Hungarian Grand Prix - Pole position again no guarantee for victory
After winning the Grands Prix of Spain, Monaco and Great Britain, Australian Mark Webber also won the race in Hungary last weekend. Webber's team colleague Sebastian Vettel started the race from pole position, but after he had been handed a drive through penalty for exceeding the maximum of 10 car lengths behind the safety car, his chances to win the race were over. The young German managed to secure third position, but again like in Germany, his pole position was no guarantee for victory. Webber has so far won four races this season, while his competitors Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton have won 2 races each. Red Bull Racing claimed eleven pole positions this year, Vettel seven and Webber four, and Hamilton scored one pole position for McLaren.
By securing the win in Hungary Webber is now leading the Drivers' Championship, and Red Bull Racing is in command of the Constructors' Championship, closely followed by McLaren and Ferrari. The Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for McLaren, who lost their lead in both championships. McLaren mechanics were checking the brakes of Hamilton's car on the start grid just minutes before the race after Hamilton reported vibrations in his brakes during the reconnaissance lap. But as it turned out, the brakes were not the problem, as Hamilton had to give up the race with a broken gearbox on lap 24 while in fourth position. A disappointed Hamilton reported, "I was accelerating out of Turn One when I felt a sudden vibration and then a loss of drive. I initially thought it was a drive shaft failure, but it now appears that it was a gearbox problem."
Button, who didn't make it into Q3 on Saturday, started from 11th position and also lost a lot of places during the first lap. Button said about the first lap, "I got a good start off the line, but I went four abreast into Turn One, and got stuck on the outside, losing about four or five places." He could not impress during the race and could not even match the pace of the BMW-Sauber, Williams and Renault ahead of him, and finished in eighth position. Button remains positive about his championship chances, "Finishing eighth wasn't too bad. I lost a lot of points, and for the team to take home only four points today is disappointing, but there isn't a very big points gap covering the top four."
Safety car period caused pit lane frenzy
The race was started without any real incidents, and after a few laps Vettel already had a gap of six seconds to the rest of the field, he was followed by Alonso, Webber, Felipe Massa and Hamilton. The Renaults of Vitaly Petrov and Robert Kubica made a good start and on lap 10 they were in sixth and eighth position, respectively. Behind them were Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg in ninth and tenth position. Vettel was still leading the race when on lap 16 the safety car came out after Vitantonio Liuzzi lost a part of his front wing, which landed on the middle of the track.
All teams reacted quickly, all but three cars dived into the pit lane, only Webber, Barrichello and Jarno Trulli stayed out. With 21 cars in the pit lane things can go wrong, and they did. Ferrari had to service both cars, and Massa had to wait until the team was finished with Alonso's car before he could sprint away with fresh Bridgestone tyres. But things really became messy when Renault released Kubica after his stop, he ran straight into the car of Adrian Sutil. The Force India car was badly damaged and Sutil retired on the spot. Sutil about the incident, "I was driving into my [pit] area when suddenly the Renault came out in front of me. There wasn't anything I could do, they released him into my path and I just crashed into him and my car was damaged too badly to continue. It was definitely unsafe from their part."
Kubica's car was pushed back and after a quick inspection he was sent on his way again. He rejoined the race in last position, but had to retire on lap 23. Kubica was equally disappointed by the incident, "I saw the lollipop go up and I started to go but unfortunately we collided, which forced us to retire because of the damage to the front suspension." Renault was fined $50,000 for the pit lane incident.
Another victim of the pit lane frenzy was Nico Rosberg, who was sent out without the wheel nut on his rear right wheel properly fitted. At the moment Rosberg hit the throttle, the wheel came loose and seconds later it bounced through the pit lane, testing the agility of the mechanics of the neighboring pits, who successfully managed to dodge the flying wheel. The wheel finally landed in the Williams pit area where it hit a member of the pit crew, Nigel Hope. Hope was injured but was later able to continue his work in the pits.
Rosberg was stranded halfway in the pit lane with only three wheels on his Mercedes and was forced to give up his race. Team principal Ross Brawn about the unfortunate incident, "We will have a thorough investigation into the incident and report our conclusions to the FIA. We are thankful that no serious harm was caused by the stray wheel and send our best wishes to the Williams mechanic who was unfortunately injured." Like Renault, Mercedes was also fined $50,000 for the incident.
A turning point in the race was the drive through penalty handed to Vettel for exceeding the maximum of 10 car lengths behind the safety car. He was furious, but his team urged him to concentrate on his race, but when he came though the pit lane on lap 31 he was still very frustrated and was waving his hands in despair. Vettel lost the lead and rejoined the race in third place behind Webber and Alonso. Before the podium ceremony Vettel was seen with FIA officials discussing his penalty, making it clear he was not happy with the decision of the stewards. He later admitted he hadn't paid attention at the crucial moment and was caught by surprise when the safety car went into the pits again.
A few laps later another race unfolded, Webber knew if he could build up enough of a gap to Alonso, he could make his tyre stop without losing his first position. Webber was still on his soft tyres, but surprisingly enough he was able to continue his pace. Ferrari understood what was going on and urged Alonso to close the gap with Webber. But Webber did not give up, and clocked fastest lap after fastest lap, and when the gap was about 24 seconds he came in for his mandatory stop on lap 43 and emerged from the pit lane still leading the race, with Alonso now a few seconds behind him.
Neither Alonso nor Vettel were able to gain time on Webber, Webber crossed the finish line first followed by Alonso, Vettel, Massa, Petrov and Hulkenberg. Petrov drove the race of his life, he was faster than Kubica all weekend, and finally showed he deserves a seat at the Renault team next year. For the complete race result and the current standings in the championship, follow the links at the bottom of the page.
Red Bull Racing under scrutiny again
Red Bull's flexing front wing has again caused a stir at the Hungaroring, other teams think it is illegal, but FIA scrutineers have again approved the design after they thoroughly inspected it, before and after the race. The front wing of the Ferrari team also passed the FIA scrutineering, but teams are still not happy and have urged the FIA to ramp up the flexibility tests.
The current flexibility test is quite simple: the FIA puts a load of 50 kilogrammes on the end plates of the front wing, and the wing should not flex downwards more than 10mm. The FIA wants to increase the test load to 100 kilogrammes and will only accept a 'linear increase of deflection' of 20mm. The wing is only allowed to flex in an up- or downwards motion, but the wing is not allowed to tilt forwards, which would also bring it closer to the ground. The FIA has also promised to take a closer look at the floor of the cars, because teams suspect some competitors are exploiting the regulations in that area as well.
Red Bull has been under fire since the start of the season, first there were protests about their rear wing design which turned out to be a part of the F-Duct system -- which was deemed legal by the FIA, then there were the low positioned exhaust pipes which were part of the clever blown diffuser design -- a design which was also deemed legal by the FIA. Red Bull's opponents also complained the team would use an illegal ride height system, but again the FIA didn't find anything illegal on the car. Now teams are complaining about the very low front wing of the car, and also have questioned the design of the camera mountings on the car, which would be used as small winglets or turning vanes, but until today the Red Bull car has passed all FIA inspections without any problems.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is neither worried nor surprised about the accusations, and believes other teams are just trying to unravel the secrets of the current speed of the Red Bull car. Horner, "Today, they complain about the wings, tomorrow the floor, the day after it will be about the color of the car. We know these games very well." He added, "We passed the tests, and that's what counts." But the fact remains the Red Bull was more than one second a lap faster this weekend, and when Vettel was asked what the secret of the speed of the car was, he answered it was "well hidden", further fueling suspicions the team has a secret trick, the latest rumors are that the floor of the car would be flexible.
FIA Stewards Report
More tyre mix-ups for Force India this weekend, during the first practice session, the team fitted tyres allocated for Saturday's practice session 3 and qualifying or for Sunday's race on Liuzzi's car and were fined 5,000 Euro. During practice two on Friday, Heikki Kovalainen was fined 600 Euro for speeding in the pit lane, Alonso was fined 1,200 Euro for the same offence.
On Saturday during qualifying Kamui Kobayashi was penalized for not stopping to have his car weighed, and was dropped 5 places on the grid. On Sunday during the race Renault was fined $50,000 for an unsafe release of driver Kubica in the pit lane, who also got a 10 second stop and go penalty, Mercedes was fined $50,000 for the unsafe release of Rosberg who lost his right rear wheel. Vettel got a drive through penalty for exceeding the maximum of 10 car lengths behind the Safety Car, and finally Michael Schumacher was handed a 10 place grid penalty at the next event, the Belgium Grand Prix.
A good week for the FIA, in Germany they already collected 1,000 Euro for speeding in the pit lane and $100,000 from the Ferrari team for ignoring the ban on team orders, this weekend the FIA collected 6,800 Euro and another $100,000, in total $200,000 and 7,800 Euro in fines in seven days.
As for the maximum of ten car lengths behind the Safety Car rule: there was some confusion about it, but the maximum distance applies to all cars, and not just to the first car behind the Safety Car, as Article 40.7 says: "All competing cars must then reduce speed and form up in line behind the Safety Car no more than ten car lengths apart." Now that all drivers and teams are on a summer break, they have plenty of time to study the FIA Sporting Regulations, and in particular the Safety Car Regulations.
Excellent performance by Williams and BMW-Sauber
Privateer teams Williams and BMW-Sauber again surprised with an excellent performance this weekend. After the start of the season both teams have been struggling to find the right pace, and it seems they now have found the leak. BMW-Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi again displayed his extraordinary race talents, after his five-place grid penalty he started from 23rd on the grid, but after four laps he was in 15th place, thus gaining almost two places per lap. He was lucky with his pit stop, and rejoined the race in 12th position and gradually worked his way up the field and finished the race in 9th position. His team mate Pedro de la Rosa finished in seventh place after he had qualified in ninth position, and the BMW-Sauber team went home with 8 points in the pocket, not bad for a team that almost didn't make it to the start of the season.
The Williams team also has become considerably faster the last few races, and although the team was a bit disappointed by their qualifying pace, Barrichello started the race from 12th, and Hulkenberg from 10th position, both drivers managed to turn the race into a good result. Hulkenberg was in tenth place behind Barrichello until the pit stops, he rejoined the race in eighth position behind Petrov. Behind him were De la Rosa and Button, but they were no threat to his position and Hulkenberg eventually finished the race in sixth position. Hulkenberg about his race, "We were in the right place to take advantage of the safety car, but even so, the car had good pace today and I didn't make any mistakes. It was good to collect decent points and have the luck running with us."
Barrichello versus Schumacher
Barrichello was on an alternative strategy and had stayed out when the safety car was on track, on lap 24 he was in fifth place and was able to keep up his pace on his old tyres, on lap 54 he made his mandatory pit stop, and rejoined the race in 11th position, behind his old Ferrari colleague Schumacher. It didn't take long before he was all over the tail of the Mercedes, but Schumacher turned into the old 'tricks' again while he was 'defending' his tenth position. Barrichello already complained about him over the radio after Schumacher had rigorously slammed the door on him a few times.
On lap 65 Schumacher lived up to his reputation and tried to prevent Barrichello from overtaking him on the start-finish straight by squeezing him into the pit wall, but Barrichello stood his ground and after a few breathtaking moments he emerged from the dust with Schumacher now behind him. Barrichello was furious about this dangerous move, "It was the most dangerous maneuver against me I have ever known." Schumacher had a different opinion, "I was making it obvious to him to go on the other side. There was more room there, but he chose not to. It got a bit tight. We didn't touch; I guess I left enough room."
Barrichello responded, "He's taking something from the past into the present -- his view is that I'm a big crier. What does the public think?" And indeed, what does the public think of this move? The media slammed Schumacher, even after he apologized to Barrichello on his website. The Italian Corriere della Sera, who were a loyal Schumacher supporter when he drove for Ferrari reported: "Schumacher the villain, as he has always been."
The fans of Formula One have stated their own thoughts, ranging from "he should have stayed retired" and "why was he not given a heavy fine?" to their wondering why the small price to pay: "the penalty of the loss of grid positions is nothing but a slap on the hand"!
Formula One is now all set for the yearly summer break, a tradition that is result of the mandatory two-week factory close down for all teams, all employees can now enjoy a well deserved holyday with their family or friends. And the drivers? Some will have the time to think about the opportunities the last seven races still have to offer, while others will reflect on the opportunities they have missed. One thing is sure, Webber is leading the championship until the next race in Belgium, he is already looking forward to the event, but as the winner of the Hungarian Grand Prix said it with a touch of his usual Australian sense of humor, "There's everything to play for, but not until I've turned my phone off and had a couple of weeks of holiday!"