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Hungarian GP Review

Lewis Hamilton tops the Hungarian GP with the Lotus boys, Kimi Raikkonnen and Romain Grosjean, just behind

Britain is having the best week ever. First, London Olympic is off to a fantastic and sheep-filled start, and secondly, Hamilton took home the Gold medal-equivalent at the Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend. Well done, Britain. Well done!

Out of the qualifying sessions, Hamilton clenched the crucial pole position with Grosjean trailing behind in P2, and Vettel at P3. Schumacher had the worst luck, ended up in P17 after qualifying. The poor qualifying later was compounded by not able to start on the grid, leading to start from the Pit lane, which then lead to speeding in the pit lane, ended with a drive-through penalty due to speeding and then retiring at Lap 60. Overall, a rather horrible day at the office for Schumacher.  Meanwhile, Alonso, who's been dominant in the last few races had to deal with a disappointing P6 after qualifying.

Due to Schumacher's car inability to start on the grid, the cars have to do another formation lap. The extra formation lap is counted towards the total number of laps, so the drivers will have to race 69-lap rather than 70-lap. Who knew there's such an FIA rule?

Hamilton aggressively lead the race from the very beginning. He made very few errors, in fact, I think the only thing that could have been improved for Hamilton may bethe McLaren pit stops (again!). Hamilton had two pitstops during the Hungarian Grand Prix, lap 18 and lap 40, which for the most part were smooth and quick. Due to the horrid pit stop performances in some of the races this year, I still get nervous for McLaren during all their pit stops.

Grosjean was relentless in staying right behind Hamilton for the most part, constantly putting pressure with an average of 1 sec gap, though ultimately not able to make any overtaking bids. Hamilton won this race with pure speed and determination, landing him his 2nd win this season and his 3rd win at this circuit.

In a track where overtaking has been known to be particularly difficult, we saw some pretty exciting wheel-to-wheel actions. Button and Vettel were battling it out at the start of the race with Button overtaking Vettel to get into 3rd place. Equally, if not more, nail-biting was when Raikkonen came out of pit lane after pit stop at lap 45, Grosjean was just coming down the track and we saw two Lotus dueling with real danger of crushing. I think Grosjean may have been surprised by Raikkonen, as the

Lotus team radioed Grosjean to let him know that "You're racing Kimi!". Way to go, Raikkonen, on pulling off a move like that with the fresh tyres. That particular move paid off handsomely for Raikkonen as he was able to take 2nd while leaving Grosjean to 3rd in the final results.

As much as this is a big win for McLaren and Hamilton, it's even grander results for Lotus to have double podium. The Lotus cars are getting really good pace and remains competitive with the big 3. I am still optimistic that Raikkonen will win one (or few) Grand Prix this season. Never under-estimate the Iceman, I say! We may still see Raikkonen smile or show the slightest of emotions this season!

Another race weekend, another grid girl outfit. The grid girl outfits continue to be somewhat unimaginative. I think I may have to stop hoping for the couture grid girl outfit. For the Hungarian Grand Prix, the grid girls were dressed in a white and yellow "dress". It starts out looking like a white golf shirt on the top part and then color-morphed to a short yellow bottom. It's catchy visually but slightly odd-looking. This dress makes me long for the all-red-with-white-bow classy but boring dress that we saw a few races back. And Best Post-race hair? Hamilton takes the prize.

Don't forget that F1 is having a summer break for August. There'll be no more races until 8/31! Me sad. Until then, Keep Calm and Carry On! See you late August!

Qualifying Preview: Hungary

Lewis Hamilton has stepped up his game and shown great pace in Friday's sessions in Hungary (photo by HOCH ZWEI)
The last race weekend before the summer break kicked off with Lewis Hamilton commanding the field in both Friday practices, being the only driver to set a sub-1:22 time in a shortened wet-dry practice 2.  His teammate, Jenson Button, also showed his grit turning in the 2nd and 6th fastest times of the two sessions, just .1 seconds behind Hamilton in P1.  Championship points leader Fernando Alonso, who has been one with his car as of late, was fast enough for 3rd and 5th.  2007 Champion Kimi Raikkonen has yet to win a race since his return to F1 this year, but demonstrated he has the pace to reach the top step of the podium by finishing 2nd in practice 2, just .185 seconds behind Hamilton.

For Saturday’s qualifying session, look for arguably the most consistent driver of the field in Alonso to challenge for a third straight pole with a streaky Hamilton nipping at his heels.  Don’t count out Button though for pole though – while he may be all but out of championship contention, he drove a brilliant race in Germany to take 2nd from Sebastian Vettel and is among the fastest when his car is healthy.  Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber has been driving consistent enough to find himself in second place in the championship race, and arguably would have landed on the podium in Germany had he not been the victim of a 5-place grid penalty for an unexpected gearbox change before.  Look for him to make a qualifying statement to Alonso along the lines of “down but not out.”

Could we see another new race winner Sunday?  With 10 grands prix left in the season, the fans are sure to be delighted this weekend with a spirited battle for momentum into Belgium in one month.

Within Arm's Reach: Construction Update at COTA

// Click on any of the photos above to go to the full gallery.

With just under four months to go until the November Formula 1 race at Circuit of The Americas, construction is moving along steadily as the deadline approaches. On site today for a media tour, there was evidence of significant progress since our last visit exactly one month prior. Many are concerned that significant strides may not be enough to achieve the impossible, but COTA and their contractors are confident everything is on schedule.

First stop on the trip was Austin's zenith, Turn 1, where the temporary observation platform has been removed to make room for grandstands and permanent restroom facilities. We were able to exit the shuttle and step out on the run-off area, walking trough the gravel trap and on to the asphalt.

The difference between the track now and a short three months ago (April), makes the less than four month deadline seem completely within reach for COTA. With 700 workers on site at any point during the day, there is no shortage of hands to get this project completed. The guard rails are in place and bolted together and the FIA required fence is taught and ready for race operation. All together, the only thing remaining to finish Turn 1 is the final layer of asphalt for the race surface and some cosmetic details.

Speaking to an Austin Commercial representative (the general contractor), I learned that FIA Safety Delegate Charlie Whiting's June visit to the Circuit (post Canadian Grand Prix) was very positive. Concerns about completion where squashed when compared to recent F1 tracks like Korea and India, both of which staged races but fought the clock late into the night before their respective events. COTA's FIA inspection is scheduled a minimum of 60 days before F1 arrives on track, which makes the weekend of Sept 15-16 the true target for circuit operation.

Continuing on the racing line to our next stop at Turn 11, our ride was smooth and free of previous bumps and rattles from a dirt surface; only the circuit's inherent undulation and natural character came through. Despite traveling only 30 miles per hour in a large shuttle bus, we were able to get a taste of the complex maneuvering that will be required by future drivers; they will certainly enjoy the challenges the first half of the circuit presents.

Stopping at Turn 11 was an opportunity to survey the progress in just one month since Mark Winterbottom's visit to the circuit. This hairpin turn is surprisingly narrow so cars must make their move early coming out of Turn 10 and secure their position before entering Turn 11. In terms of progress, the access road behind the barriers looks complete while the kerbs and fencing are just behind at about 50% completion. Like the majority of the track, the run-off area and track surface are ready to receive final treatment.

Traveling down the main straight to Turn 12, it's hard to not focus on the Tower under construction. With many of the prefabricated steel sections in place, the commanding white tower dominates the western side of the circuit even though it has yet to reach its 251 foot peak. 8" steel tubes painted COTA red will create the canopy of the Tower and stretch down to the amphitheater below. Some evidence of these red tubes adorns the back side of the Main Grandstand and will also be part of the Grand Plaza entrance on the far west side of the track. We didn't stop to look at the Tower, but I'm looking forward to investigating it in the future to understand how the amphitheater and Tower will connect.

Our final stop - on the main straight - was the heart of the on-site action today. With the paddock building on the left, the Main Grandstand on the right, and Turn 1 in the background, the activity and excitement levels here are electric. The Main Grandstand's canopy structure is complete and the first piece of canopy covering has just been installed. The glass windows of the paddock building are practically done and the main scoreboard and starting line gantry are in position. Much remains to satisfy the typical paddock club clientele from what's visible on the track below, so crews are likely beginning to focus more on the buildings and guest amenities as the track and safety elements near completion.

In total, the pieces of the puzzle that will transform this circuit into America's new home for motorsports are secret no more. The world's greatest drivers will soon compete on this track; the top three will grace the podium, spraying champagne over the edge and rewarding their teammates and crew members for their hard work. Thousands of fans have dreamed about the return of an American F1 race for over five years. Within a matter of months now, all the glory will be within arm's reach.

Need seats at Circuit of The Americas? Buy your USGP tickets from TicketCity.

THE RELEVANCE OF MAGYAR: HUNGARIAN GP

 Hungaroring - July 27, 2011

Mogyoród is just 19kms from the nation’s capital twin-cities (of Buda and Pest, unified in 1873 but always divided by the beautiful Danube River) and still creates interest for motor racing fans keen to comprehend what once lay behind the ‘Iron Curtain’. Sadly, the experience is not as clear cut as it might be and, despite a resident enthusiasm to host the mid-season race, the Hungaroring’s place in the calendar might be in jeopardy.

Whose Line Line Is It Anyway?

Sebastian Vettel contemplates his moves during the German GP press conference (Photo by Vladimir Rys/Getty Images)

To suggest that he was not exactly thrilled and that Sebastian Vettel was all but robbed of a second place in the German GP rocked the boat of Iain Robertson enough for him to demand another closer inspection of the final result.

Save The Ring!

Former "Ring Taxi" and BMW Motorsport driver Sabine Schmitz shows her love for the Ring. "Save The Ring" on Facebook.

// Save the Ring

Recently it was announced that Germany’s world-renowned Nurburgring, which has been in financial dire straits for some time now, is (going) broke.  A regular on the F1 calendar alternating with Hockenheim, the ‘Ring has been a worldwide motorsport playground since 1927.  Even though the circuit and the park around it have been publicly owned its entire existence, it was recently rented out to a couple of overzealous privateers, Kai Richter and Jörg Lindner, who unfortunately don’t know much about auto racing or more importantly, its fan base.  

Together they invested heavily in building a giant shopping mall, an oversized hotel, a 3,000 seat venue, and finally a theme park with a roller coaster that doesn’t operate properly.  Sadly, it came as no surprise to motoring fans in the know from the beginning to learn that their investment hasn’t paid off, as the new spaces largely remain vacant.  Even sadder is that a scrappy venture such as this that did not even directly involve auto racing is putting the ‘Ring on the chopping block.

If this longtime fan favorite is to remain on F1 schedule in the future, the track and grounds will have to be at least partially purchased to get out of the €350M hole it’s in.  The EU wouldn’t bail out the track even if it could, which begs the question - who can?  And more importantly – who will?  Some believe one of the giant automakers would be the perfect candidate.  Porsche and GM have been tossed around popular auto hangouts online…but why hasn’t anyone yet mentioned another obvious candidate?

Lately, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has been aggressively pursuing future additions to the F1 calendar, and paying the Nurburgring debt would secure its future in F1, at least for now.  Near the end of 2011, a 10-year deal was struck to add a race along the Hudson River in New Jersey starting in 2013, and Formula 1 has also very recently put in a bid to rent London’s Olympic stadium for a race in and around the venue in the future.  Plus Ecclestone already owns France’s Paul Ricard circuit - where F1 has raced in years past - so this would not be too big a stretch for him despite Nurburgring’s massive size. 

Although we believe the London bid to be a bit of a PR stunt considering the opening ceremony of the 2012 games is a mere 8 days away, it falls right in line with Bernie’s style given he’s often unpredictable in such matters.  Whoever the savior may be though, keep your fingers crossed that someone will pony up with a bailout so racing fans can continue to enjoy the famed Nurburgring.  After all, aren’t bailouts “in” these days?

Finally, here's why we need to save the ring: