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F1 diary Hungarian GP 2018: Ferrari and the rain

F1 diary GP Hungary 2018
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B udapest is one of my favorite destinations. A beautiful city, an old racetrack that doesn't invite you to overtake, but with its fluid layout somehow exudes charm. The press center is reminiscent of an old classroom. Kind of funny. Before we fly from Frankfurt to Budapest, we experience the slowest tire change of the season. Our aircraft needs a new tire because the old one is losing air. We watch the pit crew from the bus. It takes about five minutes. The Formula 1 teams need between two and three seconds.

The trip to Budapest is overshadowed by sad news. Ferrari President Sergio Marchionne is dead. The rumors about Marchionne's state of health and a serious illness made the rounds in Hockenheim. Ferrari mourns the man who led the Italian sports car manufacturer and the racing team with a strict hand. On Thursday, team members hang two Ferrari flags at half mast on the motorhome.

The carrot and stick did not work in 2017. In 2018, however, Ferrari looked stabilized. Leader Marchionne demanded the world title. And even after Vettel's driving mistake at Hockenheim, Ferrari's world championship chances were in full swing. But how would things go on after the clock's death? How would Ferrari act if not one, but two or three races in a row go wrong. You didn't see it until later, after the heavy defeat in Singapore. From then on, the team finally lost its rhythm and the stages of development fizzled out.

Hamilton trumps

The angular Hungaroring is also a route that Ferrari has to win on. Or at least have to cross the finish line before Mercedes. Training Friday promises good things. But then comes qualifying Saturday. Then comes the rain that makes the Ferraris slide off the pole. Lewis Hamilton demonstrates once again that he knows how to use every opportunity. A skill that I would otherwise only attest to Fernando Alonso. Hamilton swims to pole position. Also because Mercedes has the best car on a wet track.

Red Bull weakened like Ferrari in the rainy qualifying.

The W09 is less sensitive to the increased ground clearance on rain tires than the Ferrari SF71H and the Red Bull RB14. To make matters worse, Vettel loses the qualifying duel against Kimi Raikkonen. Red Bull goes swimming. The racing team based in Milton Keynes had actually been waiting for such conditions. A route with many curves, plus rain: under such conditions, the engine performance takes a back seat. Driving behavior and driving coast count more now. Although Verstappen is a proven rain specialist, just remember Brazil 2016, he does not succeed. Neither does team mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Red Bull's motorsport boss Helmut Marko curses: “We didn't get the rain tires nearly up to temperature. Shameful. ”The doctor is a man of straight words. Red Bull's problem is that one side of the vehicle is heavier than the other. Verstappen doesn't talk about it until a few races later. There was a second problem, the Dutchman will say weeks later at the Japanese GP. 'But I won't go into the details.'

Verstappen curses Renault

It stays dry on race Sunday. It's warm. Not to say oppressively muggy. I coke on the grid. Mercedes is unstoppable, although Foreign Minister Niki Lauda is absent for the second time. The race practically went over from the start. Hamilton stays in front, behind him the team-mate covers him. Valtteri Bottas stops the red racing cars and gives Hamilton air against the Ferraris. Vettel makes it past the Finn late. Too late. The Hamilton train has already left. After the race, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff speaks of the perfect wingman - a statement that wingman Bottas displeases. Raikkonen finished third, Ricciardo fourth. The Australian puts Red Bull under suspicion. He just doesn't want to sign the new contract. Doctor Marko calms down. “Both parties want to continue. We'll get together. ”A few days later the bomb bursts. Ricciardo will join Renault for 2019.

Valtteri Bottas covers top team leader Lewis Hamilton masterfully.

Verstappen's failure in the early stages causes the dispute between Red Bull and engine partner Renault to escalate. The aspiring youngster curses on the radio. He freaks out. The “F-word” is uttered a few times. Red Bull complains that they pay for a first-class product, but only receive mid-range goods. Renault's sports director Cyril Abiteboul holds back when Michael Schmidt and I ask him after the race on the way to the car. He points out that Red Bull does not want the new, more reliable MGU-K. Red Bull's argument: The installation requires too many modifications in the already narrow rear of the RB14.

In Hungary, I conduct interviews with two young drivers. It's George Russell's turn on Thursday. I speak to the Englishman for about a quarter of an hour. The up-and-coming Mercedes driver is humble, tidy and focused on the matter, without tensing up. Russell has a clearly defined goal. He wants to be a Formula 2 champion. 'I am convinced that I will be promoted to Formula 1 in 2019,' said the Englishman, outlining the big goal. He's right. In 2019 we'll see Russell at Williams.

Maximilian Günther has a harder time. His debut season in Formula 2 is going well. He even wins a race at Silverstone. Bad luck and incidents often thwart his plans. Günther mentions that appearances are deceptive in the junior classes. Here, too, the money and the team decide whether you want to go up front or sink into midfield.

We save ourselves the test drives after the Grand Prix. I'm glad A race weekend is exhausting enough. On Monday, colleague Schmidt and I have to get up around five o'clock and drive to the airport for half an hour. With the early plane we make it to the editorial office in the morning. Work a few more hours, then head home on the couch.

In our photo show, we look back on our race week in Budapest.


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