Hamilton handed chance to cut points deficit

2012 Hungarian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Hungaroring, 2012Halfway through the season Lewis Hamilton is fifth in the drivers’ championship, 62 points behind leader Fernando Alonso.

The outcome of the Hungarian Grand Prix will go a long way towards determining whether that deficit – roughly the same as two-and-a-half race wins – is recoverable.

He’s been handed a golden opportunity to claw back some of the lost ground in Hungary. McLaren have shown up with a car that’s clearly capable of winning and perhaps more competitive than it has been all season.

Too many times this year McLaren have let a chance at victory slip through their fingers. They – and Hamilton – cannot afford to squander this one.

The start

This will be Hamilton’s third time starting from pole position at the Hungaroring. He won here from pole in 2007.

But in 2008 he lost his pole position advantage at the first corner when Felipe Massa launched an audacious pass around the outside.

He will be wise to any such threats this time. But the driver he shares the front row with – Romain Grosjean – does not have a strong record of starts this year. And starting off-line is particularly problematic at this little-used venue.

At 440m, the run to the first corner from the starting line at the Hungaroring is one of the longest on the calendar. That presents a significant opportunity for drivers to gain places on a track where overtaking is normally regarded as being very difficult.

Last year’s race in mixed weather conditions made it difficult to get a read on whether the DRS zone has made overtaking much easier in normal conditions at this track. The position of the DRS zone and activation point is unchanged from last year.

The Ferrari drivers have been among the best at making ground at the start this year. Look for Alonso and Massa to gain ground from sixth and seventh at the start.

Strategy

Practice showed up some discrepancies in performance on the different types of tyre between the teams. Notably, McLaren and Lotus were considerably quicker on the medium tyre than they were on the soft, suggesting this will form the basis of their race strategy.

Despite having a considerable performance advantageon one-lap pace, Hamilton is well aware Lotus could be more of a threat over a long race stint. He might not be too disappointed if Grosjean loses out to Sebastian Vettel at the start.

Such is the nature of Lotus’s advantage the team would have preferred if Pirelli had brought the tyre allocation used here last year – soft and super-soft – instead of the more conservative soft and medium.

Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery reckons one-stop strategies could be possible during the race: “We?re expecting to see two pit stops tomorrow from what we can tell so far, although the comparatively low wear rate means that some might even attempt a one-stop strategy.”

Drivers lose around 20 seconds coming into the pits to make a stop. Last year Red Bull achieved the quickest turnaround in the pits, taking 19.7 seconds.

In the last three races McLaren have been the quickest crew on the pit lane, which gives Hamilton another reason to feel confident. But the threat of rain will not.

McLaren admit they have not got on top of the demands of the Pirelli tyres in wet conditions. There is a good chance of rain during Sunday’s race, and their rivals will be glued to the radars in the hope it might offer the best chance for them to beat McLaren.

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1’21.794 1’21.060 (-0.734) 1’20.953 (-0.107)
2 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’22.755 1’21.657 (-1.098) 1’21.366 (-0.291)
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’22.948 1’21.407 (-1.541) 1’21.416 (+0.009)
4 Jenson Button McLaren 1’22.028 1’21.618 (-0.410) 1’21.583 (-0.035)
5 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’22.234 1’21.583 (-0.651) 1’21.730 (+0.147)
6 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’22.095 1’21.598 (-0.497) 1’21.844 (+0.246)
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’22.203 1’21.534 (-0.669) 1’21.900 (+0.366)
8 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’22.475 1’21.504 (-0.971) 1’21.939 (+0.435)
9 Bruno Senna Williams 1’22.271 1’21.697 (-0.574) 1’22.343 (+0.646)
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’22.176 1’21.653 (-0.523) 1’22.847 (+1.194)
11 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’22.829 1’21.715 (-1.114)
12 Paul di Resta Force India 1’21.912 1’21.813 (-0.099)
13 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’22.079 1’21.895 (-0.184)
14 Sergio Perez Sauber 1’22.110 1’21.895 (-0.215)
15 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1’22.801 1’22.300 (-0.501)
16 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’22.799 1’22.380 (-0.419)
17 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’22.436 1’22.723 (+0.287)
18 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’23.250
19 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1’23.576
20 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1’24.167
21 Charles Pic Marussia 1’25.244
22 Timo Glock Marussia 1’25.476
23 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1’25.916
24 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1’26.178

Vettel was surprised at his inability to improve his time in Q3, though he was far from the only driver to have that problem:

“We burned more tyres than we thought in the beginning, so we only had one new set for Q3. The run we had was okay, but I didn?t get the same feeling that I got at the end of Q2, which was a surprise, so we didn?t seem to go with the track and make another step. Romain was in reach, but Lewis was another step.”

Team mate Webber didn’t even make it that far: “I was happy with the car this morning, I was quick in third practice, but I didn?t feel happy on that last set of soft tyres in Q2 and struggled against my scrub time, which is a bit bizarre.

“The field is tight at the moment and it?s disappointing to qualify in11th obviously”

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton 28.986 (1) 29.254 (2) 22.650 (1)
Romain Grosjean 29.251 (12) 29.224 (1) 22.843 (5)
Sebastian Vettel 29.064 (3) 29.364 (4) 22.855 (7)
Jenson Button 29.040 (2) 29.400 (6) 22.928 (11)
Kimi Raikkonen 29.100 (6) 29.420 (7) 22.881 (8)
Fernando Alonso 29.080 (4) 29.371 (5) 22.969 (12)
Felipe Massa 29.183 (9) 29.516 (12) 22.835 (4)
Pastor Maldonado 29.190 (10) 29.508 (11) 22.719 (3)
Bruno Senna 29.139 (7) 29.451 (9) 22.923 (9)
Nico Hulkenberg 29.149 (8) 29.335 (3) 22.924 (10)
Mark Webber 29.091 (5) 29.632 (15) 22.716 (2)
Paul di Resta 29.195 (11) 29.532 (13) 22.997 (14)
Nico Rosberg 29.324 (14) 29.479 (10) 22.983 (13)
Sergio Perez 29.342 (15) 29.436 (8) 22.852 (6)
Kamui Kobayashi 29.381 (16) 29.582 (14) 23.161 (16)
Jean-Eric Vergne 29.489 (17) 29.859 (17) 23.032 (15)
Michael Schumacher 29.322 (13) 29.787 (16) 23.262 (17)
Daniel Ricciardo 29.658 (20) 30.197 (18) 23.395 (19)
Heikki Kovalainen 29.617 (18) 30.411 (19) 23.389 (18)
Vitaly Petrov 29.638 (19) 30.642 (20) 23.625 (20)
Charles Pic 30.463 (21) 30.800 (21) 23.845 (21)
Timo Glock 30.507 (22) 30.844 (22) 23.975 (22)
Pedro de la Rosa 30.578 (24) 31.265 (23) 24.027 (23)
Narain Karthikeyan 30.522 (23) 31.431 (24) 24.161 (24)

Senna was relieved to reach Q3 for the first time this year: “It?s been a good weekend so far and I?m really happy to be in the top ten for the first time this season.

“Q2 was extremely close but we were able to get through. I could have done a better lap in Q3 but I?m pleased with the result and having both cars in Q3 is great for the team”

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Paul di Resta Force India 305.2 (189.6)
2 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 304.9 (189.5) -0.3
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 303.1 (188.3) -2.1
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 303.1 (188.3) -2.1
5 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 302.7 (188.1) -2.5
6 Bruno Senna Williams 302.6 (188.0) -2.6
7 Jenson Button McLaren 302.6 (188.0) -2.6
8 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 302.3 (187.8) -2.9
9 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 301.8 (187.5) -3.4
10 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 301.7 (187.5) -3.5
11 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 301.4 (187.3) -3.8
12 Felipe Massa Ferrari 301.4 (187.3) -3.8
13 Sergio Perez Sauber 301.0 (187.0) -4.2
14 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 301.0 (187.0) -4.2
15 Mark Webber Red Bull 300.6 (186.8) -4.6
16 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 300.2 (186.5) -5.0
17 Romain Grosjean Lotus 300.2 (186.5) -5.0
18 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 299.9 (186.3) -5.3
19 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 297.3 (184.7) -7.9
20 Pastor Maldonado Williams 295.8 (183.8) -9.4
21 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 294.5 (183.0) -10.7
22 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 292.6 (181.8) -12.6
23 Timo Glock Marussia 292.0 (181.4) -13.2
24 Charles Pic Marussia 290.3 (180.4) -14.9

2012 Hungarian Grand Prix

Browse all 2012 Hungarian Grand Prix articles

Image ?? McLaren/Hoch Zwei

Advert | Go Ad-free

51 comments on Hamilton handed chance to cut points deficit

  1. Jake (@jleigh) said on 28th July 2012, 17:27

    Hopefully Lewis can make the championship a little more exciting.

    When I first read “Hamilton Handed” I feared for the worst!

  2. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 28th July 2012, 17:31

    When I started reading the title, my heart skipped a beat at “Hamilton handed”… ;-)

  3. Enigma (@enigma) said on 28th July 2012, 17:33

    Grosjean and Vettel are looking good – the last 4 races here have been won by the driver who exited T1 in 3rd position.

  4. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 28th July 2012, 17:47

    If it stays dry, I’d put money on Grosjean. Given the right situations, that Lotus is fantastically fast, and if he manages to stay close to Hamilton, he might be up for a great finish.

    If it rains, then it’s a big lottery, ofc. I’d put my money on Alonso instead.

    BTW, the “Hamilton handed…” worried me a bit on Twitter. Glad I got to read the whole sentence before drawing any conclusion xD.

  5. Nick.UK (@) said on 28th July 2012, 18:42

    Viva la Romain! C’mon this is your chance to take a win! Please be dry for the race!!!

  6. infy (@infy) said on 28th July 2012, 19:17

    Hopefully its not a boring progression. HAM winning will make it no more exciting than if any of the other 4 contenders win.

  7. Dimitris 1395 (@) said on 28th July 2012, 19:22

    Sebastian Vettel is 4th in the speed trap. Unexpected…

  8. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 28th July 2012, 20:08

    ‘Hamilton handed’ fooled me as well…

    I do wonder about the consistency in the quality of the Pirelli’s.

    I know there are lots of checks to make sure everybody gets the same tyres, but I keep hearing and reading comments, like now from Webber, where a driver or a team was surprised by the performance of one set of tyres.

    I remember that in the past you sometimes heard the same: one set of Bridgedtones / michelins / good years which just don’t work as expected. But now I hear it a lot more. Inconsistent quality @ Pirelli? Or media overload in an age where every little fart gets reported?

    • Njack (@njack) said on 29th July 2012, 0:47

      Webber FP3 time would have been good enough for fourth on the grid. I just assumed he made a slight mistake in S2 as that sector has the flowing section where a slight mistake in the early corners gets magnified at the end.

      Nice to see Felipe nearly matching Alonso in qualy, hopefully he can get a good race in.

      • HoHum (@hohum) said on 29th July 2012, 1:21

        yes and Webbers Q2 time would have given him 5th. These tyres are certainly strange, we seem to be hearing the story/excuse that 1 set did not work as well as the last a lot more widely through the field this year. I wonder if there are actual detrimental differences in the tyres or whether its all due to track conditions.

  9. alsenes (@alsenes) said on 28th July 2012, 22:20

    Well, being an Alonso fan I want it to rain. Can help but remember his first lap in Hungaroring ’06 in wet.
    Just spectacular

  10. Mariano (@mariano) said on 29th July 2012, 5:12

    I’ve just checked the weather and I’s already raining in Budapest so i assume that it is also raining at Mogyoród where the track is located. According to the satellite pictures it looks like the rain will continue all day long.

  11. Nehad Hussain said on 29th July 2012, 7:46

    Am i the only one who wasn’t fooled by the title?

  12. nmsi (@nmsi) said on 29th July 2012, 7:57

    There was a heavy thunderstorm in the night but it is clearing up now.

  13. JohnBt (@johnbt) said on 29th July 2012, 8:33

    Keith, headline shoulda been ‘Hamilton grabs pole blinfolded’ honestly he earned it!

  14. Theoddkiwi (@theoddkiwi) said on 29th July 2012, 8:38

    Looks like it will be clear, dry and warm for the race, but not as hot as yesterday. http://www.myweather2.com/Motor-Racing/Hungary/Hungaroring-Circuit.aspx

  15. Nickpkr said on 29th July 2012, 10:13

    Hamilton is in the same WDC championship position now that he is been since 2009 nothing new, if he is to stay in Mclaren well paid need to get some results, other than poles….
    Hulkenberg or Bottas can do really good with the fastest car in my opinion and Maclaren is not new to giving rookies a front car from start !

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.