Friday, 29 July 2011

Friday in Hungary, McLaren Strike Back?

It was a grey and dull day at the Hungaroring for the first free practice session of the Hungarian Grand Prix. The cars went out on a track that was cooler than expected and still slightly damp from earlier rain and soon started to get up to speed. There were a few occasions to be announced at this race, so lets get those out of the way first. It was Fernando Alonso's 30th birthday, Jenson Button's 200th Grand Prix and the BBC announced that they would not be showing all the F1 races live from next year. More on the BBC coverage later, first lets get the on track action out of the way.

Photo courtesy of Force India F1
Button was the first of the front runners to set a competitive time but he was quickly topped by Hamilton as the session got properly under way. Alonso took the top spot a while later but it was much later in the session before Vettel made his mark and took P1 away from him. There were a few missed corners and lock ups but nothing too major during the session. Then as the end started to draw closer the soft tyres came out and the pace was upped again.

Webber made a mistake 15 minutes from the end. He ran wide on the exit of turn 4, hit the astroturf and spun across the track to take his nose off on the barrier. The australian was able to drive back to the pit but his session was over. Despite getting some traffic, and being obviously frustrated by it, Hamilton managed the fastest time of the session. He beat Vettel by 0.214 seconds with Alonso taking third. Webber held fourth followed by Button and Massa.

Practice 2 was again grey but dry and the lap times started being posted almost straight away. Throughout the session the McLarens, Ferraris and Red Bulls traded fastest times. It seemed that the fastest lap was the first on the soft tyres though, with no-one appearing to be able to do better on their second flying lap. As the session wound down it was once again Hamilton who held the top spot with Alonso 0.241 behind. Button finished third in front of Webber, Vettel and Massa. The Red Bull drivers must have been disappointed with their times, almost half a second behind Hamilton.

There is a chance that McLaren's mid season turnaround might continue here. But Red Bull rarely show everything they have on Friday. There is still lots of track time (for them!) before the race so it would be wrong to get confident too early. However this has got to be a boost for everyone else. Just maybe the finger won't be waved again this weekend!

BBC Coverage

Photo courtesy of Team Lotus
The other big news today was the announcement that the BBC will be 'sharing' coverage with Sky in the UK from next year. This means that the BBC will show 10 races live throughout the year, concentrating on some of the biggest events, and Sky will show all the races in full. For those in the UK, who have been enjoying some of the best F1 coverage ever seen, this is a huge disappointment. Although Sky are quick to point out that there won't be any adverts during the race, there is still the pretty high barrier to entry of paying for the Sky Sports TV package. Its hard to believe the broadcaster's claim that this will "bring increased choice, innovation and breadth of coverage." At the moment it seems a bit of a Hobson's choice. If you want to see the races live, get your cash out.

The BBC have an award winning team with some of the biggest audiences for many years. Cutting a large portion of those viewers out wouldn't seem to be the best choice for Formula 1. A sport that relies so heavily on advertising must have large audiences, and this is a move which is guaranteed to make them smaller.


With all of that out of the way, who is in with the best chance of a win? Well McLaren still look like their renaissance is continuing and Hamilton seems to be back in the zone. It would be tough to bet against them from what we have seen so far. Ferrari are right there with them and its Red Bull who, shockingly, appear to be playing catch-up. This is only Friday though and we have seen this arrangement before only to have it switch back to normal Red Bull domination at the end of qualifying. Lets hold on to our hope though and put Hamilton on our imaginary pole. Will he survive the race in first place? I'm going to go with yes. If he can start in front and have similar speed to those around him he won't let anyone else beat him to the line. So its Hamilton first, Alonso second and Vettel third for me. What do you think?

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