Hungaroring – It’s War!

In the run up to race weekend, Spyker announced that Sakon Yamamoto would replace Markus Winkelhock who had stood in for Christijan Albers. It’s a shame that Winkelhcok didn’t get to finish the season, but no doubt Yamamoto is bringing some funding with him, so the motivation is clear. Somewhat more interesting was the changes at Torro Rosso, with relationships clearly strained between driver and management, Scott Speed found himself out on his ear with BMW test driver Sebastian Vettel coming in to replace him. Vettel has now been confirmed for the rest of this season, and into 2008. Well, that little shake up wasn’t particularly surprising, but none the less was quite interesting to watch going on, but then it was time for things to settle as the race weekend arrived… oops.

After showing some return to form, Honda managed to go backwards again, with Button qualifying 17th and Barrichello 18th. Then come the 2nd session, Ferrari made a most unexpected mistake. With Massa struggling with handling in his F2007, he came in for another shot at a flying lap, and set off down the pit lane only to stop at the end, and have to be dragged back. An error with the fueling rig meant he had taken on no fuel. By the time he got going reduced tyre pressure from hanging around no doubt ruined his chances, and he ended up a lowly 14th. Then the real fun and games begun. In the 3rd session Hamilton was due to let Alonso past him as Alonso had the lighter fuel load, but as they exited the pits he did not (Later claiming Alonso was not close enough and he did not want to risk Raikkonen coming past too by slowing excessively), clearly Alonso was not happy. In the dying minutes of the session, Alonso pitted for a tyre change to try and improve on his provisional pole, meanwhile Hamilton qued behind him, getting ready to go out and hopefully take pole back, but once Alonso was clear to go, he waited, and held Hamilton up just enough that he ran out of time to put in a flying lap. Later Alonso said that his engineer had been counting him down, but things didn’t quite seem right.

In the closing hours of the day, the FIA decided to penalise Alonso, and he was dropped 5 places down the grid to 6th, and McLaren were told that they would not score any championship points from the race. These were somewhat harsh judgements, after all, neither driver had impeded any other driver, they had not affected another team, I don’t think there should of been any sanction against the team, and at most Alonso should of been demoted to second – quite probably restoring the grid to the result it would of been anyway. Race fans lost out here, as 2 team mates, 2 points apart in the championship, lining up 1st and 2nd and racing each other into the first corner would of been a spectacular start to the race. As it was Alonso charged hard from the start and gained 4th before being squeezed into the inside and suffering cars coming round him, the right choice though as he needed to finish the race to limit any damage to his standing. Meanwhile both Hamilton and Raikkonen got away well, Raikkonen beating Heidfeld in the drag to the first corner, and that set the stage for the rest of the race. Hamilton drove his first flag to flag lead to win, with Raikkonen keeping him honest the whole way. At one point the lead was up to 4.5 seconds, but closed down to half a second at the closest. Raikkonen claimed his true pace wasn’t really shown as he wasn’t in clean air, whilst Hamilton has stated he was struggling with steering, I guess we’ll never really know without being behind the wheel ourselves, but it looked to me like they were pretty evenly matched.

Alonso raced hard and ultimately bought the car home in 4th, never quite managing to claim the last step of the podium, but nonetheless an impressive drive, having spent a lot of time behind Ralf Schumacher. Talking of Schumacher, a great result from him, but isn’t it funny how he’s improved now it’s time to negotiate a new contract? I’ll be surprised to still see him at Toyota for 2008, but then with his current form someone may just take him on. Part of me was glad Alonso didn’t take 3rd as it gave Heidfeld a well earned result, a good result from a great qualifying performance.

So with the race over, it appears that Alonso isn’t talking to Hamilton, and trouble could be brewing at McLaren. Ron Dennis wasn’t happy with what happened, and most of all I’m sure he wouldn’t of liked how it made the team look. However, I thought it was great to see two drivers in the same team, fighting one another, that impassioned about the sport and looking to not only win, but outdo each other. Now the press has rumours of Alonso being unhappy at McLaren, and maybe not even seeing his contract out. Pat Symonds of Renault has stated he would love to see Alonso return. Hamilton has already said he won’t race for any other team than McLaren unless things seriously change, and he still seems happy where he is, so if anyone was to move it looks like Alonso. Would Hamilton winning the Championship be enough to push Alonso over the edge and sign elsewhere, maybe seeing out his contract but signing early like he did when moving to McLaren in the first place? I’m beginning to think Hamilton winning could be a very good thing, obviously it would be great as he’s a Brit etc etc as I’ve said before – but it would no doubt make for an even more interesting pairing within the team, and set-up a great 2008 season! Still, it’s a long way to go yet and I’m sure there’s some great racing still to come.

UPDATE – 08-08-07

It would appear that Ron Dennis has said he expects both drivers to honour their contracts, in the same way that McLaren will, but if Alonso really can’t deal with both drivers having equal status and needs to go somewhere where he will be the No 1 driver then he is free to go at the end of the season. Interesting…

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