Round 10 of the FIA Formula One World Championship sees the teams battle at the Hungarian Grand Prix, and is the race which the front running teams are all gunning to win – with it being the final race before the official summer break and the half way point of this year’s world championships. Laid out in Mogyorod, teams around the paddock will be hoping for a positive result on this track to bring back to their respective factories before everyone heads off for a month’s holiday.
The following are the main features and stats of the Hungaroring circuit.
Race Date: 28 July 2013
Circuit Length: 4.381km
Total Race Distance: 306.663km
Lap Record: 1:19.071 – Michael Schumacher (Ferrari, 2004)
Right after the completion of the previous round in Germany, which saw the maiden home victory for Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, all the teams except Mercedes headed back to England for the Young Drivers’ Test in Silverstone. Mercedes of course, were banned from participating from the test due to their allegedly illegal test conducted with Pirelli in Barcelona few weeks back. The teams conducted tests on the new tyres for the rest of this season which have been altered by Pirelli based on the 2012 constructions and 2013 compounds.
Hence Mercedes started the grand prix weekend right on the backfoot, and the Friday practice sessions further illustrated the Silver Arrows’ lack of pace (both on long runs and qualifying simulation runs) compared to the other competitors. Red Bull dominated both sessions with Vettel leading teammate Mark Webber, whilst Lotus and Ferrari also showed decent pace with Romain Grosjean and Fernando Alonso keeping the Red Bulls just within sight. So far this season Mercedes’ achilles heel has been tyre management, and with temperatures up to more than 40 degrees and climbing as the weekend progressed, the feeling around the paddock was that Red Bull and Lotus (both kind on their tyres) are primed to dominate the race come Sunday, with Mercedes almost definitely struggling immensely. Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg did little to lift the spirits of the german camp, with both admitting the Silver Arrows have lost pace and indefinitely ruling themselves out of contention for race victory.
Saturday morning then came with temperatures still scorching, and this time it was Lotus’ Grosjean who took P1 for Practice 3 ahead of Alonso. However the gaps between the cars were really small, and Hamilton raised him game against the weekend’s form book to take pole position in qualifying, edging Vettel by 3 hundredths of a second.
‘Is that pole?’, a pleasantly surprised Hamilton asked his race engineer at the end of his brilliant P1 run. He admitted afterwards that he expected Vettel to better his first Q3 run, and his P1 lap was actually not perfect. Nevertheless, it secured Hamilton’s third successive pole position, dating back to his home grand prix in Silverstone.
With temperature expected to be at its peak come Sunday afternoon (50 degrees Celsius), a realistic Hamilton resigned to the fact that a miracle was needed to win the race, and his main aim was to score as many points as possible. However, from the moment the five lights went out in the race, he confounded the whole F1 paddock by dominating the race from start to finish, whilst managing his tyres quite easily.
During the early stages the battle was on between the top three qualifiers, with Hamilton blinking first for tyre change. Vettel then led for a lap before coming in and Grosjean, as expected with his Lotus’ kindness to its tyres, coming in last for tyre change. The pivotal moment of the race came for both Hamilton and Vettel as they came out of their respective pit stops. Both drivers came out behind McLaren’s Jenson Button (who stayed out during the first round of pitstops as the Brit started the race on the harder compound tyre), with Hamilton clearing his old teammate with haste and Vettel struggling to do so for 14 laps. Those 14 laps of clear air for the Mercedes driver allowed him to pull out a comfortable lead of 18 seconds, one which he never relinquished.
Grosjean shadowed Vettel for the first two stints before a drive through penalty dropped him down the order. The Frenchman caught up to Felipe Massa’s Ferrari after his second stop and boldly passed the Brazilian on the outside of Turn 4’s fast left-hander. However the stewards deemed his move illegal as he had all four wheels off the track. With Massa pitting soon after, Grosjean did not have the chance to give the place back, and the subsequent penalty dropped him behind Alonso.
Almost unnoticed amidst all the action was Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen. With Lotus slightly off the pace of Mercedes and Red Bull in the long run, the Finn opted for a bold two stop strategy, and held Vettel at back for almost 20 laps before surviving for the chequered flag in second place. Once again showing the Lotus’ machinery on tyre kindness, he did a whopping 33 laps on his final set of medium tyres. Out in front, Hamilton paced and cruised himself to his first win as a Mercedes driver, comfortably ahead of the battling duo of Raikkonen and Vettel.
An exhilarating end to the first half of the FIA World Championship sees Vettel extending his lead in the driver’s standings. The German with 172 points now leads from Raikkonen (134) and Alonso (133). Hamilton brings himself back into contention with the 25-point haul and now stands with 124. In the constructor’s standings, Red Bull leads Mercedes 277 to 208, with Ferrari and Lotus completing the top four with 194 and 183 respectively.
Hamilton said after the race that he and his team genuinely never envisaged that his tyres would last so well. The pleasant surprise, perhaps a combination of the change in tyre construction and the improvement of the Mercedes when it comes to tyre management, will definitely provide a timely boost for the team as they head into the summer break.
‘If our tyres could last this well in this heat (one of the hottest race on the calendar), then it should work anywhere.’ enthused a smiling Hamilton.
As we head into the summer break and gear up for the second part of the season, those dreaded Pirelli tyre issues should no longer be of concern, now let the battle commence.