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Hungary For More

F1 fans are high maintenance. Don’t shrug. You know I speak the truth. It’s not our fault though. The Great Masters have spoilt us. So, we do tend to get pretty grumpy, when races fail to measure up. Take Hungary, for instance. I was expecting something spectacular. Don’t snigger now. This season has been pretty thrilling. And since the annual F1 Summer Holiday was looming large, I figured we would all go out in a blaze of glory,

Think again! The race was spectacular, but not in the way I thought it would be. Amidst the train of cars, the race saw the rise, once again, of the unusual suspects – the racers we know have the potential, but have never really stepped up, overshadowed by the doyens.

But first, I must talk about our current star Lewis Hamilton. He finally made up for that missed podium in Germany and Britain, and ran a wonderful race to take the 1st position. The first pit-stop almost echoed the others of the old (you know when we groaned and yelled ‘No, No, at the television), but the second was enough to save the day. He managed to hold off a determined Kimi Raikkonen and a focused Romain Grosjean.

Romain ‘The Giraffe’ Grosjean at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Image courtesy Motorsport X-Press; used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND

Grosjean started the race 2nd on the grid and gave Hamilton a run for his money for the first half. By the 31st lap, he brought the distance down to 0.9 seconds, but fell back after making a few mistakes. At one point, his teammate, the Ice Man, coming out of the pitlane, edged Grosjean to the 3rd. He spent the remainder of the race though, chasing Hamilton and Raikkonen, even as he held off Sebastian Vettel.

Speaking of Grosjean, the Swiss-born, French national is without doubt, a racer we need to watch. Mr Giraffe, a loving nickname coined by fans, has wriggled his way into our hearts. He may have had 4 retirements so far this season, but Grosjean has also seen 3 podium finishes – a 3rd in Bahrain and a 2nd in Canada. He scored a 4th position at the Spanish Grand Prix. What’s not to like? His ready smile just makes it better, doesn’t it?

His F1 career that began with Renault may have been spotty at best. Then, came a one-year hiatus, followed by a stint as test driver for Lotus in 2011. But he seems to have shrugged off his growing F1 pains, and has emerged as one of the racers to watch in the F1 of the future. This season, he has shown form – his retirements more or less because of racing incidents and car malfunction. He currently holds the 8th spot in the Driver Standings with 76 points.

Then there is our very own Bruno Senna. A very erratic Pastor Maldonado and Williams test driver Valtteri Bottas have overshadowed him this season. Now, I know you think I am biased. Sure I am. But my belief in Bruno’s skills and talent are not coloured by this bias. On the contrary, he has proved to be far more reliable than Maldonado, given that this is his first F1 season in a reliable and competitive car.

Let’s look at the Hungary race as an example. He didn’t end the race in the ‘best’ position; a 7th. In fact, the unusual Sepang race earlier this year saw a much more powerful finish – as Bruno climbed from the 13th place on the grid, to finish in 6th. But, he had a great showing during the Hungarian Qualifying, which saw him start 9th on the grid. The race was equally impressive with great tyre management, as he held off two F1 powerfuls – Jenson Button and Mark Webber.

Bruno Senna gave Jenson Button a tough time. Image courtesy Williams F1; World Copyright: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic.

A miscalculated ‘Plan B’ three-stop strategy left Button behind Bruno, who managed to hold off the former world champion. It, however, cost Button a chance to fight for a podium finish. Towards the end of the race too, Bruno battled a swift Red Bull driven by Webber. The Brazilian drove a great race, holding off Webber who couldn’t pass the Williams. Bruno finished 7th followed by an 8th for Webber who was half-a-second off.

Later, Bruno told F1.com, “We pushed very hard on the strategy to make it work especially as the track conditions and the weather were very different from what we were expecting… There were a lot of battles for me and it was hard to keep the tyres alive because the temperatures were so high, but it’s good to start in 9th place and finish in 7th. I think this is a turning point for us.” You can read more team quotes here.

In so many ways though, the Hungary race is far more important than the one at Sepang. Bruno’s performance comes amidst speculation that Bottas will replace him in 2013. However, I do prefer to look at the statistics. Bruno has already notched up 24 points to Maldonado’s 29. So far this season, Bruno has brought in points for 6 races, as opposed to his teammate (2 races, one of them of course, was his victory at the Spanish Grand Prix). It is definitely a mark of consistency, don’t you think?

Bruno Senna and teammate Pastor Maldonado. Image courtesy Williams F1; World Copyright: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic.

So why do people find it so easy to write him off? I guess many still compare him to his uncle Ayrton (I wrote a piece for a Bruno Senna Fansite on this) and that is a great disservice. Time will tell us best where F1 will take Bruno, and where Bruno will take F1. Till then though, it is important to look at the complete picture, his results and performance in totality, rather than jumping the gun and labelling him a no-show.

One thing is for sure. Post-Hungary, I feel like Oliver Twist, bowl in hand, standing in front of Bernie Ecclestone saying, “Please Sir. I want some more.”

Elsewhere

The countdown is on. 25 days to Spa, the grand daddy of all circuits – a twisty, swirly classic, that almost slid off the F1 calendar. But it’s here to stay – for now.

The Constructors’ Standings still has Red Bull ruling the roost with 246 points, followed by McLaren at 193 points. It will take a whole bunch of podiums for our beloved McLaren to catch up. They better increase their gap though. Lotus Renault, with 192 points has elbowed Ferrari down to the 4th spot (189 points). Fernando Alonso, despite running a tired race at Hungary, is still king with 164 points. It’s Red Bull all the way though – Webber is at 124 points and Vettel is in 3rd with 122 points. But Vettel’s probably looking over his shoulder (rather nervously, I imagine), as Hamilton is busy speeding towards him with 117 points. Yes, it is still open season.

Meanwhile, Pirelli confirmed that they would be supplying teams with hard and medium rubber tyres at Spa and Italy. Singapore will see teams using soft and super-soft tyres.

You can also indulge in F1 Online: The Game™, while waiting for the season to re-start. You can play the game at www.f1onlinethegame.com. Choose your racing team, improve team performance on the track, and research new car components.

If online gaming is not your cup of tea, and you are more the crafty variety, then get on to Lotus Renault’s Facebook page. Download their snazzy E20 papercraft kit and cut and snip away! Click here to download.

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