Hungarian GP Paddock Notebook – Sunday


In a season that has been dominated by one team, we have enjoyed a surprising number of breakout drives from those not behind the wheel of a Mercedes. The likes of Valtteri Bottas and Jules Bianchi have been impressive, but perhaps no-one has out-performed more than Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

The amiable Australian claimed his second win of the season today in sensational fashion, out-thinking and quite simply out-racing Mercedes to beat the Silver Arrows in the dry and bust the myth that doing so was impossible.

Once again, Formula 1 produced a thriller right when we needed it. Here’s the final round-up from the paddock at the Hungaroring.


  • A bit of rain, two safety car periods and some awesome racing – today’s race had it all. However, Dan was the man who took to the top step of the podium following a supreme display.



It’s quite ironic that one day after we find out Flavio Briatore has been tasked with ‘improving the show’ in Formula 1, we get treated to one of the most exciting races of the year.

The same thing happened in Bahrain. Luca di Montezemolo rocked up, moaned about “taxi cab racing”, then made a swift departure when the taxis put on a show under the lights.

So once again, we must ask just what needs fixing in Formula 1? Isn’t it acceptable that sometimes races just aren’t that great? In soccer, you get the occasional 0-0 draw; in football, there are boring games; in tennis, you get a straights set victory. Sport isn’t always going to blow fans away, but when it does – case in point, today – it is phenomenal.

Firstly, many congratulations to Daniel Ricciardo for a superb victory. Red Bull beat Mercedes in the dry thanks to some supreme driving, a bit of luck and some panic for the Silver Arrows. The strategies that Hamilton and Rosberg used were questionable, as was the call for Lewis to let Nico past. Both drove well, but frankly the team should have done better. This is the first time in 2014 that a Mercedes car has finished a race and not been on the podium.

Not only did Ricciardo put a spanner in the Mercedes works, but Fernando Alonso produced another monumental drive for Ferrari. One comment on Twitter said that he could probably drive a washing machine to the podium, and it’s true. He made his soft tires last far, far longer than they had any right to. Had Dan not found another gear, it might have been a first win for Ferrari since Spain 2013. Ultimately, second place is still a superb result, and importantly, it takes the team back above Williams in the constructors’ championship.

As incredible as Hamilton’s drive was, he wasn’t the only one to fight through the field. Kimi Raikkonen started down in 16th and came home sixth for Ferrari, his best result of the year so far. It may not be too groundbreaking, but it is progress nevertheless.

Elsewhere, Sebastian Vettel had a very quiet race. Following the first safety car period, he didn’t appear much in the race save for his spin that he somehow kept out of the wall. His expectations of fighting with Williams were true, although I doubt he thought it would be for positions out of the top five. Felipe Massa came home in fifth for the British team with Valtteri Bottas in eighth.

What a way to sign off for the summer break. Formula 1 now gets a chance to breathe and take a few weeks back before starting the final stint. From Spa, we have eight races in fourteen weeks, then that’s it – 2015 will be upon us before you know it.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.