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Article:2008 Hungarian Grand Prix - Race Analysis

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It has been a long time since I was last able to write comments about a Formula One race. More specifically, since the French Grand Prix - 3 races ago. The problem of not being a professional writer is that sometimes my real job gets on the way. I did manage to watch all the action, though – F1 is a ‘religion’ to me! – so some of my comments today will also reflect some of the last GPs.

Drama in Hungary

First, I would like to start with some comments about the dramatic turn of events at the Hungarian Grand Prix. When Lewis Hamilton got a flat tyre, I was thinking: ‘hey, maybe he destroyed his rubber and that was his fault’. I had already noticed that he had some blisters on his front tyres, even more than is normal for his aggressive driving style. Then Felipe Massa's engine blew up. Some may say that Hamilton was lucky. Yes, that is certainly luck, but if he took care of his tyres, as did his teammate Heikki Kovalainen, he would have won the race. I will not blame him too much, though, because of his commanding victories in Britain and Germany.

In Hungary, I think Felipe Massa as a driver deserved to win, because of the way he started the race – passing the 2 McLarens before the end of the first corner – and his qualifying-like-lap-after-qualifying-like-lap performance. I do not think Michael Schumacher could do any better than that. Yes, that was probably the drive of Massa's life.

The thing is: F1 is a team sport, and the car is built by a team. In engineering those cars, nothing happens by accident. I am pretty sure that whatever blew up was something that the engineers considered a 'calculated risk'. That is what engineers - myself included - say when there are so many things that can go wrong and they just cannot be sure about the outcome. Those things are almost a bet. If F1 were poker, Ferrari's engineers certainly did not have a straight flush. Ok, Massa as a driver did not deserve that fate. He deserved it as a team player though, because that’s the way it is.

(Un)Lucky Heikki?

Heikki Kovalainen deserves credit for his win. He kept on pushing until Massa’s engine gave away. In the old time, until the beginning of the 90’s, that was a very common tactic. That does not work so well anymore because of the high reliability the cars have today. Still, his win is as deserving as many of the ones by Jackie Stewart or Emerson Fittipaldi, for example. Those guys would just push whoever was ahead until their engine blew up or they made a mistake.

We also have to consider the fact that now Kovalainen is clearly McLaren’s number 2 driver. I always thought he could drive on the same level as Hamilton, but he was unlucky a few times in the beginning of the year, and that cost him better results. Still, Hamilton was clearly faster. That was the reason they needed to make him number 1. McLaren has always had a favourite driver, that’s the way they do it. I do not blame them for that, but I hate the fact that they keep posing themselves to the media as a team that gives equal opportunities to both drivers. They say that, and they may even believe that they do it, but then they always find ways – maybe unconsciously – to bend their own system to favour one driver over the other. Right now, I am pretty sure that if they have to choose between Heikki's or Lewis' requests, they will choose the latter's. Little things, but the same things that made David Coulthard look much slower than Mika Hakkinen, when in fact the difference was not that much! I just hope they do not ruin Kovalainen’s bid for a championship anytime in the future, just like they did to Coulthard after he was beaten for the first few races sharing the team with Hakkinen.

Rookies on the run

In Germany, I was very happy to see Nelsinho Piquet withstanding the pressure and finishing second. I was happy for him and for myself, because I had predicted him to be the rookie of the year and for once he was proving me right. Then Timo Glock drove a brilliant race this past Sunday and finished second without the help of a safety car. Maybe I was wrong about who will be rookie of the year.

Right now, though, I am still sticking to Piquet. He also had a good race, starting 10th and finishing 6th. I cannot ignore his fight for the GP2 championship against Hamilton in 2006. Piquet lost it, but in 2007 Glock never had any real challengers in GP2. Still, if I am wrong and Glock starts to shine like he did yesterday, I do not mind being wrong. As long as reality is something better than I had predicted for the sport. The little part of F1 that is still a sport, that is.

Quick notes:

- Since today the topic seems to be good drivers that may be unlucky, what about Sebastian Vettel? He had his 6th retirement in 11 races. Most of those because the STR is unreliable. I guess the young German will have a much better car when he moves to the main Red Bull team in 2009.

- Williams was expecting a good race, but Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima qualified 14th and 16th respectively. There is not much to be done starting behind at the Hungaroring, as overtaking is almost impossible.

Star of the Race:

Timo Glock.

Shame of the Race:


--Andre N.

This is originally from my blog: Formula One Monday. Feel free to edit it here, especially if you find typos!

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