This afternoon, Tom Dillmann took his first GP2 pole position in Hungary with a lap time of 1:28.219. That’s about seven tenths of a second quicker than last year’s GP2 pole time, although the comparison is not particularly significant.
What is significant is how close Dillmann’s pole position lap time came to the back of the Formula One field in their second Free Practice session. Max Chilton rounded out the field in FP2 with a time of 1:26.647, just under 1.6 seconds quicker than Dillmann’s GP2 time. That’s really not very much at all considering that F1 and GP2 are different series that are not supposed to be comparable in terms of performance.
Furthermore, Dillmann’s time would have put him not too far off a theoretical 107% qualifying time in Formula 1, assuming the calculation is made from Vettel’s leading FP2 time. Just to clarify, the 107% rule requires an F1 driver to set a time within 107% of the fastest time set in Q1 in order to be allowed to start the Grand Prix. Based on Vettel’s FP2 time of 1:21.264, the theoretical 107% time would be 1:26.952, just 1.3 seconds faster than Dillmann’s time.
The small gap between Dillmann and Max Chilton is startling. F1 cars are vastly more powerful and have greatly superior braking and aerodynamics to GP2 cars. For a GP2 car to be so close in lap time to an F1 car, as impressive as the GP2 driver’s performance may be, is more an indication of a lack of performance in the F1 car. In this case, it shows that Chilton’s Marussia team is struggling heavily for pace around the Hungaroring. But more than that, it highlights just how far Marussia have to go before they can hope to be properly competitive in Formula One.
Incidentally, pole position for last year’s GP2 race was taken by the very same Max Chilton.
Going into the Hungarian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton desperately needed to take points off Fernando Alonso to keep his title hopes alive. He achieved that aim by taking a commanding pole position and then driving a calm and controlled race to take his second victory of the season. Hamilton was under constant pressure, first from Romain Grosjean and then the Kimi Raikkonen, but the McLaren driver held on for an impressive win ahead of the two Lotus cars.
It was another weekend of near-success for Lotus. Grosjean’s second on the grid was the Frenchman’s best qualifying performance yet, but it wasn’t quite enough for pole. In the race, Grosjean looked like challenging Hamilton for a few laps, but ultimately could not find a way past the Englishman. Raikkonen managed to pass his team-mate in the pits and closed up on the leader, but he too could not find a way past and could only take his third second place of the season. The Ice Man has yet to win in 2012, but his day is surely not too far away.
Ferrari had an unusually poor weekend. Alonso and Massa qualified down in sixth and seventh place, and finished fifth and ninth respectively. Alonso had looked bulletproof in the races leading up to Hungary, but Ferrari’s form evaporated at the tight and twisty Hungaroring.
Mercedes had an even more disappointing weekend. Rosberg and Schumacher were 13th and 17th on the grid, which suggested that their race would be difficult. But no-one could have predicted just how difficult it would turn out to be. When the first start was aborted, Schumacher turned his engine off as it was overheating, which resulted in the German having to start from the pitlane. A puncture followed after which Schumacher was handed a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane. Mercedes retired Schumacher’s car with 11 laps to go, claiming a telemetry-related failure. It is more likely that the team wanted the option to change his gearbox for the next race in Belgium, which is allowed if the car retires, but otherwise would have resulted in a grid penalty.
Nico Rosberg could only manage 10th in the race after qualifying 13th. The Mercedes W03 was simply not quick enough, as has clearly been the case in recent races. After Rosberg won in China there was hope of a continued Mercedes resurgence, but it seems that the Brackley-based team is gradually slipping back into the clutches of the midfield.
Bruno Senna had an impressive weekend, featuring at the sharp end of most of the practice sessions before qualifying ninth – the first time he has featured in Q3 this season – and then going on to take seventh in the race ahead of the Red Bull of Mark Webber. Team-mate Maldonado qualified eighth but finished outside the points after incurring a drive-through penalty for driving into the Force India of Paul di Resta.
Hamilton’s victory opens up the championship fight quite a bit, with second to fifth now separated by only eight points. Alonso is still 40 points clear at the front, but a few more results like this will close that gap quite quickly.
The teams now have five weeks until the next race in Belgium. After 11 races in the first part of the season, the break will be useful to recharge and refocus ahead of the last nine races of 2012. McLaren go into the break on a high, with Lotus looking strong. But can anyone do anything about the lead Fernando Alonso has in the championship? Time will tell.
Budapest is the setting for the 11th round of the 2012 Formula One season. The teams have had no time to relax after the German Grand Prix last week, but can look forward to a mid-season break after this weekend.
The Hungaroring was the location for the first Formula One race behind the iron curtain in 1986, and has featured on the calendar every year since. The track is tight, narrow and twisty, with very little in the way of straights, and consequently has the second-lowest average speed on the current F1 calendar – after Monaco.
In recent years, Hungary has seen a surprising amount of drama. Felipe Massa’s near-fatal accident in 2009 happened when a spring from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn hit Massa on the head on the run up to turn 4, one of the fastest points on the track. The start-finish straight saw Michael Schumacher push Barrichello very close to the pit-wall as the German attempted to defend 10th position in the 2010 race.
Records and first-time winners
Fernando Alonso has won 30 Grands Prix, which puts him fifth on the list of most wins by a driver in Formula One history. If he wins in Budapest on Sunday, Alonso will take his 31st win on his 31st birthday to go level with fourth-placed Nigel Mansell on that same list.
Alonso’s very first Formula One victory came at the Hungarian Grand Prix of 2003. Of the current field, Jenson Button (2006) and Heikki Kovalainen (2008) also first stood on top of the podium in Hungary. Retired World Champion Damon Hill took his first victory for Williams in 1993 before winning again in 1995 and very nearly taking a surprise win for Arrows in 1997 before mechanical issues dropped him to second.
As in Germany, Pirelli are providing the teams with medium and soft compound rubber.
Who can bet against Alonso? The F2012 has, after some development, proven to be quick in all conditions, and Hungary should be no exception, particularly in the hands of the in-form Spaniard.
Red Bull should be in contention, as will McLaren. The surprise package of the weekend could be Mercedes, as the W03 has been quick on slower circuits that require good traction. Schumacher took pole in Monaco(before his grid-penalty dropped him to sixth) and Rosberg finished second in the race as Mercedes very nearly dominated proceedings in the principality. Perhaps they will be resurgent this weekend.
But Alonso is so dominant at this stage of the season that it seems very unlikely that he will be beaten to the chequered flag.
Circuit Length: 4.381 km
Race laps: 70
Race length: 306.630 km
Lap Record: 1:19.071 – Michael Schumacher / Ferrari (2004)
Race winner: Jenson Button / Mclaren
Pole position: Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull – 1:19.815
Fastest lap: Felipe Massa / Ferrari – 1:23.415
- Michael Schumacher has had the most success in Hungary, with four wins between 1994 and 2004.
- All of the multiple winners in Hungary have been World Champion in their careers
- McLaren have enjoyed much success in Hungary in recent years, winning five out of the last seven races.
Friday and Saturday are expected to be dry, with a chance of thunderstorms on Sunday. If the race is wet, the teams could suffer from a lack of wet-weather set-up time, but hopefully the rain will hold off and the race will be dry, although a wet race could shake up the order.