2014: Hungarian Grand Prix Preview

Before Formula One heads into its mid-season break there is time for one more race. The Hungarian Grand Prix will be the last race before the summer break which will see the factories going into shutdown for two weeks. Last time out there was another Mercedes victory but Lewis Hamilton fell short of making it a 1-2 after having to fight through the field following a qualifying accident. Valtteri Bottas took his third podium finish in a row, finishing in second place between the two Mercedes drivers.

Circuit: Hungaroring
Number of Laps: 70
Circuit Length:4.381km
Number of Corners: 14
Lap Record: 1:19.071 Michael Schumacher (2004)
Previous Hungarian Grand Prix winners still on the grid: 4
Most Successful Team:McLaren (11 wins)
DRS Zones: 2    
Pirelli Tyres: Medium and Soft

It’s hard to be believe that the mid-point of the season has already passed and the Hungarian Grand Prix will be the eleventh race of the year. Mercedes have won 9 races with Daniel Ricciardo the only other driver to stand on the top step of the podium.

Lewis Hamilton is the most successful current F1 driver in Hungary with four victories – tied with Michael Schumacher for overall most successful F1 driver there – including his first win for Mercedes at the track last year. Hamilton has won for the last two years and also won in 2007 and 2009. He will no doubt be hoping to retake the initiative in the Drivers Championship with another win. For every year that Hamilton has won the Hungarian Grand Prix, Kimi Raikkonen has finished second. The Finn has finished no higher than seventh this year and is languishing well behind his team-mate in the championship so a podium finish for him would be just what he needs to rejuvenate his season. Hungary has also been a location for first wins – Fernando Alonso in 2003, Jenson Button in 2006 and Heikki Kovalainen in 2008. With the form that Bottas has been of late, could he be Formula One’s next winner?

The Hungaroring has also been a happy hunting ground for McLaren with them winning six of the last ten races in Hungary. The Woking based squad started the year with two podium finishes in Australia but have gone backwards since then. They believe that recent upgrades have set them back on the right track however. Force India and Ferrari have scored at every round so far thanks to Nico Hulkenberg and Alonso and both teams have one podium apiece (Sergio Perez & Alonso). Red Bull may currently lie second in the championship but they should be watching over their shoulders for Williams who have enjoyed a string of good results with Bottas while Felipe Massa has been unlucky to retire from the last two races on the first lap.

The Hungarian Grand Prix has been a constant on the Formula One World Championship calendar since 1986. The Hungaroring has often been likened to a street circuit due to its tight and twisty nature and the low grip. It may lack the barriers of Monaco but it still provides drivers with a challenge as they navigate their way around the 4.381km track. Another similarity to the likes of Monaco is that it is a difficult track to overtake at, placing higher importance on qualifying position. Saying that, it is not a requirement to start on the front row to win there as Button proved in 2006 when he raced to his first Formula One victory from 14th on the grid.

The Hungaroring is a circuit which requires maximum downforce and is also the slowest on the calendar. It is also somewhere where hot conditions can have an impact. Pirelli will be bringing the medium and soft compound tyres expecting two stops to be the order of the day on Sunday. In relation to last year the track remains relatively the same, although there have been a few adjustments. The guardrail to the left of the run-off area at Turn 3 has been realigned while 50mm speed bumps have been instulled on the run-off area at Turns 6 and 7. New fencing has been installed between Turns 11 & 12 and around the outside of 14.

Can anyone stop Mercedes from securing their tenth win of the season?

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Running to stand still – Mercedes shake off challengers in Spain quali

As the F1 circus rolls into Europe, there’s a step-up in the development race with most teams bringing upgrades to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. But are they running to stand still as Mercedes-Benz continue to stamp their authority on these early rounds of the Champonship? It would appear so, with Lewis Hamilton particularly imperious in the first two free practice sessions and his teammate snatching the honours in the third.

The free practice sessions suggested improvements accross the board in the chasing pack, with Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams, Lotus and McLaren all showing good speed.

The Saubers led the way out in Q1, hoping to avoid the ignominy of having at least one car fail to reach Q2 as has been the case in every race so far. Lotus’s quali woes were increased when Maldonado put wheels on the astroturf and lost the back end, sending him into the wall on more or less his first lap. Recovering his car triggered a red flag, with under five minutes of the Q1 session elapsed. Team radio from Hamilton and Hulkenberg
revealed what seemed to be a general lack of handling, with most of the Q1 drivers having twitchy moments. Sauber’s early laps didn’t help them, with Sutil failing to make it through to Q2. Mclaren, ominously, had to use a set of the softer medum option to guarantee their presence in the second session.

The focus in Q2 was on the two Mercedes drivers, to see which would top the timesheet. Sure enough, Hamilton reduced his teammate’s advantage. McLaren’s Magnussen failed to set a time in Q2 due to what the tea described as a ‘power unit failure’. Button’s final timed lap on the medium compound trye boosted him to eighth. Local hero Alonso had a couple of sticky moments and just scraped through into the final Q3 slot on the harder compound.

A drive failure for Vettel on leaving the pitlane caused the final session to be red flagged with eight minutes left on the clock while his car was recovered from the run-off at turn one. With the session effectively restarting and new sets of tyres for everyone, it was Mercedes who set the pace. Hamilton on pole alongside his team mate, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo the best of the rest.

All places are provisional on Vergne’s ten-place grid drop for his unsafe release in free practice.

 

A Review of the Year: F1 – November & December

The fifth and final of a review of the year (2013) in Formula One; following part one (January & February), part two (March, April & May), part three (June, July & August), and part four (September & October).

November 2013

Romain Grosjean and Sebastian Vettel topped practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but it was Mark Webber who took pole position. Vettel continued his winning streak, bringing the total to seven in a row.

It was a busy month for 2014 driver announcements, with Williams confirming that Felipe Massa would be joining Valterri Bottas, and McLaren revealing they were letting Sergio Perez go.

The following day, McLaren confirmed Kevin Magnussen would be joining the team in 2014 to partner Jenson Button.

Elsewhere, Kimi Raikkonen announced that he would be missing the last two races of the year (in the midst of a big pay dispute with Lotus) for back surgery. Lotus chose to field Heikki Kovalainen instead of their test and reserve driver Davide Valsecchi, who was not pleased with the decision. He did not mince his words when he declared: “From the sporting point of view, it’s a tragedy. It makes me angry to have lost the battle with Kovalainen who is not a great champion, not even an active driver; his last results were five years ago. If they had taken [Nico] Hulkenberg I could have understood, even [Pastor] Maldonado, but this…”

Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel topped practice in Austin, with the Red Bull driver taking pole. It was win number eight in a row when the chequered flag fell on Sunday afternoon.

At the final round of the year, Nico Rosberg topped FP1 and FP2 but it was Mark Webber, at his final Formula One race weekend, who topped FP3. Sebastian Vettel took pole and won the race with Webber finishing on the podium in second.

After some speculation surrounding his future, Ross Brawn confirmed that he would be standing down as Team Principal at Mercedes.

Lotus confirmed their driver line-up for 2014 at the end of November, opting to put Pastor Maldonado in the car alongside Romain Grosjean.

December 2013

After he had been expected to drive for Lotus in 2014, Nico Hulkenberg and Force India revealed that he would be returning to his former team instead.

The annual Autosport Awards were held and Sebastian Vettel and Niki Lauda were among the recipients.

The FIA confirmed the final calendar for 2014, revealing that Mexico and New Jersey did not make the final cut. The Russian and Austrian Grand Prix are on the calendar however.

The FIA announced that, from 2014, the last race of the season would be worth double points. This led to outrage amongst fans, classing the idea as silly.

Another few pieces of the grid jigsaw was put into place when Sauber announced that Adrian Sutil would be joining them. Force India confirmed Sergio Perez while later in the month Sauber announced they were retaining Esteban Gutierrez with Sergey Sirotkin as Test Driver.

Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari and Toro Rosso took part in a Pirelli tyre test in Bahrain. All eleven teams had been invited, with McLaren and Force India accepting the invitation, however they eventually pulled out.

Felipe Massa had his final few days as a Ferrari driver and was gifted the engine from the car in which he nearly won the championship – the F2008.

After his opposition David Ward pulled out, Jean Todt was re-elected as President of the FIA. He will serve another four years at the helm of the F1 governing body.

The annual FIA prize-giving gala took place in Paris. Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull picked up their championship trophies.

2013 Season Stats Part 1: The Laps

In 2013, 27 drivers completed a grand total of 57,045 laps in 95 sessions at 19 races.

Test Drivers

Five test drivers made appearances over the course of the season. Heikki Kovalainen also competed in two races for Lotus. Removing his race weekend laps here is how the five ranked in terms of laps completed:

  1. Rodolfo Gonzalez – 160 laps (eight appearances)
  2. Heikki Kovalainen – 115 laps (six appearances)
  3. James Calado – 96 laps (five appearances)
  4. Alexander Rossi – 41 laps (two appearances)
  5. Daniil Kvyat – 37 laps (two appearances)

Race Drivers

Nico Rosberg completed the most overall laps in the season – 2,809 – with Jules Bianchi completing fewest – 2,242. This takes into account laps from all three practice sessions, qualifying and the race. Here are the top ten in terms of overall laps completed over the course of the season:

  1. Nico Rosberg – 2,809 laps
  2. Lewis Hamilton – 2,771 laps
  3. Nico Hulkenberg – 2,743 laps
  4. Jenson Button – 2,703 laps
  5. Sebastian Vettel – 2,681 laps
  6. Mark Webber – 2,678 laps
  7. Esteban Gutierrez – 2,674 laps
  8. Valtteri Bottas – 2,670 laps
  9. Daniel Ricciardo – 2,641 laps
  10. Sergio Perez – 2,616 laps

In terms of teams, the totals look like this:

  1. Mercedes – 5,590 laps
  2. Sauber – 5,417 laps
  3. Red Bull – 5,359 laps
  4. McLaren – 5,325 laps
  5. Toro Rosso – 5,277 laps
  6. Williams – 5,243 laps
  7. Lotus – 5,226 laps
  8. Ferrari – 5,072 laps
  9. Force India – 4,986 laps
  10. Caterham – 4,902 laps
  11. Marussia – 4,786 laps

Race Laps

There were 19 races in the 2013 season and a total of 1,131 laps for drivers to complete (2,262 per team). Jenson Button completed the most race laps – 1,126 – while Giedo van der Garde completed fewest – 931. Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen both completed fewer laps than van der Garde but neither completed a full season. Max Chilton was the only driver to physically finish every race. Here is the top ten in terms of race laps completed by drivers:

  1. Jenson Button – 1,126 laps (99.56%)
  2. Sebastian Vettel – 1,120 laps (99.03%)
  3. Sergio Perez – 1,116 laps (98.67%)
  4. Max Chilton – 1,103 laps (97.52%)
  5. Lewis Hamilton – 1,084 laps (95.84%)
  6. Fernando Alonso – 1,076 laps (95.14%)
  7. Valtteri Bottas – 1,070 laps (94.61%)
  8. Nico Rosberg – 1,058 laps (93.55%)
  9. Mark Webber – 1,050 laps (92.84%)
  10. Pastor Maldonado – 1,044 laps (92.31%)

McLaren became the first team to have both of their cars classified at every race, and in doing so, completed 99.12% of all racing laps in 2013 – beating the previous record set by BMW-Sauber. Here is how all the teams shaped up (out of 2,262 laps):

  1. McLaren – 2,242 laps (99.12%)
  2. Red Bull – 2,169 laps (95.89%)
  3. Mercedes 2,142 laps (94.69%)
  4. Williams – 2,114 laps (93.46%)
  5. Marussia – 2,101 laps (92.88%)
  6. Ferrari – 2,099 laps (92.79%)
  7. Sauber – 2,063 laps (91.20%)
  8. Toro Rosso – 2,055 laps (90.85%)
  9. Lotus – 2,018 laps (89.21%)
  10. Force India – 1,916 laps (84.70%)
  11. Caterham – 1,900 laps (83.99%)

All the season statistics can be found by following this link. Part 2 of ‘Season Stats’ will be coming soon and will look at qualifying & positions gained by drivers.

The US GP in Numbers

Statistics from the US GP weekend

Total number of laps completed (by driver)

Nico Rosberg 158
Lewis Hamilton 157
Heikki Kovalainen 157
Nico Hulkenberg 153
Esteban Gutierrez 152
Valtteri Bottas 151
Jenson Button 149
Paul di Resta 145
Mark Webber 144
Felipe Massa 144
Daniel Ricciardo 144
Sergio Perez 144
Charles Pic 142
Fernando Alonso 140
Romain Grosjean 139
Sebastian Vettel 138
Max Chilton 132
Pastor Maldonado 130
Jean-Eric Vergne 128
Giedo van der Garde 121
Jules Bianchi 107
Adrian Sutil 77
Alexander Rossi 21
Daniil Kvyat 20
Rodolfo Gonzalez 17

Total number of laps completed (by team)

Mercedes 315
Sauber 305
Lotus 296
McLaren 293
Toro Rosso 292
Ferrari 284
Caterham 284
Red Bull 282
Williams 281
Marussia 256
Force India 222

Number of race laps: 56
Number of safety cars: 1
Number of race starters: 22
Number of times race lead changed hands (includes pole sitter): 2
Number of different race leaders: 2
Number of classified drivers: 21
Number of retirements: 1
Number of drivers on lead lap at chequered flag: 16
Number of teams scoring points: 7
Most places gained: 7 (Esteban Gutierrez 20th – 13th)
Number of visits to pit-lane: 27
…of which were pit-stops: 25
Drive-through penalties: 2
Fastest lap: Sebastian Vettel on lap 54 1:39.856

Lotus confirm Heikki Kovalainen for remainder of 2013

Lotus have confirmed that Kimi Raikkonen’s replacement for the US and Brazilian Grand Prix will be fellow Finn Heikki Kovalainen.

After it was announced that Raikkonen would be missing the last two races of the year to have surgery on his back, it was widely expected that Lotus would promote reserve driver Davide Valsecchi to the seat. Valsecchi, who was the GP2 champion in 2012, has been Lotus’ test and reserve driver for this season, taking part in the Young Driver Test for the team in July.

With the team being locked in a tight battle with Ferrari for third in the Constructors championship, however, it looks like Lotus have chosen to go with a more experienced driver. Kovalainen was dropped at the end of 2012 as Caterham opted to go with a ‘pay driver’, but he has six year of Grand Prix racing under his belt. After a year with Renault, he moved to McLaren in 2008 and stayed with them for the 2009 season. In 2010 he joined Caterham (then Team Lotus) and raced with them for three seasons. During his Formula One career he racked up one win, one pole position and four podiums.

Kovalainen will join Romain Grosjean for this weekend’s US Grand Prix in Austin, and the season finale in Brazil.  He has been driving in some FP1 sessions for Caterham throughout the season, meaning he is familiar with the 2013 Pirelli tyres.

Team Principal Eric Boullier said: “Obviously we had to move quickly following the news of Kimi’s non-participation in the final two races of this season, and we found ourselves facing a difficult decision in terms of who should take the wheel in Austin and São Paulo. On the one hand we had our reserve driver Davide Valsecchi – who is a talented young driver that has shown a great deal of promise – and on the other we had the opportunity to bring in a seasoned Formula 1 competitor in Heikki. Whilst we have every faith in Davide’s abilities, we are obviously involved in a tight Constructors’ Championship battle, so it was decided that the experience Heikki could bring to the team would be invaluable as we aim to finish the year in the best position possible. We must thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for their professional conduct in allowing Heikki to join us for the final races of this season.”

Kovalainen said: ““It is a fantastic opportunity for me to join Lotus F1 Team for the final two races of 2013. We’ve seen this year that the E21 is a car which can win races and finish on the podium, so I will be pushing hard for the best results possible. Jumping into a car so late in the year when you have not been competing in the races all season will be a challenge, but I know the team at Enstone well so I have no concerns about getting up to speed. This is a great opportunity for me, so I would like to thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for allowing me to take advantage of it.”

The Abu Dhabi GP in Numbers

Statistics from the Abu Dhabi GP weekend

Total number of laps completed (by driver)

Nico Hulkenberg 158
Nico Rosberg 157
Lewis Hamilton 152
Pastor Maldonado 149
Jean-Eric Vergne 148
Sergio Perez 146
Charles Pic 145
Paul di Resta 144
Felipe Massa 143
Daniel Ricciardo 143
Mark Webber 141
Jenson Button 140
Sebastian Vettel 139
Esteban Guttierez 139
Valtteri Bottas 135
Fernando Alonso 134
Romain Grosjean 134
Jules Bianchi 133
Giedo van der Garde 119
Adrian Sutil 114
Max Chilton 108
Kimi Raikkonen 103
Heikki Kovalainen 22
Rodolfo Gonzalez 22
James Calado 20

Total number of laps completed (by team)

Mercedes 309
Sauber 297
Toro Rosso 291
McLaren 286
Caterham 286
Williams 284
Red Bull 280
Force India 278
Ferrari 277
Marussia 263
Lotus 237

Number of race laps: 55
Number of safety cars: 0
Number of race starters: 22
Number of times race lead changed hands (includes pole sitter): 1
Number of different race leaders: 2
Number of classified drivers: 21
Number of retirements: 1
Number of drivers on lead lap at chequered flag: 13
Number of teams scoring points: 6
Most places gained: 7 (Adrian Sutil 17th-10th)
Number of visits to pit-lane: 41
…of which were pit-stops: 40
Drive-through penalties: 1
Fastest lap: Fernando Alonso 1:43.434 on lap 55