2014 Hungarian Grand Prix Debrief

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by Ben Stevens, Jul 28, 2014.

  1. Ben Stevens

    Ben Stevens

    IMG_1200.jpg On a track where it is notoriously difficult to pass, F1 fans got more than they bargained for with a fascinating race on Sunday, and a little controversy to boot.

    If there's one word you can't use to describe the 2014 Formula 1 season, that word would be 'boring'.

    Ten races into the season and us F1 fans have more highlights to choose from than a Mike Tyson knockout compilation. Hell, if you wanted to torture me, forget waterboarding -- just ask me to pick a favourite race between Bahrain, Canada and yesterday's Hungarian Grand Prix.

    Go here for the full race report, and read on for a look at the major talking points from Budapest.

    502736713_LB_7581_418CB3FD674B434C24A94BF44DA9B014.jpg Ricciardo, Rennie Make the Most of a Wild Sunday

    Let's get the obvious out of the way first, Mercedes is still clearly a class above the rest of the field in anything remotely resembling normal conditions, but that won't stop Red Bull from taking advantage of the slightest aberration to Mercedes' winning formula.

    In the 8-or-so laps before Marcus Ericsson's Caterham decided to take a detour into the barrier on the outside of turn 3, the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg was comfortably pulling away from the rest of the field at a rate of over a second-per-lap. Backing up a qualifying performance that saw him beat second-placed Sebastian Vettel by nearly half a second, make no mistake that the other teams have some serious catching up to do if they want to consistently challenge Mercedes after the summer break.

    Having said that, what transpired after that safety car between Ricciardo and his race engineer, Simon Rennie, was the sort of execution of race strategy that you'd find in a textbook on the subject -- one I'm sure a few other folks in the paddock (read: Williams, and after Hungary, maybe Mercedes) would like to have a read of.

    The timing of Ericsson's crash meant Ricciardo would lead the race once the safety car came in, as the four drivers ahead of him were past the pit entry when the incident occurred, while he was able to lead the inevitable dash for fresh rubber. Having clean air to work with, Rennie decided to adopt an approach of out-and-out attack, and it was as that strategy became evident at the second stop for softs on lap 24 that the race was won.

    Rennie believed that, on a track with the sort of fast corners that suited the Red Bull, Ricciardo would have the pace to make such an approach work, and the confidence in his driver to pull it off -- even though that would likely mean he'd have to fight to regain the lead at some point, which is no short order at the Hungaroring.

    He could have very easily opted for a similar strategy as Mercedes did with Hamilton, making his second pit-stop his last and putting on a pair of mediums. Having demonstrated at Silverstone his tyre conservation skills, it was entirely possible Ricciardo could have taken them to the end of the race, using the track itself as his ultimate defence. But that would be giving the initiative back to those around him, as Rennie clearly knew. Instead, the Red Bull pair stuck to their guns, and it paid dividends. While this may not be the season where such moves ultimately decide the title, keep this in mind for 2015 and beyond -- the edge between Mercedes, Red Bull and whoever else is vying for a spot at the top may not come from the car or the driver, but the minds on the pit wall.

    On a related note, ten races into the season, it's become a common theme to group Ricciardo with fellow young-guns like Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen as a star of the future -- that notion could not be more wrong. If Canada wasn't proof enough, Sunday was the only argument he needed to cement his spot as a star of today.

    hamiltonrosberg.jpg Mercedes' Team Orders Brew More Driver Controversy

    For a team comfortably leading both world championships, it's still easy to imagine that there's a lot of agitation behind the scenes at Mercedes. Because as much as the team maintains a healthy performance advantage over everyone else, the friction between its two stars -- Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton -- have things getting ever closer to Shaq-Kobe territory -- really the only thing missing at this point are similarly awful rap albums.

    Sunday's events will do little to douse that fire as the pair once again found themselves at the centre of controversy, this time over a team order to Hamilton instructing him to let Rosberg past during the middle of the race, as the two were on different tyre strategies at the time. There's no doubt that Hamilton was indeed given a directive to concede position to his teammate, and there's also no doubt it had an impact on the outcome of the race.

    For me the question isn't about which party was right, but whether it is possible they both could be. As Ted Kravitz pointed out in SKY's post-race coverage, sitting behind Hamilton did indeed cost Rosberg a significant chunk of time, and he would have been realistically looking at one of the top two steps of the podium. Hamilton's odds of achieving a similar result would be far more difficult given the quality of his tyres at the end of the race, as it was clear at that point he'd go the final 30 laps on that same set of mediums. It's the pit-wall's job to give their team the most amount of points possible, and backing Rosberg was the best way to do that.

    On the other hand, for Hamilton to actually concede that position to Rosberg would have been nothing short of madness. Not only are these two both competing for a world championship, they're the only two doing so, and while Rosberg had the better shot at the win, Hamilton still would have fancied his chances. Furthermore it's not like Hamilton could have made up that time later -- Rosberg would be much faster then, and after his next pit-stop, much faster later too. Essentially they found themselves in a rare situation where championship points were more meaningful than the win, and a driver going for the former can't be blamed if that hinders his teammate from achieving the latter. The 3 points Hamilton gained on Rosberg on Sunday can make a world of difference, just ask Fernando Alonso.

    So while Rosberg was evidently upset by the decision, he shouldn't be. He would have done the exact same thing in Hamilton's spot, and he knows it. These guys are in a world title fight, and thus it's expected they'd do completely that -- fight! You can't blame Mercedes for giving the order, but that puts Hamilton at no less fault for disobeying it.

    140123ung.jpg Alonso Adds to His Sterling Legacy with Another Sensational Drive

    I don't think it's going too far out on a limb to suggest Ferrari's 2014 offering is something of a supreme disappointment. The return of Kimi Raikkonen and 2014's regulation changes were meant to herald the return of the Scuderia to the top of the F1 foodchain. For as close as he came in 2010 and 2012, this was supposed to be Fernando Alonso's best chance at a driver's championship in red yet. And while it's usually those world titles by which a driver leaves their mark, Alonso continues to find a way to cement his legacy as one of the greatest drivers the sport has ever seen, with drives like his one in Hungary.

    At this point in the season, the F14T is at best, the fourth-fastest car on the grid. Alonso shouldn't be able to hold off one Mercedes, let alone two, yet that is exactly what he did on Sunday. If that wasn't impressive enough, he did it on the same set of soft tyres from lap 39 onwards -- that's 32 laps to the end of the race, and yet only Daniel Ricciardo could find a way past him. Sure circumstances conspired to put him there, but I think he's the only driver on the grid who could make it work. Afterwards Alonso said the second 'felt like a victory', and you can certainly understand why.

    So maybe it's time we stop asking what's wrong with Raikkonen, and start asking what Alonso is doing right. There's a time that comes along in every great sportsman's career, where they are no longer the all-conquering machines they were in their youth, and Fernando Alonso -- through no fault of his own -- finds himself at that point. What separates the great from the very, very good is that they adapt to those changes, and can occasionally wrestle something extraordinary from the ordinary, as Alonso did on Sunday. The man is a singular talent, and deserves every plaudit that comes his way, third championship or not.

    Got some thoughts on Ricciardo's drive in Hungary? Or the latest Hamilton/Rosberg controversy? Whereabouts do you rank Alonso in the all-time F1 pantheon? For that and anything else, sound off below.

    h/t to r/Formula1GIFS
    • Like Like x 5
    • Winner Winner x 1
  2. Kurt Vanhee

    Kurt Vanhee

    Construction title for Merc is almost a fact so why not let them compete for the title?
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. Bram Hengeveld

    Bram Hengeveld
    Founder Staff Premium

    I was thinking exactly that yesterday. When you see how Kimi struggles to keep the Ferrari on track at the back of the points and see how hard Alonso is fighting for his podium position I can only take my hat off for him. Big respect for his skills as its obviously not easy to control the car this year.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  4. Jordi Casademunt

    Jordi Casademunt

    One interesting thing to note is that Kimi Raikkönen's pace was actually very similar to Alonso's once he didn't have any traffic, even within the tenth. And then in the closing stages he was stuck behind Massa, so he could have gone a bit faster:


    So maybe Raikkönen is starting to get used to the car. I certainly hope so, it would add another good racer to the "top" spots (unlikely for podium spots but who knows).