July 28, 2015
2015 Hungarian GP Executive Summary
Watching the race again after a couple of days, a few things become apparent:
1. Mercedes does not know how to win from behind.
Occupational hazard for those with such a dominant car, faced with something not going to plan, Mercedes has, if not panicked, at least not shown the type of strategic flexibility that, say a Ross Brawn brought to Ferrari in their dominating period.
2. You can't win by defending.
You had the feeling that Nico Rosberg was battling some sort of issue with his W06 all week end but he spent the whole race worrying about his teammate Hamilton rather than winning the race. Again, perhaps to point one he and the team just could not believe they were not winning. He and the team played it safe not going onto the softer option tires for the final stint. It would have been a risky call but he was certainly not making any impression on Vettel or Raikkonen on equal tires. Rosberg was the real loser in Hungary.
3. The right tire makes a big difference.
One of the keys to Vettel's victory was that he was able to run the softer option tires longer than the Mercedes. This year's Ferrari wants soft tires while the Mercedes likes harder tires. Perhaps there is something to the proposal of having each team choose their compound next year.
4. Clean air makes a big difference.
Vettel pulled out a crazy lead in the first two laps, it almost looked like his days at Red Bull. The Hungaroring puts a premium on handling over power yes, but let's not forget that extra power allows teams to crank on more downforce. Did Mercedes set up their cars to lead from the front, privileging top speed over handling? Again, force of habit?
Also, all these years of committees and studies and F1 still has not figured out how to minimize the wake effect to the point that cars need to be 2 seconds clear? Seriously?
5. The importance of being Hammy
Hamilton's race had tinges of early Grosjean with a touch of Maldonado. His move on Bottas after his first pit stop was at the limit of nasty. Not a fan of driving your opponent off the track like that, I'm sure that move compounded the lated hip check of Ricciardo which resulted in the penalty.
Since the race, I've read a number articles excusing Hamilton as having had a bad day. Yes it was a bad day and to his credit he did admit so (partly anyway).
In the last couple of weeks Lewis said how he does not need to test, how he only likes showing up for the race, how he was not worried about the start yada yada. Every driver has got to psych himself up their own way: Hamilton likes to go to fashion shows and concerts on his time off, fine.
Vettel is different, he is not often photographed in his underwear but on the same afternoon he carried Jules Bianchi's casket into the church, Sebastian flew to Maranello to test new procedures and solutions on the simulator. In Hungary, he stayed late into the evening with his mechanics working on his car.
Different strokes for different folks.
6. For a track everyone has shit on for years, the Hungaroring rocks.
Two years in a row, a track with a reputation for epic snoozers has produced classics. Perhaps it's the relentlessness of the layout, perhaps it's the because it's a track where you can really see the drivers work and understand what they are doing.
A good example is watching how drivers attack turn 2, you can really see how a modern F1 driver brakes right into the apex. The first lap is a good example, look at where Rosberg locks up and think about how you brake.