F1 Hungarian Grand Prix: Even a Blind Circuit Designer Finds a Nut

Sometimes, all you need is a little luck to put on a good race. A combination of changing conditions, multiple safety cars, tyre strategy and DRS made for the best Hungarian Grand Prix ever and the best finish to a race this season since the last time the guy who won this race won a race. That man would be Daniel Ricciardo. Just like his maiden win at the Canadian Grand Prix, Ricciardo made a late charge through the field to pick up well-deserved surprise win.

f1-2014-hungary-hamilton-qualifying-fireThe race started with Mercedes drivers on opposite ends of the grid. While Nico Rosberg pulled out the pole by going nearly half-a-second faster than the next closest car on a drying track. Lewis Hamilton never made it that far. In fact, he couldn’t even set a timed lap. His engine caught fire which resulted in the team having to replace the engine, turbocharger, Kinetic and Heat recovery units of the ERS, gearbox and the chassis.

Fortunately for Lewis, starting from the pitlane didn’t hurt him as much as some people had expected. Being completely confused by cold brakes hurt him in early running but we didn’t hear that mentioned afterwards.

Up front, Rosberg had the lead and charged away at a rate of more than a second per lap on the drying Hungaroring. Just when it looked like this race could be a terrible parade, Marcus Ericsson lost control of the car and put it into the tyre wall which resulted in a safety car. Unfortunately for Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso behind him, he missed the pits upon the call for the safety car and pitted one lap later. That resulted in them being shuffled back in the order.

It was Daniel Ricciardo who was the lucky beneficiary and inherited the lead. Jenson Button followed with McLaren leaving he and Magnussen as the only cars on the track on intermediates. Button took the lead at the still damp Turn One but couldn’t hold for very long. McLaren was the only team who predicted more rain for a reason. They were wrong and Button’s race was compromised.

Ricciardo’s lead was short-lived as another safety car was called. This time, Sergio Perez hit the wall on the frontstraight and brought out another full-course caution. Ricciardo and the Williams cars pitted which promoted Alonso to the point.

At this point, strategy would become a critical part of the race. Alonso led from Lap 24 to Lap 39 before coming in for his second and final pitstop for a fresh set of options. Lewis Hamilton get to the lead after starting dead last in pitlane. That lead only lasted a lap until pitting for prime tyres. That cycled Ricciardo to the lead for 15 laps before pitting for a third time and dropping back to 3rd.

For ten laps, they held position with Alonso barely holding onto his car on aging soft tyres but Hamilton’s equally as of medium tyres not having enough speed to topple the Spaniard. The only hope remaining was Ricciardo whose fresh tyres allowed him to get by Hamilton out of Turn One with four laps to go. On the next lap, he powered by Alonso which made for his second late pass for the win this season.

The win for Ricciardo is his second career win and it also kept him as the only driver not in a Mercedes to win this season. Fernando Alonso looked like he was hung out to dry by a poor strategy call by Ferrari but held onto 2nd through sheer will. And Lewis Hamilton may have started last and got some help from weather and the safety car but he sure impressed a lot of people by coming through in 3rd.

Nico Rosberg finished in 4th to limit his points lead drop to only three points. He now leads by 11 points heading into the break. Felipe Massa finally completed Lap One and was rewarded with a 5th. Kimi Raikkonen scored his best finish of the season in 6th. Sebastian Vettel had a spin late in the race which dropped him to 7th. Valtteri Bottas had a very long stint on mediums which held him to 8th. Jean-Eric Vergne got as high as second but ended the day in 9th. Despite his team botching the strategy, Jenson Button rounded out the top ten and earned the final point.

I’m all for more races and getting exciting new tracks and countries on the calendar but sometimes Bernie just puts money ahead of all common sense when it comes to Formula One. Okay, Bernie always puts money ahead of common sense.

champ-car-mexico-cityLet’s start with good news. Mexico is coming back to Formula One next year. With two Mexican drivers, there’ll never be a better time to bring back a Mexican Grand Prix. Since being dropped from the F1 calendar, it hosted Champ Car, A1GP, NASCAR and Grand-Am races. I couldn’t tell you if they were any good but one of the Grand-Am ones had a fight between drivers so that’s a good start.

The track should have a couple of passing zones with the chicane at the end of the frontstraight and the long 180° right-hander at the final turn. Maybe the rhythm sections will cross up a few drivers and open up some passing opportunities. It’s be a technical circuit but I’m worried about it being a Hungaroring in a convenient time zone.

Elsewhere and confusingly, Bernie has added a new race to the 2016 Formula One season schedule. The Grand Prix of Europe will be making a return to F1 but not in Valencia but in a country that’s situated basically on the border between what you would consider Europe and Asia.

fia-gt3-baku-azerbaijanThe medieval streets of Baku, capital city of Azerbaijan, will host the European Grand Prix. If you’re asking why Azerbaijan would get to host an F1 race, you don’t know Bernie that well. The answer is almost certainly money. It can’t be a political statement because Azerbaijan is considered a very corrupt country. Actually, that means it’s probably perfect for Bernie considering the controversies surrounding races in Bahrain and Russia. And let’s not turn back the clock to South Africa.

If we’re going to talk about the actual racing… Well, it’s going to be on a street circuit so I’m not holding out much hope for it. While some purists complain about IndyCar using spec chassis, at least it’s designed in such a way to maximize racing capability rather than downforce. As such, IndyCar can put on absolute spectacles on street circuits. Formula One, on the other hand, puts on parades on street circuits. It’s just not as exciting.

The addition of Mexico will bring the 2015 F1 calendar to 21 Grands Prix if India comes back as scheduled and New Jersey is postponed another year. That goes to 22 with the Thai Grand Prix that Bernie confirmed in late 2012. That makes 2016 a bigger problem with 24 races possibly on the calendar.

My biggest problem is that Bernie is so busy chasing money that he’s going to bankrupt the teams thanks to the broken prize money system and he’s going to kill the traditional fan bases by moving racing to places in terrible time zones. I’m not a fan of getting up at 8:00 AM Sunday morning to watch F1 but I do so because I love the sport. I’m not a fan of 2:00 AM races. I doubt European fans who have seen F1 move away from them (literally and metaphorically) will be happy with that either.

And with eleven races and five months of the 2014 Formula One World Championship complete, it’s time for the drivers and teams to take their annual summer break. That means that we’re going four weeks without Formula One race action but I somehow doubt that we won’t be hearing news from the world of F1.

When Formula One returns in four weeks’ time, it’ll mean a trip to one of Formula One’s most historic and favourite tracks. It will be the Belgian Grand Prix on the famed Spa-Francorchamps Circuit. Sure, it’s the modern 7-kilometre circuit and not the infamous 14-kilometre circuit that was one of the most dangerous in the world but I think that safety is a good reason to update circuits that are ridiculously dangerous. Updating or designing circuits around one or two overtaking points is stupid *cough* Hermann Tilke.

As usual, I expect that the Mercedes-powered cars will thrive. Considering the high-speed run from La Source to Les Combes with the high-speed run up the hill at Eau Rouge in between, power will be critical. It’ll likely be a battle between Mercedes and Williams. Considering the low drag of the Williams cars, they might actually have a pretty good chance to be the third manufacturer on the board with a win.


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