Race Report: Hungarian GP magic

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Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo claimed his second career win to maintain his third place in the driver’s championship at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Ricciardo used a three-stop strategy running the whole race on the Pirelli soft tyre after having started on the Green intermediate tire.

Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari held off his second place against Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton who charged through the field to finish third after having started from the pit lane. Both used a two-stop strategy starting on the intermediates with Hamilton then completing one stint on the soft and his final stint on the medium tire. Alonso used the soft tire for his final two stints, changing for the second time on lap 38 and thus making the soft tire last for 32 laps.

An important rain shower just before the cars were supposed to go on the grid prompted a sense of urgency and recalculation for the teams’ strategists. The race would eventually dry out and throw just about everything a F1 could throw save versus the red flag. Wet, dry and multiple cautions with several crashes.

A safety car period in lap 8 changed predetermined strategies as the whole field except McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, who stayed out until lap 15, changed to the soft tire on a rapidly drying track. His teammate Jenson Button was the only one to opt for another set of the intermediate tyres which did not work out for him in the end, finishing in 10th after briefly having been in the lead. This first Safety Car period caught Rosberg, Bottas, vettel and Alonso out as they had to make another complete lap prior to pitting.

Win

 

Win

The race itself was a win as climate change would create a wet and dry race in changeable conditions. This also caused a few shunts that brought out the Safety Car as well. With a race like this, strategy is flowing and changing by the second and when you have that many moves and counter moves from the pit wall, you’re likely to have an exciting race. IF you are a strategy wonk, then this race had you on the edge of your seat trying to determine who could make the best strategy call in the end.

In the end, it was Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo who made all the right moves on and off track. Securing his second win of the season in a car that lack outright competitiveness to the Mercedes has to be a win for the team.

You could argue the strategy but Lewis Hamilton stormed from pit lane to the podium in a brilliant recovery drive after suffering a terrible qualifying day on Saturday. Hamilton had to make a set of prime tires last an eternity and did so with much aplomb including fending off brake issues, a spin on the fist lap and an increasingly hot seat…literally.

While Lewis felt it would be difficult to get back toward the front on a track that is difficult to pass, I had him securing a 3rd place finish due to inclement weather and brilliant driving. Apparently I have more confidence in Lewis than Lewis does. Lewis gets a big win from me.

McLaren tried hard to scuttle Jenson Button’s race but the 2009 champion pedaled hard to get back into the points despite the strategy calls from the team.

Also a big win has to be the driving and result of Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard also had to make a set of Option tires last an eternity with Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo breathing down his neck at every turn. He did just that for several laps and ended up giving up one place to finish second in a car that clearly shouldn’t be in 2nd place. You could also say that his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, did a good job of recovering as well after being let down by the team in qualifying.

A win has to be given for Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne who was running at the sharp end of the grid and holding off some big names in the sport. He finished in the top ten with a great points finish.

Fail

 

Fail

In a race as chaotic as this, it is harsh of me to offer “Fail” points to teams on strategy but McLaren gambled on a radar—and they later blamed the radar—that rain would come again leaving Magnussen out during the first Safety Car period and keeping Button on Intermediates. No one, and I mean no one, read the situation that way so a fail for Macca.

Button managed to claw his way back into the points but then he’s a veteran of the sport—“he’s reached the age where he knows a thing or two…He’s reached the age where he knows how to get things done” (enter Viagra commercial blues music).

You could also level a finger at Ferrari for fitting options on both cars for the last half of the race. Trying to make it to the end on Options didn’t seem like a good choice but there may very well be a reason for that such as the car not handling the Prime tires very well making the call necessary. Chances are, a third stop would have secured 4th place and while that would be good, Ferrari is to be commended for trusting Alonso and leaving him out to take 2nd place.

Mercedes can be patting themselves on the back—except Toto Wolff of course—for getting Lewis on the podium but they could be kicking themselves in the pants for letting Rosberg drift off the podium. Is it a fail? Not if you’re a Hamilton fan as Lewis reduces the lead to just 11 points.

It’s hard to give Williams a “Fail” for this race as the Safety Car wreaked havoc on Valtteri Bottas’s race but then I could level a finger at his teammate Felipe Massa for not making the most of the situation. However, Williams has struggled at high downforce circuits but what has me slightly perplexed is their qualifying pace and Friday practice times seemed to be indicating a better race result than they achieved.

Force India Fail. Enough said.

Caterham fail. Enough said.

Romain Grosjean fail. Enough said.

Toto Wolff for breaking his arm, shoulder and wrist trying to ride a bicycle like Mark Cavendish.

WTH

Of course the controversy of the weekend comes from Mercedes and by that I mean simply—what went wrong with the team orders deal?

Rosberg got caught out by the Safety Car and was on a 3-stop strategy. The team didn’t change his strategy and he was on fresher tires than Hamilton. The team radioed Lewis and told him that Nico had another stop to make and to let him pass. Hamilton said he was shocked by the call.

For Rosberg’s part, he says he never asked to be let by Hamilton and that the team told him Lewis was going to move over and let him through. Taking the high road, Rosberg says they will discuss it as a team internally.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel could be forgiven for spinning on the final turn and nearly hitting the wall but then you’d be overlooking a great job of driving to avoid damage and a return to racing.

McLaren have now blamed the “software” on the weather radar for making a crap call keeping Jenson Button on intermediate tires while the rest of the grid changed to soft tires. Apparently the radar and weather information that is supplied to all the teams is running through some sort of software at McLaren that would open the system to errors?

It has always been my understanding that the weather radar and information is supplied via a feed from the FIA to all the team so what software was causing problems at McLaren is unknown to me. However, it would be like McLaren to try and improve the performance of the radar via their own trick software adaptation to the weather feed from the FIA in order to “spice up the show”.

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