Monday, August 06, 2007

Hungary – Race Analysis

Formula One was back at the Hungaroring. The same track that became famous in the 1980’s and early 1990’s for the epic battles involving Mansell, Piquet, Prost, and Senna. The same track that has been the stage of the most boring F1 race for each of the past few years. I feel bad for the fans in Hungary – and the many that went there from Finland and Poland.

Yesterday Kimi Raikkonen drove the whole race behind Lewis Hamilton, although at different points one was better than the other. We should have seen many overtaking moves, but in the current F1 this is impossible. Even Felipe Massa in a Ferrari could not go by Takuma Sato in the slower Super Aguri. The race was boring, but the championship battle has heated up.

War inside McLaren

For starters, I agree that Alonso should be punished for what he did in qualifying. Let’s not forget, though, that he did not start the war when he waited a lot of time to exit the pit stall. Hamilton did, when he refused to let Alonso go by in the fuel burning phase of qualifying. Unfortunately, Hamilton could not be punished by the FIA for breaking team orders, but Alonso could because he broke the sporting rules.

Hamilton drove a reasonable race and did not make any mistakes while Raikkonen was right on his gearbox. Alonso, on the other hand, was overly aggressive and inconsistent at the start, but later figured out that he should score as many points as possible. Seven points separate both drivers in the point standings. The war is far from over.

Felipe Massa’s inconsistency strikes back

Felipe Massa made a costly mistake in qualifying and it led to a series of events that resulted in his worst F1 race ever – at least from my point of view. Felipe lost the balance, going wide into the last turn during his hot lap in Qualifying 2. As he corrected with more steering input, he lost his rear end and almost spun out. That cost him a lot of time. He would need another flying lap to make it to the top 10 – and into Q3. One would expect that Ferrari would be ready for this kind of situation, but guess what? They weren’t. Somehow they managed to forget to put more fuel. Felipe had to shutdown the car as he exited the pit lane and be pushed back all the way to the pit stall. In the meantime, his tyres were just cooling down. With the cold tyres, all he managed was the 14th fastest time.

Is it really all that Ferrari can do with cold tyres? Why did he not move his car from side to side in his warm up lap? In the event Ferrari probably did not tell him how much time was left – and there was plenty of time –, he should have asked... What would Michael Schumacher do?

Then the race... During the first lap he went wide going out of turn 2, allowing Takuma Sato to overtake him. That cost him the race, as he could not overtake Sato, who was on a similar fuel strategy. Is 13th all a Ferrari driver can manage when starting 14th in Hungary? I do not think so. It was one of those races that make us remind of the former, inconsistent Massa, not the one we have seen since the end of 2006.

F1 vs. GP2

Is it just me or the GP2 races have been more fun to watch than F1 for some time now? Even in the tight Hungaroring, there were plenty of overtake manoeuvres. The GP2 cars depend much less on aerodynamics and run on full slick tyres, so drivers can follow the car ahead even on the fast corners. FIA President Max Mosley seems to be taking steps ahead to create rules that create more overtaking in F1. We know it has been a problem for a long time, though. They just could have reacted faster.

Hungary’s quick notes

- Honda struggled a lot more than they have been used to this year. At one point Rubens Barrichello spoke to his engineers that he was flat out all around. He was 3 seconds a lap off the leaders’ pace. Jenson Button also had a similar pace.

- Giancarlo Fisichella was very aggressive at the pit exit, but so was Anthony Davidson in the incident when both touched. Heikki Kovalainein was the best Renault driver of the day, and saved 1 point after starting 11th and finishing 8th.

- Jarno Trulli’s bad first lap ended any chances that he had to score points. His teammate Ralf Schumacher finished 6th, although I think it is too late for him to save his job in F1.

Star of the race:

Nick Heidfeld. He drove a very consistent race and held Alonso back for the final laps. One may argue that Hamilton also held Raikkonen back, but Heidfeld clearly had an inferior car so his battle was more difficult.

Shame of the race:

Felipe Massa.

--Andre N.

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