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2018 F1

Hungarian GP : Free Practice Analysis

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The Hungarian Grand Prix weekend is the last race round before the sport goes on a summer break. Located on the outskirts of Budapest city, the Hungaroring circuit in Mogyorod poses a unique challenge to the teams and drivers with its blistering temperatures, and complex sections.
In the first practice session, Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo clocked the fastest lap of the session of 1 min 17.613 seconds while in the second practice session Sebastian Vettel clocked the fastest lap of the race which was 1 min 16. 834 seconds.

In FP1, the two Red Bull racing cars were fastest, and third fastest in the session, while the Ferraris were second and fourth fastest. Mercedes trailed behind with the fifth and sixth fastest times, and Lewis Hamilton had a bit of an off-track moment. The Briton suffered from huge oversteer, where the front right wheel drift inwards, sending him off track. Overall the Red Bulls seem like they had the quickest car, while Ferrari had a slow start, and Mercedes struggled for balance.

In FP2, Vettel clocked the fastest time while Kimi Raikkonen had the fourth fastest time (the finn only and one attempt on the ultrasoft compound and had the quickest third sector of the session) . The Red Bull Racing drivers were second and third fastest, while the Mercedes drivers stayed in the same order as the morning session in fifth and sixth, with Hamilton being 0.281 seconds, almost three tenths quicker than Valtteri Bottas.

Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg had a stoppage in the first session, when there was an electronic problem with his car, where his steering control systems and radio switched off. Renault confirmed they replaced his Energy Store as a precaution, due to the electronic malfunction. The Renault driver had to miss most of FP2 and was running sixth fastest, when his car came to a hault. In FP1 Hulkenberg was eighth fastest while his team-mate was ninth fastest. In FP2, the German was 14th fastest with only one attempt on the ultrasoft compound in qualifying trims, and his team-mate Carlos Sainz was eighth fastest. However, in both sessions Romain Grosjean’s Haas occupied the ‘best of the rest’ position in seventh place.

The Haas and Sauber cars were running new upgraded Ferrari engines. Barring Grosjean, both Sauber drivers and Kevin Magnussen had a new Turbo Charger and MGU-H on their cars. Mercedes struggled in FP1 and taking a leaf from Williams’ book, the used a low T-wing in the FP2 session.

As far as sprint pace goes, Vettel’s quickest time in the second session, was 0.074 seconds quicker than Verstappen’s fastest best. However when Ferrari turn up their engine, they could pull out a few tenths on the first straight, which can favour the power dominant cars. So the fight for pole position could be a close one between the Red Bull Racing drivers and Ferraris, with Merc factoring to spoil the party if possible. This track often favours the best chassis, and from what is understood from today’s sessions, the balance of the Silver Arrows did not aide them to edge the Ferraris or Red Bull Racing cars, who had the better chassis.

The fastest sectors were as follows:

Session Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
FP1 27.769s (Vettel) 27.291s (Ricciardo) 21.960s (Ricciardo)
FP2 27.652s (Vettel) 17.223s (Verstappen) 21.730s (Raikkonen

In the long runs, Mercedes looked scrappy on the ultra-soft tyre, as they were just not able to get enough traction out of the corners at Turn 14 and after Turn 1. So one can see them opting for the soft tyre in Q2 and maybe even Q3, since they’ve brought extra sets- five for Hamilton and four for Bottas. Their lap time averages not the ultrasofts were int he 1 minute 22 second bracket while the Ferraris and the Red Bull Racing drivers were in the early 1 minute 21 second brackets. At thus circuit it is critical to not overheat the tyres or exert them on the straights, or it is difficult to find performance, when one approaches the more complex sections of the track, form Turn 2 onwards. Their lap time average on the softs on heavier fuel loads is decent, but they are still two tenths of second down on the Ferrari’s average on the same compound. The Brackley team will have to work overnight to find that extra performance.

 

Driver Ultrasoft Soft Medium
Vettel 1: 21.112 (5 laps) 1: 20.771 (5 laps) NA
Raikkonen NA NA 1: 21.715 (5 laps)
Ricciardo 1: 21.900 (5 laps) 1: 21.162 (5 laps) NA
Verstappen 1: 21.106 (5 laps) NA NA
Hamilton 1: 22.581 (5 laps) 1: 21.155 (5 laps) NA
Bottas 1: 22.373 (5 laps) 1: 20.960 (5 laps) NA

On the ultrasoft compound the Red Bull Racing drivers look the most comfortable in race trims, but Ferrari are less than a tenth down, so they’ll be close. On the softs Hamilton matched the Ricciardo, however Vettel looks the most competitive followed by Bottas. It will be interesting to see what tyres the top six qualify on in Q2, one can expect most of them to attempt using the soft tyre, and for Mercedes it looks like the prime option. Raikkonen did maximum running on the mediums and Verstappen did all his FP2 running on the ultrasoft compound, therefore one can take reference from their team-mates for the averages on other compounds.

As Ferrari go, there has been something interesting, Sky Sports had to say in their commentary, where they discovered the scarlet outfit putting dry ice bags on the air vent over their camera. According to the broadcaster, when they asked other teams if the Maranello squad were cooling that area on the car, it turned out that the dry ice bags are being used to hide the steering wheel from the camera. On Friday, they used a cooling fa to block it on Raikkonen’s car. But often on the starting grid, there’ll be an umbrella placed over the cockpit area to cover the area from plain sight. The team are probably trying to hide a steering wheel configuration from other teams. Is it legal? According to speculation, they have an extra paddle on Vettel’s car which is not on Raikkonen’s, however number of paddles on a steering is not against the regulations. The Red Bull Racing car is speculated to have more than four paddles on the steering wheel according to some in the paddock.

Teams such as Williams, McLaren and Renault were seen testing parts and carrying out different tests. With Renault, it was an extra multi-element flap to its existing with higher levels of rake being experimented on the car. McLaren were using the most extreme levels of rake, during FP2, and claim to have brought several aerodynamic updates for this track. Williams was seen using some flo-vis (flow visualisation) paint to test its air-flow in FP, and were also the first team to opt for the lower T-Wing in the same session.

Since the circuit allows very few opportunities to overtake, qualifying position will be a prized earning. A team struggling here reflects at circuits like Singapore, but Spa and Monza are again the complete opposite of this configuration. Therefore, if one had to call the pecking order in qualifying specification, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari should go head to head followed by Mercedes in third. In fourth place, one can see a close fight between the Haas and Renault. In race trims, Ferrari clearly lead the pack, and are closely followed by Red Bull Racing, while Mercedes will have to find the right balance and grip to aid them to a podium.

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