Formula 1 returns after a three week break to the Hungarian grand prix. However, the excitement has been significantly dulled. The passing of Jules Bianchi has been a surreal and deeply unfortunate reality.
While the mood is solemn the best way to honour the life of Jules Bianchi is by putting on a great show around Hungary’s Hungaroring circuit.
It’s a special place for both McLaren drivers as it is the venue of their first wins in the sport. In 2003 a fresh faced Fernando Alonso took the chequered flag in his blue and yellow liveried Renault and in 2006 Jenson Button turned on the magic on a damp circuit in his BAR Honda to take the top step of the podium.
Times have changed since then for these two who now find themselves teammates at a struggling McLaren Honda team. The 2015 season has been arduous for all involved but Fernando Alonso believes that the Hungaroring and the second half of the season will hold some opportunities for McLaren to show the gains it has made. “I think the second part of the year will show a completely different McLaren, much more competitive,” says the Spaniard. “The steps that are coming are quite big. This is not too difficult when you are at the back of the grid and two seconds off the pace – every step then is half a second or eight-tenths. When you are fighting for a podium you [only] gain 0.1s every two weeks. I think we will get much closer to the top guys in the second part of the championship.”
The Hungaroring’s layout is a flowing mixture of low to medium speed corners with a few elevation changes. This coupled with the lack of any significant straights decreases the demand on the power unit. Due to its flowing nature the circuit offers, in most areas, offers only one ideal line which will limit the chances for overtaking. Consequently, a good qualifying position becomes a major strategic advantage.
Pirelli have selected the medium and soft compounds for the weekend and expect the combination should provide a good balance between performance and reliability. “This selection is soft enough to provide the mechanical grip needed to negotiate all the corners, yet hard enough to withstand the punishing weather conditions and track layout of the Hungaroring. This is not always the easiest circuit to overtake on, so tyre strategy can make a real difference,” says Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery.
Ferrari experienced a difficult British grand prix but Kimi Raikkonen thinks that this was a once-off. “We’ve seen at other circuits it depends a lot on the layout of the circuit and what tyres we run,” said the Finn.”I expect it to be a different story in the next race and at different circuits again. Hungary I’m sure it will [be better]. Silverstone was not the ideal weekend. The others were a bit faster. I’m sure it will be a bit more easy there but we will see.”
Williams delivered a considerably better performance at Silverstone which led Rob Smedley to believe that the team is capable of beating Ferrari to second place in the constructor’s championship. The team believes that a steady stream of small upgrades at every race will make the difference but remain realistic about their potential this weekend. “We know we are still missing a bit in the low speed and we are big enough to hold hands up and say that is the case,” says Smedley.”We’re looking at all sorts of ways of recuperating that.”
For nine months all motorsport fans had hoped to receive the news that Jules Bianchi had woken up and was well on his way to recovery. Sadly, this news will never come and his enormous potential will remain unfulfilled. It is the worst possible outcome but it is not the end of Jules’ legacy. It has reaffirmed the commitment to safety above all else and that is a gift of which the impact and importance cannot be measured. Ciao Jules and thank you.