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

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Image ?? McLaren/Hoch Zwei

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51 comments on Hamilton handed chance to cut points deficit

  1. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th July 2012, 10:28

    Heavy rain is expected at the Hungaroring today but the question is will it arrive in time for the F1 race?

    It rained at the circuit this morning and the GP3 race ran on a wet but drying track. However it was won by a driver who switched to slicks during the race, and it was slicks all round for the GP2 race which has just finished.

    Thanks to @exeter for this link to the forecast for nearby Mogyorod, which shows a lot of rain is expected today but possibly too late for the race which starts at 2pm local time:

    http://84.206.25.187/idojaras/elorejelzes/magyarorszagi_telepulesek/index.php

    This radar shows the movement of the band of rain in the area, it’s just edging into view on the last image which was at 08:45 UTC (10:45 in Hungary):

    http://www.eurometeo.com/english/meteosat/jump_EUMET:MPE-2

    You can see the location of the Hungaroring here:

    http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2012/07/26/hungary-set-hot-wet/

    Will the rain arrive in time for the race? We’ll keep a close eye on it on F1 Fanatic Live and of course I’ll be posting updates via Twitter.

  2. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 29th July 2012, 12:35

    Three words…Come on Lotus!

    It’s not like I’m pining for a victory because it’s Lotus but I do think they would be a massive spanner in the works if they bagged a victory tomorrow. Their car is long overdue a race win, but their lack of decent execution on a Saturday leaves a lot to be desired. Notice how I say ‘car’ and not team, if that makes sense!

    At the moment, McLaren seem pretty much on form, I can only see Hamilton losing it off the line or in the first couple of laps. Their pit-stops are quick and their strategy seems to be working well for the moment.

    Interestingly though, for the first time in a couple of races the drivers are starting the race on the tyres they qualified on. I wonder if that will shake thing up a little?

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