2015 Hungarian Grand Prix Preview


The Formula 1 paddock reunites this weekend for the Hungarian Grand Prix in mourning following the death of Jules Bianchi at the age of 25.

Bianchi passed away late on Friday night after a nine-month fight against the severe head injuries that he sustained in an accident at the Japanese Grand Prix in October.

Tributes poured in from all over the motorsport world in the wake of the news, and following his funeral on Tuesday, this weekend’s race has become something of a side story.

I wrote much the same ahead of the Russian Grand Prix last October, the race after Bianchi’s accident in Japan:

“The five talking points below are not worthy of their moniker this weekend. They are not ‘talking points’ because there is only one person we are all thinking and talking about: Jules. None of these themes are overriding, nor do they, in the grand scheme of things, really matter.”

And the same is true this weekend.

However, the show must go on – it is what Bianchi would have wanted. Let us hope for an entertaining, exciting and – most importantly – safe grand prix in Hungary.

2015 Hungarian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Hamilton seeks a fifth win in Hungary

The Hungaroring has been one of Lewis Hamilton’s strongest circuits in F1. After winning his first race there back in 2007, he has since won a further three races to draw level with Michael Schumacher as the most successful driver in the history of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

This weekend could see Hamilton pull clear with five wins, and it would be an important victory to claim. After suffering three defeats in four races to Nico Rosberg between Spain and Austria, to bounce back with wins in Great Britain and Hungary would give the Briton a healthy championship lead for the summer break.

Can Ferrari spoil Mercedes’ fun?

Without wishing to sound like a broken record, could this be the weekend that Ferrari strikes to claim its second win of the season? The tight and twisting nature of the Hungaroring should suit the SF15-T, and with temperatures edging close to 40ºC, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will be hoping to get in the mix at the front.

The team has failed to live up to recent expectations, though, dropping behind Williams in the dry at Silverstone. Given that the temperatures are expected to fall slightly for race day as well, Ferrari may struggle to fight for a second win of the year.

Interestingly though, whenever Lewis Hamilton has won the Hungarian Grand Prix, Kimi Raikkonen has finished second…

One year later, much has changed for Ricciardo and Red Bull

“That’s how you do it, ladies” were the words that defined Daniel Ricciardo’s win in Hungary last year. After seeing Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton squabble for position at the front in the wet, the Australian swept past both with ease to charge to his second grand prix victory.

One year later, all hopes of a repeat must be put on ice. Red Bull continues to struggle in the midfield, and although the team appeared to make some progress at Silverstone three weeks ago, anything more than a fifth place finish would be considered a success.

A little respite for McLaren?

Fernando Alonso may have scored his first point of the season in the British Grand Prix, but it was hardly something to celebrate. McLaren continues to toil with its Honda power unit, and is well behind where it had hoped to be at this time.

That said, the Hungarian Grand Prix could provide a little respite. The Hungaroring is easier on engines than most tracks, with chassis design being more important. Given that the MP4-30 car is not thought to be a reflection of the Honda power unit inside, the British team may fare better this weekend. Progress, no matter how small, is progress.

Last day of school

As Alice Cooper sang: “School’s out for summer!” This weekend’s race is the last before the summer shutdown and break in F1 as the teams enjoy a bit of time off to relax, unwind and collect themselves.

With this being round ten of 19, the Hungarian Grand Prix also marks the halfway point of the 2015 season. From here on, we only have two more European races before a relentless run to the end of the year in Abu Dhabi on November 29. It’ll be here before you know it…

2015 Hungarian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Hungaroring
Laps: 70
Corners: 14
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:19.071 (Ferrari, 2004)
Tire Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
2014 Winner: Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
2014 Pole Position: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:22.715
2014 Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:25.724
DRS Zone: Main Straight (T14 to T1); T1 to T2

2015 Hungarian Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports Live Extra 4am ET 7/24
Free Practice 2: NBC Sports Live Extra 8am ET 7/24 (same-day delay on NBCSN at 7pm)
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports Live Extra 5am ET 7/25
Qualifying: CNBC 8am ET 7/25
Race: CNBC 7:30am ET 7/26

For further information on our Hungarian Grand Prix broadcasts, click here.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).