- Hungarian Grand Prix - The Final Stint
Half term in Hungary
A round-up of the good, the bad and the downright ugly from the 2012 Hungarian Grand Prix
- Hungarian Grand Prix
What a difference a win makes
After the British Grand Prix only the most faithful McLaren fans would have predicted such a quick turnaround in fortunes for Lewis Hamilton. But the updates the team brought to the car in Germany have proved to be game changers, and if McLaren can maintain its development push, Hamilton is a serious contender for the title. The trick now will be to maintain that advantage after the summer break when all the top teams will be hoping to hit the track with further updates to their cars. The gap to Fernando Alonso is 47 points (with 225 left to play for) so it's going to be tough, but not impossible.
Smoke without fire?
Red Bull has always batted away accusations of cheating by arguing it's simply a sign that other teams are struggling to match its pace. But two allegations in as many races and an FIA technical directive aimed specifically at its engine map appears to have hit a sore spot. Technically the team has done nothing wrong and its cars have been complied with the text of the regulations at every event, but news that the FIA asked it to modify a system that apparently allowed it to adjust its ride height manually has renewed the paddock's scepticism towards the team. There were suggestions the system could have been used to change the ride height between qualifying and the race, which would have provided a significant advantage given the changing fuel loads between the end of qualifying and start of the race. Christian Horner dubbed the news as a "none issue" and denied Red Bull have ever changed the ride height of its car in parc ferme conditions. But after questions over holes in the car's floor in Monaco, the changes it was forced to make to its brake ducts in Canada and the two most recent stories, the scrutiny of its car only looks set to increase.
With news that PURE has suspended its development of its 2014 F1 engine, it's looking increasingly likely that the number of engine suppliers will shrink rather than grow with the advent of the V6 turbos in two years' time. PURE boss Craig Pollock revealed to Autosport on Thursday that his company was suspending operations due to a lack of investment, leaving Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault as the only likely suppliers as Cosworth remains quiet on its future. Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug said he felt three engine suppliers would be the most likely outcome: "I assume and think and am pretty sure that we will have three and no more than three. But with three I think we can get the job done." Bernie Ecclestone said he was "sure" three manufacturers would be enough to supply all 12 teams in 2014, but given the new rules were introduced to entice other manufacturers into the sport, the situation is far from ideal. Haug said Mercedes had not yet discussed whether it could supply more teams in 2014, but said it was on the agenda. "We need to evaluate the situation. We are in discussions with the three manufacturers together - still on cost issues and bringing the costs down. And this will also be the object, who will supply whom."
The Story of the Weekend
- Shock Bruno Senna - The criticism levelled at Senna has been a lack of one-lap pace or potential to emulate Maldonado, but he qualified in the top ten for the first time this season and then got the maximum out of the Williams to move within five points of his team-mate
- Shocker Michael Schumacher - Missed his grid slot, turned off his engine and then sped in the pit lane. All before the race started. A puncture and telemetry failure compounded a miserable day.
- Best overtake Kimi Raikkonen - He may have been exiting the pits, but on colder tyres Raikkonen still judged his braking perfectly to go wheel-to-wheel with his team-mate through turn one and emerge on top to secure second place
- Best lap Kimi Raikkonen - While extending his middle stint, Raikkonen set the fastest lap of the race at that time on lap 42 - the best of many impressive laps - as he leapfrogged Button, Vettel and Grosjean in to second
- Worst lap Romain Grosjean - Another Lotus driver, his final sector of lap 25 and first sector of lap 26 were full of mistakes and lost him almost two seconds to Hamilton. In the big scheme of things, it prevented him staying ahead of Raikkonen too
- Drive of the day Lewis Hamilton - He'd already looked dominant all weekend, but the manner of Hamilton's victory - faultless in the face of race-long pressure from one Lotus after the other - was mightily impressive and edges him back towards Alonso in the standings
Lotus so close
Lotus has appeared on the verge of victory for much of this season, but the Achilles Heel had always been lowly qualifying positions. Romain Grosjean's second place on Saturday had finally opened up the first stint of the race, and he was a real contender for victory until a slow first pit-stop. From there his best chance to pass Lewis Hamilton had gone, while Kimi Raikkonen found clear air ahead of his second stop but once he rejoined behind the leading McLaren he was always going to struggle to pass on-track. Realistically, Lotus could and probably would have won this race on any other track where overtaking was more possible as Eric Boullier said: "On a different track layout Romain was capable of overtaking Lewis in the first stint and Kimi would have been able to overtake Lewis in the second stint and a one-two was possible."
Coming to Pastor's defence
We've criticised Pastor Maldonado in this section before for some of his misdemeanours, but this week we're defending him. You'd have got pretty short odds on Maldonado being in trouble with the stewards at some point over the weekend and, sure enough, he was handed a drive through penalty during the race for contact with Paul di Resta. Maldonado got the run on di Resta out of turn 11 and dived down the inside in to 12, with the Force India making it tough but leaving him space. Maldonado made the apex but understeered a touch and with di Resta trying to hang on round the outside slight contact was inevitable which saw him go off track as Maldonaldo went through. The drive-through was harsh; the pass was robust but it had to be on this circuit, and on this occasion Maldonado's reputation went before him. But then again, it's a rod that he made for his own back.
This really was a weekend to forget for the seven-time world champion. Mercedes was uncompetitive and after a poorly-executed qualifying Schumacher lined up 17th for the race. Only he wouldn't start from there, because he lined up incorrectly on the grid and caused the start to be aborted. Seeing the lights flashing, Schumacher turned off his engine - unaware of the procedure to complete a second formation lap - and had to start from the pit lane. He then sped through to take up a position at the pit lane exit and received a drive-through. After those three errors, a puncture and then a telemetry failure saw him retire; for the sixth time in 11 grands prix. It's true that Mercedes has been more competitive this season, but at a crucial time as Schumacher contemplates extending his career or not, he must be asking himself how many more of these weekends he wants to endure.