Hungarian GP Paddock Notebook – Sunday

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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.

RACE REPORT

  • 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.

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

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.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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