Hungarian Grand Prix – Hammer time

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, dominated the wet-dry conditions Hungarian Grand Prix.  The British champion, claimed the pole on Saturday’s qualifying session and had an easy Sunday afternoon.

The drama in Hungary started early, more specifically while the drivers were driving to the grid, Max Verstappen crashed into the barriers at turn 12, the track was wet and the drivers were on intermediate tyres. Red Bull’s mechanics urgently repaired Max’s car and that allowed him to start the race from the seventh position.

At the start, Valtteri Bottas moved before lights out and that was the reason why he stopped immediately, for a few seconds, which cost him position and allowed Stroll to jump ahead, behind  Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen and Vettel had a good start, Max placed third and Vettel fourth.

The track was drying off, on the third lap Bottas and Leclerc pitted for slicks, the Finn rejoined on mediums whilst Charles swapped to softs. A risky move by Ferrari, which didn’t pay off, Leclerc was struggling a lot with the soft tyres, he was complaining to his team on the team-radio. On the following lap, Hamilton, Stroll and Vettel pitted for mediums.

Haas, started both Magnussen and Grosjean on slicks. Their strategy was smart and after the chaotic period with the pit stops, Kevin was third and Romain fourth.  The happiness in Haas’ garage didn’t last long, Stroll passed both Haas’ drivers and moved up to the third place.

Leclerc, couldn’t follow the pace of the rest of the drivers, Albon was right behind Charle’s car on lap 14 and was trying to pass Ferrari and move up to the seventh position. Alex requested extra power from Red Bull and overtook Charles on lap 18.

It was obvious that Ferrari had to protect Leclerc. They called him into the pits for the hard tyres on lap 21 and returned on the track on the 15th position.

More rain was expected during the race, teams started calling their drivers into the pits for fresher tyres, some drops appeared on the track but that was not enough to affect the strategy of the teams.

Mercedes went for the undercut to give the opportunity to Bottas to overtake Stroll for the third place. Lance Stroll pitted a couple of laps later and rejoined behind the Mercedes.

Bottas was closing to Verstappen for the second place, on lap 50 the Finn pitted again for the hard tyres. He rejoined behind Verstappen but he had fresher tyres. Bottas was pushing until the end of the race, he managed to reduce the gap but he didn’t get the chance to make a move on Max for the second place.

Lewis Hamilton pitted for softs in order to secure the fastest lap of the race and score the extra point. Lewis was not challenged at all during the race and secured an easy victory, the second one this season and 86th in total.

 

2018 Hungarian Grand Prix Review: Silver versus Red

The last race before the teams could enjoy the summer break took place at the Hungaroring, on the outskirts of Budapest. The twelfth round of the season started very interesting with a spectacular wet qualifying. The starting grid was thus very shaken up, with Toro Rosso in P6 and P8. Carlos Sainz started from fifth, while Red Bull were disappointed with P7 and P12. Force India were disappointed as well, with neither driver making it to Q2. Lewis Hamilton took pole in front of his teammate, with Kimi Räikkönen following in third ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

A wet qualifying meant that all teams were free to choose on what dry tyre to start the race on. Both Mercedes drivers started on the ultrasofts, while Vettel chose the softs and Raikkonen chose the ultrasofts.

The start went well for Lewis Hamilton and he maintained the lead, while Bottas kept second. It was behind them where a change took place as Vettel overtook his teammate Räikkönen into turn two. By the end of the first lap there was already one retirement. Charles Leclerc was forced to bring his car to a halt after flying debris from contact between Ricciardo and Ericsson ahead of him damaged his radiator.

On lap six, Max Verstappen pulled over to the side of the circuit, telling his engineer over the radio that he had no power. He sounded very angry and disappointed, with the spotlight once again on Renault after yet another forced retirement. His expletive-filled message made sure that FOM had a busy time censoring it. It was reported that the problem lied within the MGU-K, meaning he might have to take a grid penalty at the Belgian Grand Prix.

On lap fifteen Kimi Raïkkönen was the first to make a pit stop. He went from the ultrasofts to the softs, which meant he was probably going for a two-stop strategy rather than a one-stop. The stop took a bit longer than normal, because there was some rubber stuck in the brakes that the mechanics had to remove. He emerged in sixth, in front of Sainz and Ricciardo.

2018 Großer Preis von Ungarn, Sonntag – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Valtteri Bottas responded to Raikkonen’s stop by going to the soft tyre a lap after his fellow Finn. That same lap, Ricciardo finally got past Sainz, and he set about chasing down Raikkonen and claiming the fastest lap as he did so. Vettel  was losing time to Hamilton, and by lap nineteen the gap had opened up to almost nine seconds.

On lap twenty-two Ferrari told Vettel over the radio that they had switched to ‘plan C’. He began to close the gap, but a mistake on lap twenty-three meant he lost all the time he had gained.

McLaren were struggling for pace, with Alonso and Vandoorne fighting for eleventh place. Hamilton stopped for new tyres on lap twenty-six, changing from the ultrasofts to the softs. Could he make it to the end on these tyres?

Daniel Ricciardo meanwhile was fighting against Gasly. The Honda-powered Toro Rosso looked strong, but the Australian lunged down the inside at turn one and taking fifth place, although he had yet to make his pit stop.

Mercedes told Bottas that Vettel was probably going for another fifteen to twenty laps on his softs, and that the German was being held up by traffic.

After thirty-five of the seventy laps, Vettel was leading with a 12.5 second gap to Hamilton, who had a gap of twelve seconds to his teammate behind. Räikkönen was fourth, followed by Ricciardo, Gasly, Alonso, Vandoorne, Magnussen and Ocon completing the top ten.

On lap thirty-nine Ferrari mechanics brought Raikkonen in for a second pit stop, opting for another set of softs. A lap later Vettel pitted for his first stop of the race, choosing the ultrasoft tyres so he could try and attack the Mercedes duo. The pit stop was a bit slow, and he re-joined one second behind Bottas.

Daniel Ricciardo went to a set of ultrasoft tyres with twenty-five laps to go. He was sitting comfortably in fifth place, with a gap of fourteen seconds to Kimi ahead and twenty-two seconds to Gasly behind.

On lap fifty-one a yellow flag was brought out for Vandoorne, who had to retire the car because the gearbox was gone. This yellow flag resulted in a Virtual Safety Car, but Hulkenberg was the only one who used it to make another pit stop.

With fifteen laps to go the battle between Vettel and Bottas was heating up, as Vettel got into DRS range. Ferrari reported to Vettel that Bottas was struggling with his tyres, and to continue to put pressure on him.

2018 Großer Preis von Ungarn, Sonntag – Wolfgang Wilhelm

In the closing laps it became a three-way fight for P2, with Raikkonen having joined the fray, although it was clear that Räikkönen was not allowed to make it difficult for his German teammate. Over the radio Vettel was asked by his engineer how fast he could go. In response, he said he could go half a second faster but it was impossible as he was still stuck behind Bottas.

On lap sixty-five Vettel tried the overtake on Bottas, going around the outside of the Finn at turn one to get a better exit. He was in front of Bottas going into turn two and closed the door. Contact between the two, as Bottas clipped the back of Vettel, damaged the front wing of the Mercedes. Replays suggested Bottas braked too late, and that it was no more than a racing incident.

Bottas dropped back as a result, and found himself fighting with Ricciardo for fourth. By lap sixty-eight Ricciardo was in DRS range and tried to overtake Bottas around the outside of turn one, but it once again ended in disaster as Bottas ran a bit wide, making contact with Ricciardo’s sidepod and pushing the Australian wide.

Mercedes advised Bottas to let Ricciardo pass in the hope to avoid a penalty afterwards. He did get a ten-second penalty after the race, but he kept his fifth place because the gap to Gasly was big enough. He also received two penalty points.

Up front, Hamilton took victory, with Vettel and Räikkönen completing the podium. Bottas finished in fifth place after letting Ricciardo pass. Behind him, Gasly, Magnussen, Alonso, Sainz and Grosjean completed the top ten.

Hamilton now leads the championship with 213 points, and Vettel follows with 189 points. Meanwhile a Finnish battle for third place is on, with Räikkönen on 146 points and Bottas on 132 points.

Now the summer break finally has arrived. In four weeks time Formula One will return to the Ardennes forests for the Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, a fan-favourite track and loved by the drivers. Let the fight for the championship go on.

 

 

Featured image – 2018 Großer Preis von Ungarn, Sonntag – Steve Etherington

F2 Hungary: Rowland wins the battle in Budapest, but Leclerc still has the edge

The Formula 2 race weekend at the Hungaroring in Budapest couldn’t have started better for championship leader Charles Leclerc. On Friday he took his seventh consecutive pole of the season, beating Stoffel Vandoorne’s previous record, and securing himself four additional points. However, by Saturday morning that pole position had gone to second placed Oliver Rowland of DAMS, along with those four points, and Leclerc was sent to the back of the grid after a technical infringement which disqualified him from the session. It was also a season’s best qualifying for fellow championship contender, Russian Time’s Artem Markelov, who started next to his nearest rival Rowland in second place.

Credit: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

After an aborted start and an extra formation lap, it was a searing start for Markelov in Saturday’s feature race. He snatched the lead away from Rowland almost immediately, despite ferocious attempts at regaining the place from the Yorkshireman. Rowland’s teammate, the very much on form Nicholas Latifi also got a great start, moving up two places by the end of the first lap. But it was the championship leader Leclerc who gained the most ground, a rocketing start and some impressive moves round the first few corners meant he was up to eleventh with barely a minute of the race gone.

While most of the drivers started on the traditionally faster soft tyre, Leclerc, ART’s Alexander Albon and a few of the other drivers who had started further down the order were attempting an alternate strategy; trying for a long first stint on the medium tyres with a view to come charging back through the field on fresher, faster tyres at the end of the race. However, the new surface laid at the Hungaroring meant teams were somewhat in the dark about how long each compound would last, and whether the alternate strategy would work at all.

Credit: Hone/FIA Formula 2

While the race leaders pitted, Leclerc and Albon were released to try put some distance between themselves and the early stoppers. What ensued was a great battle between the two ex-teammates, neither of them giving the other an inch until Leclerc finally managed to work his way past the Thai driver. Meanwhile, Rowland managed to take back the net race lead from Markelov as he hunted down Leclerc and the rest of the drivers on the medium tyres.

When Prema finally called Leclerc in for his stop he came back out in thirteenth place, and it became apparent that the alternate strategy was not going to do him any favours. But clumsy contact between Sergio Canamasas and Robert Visiou on lap 25 brought out the safety car and luck was back on the Monegasque driver’s side again.

It was a frenetic restart when the safety car came in two laps later, one which saw Leclerc overtake three cars in a single corner, and Gustav Malja, who was on course to score some much needed points for the struggling Racing Engineering team floundered, plummeting to almost dead last.

In the closing laps of the race, it became apparent that race leader Rowland was struggling on his tyres and Markelov was closing in fast, being in the hunt very much suiting his driving style. With three laps to go he went for a move on the Englishman, but a combination of over eagerness on the Russian’s part and on the limit defending from Rowland sent him wide, onto the grass and out of the race in a high speed crash, which he thankfully walked away from unscathed. Rapax’s Nyck de Vries was promoted to the podium places, and Rowland led home a DAMS one-two as Latifi claimed second place in what has become a breakthrough season for the Canadian.

Credit: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

It was an excellent recovery drive from Leclerc to finish fourth, who came home ahead of Matsushita in fifth and Luca Ghiotto in sixth whose race pace continues to be far superior to his qualifying performances, after he started the race in thirteenth. It was originally a double points finish for Arden with Norman Nato in seventh and Sean Gelael in ninth with Albon sandwiched between them. But after the race Gelael was handed a ten second time penalty for premature use of DRS. That meant Trident’s Santino Ferrucci, who has now made a permanent switch to Formula 2, finished a fantastic ninth on debut, and Louis Deletraz of Racing Engineering scored his first point of the season when he was promoted to tenth. It was well earned too for the Swiss driver who overtook a hatful of drivers after the safety car restart.

His eighth place in Saturday’s feature race meant ART’s Alexander Albon managed to bag himself reverse grid pole for the sprint race, with Norman Nato lining up beside him. Charles Leclerc, still leading the championship started in fifth place, three places ahead of his nearest rival; Oliver Rowland.

Misfortune struck debutante Santino Ferrucci before the cars had even lined up on the starting grid, technical issues sent him packing to the pit lane, a disappointing end to what had started out as a very promising weekend for the Haas development driver.

Credit: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

At lights out it was not the start Albon and Nato needed. The two drivers dropped way down the order, promoting the fast starting Nobuharu Matsushita to first and Luca Ghiotto to second, and set Nyck de Vries up to score a double podium as he was elevated to third place.

The start might have been even more disappointing for Ralph Boschung and Antonio Fuoco, who hit trouble no sooner as the race got started, and were forced to pit and  circulate a lap down for the remainder of the race. Not the way either driver would have wanted their Sunday to go after a fruitless Saturday for both of them as well.

His high speed crash in the feature race meant Artem Markelov started from seventeenth, but he was very quickly up to tenth and looking determined to make up lost points. But for the most part the order stabilised, with gaps opening up throughout the field as drivers settled into their rhythm. There was an air of caution surrounding tyre wear, as the medium compound they were running wears much faster than the hard tyres used in the sprint race in 2016.

ART’s Matsushita looked unflinching as he led the race after his lightening fast start, controlling a commanding lead. At almost a third race distance most of the gaps had stayed consistent, and Nicholas Latifi was the only driver closing in on the car in front of him; Alexander Albon. Despite good work from Albon, always a strong defensive driver, Latifi bided his time and managed to move up to seventh place on lap 11.

As the race neared the half way mark the field began to bunch up and soon De Vries and Rowland were within DRS range of the cars in front of them. But with the Hungaroring being a notoriously difficult track to overtake on, it would take some laps of build up before they could move up the field. Further back, Markelov was making steady progress, playing it safe while taking ninth from Sean Gelael, clearly not wanting a repeat of his collision with Rowland.

Credit: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

Nyck de Vries pulled off what has to be the move of the weekend overtaking Ghiotto to take second position. The Dutchman was followed by both Rowland and Leclerc, the Russian Time driver dropping to fifth place. But it was not to be a higher finishing position than fourth place for the championship leader Leclerc, who was struck by suspected gearbox and engine issues for the last ten laps of the race, and it was all he could do to hold onto the points he did have.

Despite such a good start for Ghiotto he finished his race in eighth ultimately, claiming the last point up for grabs. But it was a carefully controlled win for Matsushita, who has had an up and down season thus far. Oliver Rowland and Nyck de Vries both scored their second podiums of the weekend as they finished second and third respectively. Leclerc managed to hold onto fourth, ahead of Nato in fifth who held off a charging Nicholas Latifi, while Albon came home in a slightly disappointing seventh, given his starting position.

After a disappointing Silverstone, Rowland capitalised perfectly on the fortunate hand he was dealt to gain some much needed ground on Leclerc, and put some distance between himself and the now third placed Artem Markelov. For him and Nyck de Vries, who both scored double podiums, it was perhaps a point proven, as both of them were overlooked for the upcoming young driver test in Hungary – Rowland to his teammate Latifi no less. Still, it is evident that Rowland needs a few more weekends like this before he will be on terms with Leclerc in the championship fight.

Credit: Glenn Dunbar/FIA Formula 2 Media Service.

Compared to their recent form, Russian Time had an underwhelming weekend, with Markelov only scoring two points the whole weekend, and arguably slipping back into old habits with his desperate attempt to pass Rowland in the feature race, which lost him a potential win as well as valuable points. His teammate Ghiotto could be up there the rest of the championship contenders if he can learn to put together a solid qualifying lap, but for the moment he leaves himself far too much to do in the races, and that elusive race win out of reach. The Russian team have now slipped below Prema in the team standings.

Losing out due to circumstances beyond his control, Leclerc showed maturity in making the best of a bad lot, and he still holds a healthy fifty-point lead over Rowland. He can rest easy knowing that after the summer break when racing resumes in Spa in a month’s time his campaign is very much on track.

 

Ungarn -GP: Was ist drin für McLaren-Honda?

Für McLaren-Honda könnte der Ungarn GP sportlich eine der größten Chancen der gesamten Saison werden. Doch neben der Performance auf der Strecke steht weiterhin die Frage im Fokus, ob die leidgeprüfte Britisch-Japanische Allianz auch 2018 zusammen an den Start gehen wird.

Steven Tee/McLaren

Das anstehende Wochenende in Ungarn wird auch in diesem Jahr wieder eine der größten Hoffnungen auf Punkte für McLaren werden.  Nicht umsonst rechnen sich die Verantwortlichen nur in Monaco und Singapur ähnliche Chancen aus. Bereits in den letzten beiden Jahren konnte man auf dem Hungaroring, einer Strecke auf der ein gutes Chassis deutlich besser zur Geltung kommt, als bei den meisten anderen Rennen im Kalender, die besten Saisonergebnisse erzielen.

Die Statistik gibt ihnen Recht:

Während Fernando Alonso und Jenson Button im Katastrophenjahr 2015 hier  mit den Plätzen 5 und 9 glänzten,  schafften es beim letztjährigen GP beide McLaren-Fahrer erstmals seit 2014 in den dritten Qualifikationsabschnitt.

Auch dass der MCL32 der wohl vom Chassis her beste McLaren in den letzten Jahren ist und man in Silverstone deutliche Fortschritte von der Pace sehen konnte, spricht für eine gute Chance an diesem Wochenende.

Alonso muss an diesem Wochenende ausnahmsweise auch nach jetzigen Stand noch nicht über eine Startplatzstrafe bangen: Dieser Umstand ist der Tatsache geschuldet, dass man bereits in Silverstone sämtliche Teile an der Powerunit des Wagens mit der Startnummer 14 wechselte, um sich in Ungarn nicht um eine gute Chance zu bringen.

Steven Tee/McLaren

Zu der Hoffnung des guten Chassis und der wohl gewohnt einwandfreien Leistung von Alonso, gesellt sich jedoch auch Mut auf der anderen Seite der Garage. Stoffel Vandoorne konnte bei den letzten Rennen ein klaren Aufwärtstrend verzeichnen, zuletzt sogar seinen Teamkollegen zum ersten Mal in dieser Saison ausqualifizieren.

“Auch wenn wir etwas Pech hatten, fühle ich, dass meine Performance sich von Rennen zu Rennen steigert. Ich arbeite hart mit den Ingenieuren und fühle mich nun wohl im Auto. Meine Rennwochenenden laufen nun deutlich besser als im ersten Teil der Saison und wir machen als Team jedes Wochenende Fortschritte. Wir haben die Geduld, arbeiten hart und hoffen dass sich unser Einsatz lohnen wird.”

Das Team weiß: Es gibt in dieser Saison nicht mehr solche großen Chancen wie in Ungarn, Punkte zu holen. Und die hat man auch bitter nötig, denn selbst 2015 hatte man zum aktuellen Zeitpunkt mehr Punkte als jetzt. Mit zwei Punkten hängt das einstige Siegerteam weiterhin auf dem letzten Platz der Konstrukteursweltmeisterschaft.

Sutton/McLaren

Doch ebenso gibt es berechtigte Sorge, dass aus einem guten Punkteresultat erneut nichts werden könnte: Und da wären wir bereits beim Thema Honda angelangt. Während die Japaner die Antriebseinheit nach der letzten Ausbaustufe zumindest leistungsmäßig etwas nach vorne bringen konnten, wird man weiterhin von Zuverlässigkeitsproblemen heimgesucht. Zuletzt traf es Alonso beim Rennen in Silverstone, als der Spanier sein McLaren wiedermal mit den Worten “No power” in die Box schleppen musste. Grund genug für den Starpiloten sich Gedanken zu machen:

“Das Wichtigste ist für uns wie immer die Zuverlässigkeit. Selbst wenn unser Auto in Ungarn konkurrenzfähiger sein wird, brauchen wir ein Problemfreies Wochenende um jede Chance auf Punkte nutzen zu können. ” – Fernando Alonso

Hierbei sei eine aktuelle Statistik von den Kollegen bei Speedweek.com erwähnenswert: Diese zogen die Ausfallquote von Alonso aus den Jahren 2005 bis 2014 zum Vergleich mit der von 2015 bis Mitte 2017 heran. Das Ergebnis: Während Alonso in den ersten genannten Jahren eine Ausfallquote von weniger als 10% vorzuweisen hatte, schied der Spanier in den letzten drei Jahren in 40% (!) aller Rennen aus.

Andrew Hone/McLaren

In Bezug auf die Konkurrenzfähigkeit des Motors drängte sich in den letzten Wochen immer mehr die Frage auf, wie es mit der einst so glohrreichen Partnerschaft McLaren-Honda weitergehen könnte. Wenn es nach einigen Medienberichten ginge, würde McLaren 2018 wohl mit vier verschiedenen Motoren an den Start gehen. Vom sicher erzählten Mercedes-Comeback, über ein Alfa Romeo-Ferrari Motor und zuletzt die Möglichkeit Renault. Fakt ist: McLaren und Honda haben ein bestehenden Vertrag und Honda-Motorsport-Chef Masashi Yamamoto stellt klar:

“Wir haben einen Vertrag mit McLaren. Und der sieht nicht vor, dass McLaren mit einem anderen Partner arbeiten kann, auch nicht übergangsmässig. Für uns käme das ohnehin nicht in Betracht. Einen Rückzug aus der Formel 1 wird es nicht geben. Ich rede ständig mit Firmenpräsident Takahiro Hachigo. Es gibt keine Absicht, die Formel 1 zu verlassen.”

Auch die Worte von McLaren-Boss Zak Brown klingen mittlerweile deutlich zahmer als noch vor einigen Wochen. Mercedes und Ferrari scheinen nicht zu wollen und ob man das Risiko “Renault” eingeht, ist ebenfalls fraglich. Die Wahrscheinlichkeit McLaren und Honda 2018 gemeinsam am Start zu sehen, wird immer höher.

Was auch immer am Ende bei diesem Motorentheater rauskommen wird, eine Entscheidung ist wohl in den nächsten Wochen nicht in Sicht. So bleibt den Verantwortlichen aus Woking und auch den McLaren-Fans nichts anderes übrig, als das Beste aus der Situation zu machen und an diesem Wochenende erneut auf eine ähnliche Sensation wie in Silverstone zu hoffen, als mit dem kurzfristigen Schachzug auf abtrocknender Strecke auf Slicks zu wechseln, am Ende von Q1 mit tosenden Applaus das Erste Mal seit Indien 2013 ein McLaren auf Platz 1 in einer offiziellen Session stand.

Hungarian GP: Big chance for McLaren?

The Hungarian Grand Prix could be one of the biggest chances for McLaren-Honda to score some points and start to catch up the midfield. But while the focus is on track performance, the big question remains if the long-suffering British-Japanese alliance will be still competing together in 2018.

Steven Tee/McLaren

The upcoming weekend in Budapest will be the big hope for the third year in a row for McLaren. In the last two years, the team’s best results of the season have been achieved at the Hungaroring, where a good chassis is much more important than on most of any other tracks in the current calendar.

While Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button finished fifth and ninth in the disaster year of 2015 both McLaren drivers made it to the third qualifying session in last year’s Grand Prix.

With the MCL32, probably the best McLaren chassis in the last few years, showing significant progress at Silverstone, this race should be a good opportunity.

Also (currently) Alonso doesn’t have to worry about a grid penalty this weekend: this is due to the fact that McLaren changed all parts of the engine in Silverstone, to protect Alonso from grid penalties in Budapest.

Steven Tee/McLaren

With the good chassis, there is also light on the other side of the garage.  Stoffel Vandoorne was able to show a clear uptrend in the last races: most recently his Q3 appearance at Silverstone, in which he outqualified his teammate for the first time this year.

“I’ve won in Hungary before, in GP2, and I enjoy driving on this track,” Vandoorne said. “Although we’ve been a bit unlucky, I feel that my performances have been consistent and improving race-by-race.

“I’ve been working hard with the engineers and I feel confident in the car—my weekends are coming together better now in the first part of the season and as a team we are progressing every weekend. We have to be patient, keep working hard, and I hope to see the reward for our efforts paying off soon.”

McLaren have to score points in Hungary. Just in mind: even in the painful 2015 season, the team had more points than now. With only two points in the  bag, the ex-winners still hangs in the last place of the Constructors’ World Championship.

Sutton/McLaren

Reliability

Unfortunately, there is still a big concern for this weekend: and there it is, the big topic of the last weeks: Honda. While the Japanese were able to bring more power with the latest upgrade, the engine is still hurt by massive reliability issues—the latest being on Alonso’s car in Silverstone, when the Spaniard had to drag his McLaren back into the pits with the words, “No power”. Reason enough for the star pilot to think about the reliability:

“The important thing for us, as always, is reliability,” Alonso said. “Even if our car could perform better in Hungary, we need to have a trouble-free weekend to take advantage of every opportunity for points.

“We made some big decisions in Silverstone in terms of taking grid penalties in preparation for this race, and hope that’s paid off so we can put ourselves in the best possible position for points this weekend.”

A current statistic from Speedweek.com shows the worse numbers since 2015. They put the rate of DNF’s from Alonso’s F1 years from 2005–2014 in comparison to his last three seasons with McLaren-Honda. The shocking result: while Alonso had a failure rate of less than 10% in the first few years, the Spaniard failed to finish 40% of his races in the last three years.

Andrew Hone/McLaren

McLaren and the engine question

Regarding the competitiveness of the engine, more and more people have been wondering how the McLaren-Honda partnership could continue. If all the media reports tell the truth, McLaren would probably start with four different engines in 2018. From the obvious Mercedes comeback, to a branded Alfa Romeo-Ferrari engine, and finally the possibility of Renault.

The fact is, McLaren and Honda have an existing contract and Honda Motorsport boss Masashi Yamamoto spoke to the media last week and made it clear that Honda has no intention to leave McLaren or the sport, or consider the possibility of McLaren using another engine until the Japanese company solves its problems:

“There is a contract between us and the premise of the talks with them is to continue,” he said. “We exclude the possibility that McLaren will even temporarily use the power unit of another manufacturer. I am always talking with president Takahiro Hachigo and the board members, and there is no intention to withdraw from Formula One.”

After comments to the media from both the McLaren leadership and from the drivers, the words of McLaren boss Zak Brown and the whole Woking team have been much quieter since the Austrian Grand Prix.

Sutton/McLaren

While Mercedes and Ferrari don’t seem to want supply McLaren, the talks with Renault as an engine partner continue. But the chance of seeing McLaren and Honda together on the 2018 grid is getting more and more likely. Not only because of the loss of money, but because time is also playing against the British team. But there are other reasons why McLaren will probably stay with Honda:

  1. There is maybe time until October to decide what engine should be in next year’s car—but remember that the Renault engine has a completely different layout then the Mercedes or Honda engine. Honda copied the Mercedes concept after getting to the performance limit with their 2015/2016 engine layouts. According to Zak Brown, the building of the 2018 car begins now. That means that the team has to build two different chassis, one for a Honda engine and the other for a Renault engine. That will definitely be no help for 2018.
  2. If McLaren break the current contract between them and Honda while not having another engine deal in the pocket, they will not only pay much money for breaking the contract. The FIA Rules say: The manufacturer with the fewest teams to supply will be forced to supply a team which has no engine. And you know what manufacturer that is? Bingo! It’s Honda.

Remembering these facts, McLaren will probably be forced to keep Honda as partner next year and hoping for a massive improvement.

Whatever is going to come out at the end of this engine-war, a decision will probably be taken in the coming weeks. So the team and the fans will have no choice, but to make the best of the situation and believe in something similar as two weeks ago in Silverstone,  where a McLaren finished a session (Q1) fastest for the first time since India 2013.

F2 Hungary Preview: Chasing Charles in Budapest

The last round of the Formula 2 season before the summer break takes place at the Hungaroring circuit just outside of Budapest, a track which traces its history back to 1986. We are now past the halfway point in the championship, with Charles Leclerc storming ahead at the top of the driver standings after another strong showing in the two back to back race weekends at Spielberg and Silverstone. But it’s all change in the standings below him, with Russian Time’s Artem Markelov moving into second place, and DAM’s Oliver Rowland falling to third, just three points separating the two drivers. Their respective teammates; Luca Ghiotto and Nicholas Latifi, could very easily come into contention as the season progresses, as they trail not far behind. But if Leclerc continues his prodigious form, then his fellow competitors will have to dig deep to threaten him.

Prema showed impressive form in Budapest last year, with eventual champion Pierre Gasly taking pole and the win in the feature race, and Antonio Giovinazzi coming in second to give the Italian team a double podium. If Charles Leclerc can score his seventh successive pole on Friday, then he will set a new record for the most consecutive pole positions in GP2/F2, inheriting that title from Stoffel Vandoorne. And a good weekend in Hungary would set the young Monegasque driver up well, not only for the month off, but also for the day of testing he will do for Ferrari next week, also at the Hungaroring. While his Prema teammate, fellow Ferrari junior driver, Antonio Fuoco, looked like he had made positive steps forward in Austria, scoring his first podium of the season, another pointless weekend in Silverstone showed he is still a long way off his teammate. Prema have retaken first place in the team standings, but only by three points.

Credit: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

DAMS occupy second in the team standings, with Russian Time just a single point behind them in third. With two of the strongest driver pairings on the grid, it will be a tough fight until the end of the season to see who comes out on top, particularly with their sets of drivers so close together. If Nicholas Latifi had started his season as well as he is performing now, then he may have been up there with his teammate Rowland, but there is still plenty of time for him to close the gap. Meanwhile Russian Time’s Ghiotto is still in search of that race win, but has been stringing together a series of consistent results, perhaps leading many to overlook and underestimate the Italian driver. All four drivers from these teams have certainly proved that they are capable of performing, but it is qualifying that is the area where they are still looking for that perfect result.

After fielding three different drivers in one seat so far this season, Trident announced that Haas development and current GP3 driver Santino Ferucci will race in the number 17 car in Hungary alongside Nabil Jeffri. While the last two drivers to fill that spot; Raffaele Marciello and Callum Ilott were only drafted in for a single round, there is no indication as to whether Ferucci is a permanent addition to the team. The young American driver will be forced to miss this weekend’s GP3 round, but the call up does offer a better opportunity to impress those who have eyes on him in the Formula 1 paddock.

French team ART have the potential to pull off a good weekend in Hungary. GP3 graduate Alexander Albon secured victory at the track last year, and despite his overall weaker season in 2016, Nobuharu Matsushita qualified well at the Hungaroring, and managed to score points in one of his best finishes of the season. Albon will be looking to make up lost ground, his points tally still suffering from missing the round in Baku and a disappointing weekend in Silverstone.

Credit: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

Since moving to Rapax ahead of the Austrian round, junior formula veteran Sergio Canamasas has amassed enough points to move the Italian team into fifth place in the team standings. The Spanish driver scored his best results of the season at the British round of the Formula 2 season, a fifth and a fourth place (helped along a little by Oliver Rowland’s time penalty), and will hope to carry that momentum with him to Hungary. His teammate, Nyck de Vries, however, needs to bounce back from the previous round; one he walked away from almost empty handed. Despite his failure to start the feature race at Silverstone, due to a power problem, his impressive drive on Sunday from the back of the grid to score a pair of points proves that he might already have recovered from a spell of misfortune.

Since their race win back in Baku, Pertamina Arden have improved considerably compared their early season performances. Norman Nato’s podium in Silverstone, and Sean Gelael’s drive from eighteenth to ninth, indicate that this is one team on an upward curve. Nato performed well at the Hungaroring last year, scoring points in both races, and a podium in the sprint race – the kind of results he will want to replicate this weekend.

Down the bottom of the standings, MP Motorsport, Campos Racing and Racing Engineering have floundered in recent rounds, struggling to score more than a few points for the most part. Admittedly, MP Motorsport’s Jordan King has only failed to score points in races from which he has retired or been disqualified, but the handful he has secured is not enough to give his season any momentum. His combined struggles with the team have made for a disappointing season for the Brit, who lined up in Bahrain hoping that 2017 would be his year.

Credit: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2.

The underperforming is perhaps most disappointing for Racing Engineering, who came second in the team standings in 2016. Despite flashes of form in the early rounds, they have faded to the back of the field. The Spanish team achieved a double podium in the sprint race in Hungary last year and though that kind of result seems highly unlikely, the team could do with replicating some semblance of the form they had last year.

For those in the title battle, the Formula 2 season has very much turned into a game of catch up between Charles Leclerc and the rest of the front runners. But with two races each round, and points for pole positions and fastest laps, the season is deceptively long, and if Leclerc’s form was to slip, especially going into the summer break this weekend, then there is no shortage of drivers snapping at his heels.