2016 Hungarian GP Race Review

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Lewis Hamilton is now leading teammate Nico Rosberg in the championship standings. Photo credit: Fox Sports

This year’s edition of the Hungarian Grand Prix didn’t provide the excitement and unpredictability seen from the two previous races in the Hungaroring. On a slow track that is far from conducive to overtaking, the race turned out to have minimal action. Exactly how cookie-cutter was the race? We had a typical Mercedes one-two finish with Lewis Hamilton winning and now taking the championship lead over Nico Rosberg. 

Hamilton started from second and took the after Turn 1 from teammate Rosberg, who failed to convert his pole position to a victory. It appeared that the two Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen starting behind the two Mercedes from the second row had an overall better start off the line. Coming into the Turn 1 braking zone, Hamilton had to take to the inside line to block Verstappen, Rosberg stayed put alongside his teammate, while Ricciardo went all the way around the outside and still made the corner. Hamilton emerged in first place with Ricciardo close behind, only to surrender second place back to Rosberg at Turn 2. It was brilliant driving from all drivers involved, resulting in no collisions. From then on, the two Mercedes and Ricciardo consolidated their positions to the checkered flag seventy laps later.

Like what he did in his home race at Silverstone two weeks ago, Hamilton again took control of the race from the lead. At times, he was held up by backmarkers, most notably Haas’s Esteban Gutierrez, who received a penalty for ignoring blue flags. Rosberg was able to trim the gap during these instances but still couldn’t threaten Hamilton’s lead.

Behind the top three, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel applied pressure to Ricciardo late into the race but couldn’t pull through for the final podium spot. Behind that pair was another Ferrari-Red Bull duel, only that it was Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen engaging in the day’s most compelling battle. There were a couple instances when Raikkonen complained of Verstappen performing late defensive moves, the first of which in Turn 2 on Lap 57, where Raikkonen lost pieces from his front wing after clipping the rear of the Red Bull. It appeared that Verstappen may have had more than one change of direction in the braking zone. The second instance was a few laps later in Turn 1 with Verstappen blocking Raikkonen late, causing the latter to take evasive action. Raikkonen made his opinions heard over team radio but so far, the stewards have not taken any action towards the incidents.

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Jenson Button was in the center of another controversy regarding the radio communication rules. Photo credit: The Checkered Flag

Perhaps the race’s most controversial issue involved radio communications, when Jenson Button encountered a brake pedal problem on his McLaren during the early stages. The FIA recently made stricter rules regarding radio communications, stating that any problem with the car must be addressed with an “irreversible instruction to enter the pits.” However, the driver is (and has always been) allowed to receive emergency instructions if the problem is deemed a safety concern.

So Button received instructions from his engineer to fix the brake pedal issue and even made a pit stop, adhering to the rule. However, Button was appalled when he was called in to serve a drive-through penalty for a breach of the communication rules—apparently, the stewards didn’t consider his problem a “safety issue” and may not have been satisfied with McLaren’s interpretation of the new rule. What made it even more head-scratching was the fact that he was penalized while already running in last place.

The new rules amendment was clearly counter to what most expected to be a slackening rather than a tightening of the regulations. Like Vettel, I’m tired of the radio rules affecting the racing out on track. I understand the FIA’s stance against driver coaching but all I will say about this incident is that Button receiving instructions to rectify a brake pedal issue should not be considered “driver coaching.” It’s preposterous considering that in the Austrian Grand Prix, Force India did not (could not) divulge information to their driver Sergio Perez about a brake issue, resulting in his crash late in the race. Quite evidently, the radio rules do not make sense with respect to safety concerns.

The amount of dissatisfaction regarding the radio rules is snowballing and I could only hope that the FIA be a little more considerate of the opinions of the drivers, the teams, and the fans alike.

* * *

Next week, F1 caps a busy July with the return of the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim after being off the calendar last season. The championship battle heats up between Hamilton and Rosberg as both drivers look to gain momentum heading into the month-long summer break.

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