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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Hungarian Grand Prix

This race has consistently been voted the most boring race of the year by both fans and critics. Strange then that I found it to have passed quite quickly. Usually I'll be falling asleep by the hour mark.

This year there was some excitement what with the Ferraris experiencing a revival of sorts and duking it out with the McLarens for honours. The Ferraris were looking good all weekend and promised to spoil the 2005 applecart.

In the end, they just confirmed what I suspect happened during the German Grand Prix. Obviously starting mid field is not helping them so they've switched to a strategy of qualifying at front of the grid, try and make a break during the race and as the tires wear out, fight a rearguard action.

A strategy not without merit especially at this, a notoriously difficult circuit to pass. Not helped of course by these confounded aero regulations that make following another car difficult let alone pass. Of course, what Ferrari could not keep at bay were the mighty McLarens of Montoya and Raikkonen. Kimi's qualifying of course handicapped by having to go out first during qualifying. So McLaren short fueled Kimi and chose a completely different strategy for Juan Pablo.

In the end, both strategies looked to be good for winning the race. Lightly fueled as Kimi was, Michael was not that far heavier, running just 4 laps more than Kimi at his first stop. Despite all those extra laps on a lighter load, when he came out Kimi was right back there behind his tail. Later when Montoya came out, he was running close to Kimi who was shadowing Michael Schumacher.

It was interesting during the opening laps as Michael was obviously trying hard to make a break. His car was simply not good enough for it and whatever he did, Kimi simply matched it.

Kimi's second stop was simply a brilliant move by the McLaren team. Coming in just one lap after Michael Schumacher's second stop, the team short fueled him, whereas Michael had put in more fuel. Kimi was right behind Michael when the Ferrari pitted. But when Kimi emerged from his fuel stop, he was 7 seocnds away, thanks to a brilliant lap and that short stop.

This allowed Juan Montoya into the lead and Kimi emerging ahead of Michael, could not simply leave the Ferrari for dead. A brave but ultimately futile attempt by Ferrari to make something out of their pathetic race pace. As the McLarens were released, it was plain and obvious that Michael's tires were starting to fade for his lap times kept going slower and slower as had happened in Germany.

Juan Montoya was looking good for another win but ultimately his driveshaft gave way in an incident similar to Kimi's Imola exit. McLaren just love letting their drivers down. In Germany, some fool forgot to fasten some sort of valve properly thus causing Kimi's exit. I hope Ron Dennis remembers put the bloke to the guillotine.

At this point however, one can imagine Ron Dennis and everyone at McLaren just praying that nothing happened to Kimi. And thankfully nothing did. As happened in three other occassions this year, when his car is working well all weekend, Kimi is simply unstoppable. He built up a massive lead over Schumacher after the second stops that by the time he took his third, he could come out again still in the lead by some margin.

The fates must have been beaming at Kimi today because championship leader Fernando Alonso scored no points after a first lap first corner incident that completely wiped out his aero. According to Briatore, Alonso was driving with near zero downforce throughout the entire race. In the end he finished in 11th spot.

Ralf Schumacher was another surprise during the race. Just as he did in Germany, towards the end he caught up with Michael Schumacher and this time was much closer at the finish line. A consistent good drive by Ralf saw him running in fourth virtually all day and in the end he finished on the podium after Montoya's retirement. His first podium for Toyota and I believe their fourth(?) this year.

The BARs of Button and Sato were completely nowhere this weekend after admittedly choosing the wrong set of Michelins for the race. I believe had they put on the right type of boots, we could have seen another Button vs Michael Schumacher battle towards the end.

The Ferraris are proving quicker now. At Magny Cours and Silverstone, they were almost lapped. In Germany they finished 51 seconds down on winner Fernando Alonso. At the Hungaroring they finished just 33 seconds behind winner Kimi. In qualifying and in free practice, their pace is beginning to show whereas previously they'd still be nowhere at all. Its obvious now that they need a tyre that can take that pace throughout the race rather than fading away. Perhaps their cars are not as light on the tires as the McLarens, which are clearly more agile as well.

Ultimate pace must still belong to Woking as was evident during the race. I believe Renault too are still up there ahead of the Ferraris. But Ferrari's blatant cheating with regards to in season testing is clearly bearing fruit as they get quicker and quicker. Ross Brawn says that no more development time wiil be spent on the F2005, so its interesting to see just how much Bridgestone will develop their offerings for the rest of the year.

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