Friday, July 24, 2009

Hungarian Grand Prix Preview

Thursday 23rd July 2009

The Hungarian Grand Prix is about as interesting and rewarding as cycling round your bathroom.

Now technically that description is the one applied to the Monaco Grand Prix, but if it stays dry, then the Hungarian GP will closely resemble Monaco's level of overtaking. Without the compensating hazard of Armco just centimetres away from the racing line.

If it becomes wet then it can be an epic race - as we saw in 2006 - but then again most tracks produce great races in the wet. Forecasts for the weekend have it dry most of the time with a downpour some time on Saturday night.

Jenson Button will have fond memories of that 2006 race because it was his first race victory for Honda - and up until February this year it looked like it was going to be his one and only career victory.

With ambient temperatures predicted around 33 and 34C the Brawn GP cars should be in contention for race victory again. The extra heat will produce track temperatures of 40C or more, the way they were in Monaco when Brawn scored an emphatic victory and the Red Bulls faded badly because of excess tyre wear.

At the Nurburgring last time out Button was reduced to weaving on the straights to get some heat into his tyres. That won't happen at Budapest. The race at the Hungaroring could prove to be an important watershed for the Brawn boys. Were the Red Bull team able to show they have improved the car enough to compete in hot races, then Brawn will be forced to start implementing "team orders".

Not officially, obviously, but on the basis that "everybody knows what's best for the team" wink wink. By now Ross Brawn and Jock Clear will have given Rubens his "blah blah blah blah" known by its technical name as the post-race technical debrief. Hungary is going to be an important race for him.

It's also going to be a critical race for the Red Bull team, because if it's a repeat of the Monaco result, then it really is going to be an uphill battle from now on. There's a certain amount of disharmony between the drivers heading into the race on account of the youngest ever F1 debutant, Jaime Alguesuari.

Though he's a member of the 'Red Bull family' Mark Webber has never been keen on racing with 'bloody kids'. "I've never been a big fan of Formula 1 being a learning school but it seems like it is these days," said Webber. "I don't think Formula 1 is a learning school. When you arrive in F1 you should be ready. It's not a place to learn."

Team-mate Vettel, who was the 'bloody kid' who robbed Webber of a chance of his first F1 victory in 2007 believes it is the fault of F1's rules to limit testing that the young spaniard has had so little mileage before being thrust into F1.

"I heard Mark was not so pleased about the fact that Jaime is driving this weekend," said Vettel. "I think in the end if there is anything to criticise then I think it is the rules."

Is it bollards, Sebastian, it's the fault of Toro Rosso who sacked a reasonably good F1 driver in Sebastien Bourdais halfway through the season. They knew any replacement would have had no time in the car. Should Alguesuari mess up this weekend then it is Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost who will have some serious questions to answer.

But there's an old saying, if you're good enough, you're old enough. The same accusations were levelled at Kimi Raikkonen because he jumped F3000 to go straight into an F1 car - and he turned out all right.

Raikkonen fancies his chances this weekend at what might be Ferrari's last hurrah before they get down to serious work on the 2010 car (that he's rumoured not to be driving). Kimi qualified in P2 in Monaco and had a strong race, which bodes well for the tight and twisty Hungaoring. The only problem is that there has been so much development on all the other cars since May that each race brings a new re-assessment.

Lewis Hamilton is playing down his chances of a win in Hungary after the McLaren team improved their car by 0.7 in one major quantum leap forward in Germany. Team boss Martin Whitmarsh thinks it is their biggest chance of a win, but having endured a season of disappointment, Hamilton won't be drawn into predictions.

Both McLaren and Ferraris will be able to use their KERS advantage to good effect in Hungary, an advantage they couldn't exploit in Monaco. The start/finish straight is long enough to give them a good jump off the line. If the cars can follow closer round the final tight corner, then there's more than enough tarmac to use the boost during the race as well.

For this reason, the Brawns and the Red Bulls might be forced to fuel skinny to avoid getting stuck behind them.

So if it stays dry, don't expect a belter of an overtaking fest in Buadpest, but from a strategic and tactical point of view, it could be quite a battle. For one 19-year-old Spaniard it will be enough just to stay out of trouble.

Source : Planet F1

No comments: