Formula One summer break season review - From Turkey to Hungary By the time the Formula One circus arrived at the Istanbul circuit in Turkey for round seven of the championship, other teams were wondering why the Red Bull car, designed by Adrian...
Formula One summer break season review - From Turkey to Hungary
By the time the Formula One circus arrived at the Istanbul circuit in Turkey for round seven of the championship, other teams were wondering why the Red Bull car, designed by Adrian Newey, was so fast. They accused the team of using an illegal ride-height system, which according to the FIA, who checked the car over and over again, did not exist. Teams were also trying to emulate the McLaren F-Duct, but were not very successful so far. In Turkey the season really got interesting, both McLaren and Red Bull were now facing something all teams dread: rivalry between team colleagues. With two World Champions behind the wheel of the McLaren, and two wannabe champions at the wheel of the Red Bull, things really heated up, causing plenty of controversy in a championship that already had been far from boring.
Mark Webber scored his third consecutive pole position, and fourth of the season, while Lewis Hamilton split the Red Bull pair by taking second position, followed by Sebastian Vettel in third position. During the start Webber was the first to enter the first corner, he was followed by Vettel who had been overtaken by Hamilton, but a few corners later Hamilton took his second place back using his speed advantage. The same happened with Jenson Button, who was overtaken by Michael Schumacher, but Button also regained his fourth position from the German using his speed advantage.
The Red Bulls had more down force while the McLarens had more top speed, which created interesting situations on the fastest part of the Istanbul circuit: the section between Turn 8 and Turn 13. After the pit stops Vettel had gained a place on Hamilton, Webber was leading the race, followed by Vettel, Hamilton and Button. Schumacher and Nico Rosberg were trailing the McLarens, but both Mercedes drivers could not get close to them. But there was double trouble at the horizon.
By lap 41 Vettel had closed in on Webber -- who was told to save fuel -- and after he got a good tow out of Turn 11, he got alongside him on the inside line and at the braking area of Turn 12 Vettel moved to the right, thinking Webber would let him past, but the Australian kept his racing line and the Red Bull pair collided at high speed. Both cars spun off the circuit, Webber was able to continue but Vettel had damaged his car and had to retire. He was furious and was seen walking along the run-off area making gestures which suggested he doubted his team colleague's sanity.
As a result of the collision Hamilton and Button inherited the lead, meanwhile Webber had visited the pits to replace his front wing and had rejoined the race in third position, followed by Schumacher and Rosberg. But the story almost repeated itself when Hamilton was also told to slow down to save fuel. Hamilton had asked if Button would overtake him if he slowed down, but the team on the pit wall assured him that would not happen. Unfortunately Button was unaware of the conversation that had been taken place and had other plans, he overtook Hamilton on Turn 12 and they ran side-by-side into Turn 13. Hamilton regained the lead again in Turn 1, but he was furious about Button's move. A few laps later both McLarens crossed the finish line, giving the team their second 1-2 of the season, with Hamilton the winner. Webber kept third and was followed by Schumacher, Rosberg and Robert Kubica.
After the race all hell broke loose, the McLaren drivers did not talk to each other, while Webber and Vettel both gave their own account of the events to the media, and to no surprise, both accused each other of being the culprit. McLaren spoke to their drivers to clear the air, and it emerged Button didn't know Hamilton was told to slow down, and the team had forgotten to tell Button to take it easy on Hamilton. Both drivers accepted the team's explanation, but at Red Bull things were not that easy to solve. On Monday there was a 'kiss-and-make-up' conference at the Red Bull headquarters, but neither Webber nor Vettel would publicly accept the blame for the collision, which was according to Red Bull, also the result of miscommunication between the team and the two drivers.
After a year's absence, Formula One was back in Canada. During qualifying Hamilton finally broke the Red Bull hegemony by taking pole position, but it came at a cost: Hamilton had stopped his car on the circuit after his last qualifying lap because he had ran out of fuel, and the FIA rewarded the team with a $10,000 fine. The race became one of the most memorable in the history of the Canadian Grand Prix, it was an action-packed race with many incidents and plenty of pit stops. The tyre strategy became the key to success, and drivers who looked after their tyres only had to pit twice, while others had to visit the pits three times for fresh rubber.
The first problems arose during the start, Vitaly Petrov jumped the start and not much later he lost control of his Renault when he put two wheels on the grass, he hit the BMW-Sauber of Pedro de la Rosa and both had to pit for repairs. In Turn One Vitantonio Liuzzi and Felipe Massa collided several times and also had to pit for repairs. Also on the first lap Kamui Kobayashi jumped the curbs at the end of the Casino Straight and his BMW-Sauber went straight into the "Wall of Champions" -- the tyre wall that lines the exit of the final chicane. On lap 7 Hamilton and Fernando Alonso almost collided in the pit lane, while during that same lap Nico Hulkenberg hit the back of the Force India of Adrian Sutil.
The other Williams with Rubens Barrichello behind the wheel hit the back of the Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari and the damage blocked Barrichello's front brake duct. Kubica overtook Sutil on the outside just moments before he entered the pits, and was later reprimanded by the stewards. The pair had already collided earlier in the race while fighting for sixth position and Sutil had to limp back to the pits with a rear right puncture. Alonso lost a position to Button when he found the slow HRT of Karun Chandhok in his path, while behind him Massa was pushed off the track by his former team mate Schumacher when he tried to overtake him. Liuzzi was next to pass Schumacher, he had seen what happened to Massa and after some wheel banging he pushed the Mercedes aside, a few laps later Sutil also passed the seven-times World Champion. Schumacher, who was mystified by the slow pace of his Mercedes, had again made a name for himself by using questionable defensive tactics.
After all these incidents, Hamilton was the first to cross the finish line after 70 laps, followed by Button, Alonso, Vettel, Webber and Rosberg. It was the third 1-2 for McLaren, and because of the poor result of the Red Bull team -- which was also contributed to the woes between Vettel and Webber -- they were now leading both championships. But again there was trouble ahead.
Again Red Bull dominated qualifying, Vettel took pole position and was followed by Webber and Hamilton. Ferrari were back in the top six with Alonso and Massa on fourth and fifth place, and Kubica started the race on Sunday from sixth position on the grid. During the start Vettel and Hamilton collided, but were able to continue the race without damage. But it was Webber who actually decided the outcome of the race. He was on an alternative tyre strategy and changed his tyres very early in the race.
When he rejoined the race after his stop, he was in a hurry to regain his lost time, and was perhaps a little bit too optimistic when he was about to overtake the Lotus of Heikki Kovalainen. It was a fight for position and Kovalainen defended his position, but braked very early and surprised Webber, who hit the back of the Lotus. The Red Bull was launched into the air and somersaulted with high speed over the Lotus before miraculously landing right side up again and sliding hard into the tyre barriers. Webber was lucky to escape unscathed from what was left of his car, and the medical car and safety car were sent on the track.
As we had seen before this season, all drivers used the safety car period to race to the pits for their mandatory pit stop. Vettel had no problems, but Hamilton wasn't sure whether he was allowed to overtake the safety car that had just emerged from the pit lane, but was not yet on the circuit itself, he overtook the safety car anyway, while at the same time Alonso and Massa stayed behind the safety car. Hamilton was given a drive through penalty, but because it took the FIA stewards half an hour to make their decision, Hamilton was able to take his penalty without losing one single position.
The Ferrari team was furious about the late decision, after the race Alonso said the race had been manipulated, and Ferrari later commented on their website they had been 'deceived' and called McLaren 'thieves' who were up to their 'usual tricks'. Vettel won the race, Hamilton was second and Button third. Sutil and Kobayashi landed an excellent sixth and seventh position, respectively. Although Vettel won the race, Hamilton and Button were still leading the Drivers' Championship, and McLaren was still had hold of the Constructors' Championship, and with that result Formula One moved to Silverstone for the tenth round of the championship.
The rivalry between Webber and Vettel heated up again at Silverstone, Vettel had damaged his new front wing during free practice, and just before qualifying Red Bull decided to give the remaining new wing, which was on Webbers car, to Vettel. The Australian was very unhappy and commented he was treated like a number two driver and said he would never had signed a new contract with Red Bull if he had known he would be treated in an unfair way. Despite the wing controversy, Webber qualified in second place after Vettel who once again started the race from pole position.
The Silverstone circuit provided plenty of action on track, but this time Vettel got into problems. Vettel had a poor start and Webber passed him, and after the first corner the German was hit from behind by Hamilton and had to limp back to the pits with a flat rear tyre. It again wasn't going to be a good day for Ferrari. Massa got a puncture because Alonso hit him, and Alonso was given a drive through penalty because he had overtaken Kubica when he had cut the corner at Vale, and did not give back the place he had gained on the Renault driver. Webber did the only right thing he could: he went on to win the race and showed his team he was the fastest man, even without the new front wing. When he crossed the finish line he shouted to his team over the radio the by now almost historic words: "Not bad for a number two driver, hey...".
The German Hockenheimring became the scene of yet another controversy. Vettel took another pole position, Ferrari showed they were back at the top and took second and third place during qualifying. On Sunday Vettel again had a bad start, he was surprised by the two Ferraris who overtook the Red Bull just before the first corner. Vettel was they only one who could keep up with the Ferraris, but he was not in a position to overtake them. Massa was leading the race, and had the chance to win the German Grand Prix, exactly one year after his near-fatal accident in Hungary in 2009.
Until his engineer Rob Smedley came on the radio and spoke the ominous words: "Fernando is quicker than you, do you understand what that means?" Massa did understand what it meant, it was a team order in disguise, and on lap 49 he reluctantly let Alonso pass him. Alonso went on to win the race, Massa finished second and Vettel third. After the race the media besieged the Ferrari pits to question team principal Stefano Domenicale about what had happened. Domenicale knew what was going on, but put on his bravest face and pretended he didn't hear the questions about team orders, and went on to say it was a great day for Ferrari, with a great result, the second 1- 2 victory of the season.
The FIA was not happy with Ferrari's action and gave the team a $100,000 fine for breaking the rules concerning team orders, and also announced the World Motor Sport Council will decide whether Ferrari faces further punishment on September 8.
Hungary was a turning point for Red Bull, it was no surprise that they again dominated qualifying and on Sunday Vettel started the race from pole position, followed by Webber, Alonso, Massa, Hamilton and Rosberg. After 14 laps the safety car came out after Liuzzi had lost his front wing, and all drivers except Webber, Barrichello and Jarno Trulli dived into the pit lane. During the pit lane frenzy Renault sent Kubica away too early, and he collided with the Force India of Sutil, both had to retire. Rosberg left the Mercedes pit and lost his right rear wheel because it hadn't been fastened by his pit crew, the wheel bounced though the pit lane and hit one of the Williams mechanics. Both Renault and Mercedes were fined $50,000 for unsafely releasing a car from the pit lane.
This time it was Vettel who made a mistake when he was behind the safety car, he exceeded the maximum distance of ten cars lengths behind the safety car, and was given a drive through penalty. After the safety car left the track Webber was leading the race, and he stayed out on his old tyres until he had build up enough of a gap to Alonso, who was in second place, and then pitted for new tyres without losing the lead. He went on to win the race, his fourth victory of the year.
But the story of the Hungarian Grand Prix is not complete without the story of Schumacher and Barrichello. With only five laps to go, Barrichello passed his former team mate on the start-finish straight for tenth position, but Schumacher showed his true colors again and tried to force the Brazilian into the pit wall, and almost succeeded in doing so. Barrichello was very upset by the move and so was the FIA, Schumacher was given a 10-place grid penalty for the next race: the Belgium Grand Prix on August 29. The next day Schumacher apologized for his move, but neither the press, nor the divers and the fans believed he really regretted his move.
Join us again for a preview of the Belgium Grand Prix next Thursday.
See also: Formula One - Bahrain to Monaco review