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

Hungarian Grand Prix: Hamilton wins for Mercedes

The Hungarian Grand Prix was true to it’s reputation of a hot and dirty track. The 4.381 km circuit which is characterised by several sweeping corners taken at high speed, and often a very dusty and blisteringly hot surface is more like a street circuit in terms of difficulty. It’s not difficult to see why the Hungaroring is referred to as “Monaco without the barriers”, the narrow circuit is extremely difficult to pass on, and like Monaco, relies heavily on downforce and tyre performance rather than sheer speed. Both Red Bulls were strong during practice and qualifying until Webber suffered a KERS issue, and, in true Mark Webber fashion, he was not shy in broadcasting his displeasure with the team. So much for seeing some of the old happy Mark. What we did see, was an extremely impressive qualifying drive (without KERS) to see him start from tenth on the grid. Difficult track conditions, and strength from the RB-9s didn’t stop Lewis Hamilton from taking out pole in qualifying and on race day for his first win for Mercedes.

Hamilton had a strong get away off the grid, as did Grosjean, who was pressuring Vettel for second. After an uncharacteristically poor start from the Red Bull (of Vettel… not Webber), the German was on the defensive coming in to turn 1 to hold his position from Grosjean. Rosberg had a very unfortunate start, first being overtaken by Alonso outside of turn 1, and then being squeezed off track by Massa as he made his way up to catch his team mate. Shortly after the Mercedes and Ferrari made contact at turn 5, though at first Rosberg’s Mercedes appeared to come out reasonably unscathed, though he lost several places. Grosjean impressed me early in the race as not only did he pressure Vettel without making contact, but he held off Alonso to maintain his position in third.

Despite a very clean start from Hamilton, he was unable to shake Vettel from within DRS zone until lap 6. Vergne and van der Garde were the first cars doing a three stop strategy to pit on lap 8. Shortly after Hamilton also pitted to release Vettel to lead the race. Within the next 2 laps, Maldonado, di Resta, Ricciardo, Rosberg, and Bottas all came into pit. Sutil became the first retiree of the race following contact with Massa on lap 19. Luck seemed to turn around for Webber, starting the race on medium compound tyres, he was able to work his way up to race leader and hold off pitting until lap 23. This comfortably made up for a poor qualifying position. On lap 28, Gutierrez retired from the race with gearbox failure.

Vettel had to be cautious not to let his RB-9 overheat as he drove in the slip stream of McLaren’s Jensen Button. He was in a bit of a catch-22 at this stage, as the only chance he had of getting out of the slip stream, was to stay in it so he could get DRS and overtake into clean air. After a failed attempt to overtake, Vettel suffered front-wing damage and pulled back to cool the car. In the mean time, Grosjean was again putting the pressure on Vettel. On lap 24, Vettel took another pounce at Button, and this time managed to get passed him on the inside of turn 4. As Button slipped down into third, it was Grosjean’s turn to make a move on the McLaren, and he did (but not well). The Lotus and McLaren made contact as Grosjean moved back in to take the racing line, and was forced to take the escape route to maintain his position. Grosjean was handed a drive through penalty, and Button suffered considerably damage to his front-wing causing him to pit and re-enter the race in eighth.

By the half way point in the race, it was clear that Mercedes were not going to lose out on tyre pace as Hamilton maintained a +12 second lead on Vettel. Finally Hamilton was able to delivery what he’d been teasing us with so consistently in qualifying this season and continued to cruise on to a comfortable lead, leaving the race behind. Vettel’s second pit on lap 34 meant that he again had to briefly battle Button (isn’t that fun to say) for third, a move that was easily done due to Button’s worn soft compound tyres.

Kimi at this stage in the race had been a quiet achiever, looking after his tyres (as usual) and slowly gaining positions. This was where the real race began, trailing Hamilton by more than ten seconds, he was driving in clean air, but still only a few seconds clear of Vettel. The Lotus kept his advantage over the Red Bull on 29 lap old tyres, which forces me to one of the following conclusions; either a) Kimi is a wizard, or b) Kimi is God. Either way he never fails to impress me with how viciously he throws his car around a track all the while keeping his tyres as if they were fresh. Bottas left his team mate to fight for a points finish after hydraulics issues caused him to retire from the race on lap 42.

Vettel came in for his final pit on lap 55, leaving him 15 laps to catch up to Kimi (who had come in for his second and final pit on lap 42), and within 3 laps he had caught back up to be within DRS. Vettel didn’t make a move on Kimi until lap 66, where he briefly locked his brakes (and I lost my breath), so again he pulled back and waited again to pounce. Kimi wasn’t having any of it though and every advance Vettel made was matched by Kimi’s defense in closing the gap in corners. It was a well fought battle between the two as Kimi cruised in to take out second place, with Vettel in third. After an unlucky start, Rosberg was working his way back through the pack from fifteenth, and managed to comfortably hold ninth before his retirement from the race on lap 64 due to an engine fire. Luckily a safety car was avoided as he was able to neatly slip off track through one of the escape routes, how considerate of him. Di Resta became the final car to retire from the race on lap 66 with the team reporting hydraulics issues.

There will be much talk over the summer break I’m sure between Kimi’s manager and Red Bull. Personally I’d love to see him fill the seat at Red Bull, clearly Seb and Kimi have a good relationship off the track, and they respect each other’s talent. The other man eyeing the seat at Red Bull is Daniel Ricciardo, but after a strong qualifying, Ricciardo didn’t deliver much on race day. The STR-8 just didn’t have the speed on Sunday and he failed to make his way back through the grid after his first pit (eventually finishing thirteenth).

Webber came in to take out fourth after keeping the slower than usual Ferrari of Fernando Alonso at bay. Alonso finished fifth, ahead of Grosjean who didn’t manage to recover race positions following his drive through penalty. Button, Massa, and Perez took out seventh, eighth, and ninth respectively. Maldonado seems to be more on form this season compared to last year, and secured Williams’ their first point for the season finishing in tenth.

It was refreshing to see a race this season where the tyres didn’t play such a crucial role in team strategy, or at least no more than what would have been expected with 50+ degree track temperatures. The Hungaroring is a fantastic circuit to watch (and to race on I’m sure) as the drivers use so much of the kerbs as part of their racing line. It feels much more like a street circuit than a purpose built track. It’s exciting, and I like it.

– Alex

Qualifying Pole Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Podium Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Kimi Räikkönen (Lotus-Renault)
Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Fastest Lap 1:24.069 Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing-Renault)