Usually no one likes it to rain on their birthday, but Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso – who turned 31 on Sunday – was hoping for a shower or two to improve his chances of victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix. In the end, despite weather forecasts predicting a mid-race downpour, the rain stayed away… until 6.00pm. When the teams were packing up after the race the heavens opened, bringing flash floods to the Hungaroring and leaving many of the trucks bogged down in the nearby field where they’d been parked.
If the teams ever manage to get the trucks out of the quagmire, Monday morning will see the start of another mass convoy. Red Bull, Williams, Force India, McLaren, MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS, Marussia, Caterham and a number of TV trucks will all be heading back to the UK. If all goes to plan and the roads stay clear, they should make it home by Wednesday evening. Enjoy the drive guys!
Well, that’s it for the first half of the season, and what a first half we’ve had with an amazing seven different race winners. Now, with each of the factories scheduled to shutdown for a mandatory two-week period, it’s time for the paddock to hit the beach and recuperate ahead of what promises to be a flat-out second half of the season.
Enjoy the break and Paddock Cat will see you in Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August. We can’t wait!
It’s a matter of days until Formula One breaks up for the summer and an end of term feeling is already spreading through the paddock. F1 sponsor UBS sensed this and laid on a lavish dinner for the always ravenous media corps in the Paddock Club on Thursday night. Let’s hope the journalists took on plenty of sustenance because many of them will take part in a special group track run on Saturday night. UBS are donating money to the Make-A-Wish foundation for every person who completes a lap, so let’s hope everyone in the paddock will temporarily put down their engineering sheets, close their laptops and lace up their running shoes.
Who knows what weather the runners will be faced with when they take to the track on Saturday night. For the third grand prix in a row we had rain during Friday practice and if it rains during qualifying it will be, yep, you guessed it, three consecutive wet qualifying sessions in a row. When was the last time that that happened? And to think, up until 2006 there hadn’t been a wet race in Hungary since it first joined the F1 calendar in ’86.
But even if the weather is dodgy, one thing you can always rely on in Hungary is a noisy, passionate crowd. Just ask the drivers: McLaren star Lewis Hamilton touched down in Budapest to find a large crowd of placard-carrying supporters waiting for him. One of them even handed him some of his favourite Haribo sweets. “Superman’s weakness was kryptonite,” said Hamilton. “Mine is these sweets.”
The madness didn’t stop there because Lewis needed a police escort to make it back to his hotel on Friday night. Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso made it back to his hotel without problem, but he was mobbed by autograph hunters as soon as he stepped out of his car. Ditto Mercedes AMG Petronas drivers Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. But the drivers caught most unaware were Williams F1 team-mates Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna, who were interviewed by Sky TV in the park next to their hotel. When they were spotted by fans, the interview was temporarily suspended…
Friday night is often a late one for drivers and engineers as engineering meetings in the paddock tend to run on and on. But while everyone is keen to find that elusive set-up advantage, on Friday evening they were just as keen to get back to their hotels to take in the events happening in London. If the grand prix on Sunday is even half as spectacular as the ceremony, we’re in for a real treat.
Just a week after the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim and the paddock (and everything in it) has shifted to the Hungaroring on the outskirts of beautiful Budapest. But while most of the drivers would have had the chance to nip home for a few days in between events, spare a thought for F1’s legion of truckies. A 600 strong convoy of trucks left the paddock in Germany on Sunday night, each of them laden down with everything from cars, garage equipment, motorhomes, and all of TV production paraphernalia that goes into broadcasting Formula One around the world. They arrived at the Hungaroring 16 hours later and most were fully unloaded by Tuesday lunchtime. What an epic effort!
But despite the rather hectic schedule for many of the paddock, the Hungarian GP is traditionally one of the most popular on the calendar. With F1’s summer break looming, everyone in the paddock is keen to let their hair down, and where better to do that than Budapest, a fine party town. The weather is also usually warm and sunny and the grandstands are more-often-than-not packed with diehard F1 fans from all over Europe. The circuit itself resembles something of an oversized go-kart track, with corners flowing into each other and the barriers close to the edge of the track. As a result the Hungaroring boasts the lowest average lap speed of any permanent circuit on the calendar.
The Hungarian Grand Prix has also traditionally been a race of firsts. Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Heikki Kovalainen all won their first F1 races here, as did Damon Hill, whilst 20 years ago Nigel Mansell clinched his first and only world title at the track. In the past it has been a circuit that has favoured McLaren – the Woking-based team has won here ten times, four of those victories coming in the last five years.
The man who won two of those races for McLaren – Lewis Hamilton – breezed into the paddock on Thursday looking cool and collected. Maybe it was because on Wednesday night he met one of his heroes at the Sports For Peace gala in central London – legendary boxer Mohammed Ali. “I’ve got books on him, I had posters on my wall of him…he’s an inspiration to me,” Hamilton said. “It was very special to meet him.” Ali had to recover from adversity several times in his glittering career, can Hamilton do the same in Hungary after a disappointing weekend in Germany?