Monday, August 6, 2007

Race analysis - bitter pills commonplace in Hungary.

McLaren’s first came in the form of the grid place penalty that moved Fernando Alonso from the pole down to sixth place, guaranteeing that he had no chance of victory. Their second was the stewards’ decision that the team would not be eligible for any constructors’ points after the qualifying incident. Considering that they ‘scored’ 15, that had to hurt.

Ferrari had some nasty things to swallow, too. The first pill for them was the oversight in not refuelling Felipe Massa’s car in the second session of qualifying. They don’t normally have to do two runs in Q2, and that caught them out.

Starting from 14th, of necessity with a heavy fuel load, Massa was damned from the get go and never made any inroads into the bunch of cars ahead. He was quite right when he described his race as “horrible”.

Their second pill was the knowledge that their F2007 had the pace to have won the race, after struggling in qualifying. Kimi Raikkonen traded fastest laps with winner Lewis Hamilton, and set the best one on the very last lap.

Nevertheless, there were silver linings in both sets of clouds. Hamilton put McLaren back in the winner’s circle for the second consecutive race, and increased his championship lead. And Alonso, for all that he had a very tough afternoon, added a further five points to his score. And Raikkonen added eight to his, and eight to Ferrari’s, so they now have 119 points to McLaren’s 138.

One of the obstacles that Alonso could not overcome was Nick Heidfeld and his BMW Sauber. The German, ironically, was one of the men who did not benefit from Alonso’s penalty, since it moved him from the clean side of the grid to the dirty side. This was a double blow, because it meant that he was slower away and, conversely, Raikkonen was faster. The net result was that he got stuck with third place, when he might have been able to have defended second. With team mate Robert Kubica making a great start, driving as strongly as he ever does, and some excellent pit work, the Swiss-German squad were on track for another healthy dose of points, their 10 actually outscoring everyone else and bringing their score to 71.

Ralf Schumacher hung in for sixth place, having fended off Alonso for a long time early on, and the Toyota driver was very happy with his car once front flap adjustments during his first stop had eliminated some nervousness. He was also satisfied that his two-stop strategy was the right one. Team mate Jarno Trulli, however, faded down to a 12th place finish and was highly disappointed to find himself stuck in traffic almost all race. Unlike Schumacher, he found his TF107 a handful on the super-soft tyre in the final stint.

Williams’ Nico Rosberg looked likely to do better than the two points he got for seventh place, but his three-stop strategy dropped him back in the final analysis. He was far enough ahead not to be troubled by Heikki Kovalainen, who once again took the final point after a better run in the race than he’d had in qualifying. Interestingly, he ran and Renault team mate Giancarlo Fisichella (together with Honda’s Rubens Barrichello) were the only runners to start on the Bridgestone super-soft tyre, which had demonstrated a tendency to grain quickly in practice, and the Finn’s R27 loved them. He did 27 laps on the first set, and 22 on the second, before doing his final stint on the soft prime tyre. And no sign of graining at all. Fisichella’s chances disappeared pretty much when his penalty for impeding Yamamoto in qualifying dropped him to 13th, but going off track and losing a place to Trulli, and later colliding with Super Aguri’s Anthony Davidson as they left the pits together, did not help his cause.

This time there were no points for Mark Webber and Red Bull, but at least the RB3 was reliable. The Australian felt he got the best from the available package on his way to ninth place, but David Coulthard, who finished 11th behind Trulli, found his RB3’s behaviour very inconsistent on the three sets of tyres he used.

Renault thus remain fourth with 33 points, Williams have 20, Red Bull are still on 16, and Toyota have 12.

Behind Coulthard, 12th place was the subject of an intense fight between Fisichella, Massa and Williams’ Alex Wurz. None of them were happy, for their different reasons, and Wurz felt he lost out when Spyker’s Adrian Sutil inadvertently brushed him on to the grass at one point as he was being lapped by the trio.

Takuma Sato was Super Aguri’s only finisher, struggling with low grip on a heavy initial fuel load. He was happier with his SA07’s balance on the super-soft tyre in his third stint, but by then it was too late. He nearly distinguished himself by tripping up Hamilton in Turn One as he rejoined after a pit stop; fortunately Hamilton just missed him.

Davidson had the upper hand at Super Aguri all weekend, and did well to fend off Wurz for so long. But his race ended in a collision with Fisichella exiting Turn One, which broke his rear suspension.

Toro Rosso debutant Sebastian Vettel took 16th after a tough afternoon in which he found the STR02 to be a very different proposition to the BMW Sauber F1.07. He ran a lot more fuel than team mate Tonio Liuzzi, who was ahead of him when he suffered electronic gremlins.

Spyker lost Sakon Yamamoto early on, when he crashed into the tyre wall in Turn 11, but as Sutil survived some off-track explorations to finish 17th the Dutch team drew succour from beating Honda on a terrible day for the Japanese enterprise. 2006 winner Jenson Button had a torrid time trailing round at the back until a throttle sensor problem put him out of his misery after 35 laps, while Barrichello was obliged to soldier on for another 33 laps on his way to 18th, two laps down.

With no testing and a three-week gap to Turkey, everyone will now work away in their factories, ready to regroup for battle in Istanbul at the end of the month.

taken from