They may have dominated both practice sessions at the Hungaroring, but both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have complained about problems that made them feel uncomfortable with the Mercedes W05 car on Friday.
Hamilton finished as the fastest driver in both FP1 and FP2, enjoying an advantage of roughly two-tenths of a second over Rosberg at the top of the timesheets. The Briton is looking to surpass Michael Schumacher’s tally of four victories in Hungary this weekend to become the most successful driver to have raced at the circuit, but he isn’t feeling 100% ready in his bid for a fifth victory.
“We struggled with poor grip on track today,” Hamilton explained. “I don’t know if that’s down to the tires or the track itself but it was quite bad throughout both sessions. It’s going to be important to get a good grid position tomorrow as it will be difficult to follow cars on this track and it’s always tough to overtake here.
“We have some work to do overnight to ensure we get the best setup for the weekend as we’re not fully comfortable with the car just yet, but our race pace looked okay. We’ll have to look through the data to really know where we stand.”
Rosberg finished second in both sessions to Hamilton, and he too was complaining of problems with the car during the second session. However, the fact that Mercedes remained ahead of the field gives him confidence heading into qualifying tomorrow.
“I was a bit surprised that we had the quickest car here today as I expected the Red Bulls to have gotten a bit closer again, so that’s a really encouraging start to the weekend,” Rosberg explained. “The car feels great and is super quick in the corners, so overall I’m quite happy.
“I definitely still need to find some time and there is some setup work for me and my engineers to do tonight if we want to achieve that. But I’m confident that we can make it happen. Qualifying will be crucial here, as overtaking is not easy at this great track. We’ll work hard as always during the evening and see what happens tomorrow.”
Red Bull and Ferrari do appear to be in better shape at the Hungaroring compared to other circuits, but they still lack the pace to mount a serious challenge at the front. They may not be where they want to be just yet, but Rosberg and Hamilton will be fighting it out at the front of the field once again on Sunday.
Takuma Sato cast a big shadow on the world of IndyCar racing last May when he became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.
But there was another shadow of sorts cast along with Sato’s Indy 500 win: he and the prestigious Borg-Warner Trophy, given to each year’s winner of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, are virtually identical in size.
The Trophy is the same height as Sato, 5 feet, 5 ¾ inches tall. And the respective weight of both the Trophy and Sato are the same: approximately 113 pounds.
Try putting that on a mantle in your house.
That’s why Sato was so happy to receive the Baby Borg Trophy — a miniature version of the Borg-Warner Trophy — Wednesday night in Detroit. It’s much more manageable for the mantle in his house: 18 inches tall and five pounds.
“It’s such an honor to win the Baby Borg finally, eight months after the race, it’s been an unbelievable journey,” Sato told NBC Sports. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to win the 500 and it has just gone on and on. It’s just a significant moment in my life. It’s been fantastic.
“Right now, I haven’t really decided yet (where he’ll put the coveted Baby Borg). It’s going to my home in Indiana right now. But of course, everybody wants to see it. After that, I haven’t decided, but I’m sure it’ll get a special place.”
Even though the Baby Borg is a pint-sized version of the real trophy that was presented to Sato in victory lane in Indianapolis last May, it also has the same meaning as the big trophy and served to get Sato’s excitement pumping to where he’s already counting down the days to the 2018 Indy 500.
And even more important, it will be the first time he returns to Indianapolis as the defending champion.
“(Winning the 500) has changed my life,” Sato told NBC Sports. “But what I do is exactly the same, to try and be as fast as possible when racing.
“But all the environment, the people, all the cheering and being called an Indy 500 champion, I never imagined how deep and how far it goes, just the power and energy that the Indy 500 had.
“I just never realized how much the tradition and the prestigiousness of it. It’s been fantastic and I’m sure when I go back there to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four months as the defending champion, it’ll be a whole other dimension. I’m sure it’s going to be a whole lot of pressure, but I’m sure to enjoy the moment.”
Sato, who turns 41 on January 28, will return to the 500 this year, but with a new team. He left Andretti Autosport after last season and returned to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, for whom he previously raced for in 2012.
Now that he’s won one Indy 500, Sato wants to make it two in a row.
“It’s a huge, another task and a new dream,” he said. “I’m excited for the new season and to go for another 500 (win), it’s another completely new dimension. Like Michael (Andretti, who he drove for last season) said, obviously, we’ll be competing against each other in the new season, but tonight we celebrated together. I think it’s going to be a real good season for me. I’d love to get another win there, of course.”
But not if Andretti has anything to say about it.
“He’s not allowed to win again,” Andretti laughed while also speaking to NBC Sports.
Sato enjoyed a victory lap of another sort last month when he accompanied the Borg-Warner Trophy to his native Japan for a two-plus week tour of the nation.
It marked the first time in the Trophy’s 82-year existence that it has ever been outside the U.S.
Everywhere Sato and the Trophy went drew large crowds, from Honda Racing “Thanks Day” at the Twin Rings track at Motegi to a visit to Mount Fuji, a meeting with 850 members of Sato’s fan club, and also included a two-day run in the atrium of Honda’s World Headquarters in Tokyo that had fans lined up for hours to see the Trophy and take photos of it and Sato.
“The reaction was just massive,” Sato said. “For myself, it was a dream come true, but at the same time, for a country with that history, it was an unbelievable moment, particularly the first time when Hiro Matsushita did it (drove in the Indy 500 in the 1990s) so many years ago.
“So many Japanese drivers have tried to win such a historic race, I was just so proud to be part of it. The people were really excited. The passion, I’m really particularly happy to bring it to Japan.
“To go to Japan was a massive commitment by from Borg Warner and Honda. So many Japanese fans were able to see it physically and now they’re really looking forward to this year’s Indy 500 again. It was a great moment to us.”