The Hungarian Grand Prix marked the last day of term for the F1 drivers, who now have a lengthy break ahead of the Belgian GP in just under five weeks time. It was a mixed weekend for the fans, but ultimately Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag, adding another twist to the championship as we look towards the title run in.
Following the Canadian GP, Lewis Hamilton was leading the world championship, and looked the most composed of the drivers heading into the rest of the season. Instead, he picked up just four points in the following three races, with two DNFs in that time. A two point lead had turned into a sixty-two point deficit, and Hamilton even said his title challenge was over. Now, the gap may still be sizeable, but forty-seven points is less than two races wins, and a gap that Hamilton could overturn just as easily as Alonso created the lead. This weekend was all about Hamilton, who topped every session expect FP3, where he was just 0.093 seconds down in P2. In the final sector, he was able to find unbelievable levels of grip, normally pulling out at least three-tenths on the rest of the field. It was a mirror-image of Alonso’s controlled win at the German Grand Prix, and despite pressure from Grosjean and Raikkonen, Hamilton remained calm and composed. This race has re-lit his championship fire, and with Spa up next, Lewis will be keen to get the rocket red shirts out again.
Lotus Hungary For Success
Quite how Lotus have not won a race this season is inexplicable. They have brought a much-needed sense of fun, but also competition, to the bigger teams. Williams and Mercedes may have one race win apiece, but neither have managed to remain a consistent threat to the front runners. Lotus have kept pressure on the leaders the whole way though, with Raikkonen and Grosjean becoming one of the best team-mate combinations on the grid. The fact Lotus allowed their drivers to race each other on pit exit was also impressive, with Raikkonen squeezing his younger teammate out wide to take P2. Kimi will be ruing his restricted pace early on, as he was stuck behind Alonso until the first round of stops. Lotus were the only team (along with Hamilton) to not take an extra run in Q1, and the extra set of softs came in very handy. Much of their running was on used tyres, which makes their pace even more impressive. Raikkonen made his soft tyres last longer than most drivers’ hards, and he was desperately close to Hamilton late on. A race win is just around the corner, and with Raikkonen’s favourite track up next, Spa could be the first of many for Lotus F1 Team.
Red Bull and Ferrari – Best of the Rest
Fernando Alonso left Hungary having extended his world championship lead, despite only coming fifth. Mark Webber made a great start, and was looking competitive before he got caught in traffic, and Red Bull changed their strategy, which meant 8th was the best he could hope for. Vettel also stopped three times, and couldn’t keep up with the leaders, but will be pleased with 4th considering the car wasn’t on par with Lotus and McLaren this weekend. The lead at the top is still very strong heading into the second half of the season, but Red Bull will be comforted by the fact Ferrari still are behind in the development process. Alonso has made a poor car good, but something suggests that his luck will run out soon. If he can keep up this consistency though, the championship will surely be his. Red Bull were never going to be that competitive at the Hungaroring, so 4th and 8th is a good result, and their lead at the top of the constructors remains intact. 2011 seems so long ago now…
Senna’s Coming of Age
Bruno Senna has received a lot of criticism so far this season, after his teammate took Williams’ first win since 2004, and he wasn’t really contributing to the points total. It has all changed though. Senna has now outraced Pastor Maldonado 6 races to 5, and is only four points behind him now. The Venezuelan driver has scored just twice all season, with 25 of his 29 points coming at the Spanish Grand Prix. After qualifying, Maldonado said how impressed he was with the pace of the other drivers, “even Senna.” Bruno responded by finishing 7th, ahead of Webber and Massa, whilst Maldonado came 13th after running out of the points for the entire race, before picking up a penalty (de ja vu?). If it continues like this, Maldonado may be the man at risk, whilst Senna has finally turned the corner. He may never emulate his uncle, but at this rate, Bruno Senna will be in Formula One in 2013.
Toro Rosso Join the Backmarkers
The season started so well for Ricciardo and Vergne, with 2012 being the audition year to take Mark Webber’s seat in 2013. Since then, nothing has gone right, and the Hungarian GP ended a torrid first half of the season for the Faenza based team. Both of their drivers finished on the same lap as Heikki Kovalainen, and they are now closer to Caterham than they are to Force India and Sauber. Monaco was their last flash-in-the-pan with Vergne running seventh at one point, but even that ended in disappointment. James Key looks set to join Toro Rosso, but the bosses will be questioning just why they replaced Alguersuari and Buemi. Toro Rosso in 2012 is frustrating to watch, as the pace of the car isn’t really obvious due to the inexperience of the drivers. One can only hope they improve, otherwise we may see another change of line-up for 2013.
A Dull Race in 2012?
Usually, the BBC highlights programme is about two hours long, but for Hungary, they managed to squeeze everything into 90 minutes. Why? Simply because of the lack of action on the track. The Hungaroring has been a great fixture on the F1 calendar since 1986, and is a great one-lap circuit. The second sector is one of the most spectacular examples of circuit design on the F1 calendar, requiring full concentration from the drivers, as well as balls! However, there is little chance to overtake, as shown this weekend. The short start-finish straight eradicates the advantage of DRS, and it all surmounted to a ‘procession’ in Hungary. Compared to 2011 though, this race was still a good one, and many fans were pleased to see a race, not ‘who-can-make-their-tyres-last-longest’. It was an interesting Grand Prix, and although it wasn’t the rollercoaster we saw at Valencia, I think we have to be happy with Hungary in light of the great races we’ve had this season. £50k may be a lot of money, but in comparison to £1bn, it’s nothing. The same applies here.
School may have finished a few weeks ago now, but finally it is summer for Formula One. The drivers have a chance to relax, and the teams will be able to shut down for a couple of weeks before getting back to work. Five weeks may be a long time, but at Richland F1, we will have plenty to keep you happy. The Nostalgia series will kick off again, with Juan Manuel Fangio and Elio de Angelis just two of the names to feature this summer. Also, we will be looking at some of the sporting regulations, with qualifying due a revamp in many fans’ eyes. Finally, you can expect our second competition towards the end of the break, offering you the chance to win some F1 goodies. F1 may stop, but Richland F1 never sleeps.
Photos courtesy of Octane Photographic.