2013 Hungarian Grand Prix Preview

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Formula One makes its annual visit to the Hungaroring this weekend following a three week break that has left many fans suffering from withdrawal symptoms and getting caught up in ‘silly season’. Debuting in 1986, the race has become a firm fixture on the F1 calendar as its tight and twisty nature provides a challenge for the drivers and teams, but with temperatures expected to surpass 100ºF, will the heat get to teams this weekend in Hungary?

Hungarian Grand Prix Talking Points

Vettel’s pursuit of the clean sweep continues

It’s a true testament to Sebastian Vettel’s brilliance that we have to keep picking holes in his records to undermine him, or even make him appear human. The Hungarian GP remains one of two races on the calendar he is yet to win, but crossing the line first in Hungary would leave just Austin on the current calendar where the German driver has not won. Further to that, he would take the world championship by the throat heading into the summer break as his lead could grow to over 40 points. Hypothetically, of course.

Ferrari in need of a strong weekend

As Vettel’s fine form continues, the title continues to move away from Ferrari and Fernando Alonso. Of late, the team has been well off the pace, but the high temperatures in Budapest on Sunday could yet come to the Italian marque’s rescue. Felipe Massa is also chasing a good result following another driver error in Germany; will the heat be too much for the Brazilian to handle?

Ricciardo looks to seal the deal

All of the signs suggest that Daniel Ricciardo could be the right choice for Red Bull. Team owner Dietrich Mateschitz told Autosport today that he was impressed with the Australian driver and also that an announcement regarding the second seat is close. A good drive from Ricciardo this weekend could show Red Bull just why he’s the right choice, but Kimi Raikkonen has a remarkable record at the circuit. This was never going to be an easy decision for the world champions.

McLaren facing an uphill battle to continue their streak

McLaren boast a record at Hungary that no other team can match: six wins in the last eight years and eleven wins in total at the track. As Jenson Button explained earlier today, the team is not expecting to extend that record this weekend, but a step-up in form and perhaps an improvement on a best result of P5 would certainly go down well with all at the British team.

What about Pirelli?

Pirelli has confirmed that it will be bringing the 2012 tire constructions to this weekend’s race in order to prevent a repeat of the fiasco at the British GP. However, this race could be the hottest F1 race ever, so is Pirelli aptly prepared for this? Who knows, but all eyes will be on the Italian manufacturer this weekend as they hope to have a quiet weekend.

Track: Hungaroring
Laps: 70
Corners: 14
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:19.071 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
2012 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
2012 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton 1:20.953
2012 Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel 1:24.136
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T14 to T1); T1 to T2 – one detection point at T14.

Thursday – Free Practice 1: 04:00am ET
Thursday – Free Practice 2: 08:00am ET
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 05:00am ET
Saturday – Qualifying: 08:00am ET
Sunday – Race: 08:00am ET

Honda defends decision to redesign F1 power unit for 2017

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Honda Formula 1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa has defended the decision to redesign its power unit layout for 2017 despite suffering a number of reliability and performance issues at the start of the season.

Entering its third year since returning to F1 as an engine supplier, Honda looked to make gains by revising the layout of its power unit to mirror that of pace-setter Mercedes.

The decision appeared to backfire, though, with a lack of both performance and reliability leaving customer team McLaren frustrated and without a single point after three races.

Speaking in Friday’s FIA press conference in Russia, Hasegawa was asked if the decision to revise the power unit layout was a mistake, and defending the move despite admitting to the ongoing problems.

“I don’t think we made a complete mistake from last year’s performance. We knew that we have to change everything, not only the package but also the combustion, so we tried to modify all areas,” Hasegawa explained.

“Some areas we succeeded, to reduce the weight and lower the center of gravity, but yeah, definitely we couldn’t get enough power from the combustion. So, yeah, it is just an excuse, but we still need time.

“But we don’t think we made a huge mistake, the direction was right. We are very much disappointed with our current situation.

“But because the base concept is correct, we believe we can make good progress in the middle of the season.”

McLaren’s hopes of scoring its first points of the year in Russia took a hit on Friday when Stoffel Vandoorne was forced to take new elements for his power unit, triggering a 15-place grid drop for the race.

More brake issues strike Haas in Russia F1 practice despite supplier change

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The Haas Formula 1 team endured another difficult day of practice ahead of the Russian Grand Prix as drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen suffered more brake issues despite changing supplier.

Haas confirmed on Thursday that it would be switching from Brembo to Carbon Industrie brakes, having suffered problems throughout its 14-month stint in F1.

Despite enjoying a positive test in Bahrain with Carbon Industrie parts last week, both Grosjean and Magnussen struggled with their brakes in FP1 and FP2 at the Sochi Autodrom on Friday.

Grosjean finished FP2 14th-fastest, with Magnussen breaking into the top 10, charging to ninth place in the VF-17 car.

“We’ve got very little grip. We’re really struggling with the balance,” Grosjean said. “We had some issues, as well, with the brakes over the long runs. We need to look at what we can do better with them.

“Generally, it’s just been a very difficult Friday. The car didn’t perform well – very low grip on low fuel and high fuel.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner added: “We had a lot to do and I think we did a lot. We still haven’t got all the results yet, as we need to go through data.

“I would say the issues with the brakes were mainly because they’re new to us. We need to find out how they work. Going through the data, we will decide tomorrow what we’re doing and how we continue.

“All in all, we had pretty fruitful sessions. We did a lot of laps and we learned a lot. Now we need to get the best out of what we learned for tomorrow to go into qualifying.”

Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Saturday.

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix, Friday edition (VIDEO)

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While the drivers may be the stars of Formula 1, their on-track escapades would not be possible without the titanic effort from those behind the scenes at their respective teams, making it key for us to hear from the people who make racing possible from time to time.

Following on from the special Friday edition of NBC Sports’ original digital series ‘Paddock Pass’ in Bahrain, Will Buxton is back with all of the interviews from the team bosses in today’s FIA press conference in Russia.

In part one, we hear from Otmar Szafnauer, COO at Force India, who gives his verdict on the team’s showing in 2017 so far and new driver Esteban Ocon’s start to the season. We also catch up with Renault technical boss Nick Chester and Pirelli’s new F1 chief, Mario Isola.

In part two, Ferrari’s engine boss Luigi Fabroni offers his thoughts on the Italian marque’s strong start to the 2017 season following Sebastian Vettel’s wins in Australia and Bahrain. At the other end of the success spectrum, McLaren’s Matt Morris and Honda’s Yusuke Hasegawa discuss the ongoing rebuilding project at woking.

Vettel refusing to be misled by Mercedes’ F1 practice pace in Russia

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Sebastian Vettel is refusing to read too much into Ferrari’s impressive Formula 1 practice pace in Russia on Friday, saying it is easy to be “misled” by rival team Mercedes.

Vettel arrived in Russia for the fourth round of the season after making the best start to a campaign by a Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher in 2004, winning two of the first three races.

Vettel continued Ferrari’s impressive showing to start 2017 by dominating second practice on Friday at the Sochi Autodrom, finishing over half a second clear of Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

However, Vettel is refusing to take too much from the result, citing Mercedes’ jump in pace from Friday to Saturday in Russia last year as a reason why not to.

“I think Mercedes will be fine. It’s a circuit that suits them, so they will be strong tomorrow,” Vettel said after practice, as quoted by the official F1 website.

“I don’t want to make this personal but I think last year people expected Williams to be the fastest after Friday if I remember right, and obviously it turned out Mercedes were.

“That’s how sometimes you can be misled. I think there are a lot of things we can play with in the car, loads, engines modes. At this track especially there are a lot of things you can show or not show.

“I think the most important [thing] is that we talk about ourselves, our balance, and I think we improved throughout the session so I’m reasonably happy.”

Vettel will be chasing Ferrari’s first pole since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday, with qualifying live on CNBC from 8am ET.