No one deserved to lose the 2014 Hungarian GP


Rare does a Formula One Grand Prix come to pass where the outcome is so in doubt so late in a race and several drivers have a legitimate case at victory, but the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix marked one of those abnormal occasions.

Consider Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo rebounded from an early tire gamble, ran slightly off sequence compared to the pair of World Champions in Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, and then delivered two passes on the two of them in the waning stages to score an opportunistic and well-played second win. Yes, he was on newer tires, but he still had to make passes at the Hungaroring. 

How Alonso, in the down-on-performance Ferrari F14 T, was able to make his softs last 32 laps was nothing short of a miracle in and of itself. And he could well have won had Ricciardo not gotten Hamilton for second just prior to the ultimate winning pass; Hamilton never seemed close enough to make a winning move of his own when running second.

But still Hamilton, in the Mercedes, used a mix of well-timed strategy, the safety cars negating huge gaps and some great passes of his own to launch from a pit lane start to a near victory, which would have been the first of its kind in Formula One history.

Some races feel pre-judged, almost pre-ordained to determine a Grand Prix winner.

The stars pretty much aligned for Hamilton at Silverstone, regardless of his late fall to sixth on the grid there, to put together a home victory after a run of races where he’d fallen behind teammate Nico Rosberg.

A week ago, Rosberg’s run of personal good fortune – his marriage, his new contract and his home country winning the World Cup, all to go along with Germany’s general good luck streak in sport – set up perfectly for him to win on his own home soil in Hockenheim.

But the Hungaroring? A race that’s usually good as decided after qualifying on Saturday or at the latest, the exit of Turn 1 on Sunday? You couldn’t have predicted the way Sunday’s race would shake out even if you held psychic powers.

Yes, the crazy mixed conditions helped – same as they did for 2006 and 2011, when Jenson Button won on both occasions.

But still, teams and drivers had to make strategic calls, attempt passes at places they otherwise wouldn’t have dared (Ricciardo at Turn 2, later Turn 12 on Hamilton) and manage their tires while all driving cars with varying performance levels.

In dry conditions, there wouldn’t have been a doubt. Rosberg and his Merc likely would have walked the field from pole.

Yet on this day, each of the podium finishers – and for that matter Rosberg, as well, in fourth – had a distinct and serious claim to the win. Each would have deserved it.

Although Ricciardo won once the checkered flag flew, there were no losers. It was a treat to watch and a race that may grow in lore as the weeks, months and years go by.

Formula E: Team Aguri confirms da Costa for second season

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Antonio Felix da Costa has been confirmed for a second season with Team Aguri for the 2015-2016 FIA Formula E Championship, which begins later this month in Beijing.

He won once this past year at Buenos Aires and finished eighth in the points despite missing both the season opener and season finale due to clashes with his DTM schedule.

Said the 24-year-old Portuguese driver, “I am really happy to continue with Team Aguri and Formula E for season two. This championship is earning its respect in the world of motorsport and I am honoured to be involved. Regarding the season, I am really looking forward to getting started.”

Team Aguri team principal Mark Preston added, “It is a great pleasure to have Antonio continuing with the team for season two of Formula E. Antonio brought us our maiden win in Buenos Aires and helped to develop the team from scratch, he will continue to build on that success for season two and beyond.”

The team that bares the name of ex-Formula 1 driver and team owner Aguri Suzuki has not yet confirmed its second driver, which is the last outstanding seat to be filled on the Formula E grid.

Amlin, which had partnered with Aguri last year, is now present with the Andretti Formula E team and its drivers, Robin Frijns and Simona de Silvestro.

Hulkenberg leads shorter than normal FP1 in Russia

Nico Hulkenberg
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Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg posted a 1:44.355 lap of the of the Sochi Autodrom to lead a fairly abnormal, and shorter than usual, first free practice for the Russian Grand Prix.

Hulkenberg posted the time to conclude the usual 90-minute session, to pip Nico Rosberg at 1:44.407 on his final lap. The usual 90-minute session was shortened due to a track delay for cleanup of diesel fuel on course.

Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top five.

While the clock started on time for the full 90-minute session, track activity was halted for the opening 30 minutes to clean up diesel spillage on the track at Turn 8.

It left teams and drivers with just a 60-minute first free practice to tackle the Sochi Autodrom, but did not push the session later or affect the timetable for the rest of the day. However, with a damp if not entirely wet track, it made things difficult in FP1.

The delay also meant that teams weren’t able to use an extra set of Pirellis handed out at the start of FP1. Supersofts can be used for the first time in FP2.

During the delay, it did offer a chance for sarcasm, and Manor seized the opportunity following a comment from McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso noting that even with Mercedes engines next year, Manor wouldn’t move ahead of them.

NBC’s Will Buxton explained the track surface dilemma drivers would face in this session.

With just under one hour to go in the session, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was the first to head out on course, leading several others. Ericsson made the first laps of the weekend at the track where he made his final start for Caterham a year ago.

Both Williams drivers went on course on Pirelli’s wet weather tires for their installation laps. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg tried the intermediates, and Alonso was first on course in slicks.

No official times were registered until there were less than 40 minutes remaining in the session, with Alonso registering a 2:00.736 time, while putting down a bevy of sparks. He quickly lowered the mark to 1:56.327, and 1:53.854 after that. Ericsson was next in at a 1:58.926, although dropped into the 1:54 range not long after.

Alonso’s teammate Jenson Button clocked in at 1:50.920 with just under 20 minutes remaining and for the first time this year, we could say we had a McLaren Honda 1-2 on track, albeit under abnormal circumstances.

The trsck got busy in the final 15 minutes, with Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen posting a 1:50.870 to lead before Alonso clocked in a 1:49.240.

A 1:47.959 from Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, then a 1:45.987 from Hulkenberg followed in the final 10 minutes as times firmly began to drop. Vettel got down to a 1:45.491 shortly thereafter, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton came up two tenths shy of the mark at a 1:45.691.

Ericsson reported a power cut near the end of the session down at Sauber but otherwise there were no issues through the field, other than a handful of spins, including one from Hamilton on his final flier at the second-to-last corner.

FP2 begins from 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.