The Hungarian GP has undoubtedly been a highlight of the V6 era, with both 2014 and 2015 producing excellent races won by Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel respectively so it may have come as quite a surprise that the race today was rather dull, so much so that main talking points include the manner of celebration. DAB!
Lewis Hamilton passed team-mate Nico Rosberg at the start and from then on it was pretty much plain sailing for the two Mercs, even though they were as close as 0.5 seconds at some stages (Esteban, you tried your best mate) it never really developed into anything resembling a battle like we saw in Austria, I do fear those “rules of engagement” are more a case of never engaging at all.
Behind the two Mercedes there was a bit more action, Red Bull and Ferrari locked in a battle for the places 3rd-6th, Ricciardo did contend for the lead early on but fell away as Mercedes pushed forwards, he did hold off Vettel quite convincingly but for the final few laps which saw the German close up but to no effect.
The highlight of the race for me at least would have to be the battle between Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen, it seemed to last for most of the race, a testament to Kimi’s performance considering he started a lowly 14th place, it started when Max failed to clear the Ferrari following the first stops and from then on he was stuck behind for a large portion of the race until Raikkonen peeled into the pitlane, from then on it was much more exciting, Kimi with the tyre advantage pushed to pass the Dutchman but to no avail, with (mostly) on the limit defending frustrating Raikkonen into a nudge with the rear of the RB12, positions would remain the same at the chequered flag.
I would say this is where the generic race review ends and the more rant based side of this post begins, if you don’t like rants then I’m sorry about the rest of this.
This season has served up some good races but I take the view that there is more negatives around F1 than positives, it is dull, it is too political and if I were a viewer tuning in for the first time this weekend, I don’t know whether I would be lured into loving the sport the same way I was years ago.
I don’t want to discuss qualifying too much because in the end, the FIA made the right decision.. In the end, as in 5 hours after the session ended, I don’t doubt the stewards and the people in race control are decent people but week in week out they seem to cause more trouble than good. The only reason they were obliged to investigate the pole lap by Rosberg is because the vagueness or grey areas of their own rules, how can a worldwide sport not have clear rules, instead of saying okay a driver has to slow by (insert number/percentage) amount in yellow flag areas, they suggest that a driver should slow “significantly” but really the meaning of that is open to interpretation, surely rules should never be that vague, especially this specific rule which should have been made abundantly clear following the tragic accident of Jules Bianchi, it is another example of the rules being at fault rather than the actual drivers, perhaps Rosberg should have gone slower but he broke no rule.
Add to this the near chaos about the Q1 107% rules which had many drivers sweating over a stewards decision which could have seen their efforts all rendered worthless, it took the FIA to apply one rule to overrule another one just to reach the common sense decision, quite hideous really…
Now, another thing.. What on earth is the logic behind the team radio rules? admittedly yes I can see why they want to limit so-called “driver coaching” where the team aid the driver in performance on track with advice and tips to get the best from their package. It is a ploy to make these drivers look like the gladiators of years gone by, Senna, Prost, Lauda to name a few, but the fact is times have changed and the technology and sport in general has moved on, these guys in the cars now have to be computer specialists to get through all the different settings and dials on the steering wheel so I think they should be given a degree of help.
The worst of the team radio rules have been seen in recent races. Hamilton struggling to reset a problem in Baku and fearing penalties from the FIA the team left him to trundle around and effectively ruin his race, similarly with Rosberg at Silverstone although the team told him in order to avoid impending damage to his gearbox, today it just got a whole lot worse.
Jenson Button had problems with his brakes, alerting the team that his pedal was “going to the floor”, it would turn out that the Brit had hydraulic issues with his car, the team instructed him to change a setting on a wheel to stop the issue reoccurring. Yet he got a 5 second time penalty, for being told how to fix what essentially was a brake problem?? the FIA allowed safety instructions to be passed but penalised McLaren for saving Button’s brakes, it just makes no sense at all, would they rather the brake failed and Jenson ends up planted in a tyre wall following a high-speed accident because the team aren’t allowed to tell him how to fix his brakes?
Thankfully, for once there was not much to say this weekend about the FIA and their downright fear of venturing out into the wet, they made the right calls in what was a monsoon like qualifying, but the previous incidents at Silverstone waiting forever to let the race start after a safety car start, similarly in Monaco. My question here is what happened to those classic wet races, I wasn’t alive to experience Senna’s amazing first lap at Donnington in the wet but it is engrained in my head as one of those classic moments, now the closest we get to that is 5 laps behind a safety car before its dry enough to switch to inters, it just isn’t good enough.
Track limits is another thing, I am pleased to see something is finally being done about it but realistically putting sensors and giving warnings isn’t going to stop the drivers using the bits outside the white lines, they need a real deterrent, nearly flat kerbs and nice grippy runoff isn’t going to do the trick, as for some drivers trying to land others in trouble for breaching limits despite being on two warnings themselves, nobody likes a snitch, focus on the racing. (looking at you Max!)
Speaking of Max, who said he was “driving like a grandma” early on but his defending techniques seemed to cause quite the stir, perhaps thankfully because otherwise the race would have had little drama at all, but seriously it is important to look at this, he was praised for it in Canada when he held off Rosberg but suddenly it seems people don’t like it, yes he made two moves on one occasion and that perhaps should have resulted in some stewarding actions but would you rather he defend the position strongly and have an entertaining battle with Raikkonen or just let the Finn cruise past him, if that was a battle between the two Mercedes like Bahrain 2014 I am pretty certain no-one would have bat an eyelid. Close racing, as it is such a rare thing these days should be applauded not criticised.
Yet again, we saw very little in the way of overtakes thanks to the two issues which in my opinion are harming F1 more than any others, dirty air and tyres.
The way these rocket-ship style cars are designed means they severely struggle to follow one another closely due to the dirty air disrupting the aerodynamic balance of the cars, this makes the car perform worse, heating up all the intricate systems and limiting the tyres on their performance, so instead of these guys – some of the best racers in the world – going for it, they drop back two seconds behind to preserve their systems and that is no fun for anybody, I think we are all hopeful that the 2017 changes will make this less of an issue but personally I doubt it, the one positive this season seems to be the 3 tyre rule but even this is becoming less important than previous with very few teams running the hardest compound so in essence it is becoming the same as usual.
Finally, many people are perhaps critical of Mercedes for “ruining the sport” and I feel this is wrong, firstly they are a team of racers doing a very good job, they aren’t and shouldn’t be criticised for this nor should they slow down just to make the show a bit more exciting, yes the races where they run into issues tend to be the more exciting ones but we have to accept dominance is part of F1, it always has been, whether it McLaren in the late 80’s and early 90’s or Ferrari in the Schumacher days, even recently with Red Bull and now Mercedes. It is the way it is and I would blame the rest for not being able to match Mercedes rather than blame them for being too good, I do just hope that Red Bull, Ferrari and the rest can make steps forward to spice up the racing because the way it is ain’t good enough, we all know F1 can be a whole lot better.