Monday, August 01, 2005

Hungarian GP 2005 - Highlight 

How fortunes change
Just shows you how fast fortunes change in Formula 1. Last weekend McLaren had their heads in their hands, this weekend it's Renault's turn.

With a comfortable 36-point cushion in the championship, Fernando Alonso and his team made a series of mistakes this weekend.

This will put the pressure back on to them for the remaining six grands prix.

First they chose the wrong Michelin tyre. They went for the hard compound as did BAR, believing it would be more durable over the 70 laps of the grand prix in the hot conditions.

It turned out not to have particularly good grip over a single lap, nor to have grip during the race.

On top of that, Alonso clearly made mistakes on his qualifying lap which cost him a crucial 0.3s.

Without those he would have started at the front of the grid, perhaps even in front of Montoya but certainly close to him.

Alonso would then have avoided all the jostling in to Turn One which cost him his front wing and any chance of points in the grand prix this afternoon.

Giancarlo Fisichella proved how poor a choice the tyre was, going off the road several times in a drive blighted with fuel pressure problems, on the way to ninth place.

Kimi's maximum attack
In contrast McLaren has a good day with Kimi Raikkonen who persisted in his pursuit of Michael Schumacher.

What was crucial for him was getting in front of Juan Pablo Montoya on the opening lap.

We didn't see how Kimi did it, because Montoya was clearly in front into Turn 1, but somewhere in that lap he got past, and that allowed him to maximise his strategy.

His plan was to stop on lap 11, Montoya's to stop on lap 22, so it was vital for Raikkonen to get in front. I believe this makes Raikkonen the first man to go out first in qualifying on Saturday and then to come through and win the race on Sunday - which is an enormous achievement.

To do it in Hungary, which is the dustiest and most difficult of racetracks to qualify on, is an even bigger achievement.

The return of the king
Michael Schumacher had a very strong weekend as well. Bridgestone brought a new tyre here for the team to try, which features a new family of compounds and certainly it hinted at a renaissance for the team judging by Michael's performance in qualifying and the early laps of the grand prix.

The tyre is not the finished article. It will not put Ferrari back in the winners' circle unless they find more durability but clearly this compound is a step in the right direction.

Schumacher was stunning in qualifying particularly when you make the fuel adjustment, allowing Raikkonen one second (in terms of how fast the track was from when he went out to when Schumacher went out), they would have set an identical lap time.

But when you consider that Schumacher stopped four laps later, that indicates his Ferrari was 10 kilos heavier, which is worth almost four tenths of a second around the Hungaroring.

It is not often someone does Raikkonen by 0.4s in qualifying. Schumacher was also very quick in the early stages of the grand prix, it was only in the mid-phase when he started to hold Raikkonen up, and then the tyre performance dropped off in the second half of the race.

One mystifying point that suggests Bridgestone still has work to do to get the right balance between qualifying and the race though is that Schunmacher's fastest race lap was 1.6s slower than his qualifying time.

Meanwhile all the Michelin runners seemed to be about only half a second slower.

What interested me about Ferrari's performance this weekend is that if Schumacher can repeat this single-lap performance and early race pace, it's possible that given the car advantage that McLaren has, he can insert himself between the McLarens and Alonso in the remaining six grands prix of this season.

And that will put huge pressure on Alonso and Renault. That will make, hopefully, for an exciting conclusion to the championship.

I see no reason why Raikkonen shouldn't win all of the remaining races, although it never really works out that way in Formula 1. But nevertheless it could well set us up for an exciting conclusion to the series.

A word for Toyota
Jarno Trulli did very well to finish in fourth place, despite having a badly damaged diffuser which was hit on the opening lap by Rubens Barrichello.

Ralf Schumacher put in another very solid drive as well to score his first podium for Toyota. He almost got his brother in the closing stages too, finishing just a couple of car lengths behind.

If he had been able to push a little harder around the time of the final pitstops he might have been able to finish in second place.

Pressure and pain
BAR-Honda ended the day behind Toyota, which was a source of some pain for them. The main culprit was again poor tyre choice.

They went for the same hard Michelin tyre as Renault. It was the wrong choice for this weekend and Jenson Button had no grip in the crucial parts of the grand prix.

One bright point for them is Takuma Sato scoring his first world championship point of the season. But with the news that Rubens Barrichello is on the way to Brackley, Sato will be feeling the pressure in no uncertain terms.

BAR need to have a post mortem to understand how they made this wrong tyre choice. Formula 1 now has a three-week break where many people will be taking a holiday.

Poor old Fisichella, who has had the lion's share of reliability worries at Renault, has a reliability problem affecting his holiday as well. I understand the engine on his boat on which he was planning on spending his break has broken down in Sardinia.

But for the team's engineers there will be no rest. They will be pushing hard on development for the remainder of the season and working flat out on the design of the 2006 cars.

Formula 1 never stops for some people.

We look forward to seeing you in Turkey in three weeks time at what promises on paper to be an exciting new track.

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