The Hungarian Grand Prix today gave us a real race of attrition. Hamilton calmly controlled the race from the front to take the chequered flag but there were quite a few events through the race I’d like to discuss and analyse. One big point to note however is that Fernando Alonso is arguably the real winner on the grand scheme of things. On his 31st birthday he has increased his world championship lead to 40 points going into the summer break
Lack of Overtaking – The Dirty Air Problem
As I wrote in my qualifying analysis, the Hungaroring is a downforce heavy circuit where the exit of one corner leads to the entry air of another. ‘Dirty Air’ is the term used to describe the air that comes off a Formula One car, that’s been worked hard to produce downforce. This air can’t produce as much further downforce so if two cars are following each other, the following car struggles compared to the one infront.
At a downforce heavy circuit like the Hungaroring, that’s a substantial disadvantange for the following car. The only real overtaking opportunity here is at Turn 1, after the straight. The last corner is tight, tricky and downforce heavy. Because of the dirty air, the following car has to get on the throttle much later. This means with a full battery of KERS, the leading car holds a substantial advantage.
The best illustration of this dirty air effect was with Raikkonen chasing down Hamilton. He had a consistent advantage of half a second in the downforce heavy middle sector which disappeared when he came within one second of Hamilton. This same happened between Button vs Vettel and Hamilton vs Grosjean.
Hamilton’s advantage over Lotus
The McLaren has had a big advantage in traction heavy the final sector. As explained above, the only real overtaking opportunity is down the straight. Hamilton was consistently a few tenths faster in the final sector, giving him a buffer down the straight to stay ahead.
Furthermore, Raikkonen had a KERS problem from the start of the race; he could only utilise up to 50% of it’s total power. The Renault KERS system is also weaker in terms of full KWHr output compared to the McLaren system (40 vs 60 respectively).
McLaren’s atrocious call for Jenson
McLaren shot themselves in the foot by making Jenson Button pit for the second time. He was running P3 and holding off Sebastian Vettel, who was suffering in his dirty air.
When he pitted, he had a rapid 2.8s pit stop but was held up behind Senna. Vettel was released and able to go faster. When the pitted, he made it work and overtook Button. Worse for Button, so did Alonso & Raikkonen.
Jenson Button expressed his frustrations for the strategy post race, saying he had life in the tyres left when they pitted “far too early”. He then lightly said “I did ask the team after pitting whether my pace in traffic was faster than the others”. However, those are strong words well said.
Raikkonen made up places by utilising the Lotus’ low tyre wear and pumping in fast times just before putting. He made one place in the first pit stop phase and 3 places in the second pit spot phase, jumping Grosjean, Vettel and Button.
Other Stats & Facts
- Lotus are now third in the championship, just 1 point behind McLaren. They are 4 points ahead of Ferrari.
- Michael Schumacher had his 6th retirement in 11 races. What actually happened at the start isn’t revealed as yet. He had a full telemetry failure when his car overheated on the grid.
- Bruno Senna finished P7, whereas Maldonado finished P13. I’m personally pleased with his result as Maldonado remarked after qualifying “Even Senna can go fast here”.
- This is Lewis Hamilton’s third victory at the Hungaroring.
- Both Hamilton and Grosjean had slow first pit stops. Hamilton’s was 4.2 seconds whereas Grosjean’s was 4.9.
- Red Bull tried a 3 stop strategy but there wasn’t sufficient tyre degradation to make it work.
- Mark Webber had a great start and made up 4 places to go from 11th to 7th. That’s sadly for him pretty much where he stayed all race.
- Narian Karthekeyan suffered a full front suspension failure and thus went off at Turn 4.