29 Jul 2012

F1 - Hungary - Lewis wins in style

The Hungaroring was built in 1986.  Bernie Ecclestone was looking for a track behind the iron curtain and a friend suggested Hungary.  Thus the Hungaroring was born.

It hasn't seen much work since it's inception.  A bit of paint.  A bit of tarmac - but not on the track which bears the scars of 26 F1 races.  And neither in the media centre which is dark and hot due to the air conditioning and the lights not working.

Not that I am in the media centre.  I watched the race from England and, whilst we suffered a huge thunderstorm which knocked Sky out for a few laps, the race in Hungary was dry throughout.

Lewis started from pole with Grosjean beside him in P2 then Vettel, Button, Raikonnen and Alonso behind.  After the formation lap something strange happened to the start lights and Michael Schumacher turned his engine off.  It had merely been a problem with the lights and Schumacher was forced to start from the pits.

So they went round for another formation lap.

Then we were off.  Hamilton shot away.  Button, too, made a good start.  He diced with Vettel through the first corner but retained the inside line for the turn 2 and made his move.

Webber had a good start too.  He moved from 11th to 7th in the first two corners.  Plus his was the only car to start the race on the medium tyres.

Behind Webber Senna had moved up to 8th and Massa had gone backwards to 9th.

At the end of the first lap Lewis held a 1.4 second advantage over Grosjean.

Michael Schumacher, meanwhile, was having a weekend to forget.  He had been caught speeding in then pit lane and had to serve a drive through penalty.

There were no further overtakes for quite some time.  This was turning into what Max Moseley used to lovingly describe as a game of chess.  The Hungaroring has never been an overtaking track but in this season of thrills and spills, and many overtakes, we were watching an old school F1 procession.  Indeed the only difference between this race and most of those through the late nineties and 2000s was that Schumacher was trundling around at the back rather than leading from the front.

By lap 13 Hamilton's lead over Grosjean was 2.7 seconds.

On lap 14 Button was told by his team that they were switching to 'Plan B'.  This meant they thought a 3 stop strategy was going to work better than a 2 stop.  Jenson questioned that call and the team reluctantly agreed.

A 3 stop race around the Hungaroring, with todays tyres and fuel loads, is 10 seconds quicker than a 2 stop.  But it also means the 3 stopper must overtake the 2 stoppers which isn't easy round a track with only one overtaking place - at the end of the pit straight.

Button pitted on lap 16 and came out in 10th place.  His team had fitted medium tyres.

Hamilton pitted on lap 19 (of a 69 lap race).  His stop was slow, at 4.2 seconds.  He came out behind Grosjean who then pitted on the next lap and also suffered a slow stop.  Grosjean came out just behind Hamilton.

At this point Kimi Raikonnen, who ended the first lap in fifth, was in the lead - having not stopped for tyres.

Alonso had stopped for tyres on lap 18 and was being held up by Perez.  Alonso harried Perez for a couple of laps before overtaking him into the blind apex turn 4.

On lap 21 Raikonnen pitted and came back on track just behind Alonso.

At this time the top positions were Hamilton, Grosjean, Button, Vettel, Raikonnen, Alonso, Webber, Senna, Perez and Massa.

Grosjean, meanwhile had soft tyres on his car whilst Hamilton was on the mediums.  And Romain was catching Lewis at quite a rate.  This was turning into a race at last.

Massa finally pitted in lap 24 and came out ahead of Webber who was in 7th.

Button was struggling on his medium tyres and Vettel, on the softs, was catching him rapidly.

On lap 25 Raikonnen was told by his team to switch to 'multi map 4' to save his tyres as they were on a long middle stint.  This was to prove fortuitous.

Vettel had caught Jenson Button but, as is usual at this track, could not pass him.  His tyres were going off and he was pleading with his team on the radio to 'try something different'.

We also learned that Raikonnen's KERS was not working at the start of the race but was now at 50% capacity.  The team gave away that the Lotus KERS works at 40kW whilst the McLaren's KERS peaks at 60kW.

On lap 35 Jenson was told by his team they were switching to a 3 stop race.  McLaren nearly forced Lewis to do the same which would have ruined his race but he was being kinder to his tyres so they stuck with a 2 stopper - plan A in McLarenspeak.

On lap 37 Raikonnen set the fastest lap.  Button pitted and came out behind Bruno Senna - where he remained until Senna pitted  - which, along with the switch to a 3 stop race ruined Jenson's chance of a podium.

On lap 41 Hamilton pitted from the lead.  He came out in 2nd, behind Raikonnen.

On lap 44 Alonso pitted.  Raikonnen had still not stopped and was 14 seconds ahead of Hamilton, with a pit stop taking a total of 16 seconds, and 16 seconds in front of his team-mate Grosjean.

Kimi pitted on lap 46.  It was a quick stop and he came out just behind Hamilton but side by side with Grosjean whom he squeezed wide at the first corner.  No team orders at Lotus then.

Senna and Button stopped together and finally Jenson got the jump on Bruno.

We were then treated to our first glimpse of The Maldonator in Hungary.  In a classic piece of Maldonating The Maldonator took umbrage at Paul DiResta's attempted overtake so he expertly drove into the side of DiResta's Force India.  Fortunately Paul survived but the stewards decided this was a Maldonate too far and gave the Williams driver a drive-through penalty.

By lap 49 we believed everyone had made their final pit stop.  The only excitement was that Raikkonen, running in 2nd place was catching Hamilton at quite a rate.

The top six were Hamilton, Raikonnen, Grosjean, Vettel, Alonso and Button.

On lap 59 Vettel dropped out of the procession for new, soft, tyres.  He didn't lose a place and came out just ahead of Alonso.

The next lap saw Schumacher become the first retiree.  He just gave up after a poor race.

The final few laps saw little action besides Vettel catching Grosjean at a rapid rate, Kimi threatening but failing to catch Lewis and Karthikeyan's HRT suffering a left front suspension failure on lap 65.

And there we finished.  Kimi, despite running close to Lewis, could not pass the McLaren.  Vettel didn't catch Grosjean and everyone stayed in position.

This was not a classic race.  It harked back to races of old where the only moves were made in the pits. What is was, though, was an affirmation that Lewis Hamilton is a class act and the McLaren is finally on the pace.  Lewis himself said he made only one mistake - a small lock-up on lap 1 - and that he felt no pressure with Kimi behind him.

Lewis has now won three races at the Hungaroring - the same as his idol, Ayrton Senna.

Interestingly after the race Lewis was pressurised to comment on his contract for 2013, which he brushed aside with a 'We'll see what happens'.

This race also saw Kimi Raikonnen show his natural talent.  Hamilton is on top form at the moment and Kimi did all he could to take well deserved second place.

The point scorers:

1 - Hamilton
2 - Raikkonen
3 - Grosjean
4 - Vettel
5 - Alonso
6 - Button
7 - Senna
8 - Webber
9 - Massa
10 - Rosberg

In later posts we will sum up the first half of the season, analyse the various teams performance and bring you the form guide going into the summer break.