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Archive for July, 2012

Lewis Hamilton: Trophies ‘push-point’ in McLaren talks

By Berthold Bouman

Lewis Hamilton has in the British media hinted his trophies are a ‘push-point’ in his talks with McLaren for a new contract. The 2008 World Champion has been with McLaren since the start of his Formula One career, but the Briton wants to keep his trophies, as it is an old McLaren tradition to keep the driver trophies in the team, and give the driver a replica of the original. But Hamilton wants the original trophies, and not a copy.

McLaren’s trophy cabinet at the McLaren Technology Centre

Hamilton, who’s contract with McLaren expires at the end of this season, said, “Ron [Dennis] and the team have all the trophies in the cabinet and the drivers get replicas. In a lot of other teams, the drivers get their original trophies. As a racing driver, what you work for and what you want to take home are two things; one is your crash helmet and the other is your trophy. For me, they are priceless.

“I don’t care if they don’t give me a car, but those two things are what you put your blood and sweat into — and they keep those at the moment. So whatever contract I’m having next, that is going to be a push point.”

And he added, “But I don’t feel I have a tough decision to make. It is my career I’m talking about however — the last part of my [professional] life. It’s the first time I’ve been in this position, so I guess it still remains an important decision.”

Last Sunday the 27-year old Hamilton won his 19th Formula One race at the Hungaroring, it was also his 46th podium place, McLaren has now, including the trophy for winning the 2008 Drivers’ Championship, altogether 47 trophies won by Hamilton in the trophy cabinet at the McLaren Technology Centre, among hundreds of other trophies earned by McLaren drivers.

Pirelli announces tyre allocations for Belgian, Italian and Singapore Grands Prix

By Berthold Bouman

Formula One’s Italian tyre supplier Pirelli today announced the tyre allocations for the next three Grands Prix.

Pirelli announced tyre allocations for next three races

For the Belgian Grand Prix at the breathtaking but also very demanding high-speed Spa-Francorchamps circuit, Pirelli has nominated the Medium (white marked) and Hard (silver marked) rubber compounds.

For the Italian Grand Prix, Pirelli’s home race, at the historic and very fast Monza circuit, they have also nominated the Medium (white marked) and Hard (silver marked) rubber compounds, which is the same choice as in Malaysia earlier this season, which is also a very fast track.

For the race in Singapore, a street circuit and one of the slowest tracks on the 2012 calendar, Pirelli nominated the Super Soft (red marked) and the Soft (yellow marked) tyres, the same as in Monaco and Canada.

As usual all drivers get six sets of the Primes, the harder compound, and five sets of the Options, the softer compound, for each race. One set of Primes must be returned before the start of P2, and before the start of P3 one set of Primes and one set of Options must be returned.

When it rains, each driver has three sets of Full Wet tyres (blue marked), and three sets of Intermediate tyres (green marked).

Hungarian GP: Schumacher switched off the engine himself

By Berthold Bouman

Michael Schumacher caused some confusion today at the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix at a red-hot Hungaroring. It seemed the seven-times World Champion was the one who caused the aborted start, but on the radio he shouted he had switched off the engine himself after he saw the yellow lights.

Michael Schumacher switched off the engine himself

The rest of the conversation between Schumacher and his team was difficult to follow, but he had to be pushed back into the pit lane to start the race from there. Once the race got underway, Schumacher joined but he had been to quick in the pit lane and on top of all his misery collected a drive-through penalty as well.

But what happened? It indeed took a long time before all cars had lined up for the start, too long, as Schumacher later commented, “Our engine temperatures were very high before the start, and when the yellow lights came on, I switched the engine off.”

But other sources now report that Schumacher did cause the aborted start, but not because he had switched off the engine. The FIA confirmed the Mercedes was not properly parked in its designated position on the grid, and FIA starter Charlie Whiting decided to abort the start procedure and switched the yellow lights on. When that happened, Schumacher switched off the engine, according to him because the engine was overheating, but it is also possible the 43-year old driver was a bit confused about the procedure that follows after a start has been aborted.

But there were more problems awaiting Schumacher today, “After I had started from the pit lane, I picked up a penalty and then a puncture. So all in all, the beginning of the race was not very pleasant for us. Everything you do not need came together. We did not have full telemetry before the start and during the period of overheating, and this is why we finally decided to retire so as not risk any damage which might make us suffer in the next race.”

Brawn confirmed this, “We lost all telemetry on his car, and subsequently had various problems during the race which we weren’t entirely sure what they were, therefore we decided to retire the car.”

And Schumacher added, “Today was obviously one of those races that you will not look back at for very long. This weekend is not one to remember, but then there are weekends like this which you can only accept. I am sure we will be looking much better in the next races to come.”

Hamilton and McLaren over the moon after Hungarian GP win

By Berthold Bouman

McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton was elated after taking the first-place trophy today at the Hungaroring this afternoon. “Well, what can I say?! I’m over the moon! The team did a fantastic job! Absolutely brilliant! It was a really enjoyable race — but it wasn’t at all easy. In fact, I reckon that it was one of the toughest races I’ve ever driven — but, guess what, I’ll savour it all the more for that,” said Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton wins Hungarian GP

The 2008 World Champion was quick away at the start, and although he did lose the lead due to his pit stops, no other driver could really spoil the day for Hamilton. Only Romain Grosjean could keep up with the McLaren during the first stage of the race, but could not get close enough for an overtaking move, same for Kimi Raikkonen in the other Lotus who was very close behind Hamilton at the closing stages of the race, but not quite close enough.

“I was under a lot of pressure throughout all 69 laps. First, Romain and then Kimi were right behind me, all the way through, and I had to look after my tyres without letting my pace drop, which was pretty tricky at times,” commented the victor of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

But it wasn’t an easy race, and managing the gap to his opponents in particular, was very difficult, “The feel of the car is changing all the time. You get different messages from the tyres with every lap. But they lasted — I managed to make them last. It was a case of managing the gap behind me, over the whole lap, every lap. In particular, I had to make sure that, every lap, I always had a big enough gap at the last corner, so that I wouldn’t be overtaken in the DRS zone on the pit straight. And I managed to do that every time!”

And he added, “To be able to win a Grand Prix on the weekend that the Olympic Games started in the UK too, well, I feel like we’ve done our part to contribute to what I hope will be many more British successes over the Olympic Games period. Someone has just told me that we’ve scored Britain’s first gold medal of 2012. Well, it isn’t really that, is it? But it’s the first British victory of the Olympic Games period, which is pretty cool.”

McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh was just as happy as the winner himself. “Lewis drove with tremendous composure all afternoon, and the result was a meticulously judged victory, wrought under intense pressure throughout,” said Whitmarsh.

And he further said, “He made a superb start from pole position, then controlled the race with masterful authority, all the while balancing the necessity to execute rapid laps against the equally pressing requirement to conserve his tyres.

“The 25 points he annexed today have taken his season-so-far total to 117. Although he’s still a little way behind the Drivers’ World Championship leader, he’s now very well placed to mount an assault on the Drivers’ World Championship crown over the remaining nine races of the season. Believe me, it’s still all up for grabs!”

Bruno Senna happy with seventh place in Hungary

By Berthold Bouman

Bruno Senna was satisfied with his seventh place in Hungary, equalling his seventh place during the Chinese Grand Prix earlier this season. The Brazilian had a problem-free race on the Hungaroring after he had qualified in ninth spot on Saturday.

Good result for Bruno Senna in Hungary

He didn’t lose any places at the start and even gained one position on the first lap by passing his team colleague Pastor Maldonado, and later his pit stop strategy helped him to keep his seventh place he gained later in the race.

“Today was a nice race. We pushed very hard on the strategy to make it work especially as the track conditions and the weather were very different from what we were expecting, so I’m happy with the team and I hope we can carry this momentum on,” said the nephew of the famous Ayrton Senna.

During the race he was a bit worried about his tyres, “There were a lot of battles for me and it was hard it keep the tyres alive because the temperatures were so high, but it’s good to start in ninth place and finish in seventh.”

A very satisfying result ahead of the summer break and Senna commented, “I think this is a turning point for us. The race was good, it was a fun weekend, the team are happy and the break is now welcome as it will be a chance to rest before we continue to push in the second part of the season.”

Mark Gillan, Williams’ Chief Operations Engineer agreed with Senna, “I am pleased for Bruno who had an excellent race and the six points are a very welcome boost for the whole team going into the August break.”

Maldonado was once again involved in a racing incident, as he collided with Paul di Resta in the Force India, and got a drive-through penalty from the FIA Stewards. “I was on the limit racing di Resta when I locked the brakes and lost some grip, but I was on the inside of the corner and so there was some light contact, “ said the Venezuelan driver, who ultimately finished 13th.

Hamilton back in the race after Olympic win at Hungaroring

By Berthold Bouman

Again a very hot day at the Hungaroring, with an ambient temperature around 30 degrees Celsius and a track temperature of 45 degrees, when 24 cars lined up for the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix, the last race before the summer break.

Lewis Hamilton back in the race for the championship

Much to the surprise of everyone, FIA’s Charlie Whiting aborted the start procedure after Michael Schumacher signalled he had a problem, and now 23 drivers made a second warm-up lap, while Schumacher was preparing to start from the pit lane. Surprisingly, Schumacher said he switched off the engine because he saw yellow flags waving around him.

The first corner is always a bit tricky at the tight and twisty Hungaroring, but all drivers made it through without damage, Lewis Hamilton was away clean while Sebastian Vettel tried to take second place from Romain Grosjean, but the Frenchman successfully defended his position, and seconds later Jenson Button found a way past Vettel, who was then fourth.

Behind Vettel were Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus, next was Mark Webber who already had made up four places and was in seventh spot at the time. Needless to say, poor Schumacher was 24th, but even worse, he had been speeding in the pit lane and was handed a drive-through penalty.

Meanwhile Hamilton was getting away from the rest of the pack and after eight laps already had created a gap of 2.1 seconds to Grosjean, while at the same time Button was checking his rear-view mirrors to see how far Vettel was behind him. Vettel tried to reel in Button as he was able to use DRS on the main straight, but Button simply defended his third place by using his KERS.

Vettel tried again the next lap, but the main straight at the Hungaroring is simply not long enough for a successful DRS assisted overtaking manoeuvre. Button decided to pit and rejoined the race in tenth place on the medium tyres, right behind Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes.

Next to pit was Vettel, it was not a very smooth stop and he rejoined in seventh place. Also Hamilton pitted, again not a flawless stop and he rejoined in fourth on a set of medium Pirellis. Alonso had also pitted and had also opted to continue on the medium tyres, next to pit was Grosjean who stayed on the soft tyres and obviously wanted to do his second and last stint on a set of mediums.

Both Raikkonen and Webber pitted and the order after 21 laps was: Hamilton, Grosjean, Button, Vettel, Raikkonen, Alonso, Webber, and Senna was eighth in the Williams after he had passed Sergio Perez in the Sauber. Felipe Massa and Rosberg were ninth and tenth.

Grosjean was faster on his softs than Hamilton who was on the medium tyres, and the Lotus came closer and closer and ultimately was less than one second behind the McLaren, enough to deploy DRS. Vettel, meanwhile, came closer to Button ahead of him and was also looking to use DRS again to overtake the McLaren.

But now Button was closing in on Grosjean, not because the Briton was that much faster, but because Grosjean’s soft tyres were already starting to degrade, and not surprisingly he also lost time to Hamilton ahead of him.

On lap 35 Button decided to pit and after a flawless stop he continued on the medium tyres in eighth position. Further down the order Massa and Rosberg were dicing for ninth place, and Maldonado and Paul di Resta in the Force India were dicing for 12th place.

Vettel was next to stop for tyres, he rejoined the race in fourth place on his new medium Pirellis, ahead of Senna and Button. Grosjean also pitted and also changed to the medium tyres for his last stint, one lap later Hamilton pitted and he too changed to the medium tyre compound.

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus

Last to pit was Raikkonen, who had built up a 14-second gap, he emerged from the pit lane right next to Grosjean, who had to back off to avoid a collision. After Raikkonen’s stop the order was: Hamilton, Raikkonen Grosjean, Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Button and Senna. The whole top eight had made their last stop, and now the question was of course who would have the most rubber left to attack the others for a podium place.

Maldonado and di Resta were still dicing for 12th place, but Maldonado pushed the Scott off the track and the incident was under investigation by the FIA Stewards. Two laps later the Venezuelan driver was handed a drive-through penalty which of course completely ruined his race.

With just 15 laps to go, Vettel was seen running wide several times which meant his tyres were going off, and he had to be careful not to further ruin his tyres. More drivers experienced problems, Grosjean had to short-cut one of the chicanes as he too was suffering from tyre degradation.

His team colleague Raikkonen was getting closer to leader Hamilton, and the Finn was obviously planning an attack on the Briton. Webber also had problems with his tyres and had to pit for a third time, and rejoined in eighth place with 12 laps still to go.

The battle between Hamilton and Raikkonen soon began, but it was the same game, the main straight on the Hungaroring is too short for a DRS overtaking move, and Raikkonen stayed behind Hamilton as he was not able to find a way past.

Also Vettel unexpectedly had to pit for a third time and rejoined the race in fourth place, ahead of Alonso in the Ferrari.

Schumacher who had been in 18th place, came back to the pits and retired, but without a doubt it was a strategic retirement, which means he can change a gearbox for the next event without being handed a penalty, Hamilton did the same in Germany.

Six laps to go and now Raikkonen in second place also ran wide, and he had to back off a bit. Vettel on his new soft tyres now started to reel in Grosjean, while Webber on his new tyres came closer and closer to Senna ahead of him.

Just two laps to go but Raikkonen couldn’t make a final move on Hamilton and thus the 2008 World Champion won the Hungarian Grand Prix, he was followed by Raikkonen who took second place, Grosjean was third, Vettel fourth, Alonso fifth and Button took sixth place.

Senna, Webber, Massa, and Rosberg took seventh to tenth position respectively, while Narain Karthikeyan was the second driver to retire after he lost control of his HRT with just nine laps to go and hit the guard rail hard.

Formula One goes on a well-deserved vacation for a whole month, next race is the Belgium Grand Prix at the beautiful Spa-Franchorchamps circuit on September 2.

Hungarian GP: Grosjean happy with strong qualifying performance

By Berthold Bouman

Lotus driver Romain Grosjean was happy with his qualifying performance, the young Frenchman finished second and will therefore start the race from the front row of the grid today. It is also the best qualifying performance of his Formula One career, and he is hopeful of a good position during today’s race.

Romain Grosjean, Lotus

Asked whether he was happy with the car he said, “We normally have a good race pace, it’s good to be back at the front. We had a difficult German Grand Prix and a difficult start here in Hungary. But the guys did a fantastic job trying to help me set up the car, trying to find out what was wrong and [we’re] back to the top and it’s good.”

Grosjean called the result of the German Grand Prix ‘a bit of a disaster’ as he finished 18th, one lap behind winner Fernando Alonso. “But,” said Grosjean, “then we found back the speed, improved the car, tried to understand what was wrong with it, and being here on the front row is something special — especially here at the Hungarian Grand Prix where we know overtaking is very difficult. We need to start from the front, we said that since a long time — so first job done.”

Asked whether he was confident the Lotus will also perform well with full fuel tanks, he replied, “Normally it’s better on high fuel than on low fuel, so it’s pretty good to be on the front row. We have been maybe working a bit more this week on qualifying because we know it’s a big key for the race. So, hopefully the car will feel pretty well with the tank fuelled and the set-up we normally run for the race. Hopefully that’s the case.”

Before the German Grand Prix Sir Jackie Stewart offered his advice to the Lotus driver, which he politely rejected, but the fact remains Grosjean lost a lot of points due to crashes. Asked how he wants to turn his second place on the grid into a podium he answered, “Well, the key is to stay on track, that’s for sure. Let’s have a good start, let’s see where we are at the beginning of the race and how the car feels. Hopefully it’s going to feel alright, as it did in Bahrain or Canada, and if we have this, then I think we have everything in our pocket to fight for a good result.”

If Grosjean would score his maiden victory today, he would write history as he would be the first Lotus driver to do so after Ayrton Senna won the 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix, which was also the Brazilian’s maiden win.

Hungarian GP: Ferrari still targets podium at Hungaroring

By Berthold Bouman

Although Fernando Alonso was sixth, and Felipe Massa seventh during this afternoon’s qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, Ferrari are nevertheless targeting a podium place tomorrow at the Hungaroring. Alonso was three-tenths of a second slower than pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton, and the Spaniard admitted it was already a miracle he qualified for Q3.

Alonso still targets podium place

“We were expecting a very difficult qualifying and so it was. We saw at least eight cars — two McLarens, two Force Indias, two Red Bulls and Lotus — running very competitively and therefore, just getting to Q3 was in itself a difficult target to reach,” said Alonso, who is currently leading the Drivers’ Championship 30 points ahead of his nearest rival, Red Bull driver Mark Webber.

Alonso is actually hoping for rain, “All things considered, sixth place is not to be sneered at, far from it. It’s true that overtaking is definitely not easy here, but tomorrow, it might yet rain and we know that can change everything.”

He is also hoping the Pirelli tyres will perform better than expected, “There’s the unknown factor regarding the behaviour of the tyres, because yesterday no one here was able to really try them over a long run. We will have to be super concentrated, especially in how we manage the tyres.”

Alonso knows he cannot challenge the top on a dry track, but he hopes to limit the damage regarding his lead in the championship. “In the dry, we are not yet able to fight for the very top places, and we are well aware of that. Our aim will be to mark our closest rival in the Drivers’ classification and today we know we will be starting ahead of him [Webber]. Let’s see what the situation will be tomorrow evening,” said a very determined Alonso.

Massa agrees it will be difficult tomorrow, “It will be very hot tomorrow and it could also rain, so we will need to be on top of whatever situation arises.” He also doesn’t know what the situation with the Pirelli tyres is, “We will need to study carefully the little data we have relating to tyre behaviour: from the little we could see, there is a definite degradation with the softs, which could make itself felt even more with a full fuel load.”

And just like his Spanish team colleague, his thinks it is possible to fight for a podium place. “We will have to wait and see how things turn out in what will be a long race tomorrow, but I think we are still in with a chance of fighting for a podium finish, even if we are up against very strong opposition,” said the Brazilian.

With a 30-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship, Alonso can be certain of one thing: he will leave the Hungaroring tomorrow still leading the championship!

Hungarian GP: Sauber drivers disappointed by qualifying pace

By Berthold Bouman

Both Sauber drivers were disappointed with their qualifying pace today at the Hungaroring. They already had been struggling during the free practice sessions, and Sauber’s qualifying performance was certainly not what the team expected.

Sergio Perez, Sauber

Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Head of Track Engineering, said, “Overall we are struggling quite a lot. Compared to yesterday, we recovered significantly with regard to the set-up of the car, but unfortunately it was not enough.” And he added, “Kamui seemed to struggle more today. We also gave him an additional set of soft tyres, because we realised he was in trouble.”

Sergio Perez was the fastest Sauber driver today and the Mexican took 14th place in Q2, not something to be happy about. “Basically this was all that was possible for us today. For some reason all weekend we have been struggling with the balance of the car and how to understand how the tyres work on this track.

“I feel on my car we made a big step forward in regard to the balance between free practice this morning and qualifying. Q1 actually didn’t look bad at all, but the car still behaved inconsistently and in Q2 it was so difficult to put a perfect lap together that I didn’t make it into Q3.”

Kamui Kobayashi was 15th during Q2 and was equally disappointed. “After we have been struggling in all free practice sessions since we got here the qualifying result doesn’t come as a complete surprise. To me getting through to Q3 would have been a miracle today,” said the Japanese driver.

He could not explain why things didn’t work out this afternoon, but he did have problems getting the Pirellis to work, “We don’t understand why we can’t manage to get the tyres to work at this track, and this goes for both compounds as I can’t find the grip I need.

“Perhaps it is track related and has to do with bumps or dust or even something else. It will be another tough race for us because overtaking is particularly difficult here, but certainly we won’t give up and will try our best tomorrow.”

Hungarian GP: Hamilton eases to his 22nd pole position at the Hungaroring

By Berthold Bouman

A dry and hot Hungaroring was ready this afternoon for qualifying for round 11 of the FIA Formula One World Championship: the Hungarian Grand Prix. Drivers were certainly not in a hurry to venture onto the track at the start of the first session, top teams who thought not to have any problems to make it into the second session stayed in the garage to save tyres.

Lewis Hamilton took pole for Hungarian GP

The first real fast time in Q1 was set by Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus, he lapped the circuit in 1m23.273s, not much later the Finn improved his own time and clocked a lap of 1m22.689s.

With ten minutes still to go the Hungaroring became a busy place and it was difficult to find enough space for a free lap, Massa was complaining over the radio he was being blocked by Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes, but engineer Rob Smedley calmed the Brazilian down — who at the time was fifth fastest.

With seven minutes to go Lewis Hamilton was leading for McLaren, he was followed by Bruno Senna, Raikkonen, Mark Webber, Romain Grosjean, and Sebastian Vettel was sixth. Fernando Alonso was 16th in the Ferrari and had to go out on a set of soft Pirellis to improve his time, he did so and clocked a lap of 1m22.095s, good for third place at the time.

Also Schumacher and Jenson Button went out on a set of the soft tyres to make sure they would make it into the next session. Interestingly enough, at that moment both Red Bull drivers were in the danger zone on 15th and 16th place, but they stayed in the garage and took a huge risk to be bumped out of the top 17, just to save a set of soft tyres. They were lucky as Kamui Kobayashi was the last to improve his time and the Japanese driver took 15th place, demoting Webber and Vettel to 16th and 17th place.

Daniel Ricciardo, Heikki Kovalainen, Vitaly Petrov, Charles Pic, Timo Glock and both HRT drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan did not make it into Q2.

First out in Q2 was Schumacher, who was in a hurry to set a timed lap, rumours suggest Mercedes has also been affected by the new engine mapping rules. The German ran wide and had to abort his fast lap, meanwhile his team colleague Nico Rosberg was also on track, and of course all drivers were on the soft tyres in Q2.

But it was another German, Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India, who set the pace in Q2 with a lap of 1m21.906s. Button soon took second place, but he was again visibly struggling with the balance of his McLaren. With still seven minutes on the clock, Paul di Resta, Rosberg, Kobayashi, Schumacher, Hamilton and Jean-Eric Vergne were in the drop-out zone.

Hamilton soon did what he had to do and seemingly effortless put his McLaren on P1 with a lap of 1m21.060s, six-tenths of a second faster than Raikkonen who was second. Just five minutes to go and both Mercedes drivers were on 14th and 16th spot, while Alonso was also in the danger zone in tenth place.

The Spaniard left the garage for a fast lap in his Ferrari and soon scored third place. Rosberg also improved his time and moved up the order, but Schumacher was still 16th. Just one minute to go, and now Rosberg was bumped out of the top ten by Pastor Maldonado in the Williams.

But Maldonado, on his fastest lap, ran wide through the dust and Schumacher who was right behind him trying to improve his time, had to back off and could not complete his last lap. Again seven drivers didn’t make it into the next session: Webber, di Resta, Rosberg, Sergio Perez, Kobayashi, Vergne and Schumacher.

Button and Hamilton didn’t want to take any risks in Q3 and were first out to set a timed lap on the softs. The rest stayed in the garage for the time being. But Hamilton made a mistake on his first timed lap, he ran wide and had to do an extra lap to take first place.

With five minutes left on the clock the order was: Hamilton, Grosjean, Button and Raikkonen, while the others still had to make their first run. The top four drivers went back to the garage, and now Vettel had the track all to himself, and took second place.

Maldonado again made a mistake, this time on his first lap and was forced to use the escape road but was able to continue his run and took fourth place at the time. Now Vettel was the only driver in the pit lane, so he apparently was not interested in taking pole, and probably wanted to save a set of softs, as he was in second position when he returned to the garage.

Excellent second place for Romain Grosjean

Hamilton improved his time and he took pole with a lap of 1m20.953s, his 22nd career pole position, and McLaren’s 150th pole position. Grosjean did an excellent job for Lotus and took second place, Vettel was third, Button fourth, Raikkonen fifth, Alonso sixth, Massa seventh, Maldonado eighth, Senna ninth and Hulkenberg was tenth for Force India.

Of course Hamilton was satisfied with his pole, “Our upgrades are working. Jenson and I always want more speed still — that’s natural for any racing driver — but the guys back at Woking, and here in Budapest, have done a brilliant job. Our car now feels fantastic. We’ve been fine-tuning its setup all weekend. Believe me: as long as we remain fully focused on developing our car, and getting good results, then anything is still possible for us this year.”

And he added, “My feeling is that the start of tomorrow’s race will be extremely important. I’m really hoping that I’ll be able to make a clean getaway off the line and then stay ahead while looking after the tyres. I can’t wait for tomorrow’s race!”

Grosjean was happy to be back at the top again, and said, “We came here after a difficult weekend at Hockenheim and to be honest I didn’t get off to the best start yesterday. We worked hard to improve things overnight and the car felt much better in practice this morning. I’m very happy and just a little bit surprised to be P2 on the grid. Today’s job is done, let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

Vettel was less enthusiastic as he used too many tyres to get third position, “We didn’t get into qualifying how we would like and the rhythm wasn’t there straight away. We burned more tyres than we thought in the beginning, so we only had one new set for Q3. We know it’s difficult to overtake here, but hopefully we will have a good start. Tyre management will be crucial.”

The weather tomorrow is expected to be the same as today, sunny and hot with ambient temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius. Again the tyres will play an important role, as some drivers had to use an extra set of softs, while others did not. The used softs will degrade faster and as we have seen all season, the last few laps of the race will probably decided who will emerge as the victor of the Hungarian Grand Prix tomorrow.

The Hungarian Grand Prix from a tyre point of view

By Berthold Bouman

Pirelli have allocated the Medium (Prime, white marked) and the Soft (Option, yellow marked) tyre compound for round 11 of the FIA Formula One World Championship. According to Pirelli this combination is to provide the best compromise between the grip and durability needed for the tight and twisty Hungaroring.

Pirelli tyres

The challenge for the Pirelli tyres is to get enough traction, and make sure the tyres don’t heat up too quickly under braking, and as the Hungarian circuit has a lot of braking areas, it is certainly is very demanding for the tyres.

Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s Director of Motorsport, explains the challenges of the Hungaroring. “Hungary will provide a very stark contrast to the circuits that we have just come from, being the slowest permanent track on the calendar. This does not make it any less demanding on the tyres though: in fact a twisty and slippery circuit will often put more heat through the tyre than a fast and flowing layout as the tyre is moving around more – particularly when the ambient temperatures are high,” he said.

But the weather also play a role according to Hembery, “Last year we saw some wet weather, so it’s important not to make any assumptions. Consequently, we are still lacking some information about the performance of our slick tyres under race conditions at the Hungaroring.”

Asked about how to keep the tyre degradation under control, he replied, “Balancing the demands of speed and durability will be key to getting the most out of the tyres in Hungary, in order to keep degradation under control.”

Pirelli’s Technical notes:

• The start-finish straight of just over 700 metres is the only real straight on the entire circuit, with the tyres constantly loaded in a sequence of 14 corners for the rest of the 4.381-kilometre lap. The cars are at full throttle for just 10 seconds or so during the lap.

• The cars ride the kerbing in the chicane between turns six and seven as part of the racing line. The resulting impact generates a force on the tyre equivalent to 800 kilogrammes.

• The cars run high downforce in Hungary to maximise grip and a soft suspension set-up to improve traction, just like Monaco. The cars also need accurate turn-in for all the rapid changes of direction, so they tend to run with a stiff front end to guarantee precise roadholding. However it’s important for the car set-up not to accentuate tyre wear, which is a vital factor in Hungary.

Pirelli Videos: F1 Tyre Behaviour, and Budapest 3D Track Experience

Rain during practice sessions has been hampering McLaren’s testing

By Berthold Bouman

The rain during the free practice sessions in Great Britain, Germany, and now Hungary, has hampered McLaren’s testing, said Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh today. “Well, it’s certainly difficult now that we don’t test. If you bring a whole package of upgrades to the car, on Friday morning P1 typically we have our only test session and if it’s wet then it rather handicaps that test,” he said during the usual FIA Friday press conference at the Hungaroring.

Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal McLaren

McLaren have raised their game recently and came up with several upgrades that had to be tested, but rain made it impossible to get reliable data. Despite the lack of dry testing it seems McLaren is much faster now. “I think we’ve made some progress and we will continue to do so. We had a reasonably big package of upgrades in Germany and we have a few bits and pieces here as well. You’ll do what you can. We’ve had a remarkable run of run of rain in the practice sessions so far this year,” said Whitmarsh.

And he added, “It would be nice to get some steady, dry conditions where the engineers can work more easily. But it’s the same for everyone.” This season seems to be a season in which the other race in Formula One, the development race, is also very important to win in order to stay at the top.

Whitmarsh explained, “Everyone, to varying degrees, is trying to develop and improve the car — and that’s part of the challenge. Sometimes you’ve got a great data set and you can go forward with confidence and other times you have to make a decision on a limited data set and in some ways that’s more interesting. The engineers don’t like it but it’s more interesting when you have to take a bit of a flyer.”

Getting the Pirelli tyres to work is the main challenge this season, and some teams are better at it than others. Whitmarsh commented, “This year has been a very difficult to predict championship, it’s been tyre dominated. Those who work the tyres … you can work very hard on your car but if you can’t turn the tyres on then you’re in trouble. We’ve seen that a few times on our car — too often — and we’ve seen it on a few other cars. That’s a great challenge for everyone.”

Jenson Button, McLaren

Asked about Jenson Button’s recent problems, Whitmarsh admitted it had been tough for the 2009 World Champion. “If you are a racing driver and a racing driver in a team like McLaren or Ferrari, you’re going to come under quite a lot of scrutiny. It’s very different, you can turn up as a rookie in some other teams and there’s pressure because you’re in Formula One but I think if you’re in McLaren, whoever you are, same if you’re in Ferrari, year in, year out, if you’re not qualifying on the front two rows of the grid then there’s quite a large enquiry afterwards and all sorts of pressure ensues,” he said.

But today McLaren was certainly not under pressure to perform, Lewis Hamilton was fastest during today’s two free practice sessions, and Button was second in the morning session, and sixth during the afternoon session.

Hamilton again fastest for McLaren at rain-struck Hungaroring

By Berthold Bouman

Lewis Hamilton was once again the fastest driver at the Hungaroring during the second practice session for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday. The 2008 World Champion lapped the circuit in a best-time of 1.21.995s, which was 0.826 second faster than his time this morning.

Lewis Hamilton again fastest at the Hungaroring

As the radar had predicted heavy rain Hamilton had set his time on the soft tyres, he was followed by Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus who was second this afternoon, the Finn was 0.185s slower than the McLaren driver.

After a heavy rain shower had hit the Hungarian track half-way the session, it was impossible to improve the times set on slicks, and many teams decided to keep the cars in the garage afraid to waste tyres they might need for qualifying or the race.

Bruno Senna was back in the car this afternoon and was third after he had completed 33 laps in the Williams, his team colleague Pastor Maldonado was 12th. This time Felipe Massa was faster than Fernando Alonso, and the Ferrari pair took fourth and fifth place respectively.

Jenson Button was sixth in the second McLaren, 0.752s slower than Hamilton. Paul di Resta was the fastest Force India driver and landed seventh position, Nico Hulkenberg who was back in the car after Jules Bianchi had taken over from him this morning, the German scored a somewhat disappointing 13th position.

Although Sebastian Vettel denied the new engine mapping regulations would affect his team, he was in eighth place while Australian Mark Webber was 14th this afternoon. Romain Grosjean was once again the last driver to finish within one second of the fastest time set by Hamilton, and took ninth place this afternoon.

On tenth and 11th place were Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, but the difference between the two Mercedes drivers was just four-thousandths of a second. Sauber was this afternoon a bit further down the order, this time Kamui Kobayashi was faster than Sergio Perez, the Japanese driver took 15th place and his Mexican team colleague was 18th.

Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo took 16th and 17th place for Toro Rosso, while Caterham was once again the fastest of the ‘new’ teams, with Vitaly Petrov in 19th and Heikki Kovalainen in 20th place.

Timo Glock in the Marussia was 21st, Pedro de la Rosa 22nd for HRT, Charles Pic was 23rd in the second Marussia and the 24th and last spot was for Indian HRT driver Narain Karthikeyan.

Hungarian GP: Mark Webber also wants good result before summer break

By Berthold Bouman

Mark Webber is another driver who also wants to score a good result at the Hungaroring, the last race before the summer break. “It would be good for everyone in the team to enter the break on the back of a good result. The guys have done a phenomenal job so far this year and they deserve to head on their holidays on the back of a strong finish here,” said the Australian Red Bull driver.

Mark Webber wants to star summer break on a high

He is confident his team is heading in the right direction, performance-wise. “Early on in the year it was difficult for all of the teams to decide which development direction to go in, but we proved that we’ve done a pretty good job by our 53 point lead in the constructors’ championship.”

Webber also thinks the tyre problems he encountered in Germany, are solved. “We’ve looked into the problems at Hockenheim and we have some ideas about what went wrong. I struggled on the medium-compound tyre, the reasons for which we think we understand, and I didn’t get a chance to discover the true pace of the car on the option because I was stuck in traffic. I had no free air in the first stint and that situation was compounded as the race progressed. It will be important to start higher up here at the Hungaroring.”

Webber is now second in the Drivers’ Championship, 34 points behind leader Fernando Alonso, so he will not be leaving the Hungaroring leading the championship, but he likes the track and is looking forward to the race on Sunday.

“It’s a busy lap, with lots of corners and not many straights, and so it’s important to have good stability under braking and good traction,” he explained, adding, “There are a lot of medium-speed corners; it’s not super-slow, as many people assume. There are still relatively high apex speeds. I’ve gone well here in the past and I’m looking forward to getting on-track again.”

Webber won the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2010 for Red Bull and if all goes well, he will start his 187th Grand Prix this weekend.

McLaren duo fastest during first practice session for Hungarian GP

By Berthold Bouman

McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton were fastest during the first free practice session for the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring this morning. Hamilton took first spot with a time of 1m22.821s, Button was second, just 0.101 seconds slower than his team colleague.

Lewis Hamilton was fastest for McLaren this morning

Fernando Alonso once again did a great job for Ferrari and landed third fastest time, while Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari was seventh. Nico Rosberg was the fastest Mercedes driver this morning with a time of 1m23.623s, while Michael Schumacher clocked the sixth fastest time, 1.024 seconds slower than Hamilton.

Romain Grosjean was in fifth place and the last driver to finish within one second of leader Hamilton. Kimi Raikkonen tested the double DRS system again and was eighth, while Williams test and reserve driver Valtteri Bottas once again showed he has a great future ahead by taking ninth spot, just 0.169s slower than his compatriot Raikkonen in the Lotus, and beating Pastor Maldonado who was 11th in the other Williams.

Not a bad morning for Sauber as Sergio Perez finished tenth and Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi was 12th after completing only 19 laps on the Hungaroring. Australian Mark Webber was 13th for Red Bull, while current World Champion Sebastian Vettel was 14th with a time of 1m24.608s, which was 1.787s off Hamilton’s fastest lap.

A bit disappointing was Paul di Resta who scored 14th place for Force India. Test and reserve driver Jules Bianchi was at the wheel of Nico Hulkenberg’s car and after having completed 26 laps took 18th place.

Both Toro Rosso drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne were 16th and 17th, Vitaly Petrov was the fastest Caterham driver on 18th place, Heikki Kovalainen was 21st.

Charles Pic was this time faster than Timo Glock and took his Marussia to 20th place, Glock was 22nd. And finally, Spaniard Dani Clos who had taken over from Narain Karthikeyan, was 24th and last for HRT, 1.075s slower than his compatriot Pedro de la Rosa, who was 23rd.

Second free practice session start at 13:00hrs local time, it is expected drivers will be faster as the still ‘green’ track will have more grip due to the rubber that has been deposited on the track this morning.