F1 Hungarian Grand Prix: Demolition Derby

The Hungaroring isn’t one of the more passing-friendly circuits on the F1 calendar. It’s mostly turns with the occasional short straight to give you hope of a pass. However, the addition of DRS and a complete disregard for anyone else on the track has slowly turned the Hungarian Grand Prix one of the more exciting races on the calendar.

So we had a few crashes, a safety car, a total of nine penalty points awarded for four different incidents. The race could generally be described as chaotic. Well, except at the front where Sebastian Vettel took the lead off the lights and never looked back.

Lewis Hamilton started the race on pole and seemed destined to score his fifth career Hungarian GP win. Well, he did until the race started. Both Mercedes bogged off the line which let the two Ferraris of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen sweep through to 1-2. Rosberg dove down the inside of Hamilton which salvaged P3 for the German and dropped Hamilton from 1st to 4th in one turn.

It went from bad to worse from there for Hamilton. He crossed himself up at Turn Six and ran off track. That dropped him from 4th to 10th. At first, Hamilton said that Rosberg forced him off-track but the replay showed that Hamilton just let himself drift onto the grass which causes him to lose control.

From there, Hamilton started the charge forward. He was joined on the march to the front by Daniel Ricciardo who fell from 4th to 9th off the start. Also charging through to the front was Sergio Perez who was doing well until being run into by Pastor Maldonado. In fact, that incident gave Maldonado one of three penalties on the day. He also received penalties for overtaking behind the safety car and speeding in the pit lane.

It was actually a rather poor day for Force India overall. Perez got knocked around by Maldonado early on. Then Hulkenberg’s front wing failed at the two-thirds mark of the race. He went straight on into the barricade at Turn 1 which forced the deployment of the virtual safety car and then the proper safety car which bunched the field up.

On the restart, Raikkonen suffered an MGU-K (KERS unit) failure which resulted in a loss of power and, later, retirement. Ricciardo shuffled onto the soft tyres which put him at an advantage to the cars in front of him. A perfect restart was immediately undone when Hamilton slid into him on exit of T1. Hamilton needed a new front wing and it was made worse by a drive-through penalty for causing a collision.

The drama involving Ricciardo wasn’t done. With five laps to go, he made a long dive on Rosberg for 2nd. It looked like it could have worked but the pair came together which cost the Red Bull its front wing and the Mercedes its left-rear tyre. There was no penalty this time but it cost Ricciardo a second place finish and promoted his teammate to 2nd.

Meanwhile, up front, it was a relatively drama-free win for Sebastian Vettel. The win was Vettel and Ferrari’s second of the season. The Scuderia set two wins as their goal for the year so I’d call that a good way to cap off the first half. Daniil Kvyat finished second which is his first career podium. Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the podium after winning the race here last year.

Max Verstappen finished in 4th which is his career best finish. Fernando Alonso scored his best finish and McLaren-Honda’s best finish since the combination’s last win in 1992 by rounding out the top five. Lewis Hamilton finished in 6th which is his worst race finish since 2013 and worst result since a DNF at Belgium 2014. Romain Grosjean stayed out of trouble en route to 7th. Nico Rosberg recovered from his late collision with Ricciardo for 8th. Jenson Button made it double points for McLaren-Honda for the first time since September 1992 with a 9th. And Marcus Ericsson rounded out the points with his first points since China.

Aside from Sunday’s race, the big story of the week leading up to the Hungarian Grand Prix was the death of Jules Bianchi. The French driver never regained his consciousness after his crash at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Tributes flowed in from all parts of the motorsports world. Former Marussia teammate Max Chilton dedicated his maiden Indy Lights pole and win to Bianchi. The FIA retired the number 17 from Formula One out of respect for Bianchi. A number of drivers attended Bianchi’s funeral during the week. They also held a tribute on the grid prior to the race and all three podium finishers dedicated the race to Jules.

The FIA also released further details into the Bianchi accident over the course of the weekend. They said that the collision between Bianchi and the tractor was at a speed of about 126 km/h with an estimated impact force of 256 G. It’s an estimate because the impact was recorded at 92 G but the impact was so severe that it dislodged his earplugs which also contains the head impact G sensor.

So silly season is starting before summer vacation starts.

The whole of silly season may come down to what happens with Kimi Raikkonen. All speculation seems to indicate that either Ferrari brings him back for 2016 or he won’t find another ride in the paddock. It’s more about circumstances rather than skill when it comes to the Iceman. If Ferrari can trade up, they will but there won’t be any other top rides for Kimi to land.

Right now, the hot rumour is that Ferrari is looking to buy Valtteri Bottas from Williams in something resembling a transfer in football. Italian sporting newspaper Corriere dello Sport says that the asking price is €12 million for Ferrari to buy Bottas out of his contract. Both sides are denying this but where there’s smoke, there’s almost always fire in Formula One.

If Bottas moves, that starts a massive chain reaction. Williams would need a second driver. Felipe Nasr was a Williams development and reserve driver until he went to Sauber this year. Nasr has already announced that he’ll be back at Sauber next season. Presumably a Sauber contract would be a lot easier to buy out than a Williams one so that possibility remains.

Nico Hulkenberg was considered a top prize in the paddock but word among engineers is that he doesn’t compare favourably to Bottas or Ricciardo. That’s not to say he still couldn’t make something of a top drive but he won’t be the first choice with some of the other options available.

Fernando Alonso might be the other domino whose drop could impact this silly season. He’s admitted to being disenchanted with Formula One and has admitted to being tempted to jump to a different series. We’ve heard recent rumours that Alonso is looking for an out from the remaining two years of his contract but McLaren don’t think he has one.

Jenson Button’s future is also uncertain. His contract was for this year with an option for next. Presumably, one or the other side could choose to decline its use and terminate the contract. Button is on the shortlist for Bottas’ Williams seat which is fortunate since he isn’t a favoured son at McLaren. Meanwhile, they have Kevin Magnussen waiting in the wings to reclaim a race seat.

So the whole of silly season may hinge on what happens with Raikkonen and Bottas. Until that happens, anything can happen in the paddock.

A while back, I mentioned that people had noticed that the world feed tried to avoid showing the Manor Marussia cars at all times. I’m not sure that philosophy has changed much but it does lead to an interesting conspiracy theory out of Italy.

The Italian media believe that the lack of footage of the Ferraris today is a sign of an anti-Ferrari conspiracy led by one Bernard Ecclestone and executed by FOM. Commentators on Rai (the Italian broadcaster) allegedly said that Bernie had been ordering less of Ferrari on the world feed and that today’s race was the proof.

I can’t say that I was paying that much attention to how much Ferrari wasn’t on-screen because everyone but Vettel was having some sort of drama today. Of course, that could be the explanation there.

The next round of the 2015 Formula One World Championship won’t be for another four weeks. That’s right. It’s time for the annual Formula One summer vacation. At some point over the break, teams must completely close down their factories for two weeks. When the teams are all done with their break, they hit the road to Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Last year’s race was won by Daniel Ricciardo which you wouldn’t think would happen on a power-intensive circuit like Spa but when the two Mercedes are hell-bent on taking each other out, someone has to be around to capitalize.

So it’s a toss-up between Hamilton and Rosberg for the win again this year. The race may come down to equal parts luck and stupidity which is what also helped decide the running order in Hungary. I would expect Williams to be better able to take the fight to Ferrari on the higher-speed Spa-Francorchamps Circuit. Will they be able to get ahead? That’s an entirely different question.


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