to P2. Ricciardo suffered from a poor strategy as the team chose not to send him back out at the two minute warning of Q3. The Australian was sitting P4 with his 1:40.606, but was bumped down P8 as both the Force Indias and McLarens tried for one more lap.

It’s been a while since McLaren looked competitive, but the MP4-29 thrived during qualifying as a result of good strategy and good grip. Button was lucky to make it through to the second session after having his lap time disallowed in the final minutes of Q1. The Brit had it all on the line with one last attempt for the session, which was enough to comfortably get him back out of the drop zone. At the two minute warning of Q3, Button ventured back out on the medium tyres, it was a risk, but it paid off for the Brit. Button crossed the line with 1:38.200 securing P3. Magnussen, though having a quiet qualifying, also benefited from the sudden competitive nature of the McLaren, qualifying a strong P5.

Both Force India drivers made their first appearance in Q3 at Silverstone after a strong qualifying for both drivers. Hulkenberg was  quickest of the two VJM07s, taking the honours of bumping Hamilton’s provisional pole with 1:38.329. As Vettel and Button crossed the line, Hulkenberg’s time was shuffled down to P4, which is still a really strong result for the team in tricky conditions. Perez on the medium compound tyres was early out in Q3, to get quick lap in on the dry tyres. Similarly to Hulkenberg, Perez’s laps were clean, with the VJM07 coping well in the varying track conditions. Perez was the quickest of the 1:40s, with 1:40.457s for P7.

Toro Rosso have always been competitive on a wet track, and today was no different. The team sent their drivers out early in Q3 on the medium tyres, while the track was still dry (that’s a relative term btw…). Kvyat set the pace in Q3 with a 1:40.707 ahead of Vergne’s 1:40.855. It was just the one attempt for Toro Rosso in the final session, with Kvyat finishing up with a P9 and Vergne marking the middle of the grid with P10.

It was a bittersweet qualifying for Lotus. The E22 looked more competitive than in recent rounds, as Grosjean was unlucky not to take part in the top ten shoot out, while Maldonado starts from the back end of the grid. Grosjean had his lap time in Q2 deleted for exceeding track limits, and unfortunately couldn’t improve on his time at the end of the session, leaving the Lotus to start P11. Maldonado was asked to stop track side after a fuel pressure issue at the end of Q2. While Maldonado obeyed the team’s request, I hardly think they intended him to drive slowly though the bumpy gravel trap to do so… In any case, the Venezuelan’s P15 was disqualified due to the fuel infringement, meaning the E22 will start P20.

Marussia both made it through to the second qualifying session… Yes, even Chilton. The second session was dryer, which played an advantage for Marussia who were amongst the first drivers to head out on the medium compound tyres. It was a risk, but paid off with both drivers cracking less than the 1:40s. As the second session drew to a close, both the Marussias were still out of the dropzone, sitting P6 and P7. It was only really due to Gutierrez’s yellow flags that caught out Bianchi and Chilton on their final flying lap, shuffling the time sheets once more. Bianchi was quicker by 1.09s with 1:38.709 for P12, ahead of Chilton’s 1:39.800 for P13. Chilton however drops 5 places due to an unscheduled gearbox change over the weekend.

Sauber caused havoc during qualifying, first with Sutil’s double yellows in Q1, and then again with Gutierrez in Q2. Gutierrez got on to the white line on the exit of turn 6, sending him straight off onto the grass and into the barrier. The Sauber qualified P14, but holds his ten place grid penalty for unsafe release from Austria. Sutil beached himself in the gravel at turn 6, with only a few seconds left of Q1. The team risked sending Sutil out on the medium compound tyres at the end of the session after a dry line was emerging. The Sauber however appeared to be unable to get the heat into the tyres, and had no grip going into Brooklands, running straight off the track. Despite not finishing the session, Sutil’s time of  1:42.603 was good enough for P16.

Williams were late arrivals in Q1, eventually heading out on the inters both Bottas and Massa only managed to get a few timed laps in before double yellows at the end of the session ruined any chance of another flying lap. It was a bit of an anti climax for the Williams team, coming from such a positive result from Austria. Neither Bottas or Massa looked particularly quick in the FW36. Bottas’ 1:45.318 was good enough only to qualify P17. Massa had a few slippy moments on track which he collected quite nicely*, but could only put in 1:45.695 to qualify P18. Admittedly, the Williams should have been able to qualify higher if it weren’t for Sutil’s incident at the end of the session.

Both the Ferraris were caught out at the end of the session, and would be rounding out the back of the grid if it weren’t for Maldonado and Gutierrez’s penalties. The Ferraris just weren’t there in qualifying sitting in the drop zone for most of the session. It’s been a terrible season for the team, but the F14 T really had no grip whatever in the tricky and wet conditions. Alonso span at turn 6 on a flying lap with only 35 seconds left in the session, leaving him not enough time to get back around for a final attempt. Raikkonen’s first attempt of a flying lap was deleted in accordance with article 12.3.1 of the Sporting Code (exceeding track limits). Crossing the line just before the end of the session, Raikkonen had one last attempt while Sutil was beached. But in the confusion, Alonso got in the way of his team mate and the Finn’s first sector was slow. Bizarrely, Ferrari were the slowest qualifying team with Alonso P19, and Raikkonen P20.

Ericsson had an off moment at the end of Q1, drifting and going sideways through the gravel trap disabling DRS momentarily. Kobayashi took to the track cautiously, but dived back into the pits before setting a lap time. Both Caterhams exceeded the 107% qualifying requirement, and will therefore race at the stewards discretion.

It was one of the strangest qualifying sessions when you look at the grid order. Marussia mid field, and Ferrari and Williams at the back of the grid sounds like some kind of April Fools. Hopefully, the random shuffle of experience and competitiveness throughout the starting grid will give way to some good driving. Alonso will have to work hard to make his way through the field, and Kimi, well, who knows what he will do really. Marussia may be able to hold their position for a while, but whether they can make the race distance keeping Williams and Ferrari behind then is rather unlikely. It’s set to rain again for the race, which again shuffles the grid. Let’s see what happens in the race, a wet race is a good race.

– Alex

* Just stay away from Stowe please.