Ferrari versus Red Bull moves to Hungary
29 July, 2010
Jul.29 (Daniel Chalmers) During 2010 we have been used to anticipating the potential battle between Red Bull and McLaren. However in Hungary the likelihood is we will be seeing a Red Bul versus Ferrari battle instead.
Ferrari appears to have made huge strides forward recently, whilst on the other hand McLaren have fallen a bit behind, and are now on the back foot.
Team orders may have over-shadowed Ferrari’s triumph in Germany, but it was a breakthrough weekend for the team adding a new dimension to the title fight.
Ferrari’s newfound pace was a shock to the system for some, but the warning signs had been coming for a few races albeit without the results.
Fernando Alonso said: “We did not have much luck in some races and, because of unusual incidents, we did not pick up the points we deserved. There was a slight feeling of frustration with this lack of results, but at last in Germany, for once we had a normal race on a weekend when we had no problems whatsoever and the result was there for all to see.”
They matched Red Bull in qualifying, and in the race comfortably out-paced the Milton Keynes team. This isn’t a feat that has been achieved very often this season
The F10 isn’t yet a match for Red Bull’s RB6 on circuits with fast corners as we saw at Silverstone where Fernando was seven tenths slower than Sebastien Vettel in qualifying.
The F10 is strongest in slow corners thanks to high levels of mechanical grip, good braking, stability and excellent traction. We already saw glimpses of this at Montreal and Valencia which heavily feature slow corners
Hockenheim is mostly the same except it does feature a mix of medium to high speed corners too. Therefore the fact that Ferrari fared so well there bodes very well for the much slower Hungarian GP track, which is even more optimised to Ferrari’s strengths.
The Hungaroring is often referred to as Monte-Carlo without the barriers. It’s like a giant go-karting track very twisty and completely dominated by slow corners. The F10 should be very much at home, and even quicker than last weekend.
Ferrari should be the overwhelming favourites to win the race. If they can exit turn one in the lead it will be very difficult to stop them.
However it won’t quite be as simple as that. Like Monaco it is near impossible to overtake in Hungary due to its twisty and narrow nature. The only realistic chance is down the medium length pit straight.
Although Red Bull look to now be behind the Ferraris on race pace they still have the edge in qualifying on all types of tracks.
If Red Bull can get in pole position and lead out of turn 1 they have a strong chance of victory. Ferrari may have the advantage in race conditions but passing the Red Bulls in Hungary will be the F1 equivalent of mission impossible.
We have seen examples over the years of slower cars being able to win ahead of faster cars in Hungary. In 1990 Thierry Boutsen held off quicker drivers for the entire race distance. Even Ayrton Senna couldn’t find a way past.
The best chance will be during the pit stop window. It will be about trying to time the stop perfectly so that they pit before Red Bull to go onto fresh tyres first but don’t re-emerge in traffic.
In the past, when re-fuelling was allowed, Ferrari could just put more laps of fuel than Red Bull and rely on that to leapfrog them. Under the re-fuelling ban that’s not possible anymore so life is harder.
The best thing Fernando Alonso can do is pull off an outstanding lap on Saturday, and ensure he starts ahead of Sebastien Vettel and Mark Webber.
McLaren are unlikely to feature heavily in this race. In Germany it was apparent that they have fallen back behind Red Bull and Ferrari. Also the Hungaroring is a track that doesn’t play to the strengths of the MP4-25.
Engineering director Paddy Lowe says: “We don’t have particular confidence that we’d be better in Hungary than we will be anywhere else.”
He added: “There are characteristics that don’t correlate to our strengths so far this year, but equally there are some that go the other way.”
There aren’t long straights where McLaren can make full use of their superior Mercedes engine and F-duct device.
Also the car’s long wheelbase won’t be as advantageous on a track dominated by slow corners. Long wheelbase cars are more suited in medium to high speed corners.
McLaren are also still struggling to adapt the blown diffuser concept to their car. Red Bull have been running it successfully for half a season, and Ferrari have now managed to adapt the idea with great results to their F10.
Ferrari and Red Bull have also stolen another march on McLaren with their new flexi wings.
Controversial they may be but there is no doubt about the advantage they deliver, and this is another area where McLaren must catch up if they don’t want to fall further behind Red Bull and Ferrari.
McLaren team prinicipal Martin Whitmarsh says: “If you can get your endplates down by the ground they can get more efficiency. And if they are doing that in a clever and legitimate way then we need to do it in that clever and legitimate way.”
This weakened threat from McLaren opens the doors for a great opportunity for Red Bull and Ferrari. They both have a great chance to gain important ground on the championship leaders.
If McLaren can only manage 5th and 6th a one-two finish for either Red Bull or Ferrari could see them close up significantly in both championships.
Red Bull and Ferrari really need to make the most of this opportunity, as the next two races in Spa and Monza will be much better suited to McLaren. It’s also highly feasible that by then that they will have fully optimised the blown diffuser and flexi wings.
McLaren’s lull won’t last long so their rivals simply must seize the moment this weekend.
Something that will be watched with keen interest will be Felipe Massa’s part in the Hungarian GP. Massa is pretty handy around this track as we saw in 2008 when he was leading all the way till he suffered an engine failure in the last few laps.
In practise he was extremely strong last year. Many said had he not endured his horrific accident he could have beaten Hamilton to race victory.
It will be interesting to see what will happen should Massa lead Alonso again in the race. In 2002 that is exactly what happened with Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher at the European GP two races after the Austria debacle. Following the furore from Austria, Barrichello wasn’t told to move over.
With a much tougher championship battle than back then it’s hard to imagine Ferrari wanting history to repeat itself. Or just how else might Ferrari utilise Massa to combat the threat posed by Red Bull?
Overall it should be a fascinating weekend. If Ferrari can secure another 1-2 they will be well and truly very realistic contenders.
We may not have witnessed many thrilling Hungarian GPs in the years gone by, but the result could make the championship tighter. This would then lead us very nicely to two of F1’s most thrilling tracks in Spa and Monza.