Ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend, Formula One has many talking points, some of which will dominate the weekend.
Red Bull threat
“We need to be flawless to come out on top”. That is the frank and honest opinion of Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, if his all-conquering team is to claim its first win in the Hybrid era at the Hungaroring, somewhat surprising what the domination the Brackley team has shown.
Wolff was referring to Red Bull and the threat the team carries on the tight and twisty confines of the track outside of Budapest. On the other slow, chassis dominating track visited in the 2016 season thus far, Monaco, Mercedes were so nearly beaten for just the eighth time since the beginning of 2014.
The Mercedes W07 does not take well to being stuck in traffic and finds it hard to cope, see Hamilton in China, and if Red Bull lock out the front row, it could be a long, and entertaining afternoon.
Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will be looking forward to the race, knowing that this is a prime opportunity for them to take a race win, in what could be a battle for third in the championship.
At the ultra-fast turn 4 and at T11 of the Hungoraring track, the FIA have placed a series of electronic sensors to monitor those who place all-four wheels over the white lines that define the race-track.
eading drivers are split, with World Champions, Hamilton, Alonso and Button in favour of the idea, with the reigning champion commenting “I had mentioned it before”, with him being a victim of track limits in Qualifying at Silverstone.
Purist World Champion Vettel is against the idea, instead blaming the FIA, who “build the circuits, where it is easier to run off the track”. However, all the drivers when pushing to the maximum will push limits as much as they can.
When for example, there is a gravel trap on the outside of a corner, they are less likely to go to limits, or in Monaco, where they’d be in the barrier. Even when it is wet, the drivers don’t exceed track limits, purposely.
Vettel also voiced his frustration at the Ferrari press conference on Media day, at the fact that new 50mm Abu Dhabi-esque steel kerbs have been placed on corners, by saying “the kerbs define the character, the soul of the track”. Vettel ended his comments by simply adding “To sum it up, I’m not a fan”.
Many fans are in favour of the tightening of track limits, but want them enforced all-round the track. For example at Silverstone in qualifying, the designated corners on the FIA watch list were Copse, Stowe and Club, but in Q1 Kevin Magnussen ran wide at Luffield, gained an advantage and scraped through to Q2, something many were displeased with.
Ferrari’s look to the past
2016 was supposed to be the year when Ferrari challenged for the title. But a combination of poor strategy and self-detonating gearboxes have left the team now third in pace, behind Red Bull.
Sergio Marchionne is desperate for Ferrari to win, and said the team needed to win the title back in pre-season. Pressure therefore falls on Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene to deliver, who did so much last year, guiding the team to three wins.
Now as the pressure begins to be turned up, there are reports that Ross Brawn, the legendary technical guru of the Michael Schumacher heyday could return to Maranello, provided he can be tempted away from Salmon fishing.
One key advantage Brawn had over Arrivabene however is the team around him. Luca DeMontezelemo, Jean Todt, Rory Bryne, Brawn and Schumacher made up the Ferrari dream team, which was a period of continuous stability at Maranello. Marchionne’s threats of changes, effectively undermining what Arrivabene is trying to achieve, creates doubt in the mind of the team, thus lowering performance.
Like Mercedes currently, and Red Bull in their heyday of 2010-2013, a team was steadily built up over a number of years and then unleashed to dominate. If Ferrari want to win the title next season, this season is all but over, then a period of stability and the need to look forward and not to the past.
Radio ban tightened
As a consequence of Mercedes telling Nico Rosberg ‘How to drive the car’ in Britain and the resultant 10s time penalty, the first of its kind, race director Charlie Whiting and the FIA have issued notice of the new rules, which come into force this weekend.
Declaring “the honeymoon period over”, Whiting’s statement made it clear that “with the indication of a problem with the car, any message of this kind (Rosberg’s “shift through it” from Silverstone) must include an irreversible instruction to enter the pits immediately to rectify the problem, or retire”.
When applied to Rosberg, he would have had to pit or retire, despite Mercedes’ claims that the problem was critical and was about to stop the car, something a change in switch setting and some careful driving negated.
However, despite the FIA’s stance that the driver should “drive the car alone and unaided”, there are some safety questions that arise from the ban. For example, in Austria, Hamilton was told about severe loads on his rear suspension, but Rosberg wasn’t about brake-by-wire faults.
In the same race, Sergio Perez was not told about impending brake failure by his Force India team, due to the, at the time unknown penalty, imposed.
If a driver, fan or marshal is seriously injured or worse by a car whose brakes failed, then a new question is raised. The ban was originally brought in to stop teams from ‘coaching’ drivers, by saying “fourth gear at T7” or “Brake 6 metres later at the hairpin”.
We all want to see 22 cars out there going for the win, and if the teams tell their drivers about a developing issue, which enables them to continue after a simple switch change, then surely that’s a good thing.
Four time World Champion Sebastian Vettel commented on the new rules by slamming them declaring the “radio issues we have is a joke”, and saying that they were “complete bulls—t”.
The German added, that as “a spectator”, he found the advice given to a “panicking” Rosberg showed “the human being”, in the complex hybrid formula.