The Championship is simmering nicely now, and we still have a very tight situation at the top of the table. Back-to-back wins for Lewis Hamilton have given him a four-point lead.
The wins were nothing ordinary. The first, a majestic victory on home soil in the rain, saw him take the win by over 1 minute and 22 seconds ahead of second-place Nick Heidfeld.
The second win was almost taken away from him by a rare strategic hiccup from McLaren. Lewis had 15 laps to overtake three cars, which he managed to do in emphatic fashion to the disbelief of both Lewis lovers and haters.
Over the course of these two races, it has become apparent that McLaren have the pace and the impetus to compete in not only the driver’s championship, but also the constructor's.
With some good finishing from both drivers, McLaren have managed to get to within 19 points of Ferrari. That is a relatively small gap, considering there are another eight rounds of racing to go.
With BMW all but out of the running to concentrate on being the pace car for the 2009 season, many are predicting a two-horse sprint finish.
Drivers and Constructor Standings after Round 10:
Drivers World Championship
- Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes) – 58
- Felipe Massa (Scuderia Ferrari) – 54
- Kimi Raikkonen (Scuderia Ferrari) – 51
- Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber) – 48
- Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber) – 41
- Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren Mercedes) – 28
Constructors World Championship
- Scuderia Ferrari – 105
- BMW Sauber – 89
- McLaren Mercedes – 86
- Toyota – 25
- Red Bull Renault – 24
- Renault - 23
The week prior to round 11 has seen the final summer testing period for all constructors at Jerez, Spain. That's right folks, the FINAL testing session, there will now be no more testing until Aug. 27, when the guys go to Monza for three days.
So it’s back to the factories to stretch the computer models and wind tunnels to see what these cars can really do.
Worrying times to follow for Ferrari maybe, who after the four-day session seemed very off the pace of McLaren.
Yes, I know we can’t read too much into this, as it is only a testing session. Granted, the majority of the teams where testing the 2009 updates on their cars including KERS, slicks and new aero downgrades.
But even with all this, the Ferrari still remained half a second behind and at times a whole second off the pace of the MP4-23.
But on a final note of the testing, you would be naive to think Ferrari are down and out just yet. They will be back on the pace on Friday morning in Budapest when the first practice session gets underway, that is, unless they encounter any monumental disasters.
Either way, we now have a fight on our hands with the tables completely u-turning into the favour of the silver arrows. These are great times for McLaren, worrying for Ferrari, especially with their unpredictable drivers.
What must the Tifosi be thinking? Any comments?
On to Round 11 in Budapest, Hungary, a regular stop on the F1 calendar for 21 GP’s since 1986. It’s been held at the Hungaroring for the duration.
Maybe an omen for us Brits is that a British driver has won there for the last two years. It is well-known that it isn’t a Ferrari track, and they haven’t really had much success here in the past.
So what better time for the Red bullets to come good, stamping their foot down to show that, yes, our drivers are good; yes, we are still fighting; and yes, we can win at Hungaroring.
Hungaroring is another one of those tracks where people tend to expect a dull race where not much will happen. Overtaking is at a minimum due to the dirty surface off the racing line. The dirty track is due to the circuit not being used that often, in fact it is only used for specialist races such as Formula 1.
Races will often be won either in qualifying by a blinding lap, as the races tend to be quite a parade. They can also be won on a great race strategy, as demonstrated ironically by the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher back in 1998. He went on to win that year’s race by mastermind Ross Brawn switching to a three-stop strategy.
There have been exceptions, though. For example, Nigel Mansell managed to win the race in 1989 from 12th position on the grid, again ironically in a Ferrari. Did someone say that Ferrari didn’t do well at this track?
He completed the run up the field after an incredibly well-executed pass on Ayrton Senna, and he went on to build a lead of almost 26 seconds as he took the chequered flag.
This year I think it will be different, as too much is at stake. The drivers will push these machines to their absolute limit to maintain dominant position, catch up with a rival in the WDC, stay in the points race to keep face or to secure a seat for next season? I bet my bottom dollar that there will be overtaking this year.
As you can see from the picture, Lewis Hamilton won here last year; not only did he win, but he also dominated the weekend, nabbing himself pole position after team-mate Fernando Alonso impeded him in the pit lane in Q3.
He then went on the lead on all 70 laps of the race and he almost nabbed himself the Grand Chelem for his efforts scoring the fastest lap of the race on his last lap, BUT then just 0.715 seconds later, Kimi Raikkonen crossed the line and took that accolade away from him by bettering the fastest lap time and the Grand Chelem was no more.
(Grand Chelem: A term when translated from French means ‘Grand Slam’ and it consists of leading the race for every lap from pole position and then taking the chequered flag)
Let’s get some vital statistics like usual:
- Built in - 1985
- Laps – 70
- Distance – 2.720 Miles (4.381 Kilometres)
- Corners – 14
- Lap Record – 1:19:071 (M Schumacher, Ferrari, 2004)
McLaren test driver Pedro De La Rosa said the following about the Hungaroring: “In Budapest, it is a great circuit. It is very difficult, very technical, a lot of low speed corners, but it is very difficult to overtake and although they have extended the pit straight and have made slower first corner, it is still going to be very difficult.
“Saturday qualifying is going to be 70 percent of the outcome of the race. There are no long straights to overtake and that is the reality of Hungary. Having said that, it is a great track, it is very, very difficult and a track that has a lot of corners in a reduced space. If you get one wrong, you normally get two or three in a row.
“As it is very dusty, it is also low grip, maximum down force is required and our car has historically been very good at this type of track, low speed with corners so we are looking forward to this race.
“High down force is key in Hungary, it is key in Monaco, but not only that. You are also looking at very soft suspension. Hungary is much bumpier than people think, so in addition to the high down force you need to soften the springs, raise a little bit the cars and get the maximum mechanical grip out of the car. This is very important and the two together make a quick car in slow speed corners, which is essential in this track.
“The team have to adapt the cockpit a little bit in hot races, and Hungary is one of them. We can drink around half a litre, and before qualifying we will put the water in place so the driver will have it for the race. It is very important, it is one of those races that if it is a hot dry, summer, as normally it is in August in Hungary, and you need to drink during the race.”
On to the race prediction now. Even though Ferrari are going through a strange time right now where they seem to have hit a glitch. Ferrari will be on the pace as usual this weekend. You would be silly to think otherwise. Could it be the weekend when Ferrari come back and get things on track again?
McLaren as always will be fast, with Lewis continuing with his form and Heikki maybe dialing it up again as he has done so well in the last two rounds. I think more than anything, I want Heikki finally to get that race win, or at the very least, another podium.
Qualifying I think will go to McLaren, a front row lockout maybe by the boys in the silver car. Following closely will be our Ferrari friends.
Normally, I would be swinging towards BMW for the fifth and sixth places on the grid, but I am going to have to go with either a Red Bull or a Torro Rosso. I am gambling on Mark Webber or Sebastian Vettel. How is that for a gamble?
I am predicting some stinking hot weather so no issues with tyres or unexpected downpour to dampen the party.
Now for the big one, my race prediction, where do I think the balance will swing?
Well for a start, there WILL be overtaking, mark my words, it is possible at this track and I think more than ever it’s going to happen, I don’t think it will be with the front four.
I think they will stay pretty much static bar over the pit stop periods, and the only way anything will change over the top four will be via some sneaky pit stop strategies, maybe a one-stopper or even a three? It’s an exciting prospect, one that I am very much looking forward to.
So here it is, my race result prediction with current odds supplied by www.bet365.com:
- Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes) – 11/10
- Felipe Massa (Scuderia Ferrari) – 5/2
- Kimi Raikkonen (Scuderia Ferrari) – 3/1
- Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber) – 16/1
- Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren-Mercedes) – 14/1
I am going to predict Lewis to score his third win in a row, the first time such a thing has been done since 2004, when the great Michael Schumacher.
Please correct me if I am wrong...no doubt someone will, ha ha!
An outside bet to keep an eye on would be a Ferrari 1-2 finish. Don’t ask me how it would come about, but as a McLaren fan it pains me to say that it’s a VERY real possibility.
I am going to tie it up now and finish things off and just sit back and enjoy the build up. Keep checking all my points of interest on the net for developments.
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Ben, Over and Out!