Hamilton handed chance to cut points deficit

2012 Hungarian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Halfway through the season Lewis Hamilton is fifth in the drivers’ championship, 62 points behind leader Fernando Alonso.

The outcome of the Hungarian Grand Prix will go a long way towards determining whether that deficit – roughly the same as two-and-a-half race wins – is recoverable.

He’s been handed a golden opportunity to claw back some of the lost ground in Hungary. McLaren have shown up with a car that’s clearly capable of winning and perhaps more competitive than it has been all season.

Too many times this year McLaren have let a chance at victory slip through their fingers. They – and Hamilton – cannot afford to squander this one.

The start

This will be Hamilton’s third time starting from pole position at the Hungaroring. He won here from pole in 2007.

But in 2008 he lost his pole position advantage at the first corner when Felipe Massa launched an audacious pass around the outside.

He will be wise to any such threats this time. But the driver he shares the front row with – Romain Grosjean – does not have a strong record of starts this year. And starting off-line is particularly problematic at this little-used venue.

At 440m, the run to the first corner from the starting line at the Hungaroring is one of the longest on the calendar. That presents a significant opportunity for drivers to gain places on a track where overtaking is normally regarded as being very difficult.

Last year’s race in mixed weather conditions made it difficult to get a read on whether the DRS zone has made overtaking much easier in normal conditions at this track. The position of the DRS zone and activation point is unchanged from last year.

The Ferrari drivers have been among the best at making ground at the start this year. Look for Alonso and Massa to gain ground from sixth and seventh at the start.


Practice showed up some discrepancies in performance on the different types of tyre between the teams. Notably, McLaren and Lotus were considerably quicker on the medium tyre than they were on the soft, suggesting this will form the basis of their race strategy.

Despite having a considerable performance advantageon one-lap pace, Hamilton is well aware Lotus could be more of a threat over a long race stint. He might not be too disappointed if Grosjean loses out to Sebastian Vettel at the start.

Such is the nature of Lotus’s advantage the team would have preferred if Pirelli had brought the tyre allocation used here last year – soft and super-soft – instead of the more conservative soft and medium.

Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery reckons one-stop strategies could be possible during the race: “We’re expecting to see two pit stops tomorrow from what we can tell so far, although the comparatively low wear rate means that some might even attempt a one-stop strategy.”

Drivers lose around 20 seconds coming into the pits to make a stop. Last year Red Bull achieved the quickest turnaround in the pits, taking 19.7 seconds.

In the last three races McLaren have been the quickest crew on the pit lane, which gives Hamilton another reason to feel confident. But the threat of rain will not.

McLaren admit they have not got on top of the demands of the Pirelli tyres in wet conditions. There is a good chance of rain during Sunday’s race, and their rivals will be glued to the radars in the hope it might offer the best chance for them to beat McLaren.

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMcLaren1’21.7941’21.060 (-0.734)1’20.953 (-0.107)
2Romain GrosjeanLotus1’22.7551’21.657 (-1.098)1’21.366 (-0.291)
3Sebastian VettelRed Bull1’22.9481’21.407 (-1.541)1’21.416 (+0.009)
4Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’22.0281’21.618 (-0.410)1’21.583 (-0.035)
5Kimi RaikkonenLotus1’22.2341’21.583 (-0.651)1’21.730 (+0.147)
6Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’22.0951’21.598 (-0.497)1’21.844 (+0.246)
7Felipe MassaFerrari1’22.2031’21.534 (-0.669)1’21.900 (+0.366)
8Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1’22.4751’21.504 (-0.971)1’21.939 (+0.435)
9Bruno SennaWilliams1’22.2711’21.697 (-0.574)1’22.343 (+0.646)
10Nico HulkenbergForce India1’22.1761’21.653 (-0.523)1’22.847 (+1.194)
11Mark WebberRed Bull1’22.8291’21.715 (-1.114)
12Paul di RestaForce India1’21.9121’21.813 (-0.099)
13Nico RosbergMercedes1’22.0791’21.895 (-0.184)
14Sergio PerezSauber1’22.1101’21.895 (-0.215)
15Kamui KobayashiSauber1’22.8011’22.300 (-0.501)
16Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1’22.7991’22.380 (-0.419)
17Michael SchumacherMercedes1’22.4361’22.723 (+0.287)
18Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1’23.250
19Heikki KovalainenCaterham1’23.576
20Vitaly PetrovCaterham1’24.167
21Charles PicMarussia1’25.244
22Timo GlockMarussia1’25.476
23Pedro de la RosaHRT1’25.916
24Narain KarthikeyanHRT1’26.178

Vettel was surprised at his inability to improve his time in Q3, though he was far from the only driver to have that problem:

“We burned more tyres than we thought in the beginning, so we only had one new set for Q3. The run we had was okay, but I didn’t get the same feeling that I got at the end of Q2, which was a surprise, so we didn’t seem to go with the track and make another step. Romain was in reach, but Lewis was another step.”

Team mate Webber didn’t even make it that far: “I was happy with the car this morning, I was quick in third practice, but I didn’t feel happy on that last set of soft tyres in Q2 and struggled against my scrub time, which is a bit bizarre.

“The field is tight at the moment and it’s disappointing to qualify in11th obviously”

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton28.986 (1)29.254 (2)22.650 (1)
Romain Grosjean29.251 (12)29.224 (1)22.843 (5)
Sebastian Vettel29.064 (3)29.364 (4)22.855 (7)
Jenson Button29.040 (2)29.400 (6)22.928 (11)
Kimi Raikkonen29.100 (6)29.420 (7)22.881 (8)
Fernando Alonso29.080 (4)29.371 (5)22.969 (12)
Felipe Massa29.183 (9)29.516 (12)22.835 (4)
Pastor Maldonado29.190 (10)29.508 (11)22.719 (3)
Bruno Senna29.139 (7)29.451 (9)22.923 (9)
Nico Hulkenberg29.149 (8)29.335 (3)22.924 (10)
Mark Webber29.091 (5)29.632 (15)22.716 (2)
Paul di Resta29.195 (11)29.532 (13)22.997 (14)
Nico Rosberg29.324 (14)29.479 (10)22.983 (13)
Sergio Perez29.342 (15)29.436 (8)22.852 (6)
Kamui Kobayashi29.381 (16)29.582 (14)23.161 (16)
Jean-Eric Vergne29.489 (17)29.859 (17)23.032 (15)
Michael Schumacher29.322 (13)29.787 (16)23.262 (17)
Daniel Ricciardo29.658 (20)30.197 (18)23.395 (19)
Heikki Kovalainen29.617 (18)30.411 (19)23.389 (18)
Vitaly Petrov29.638 (19)30.642 (20)23.625 (20)
Charles Pic30.463 (21)30.800 (21)23.845 (21)
Timo Glock30.507 (22)30.844 (22)23.975 (22)
Pedro de la Rosa30.578 (24)31.265 (23)24.027 (23)
Narain Karthikeyan30.522 (23)31.431 (24)24.161 (24)

Senna was relieved to reach Q3 for the first time this year: “It’s been a good weekend so far and I’m really happy to be in the top ten for the first time this season.

“Q2 was extremely close but we were able to get through. I could have done a better lap in Q3 but I’m pleased with the result and having both cars in Q3 is great for the team”

Speed trap

PosDriverCarSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Paul di RestaForce India305.2 (189.6)
2Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso304.9 (189.5)-0.3
3Fernando AlonsoFerrari303.1 (188.3)-2.1
4Sebastian VettelRed Bull303.1 (188.3)-2.1
5Nico HulkenbergForce India302.7 (188.1)-2.5
6Bruno SennaWilliams302.6 (188.0)-2.6
7Jenson ButtonMcLaren302.6 (188.0)-2.6
8Lewis HamiltonMcLaren302.3 (187.8)-2.9
9Heikki KovalainenCaterham301.8 (187.5)-3.4
10Kimi RaikkonenLotus301.7 (187.5)-3.5
11Nico RosbergMercedes301.4 (187.3)-3.8
12Felipe MassaFerrari301.4 (187.3)-3.8
13Sergio PerezSauber301.0 (187.0)-4.2
14Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso301.0 (187.0)-4.2
15Mark WebberRed Bull300.6 (186.8)-4.6
16Vitaly PetrovCaterham300.2 (186.5)-5.0
17Romain GrosjeanLotus300.2 (186.5)-5.0
18Michael SchumacherMercedes299.9 (186.3)-5.3
19Kamui KobayashiSauber297.3 (184.7)-7.9
20Pastor MaldonadoWilliams295.8 (183.8)-9.4
21Pedro de la RosaHRT294.5 (183.0)-10.7
22Narain KarthikeyanHRT292.6 (181.8)-12.6
23Timo GlockMarussia292.0 (181.4)-13.2
24Charles PicMarussia290.3 (180.4)-14.9

2012 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Image © McLaren/Hoch Zwei

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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51 comments on “Hamilton handed chance to cut points deficit”

  1. Hopefully Lewis can make the championship a little more exciting.

    When I first read “Hamilton Handed” I feared for the worst!

    1. When I first read “Hamilton Handed” I feared for the worst!

      Lol! that’s two out of two then! A bit of mischief on Keith’s part?

    2. Make it 3! Keith you instigator!

    3. Is there room for a 4th? heh!

    4. 5! I’d already clicked on the title before I realised all was fine.

      1. Did you say “fine” :D !

        1. Don’t forget to include me. 6th!

          1. Me too. I nearly turned HULK

    5. Me too. Once I read “Hamilton handed”, I auto-completed it to “a penalty”.

    6. The feeling is mutual :D

    7. Add me to the list, I automatically thought “what did the guy do this time?”

      1. I was feeling a Hamilton 5 place grid penalty for blocking :D Had to keep checking the site just so i can confirm Hamilton will be on pole

    8. +1

      Yes, please don’t use “Hamilton” & “Handed” together… ever! …:)

      Also… he won’t be “handed” the points, he will “earn” it.

      1. Haha, and I thought I was the only one!

  2. When I started reading the title, my heart skipped a beat at “Hamilton handed”… ;-)

  3. Grosjean and Vettel are looking good – the last 4 races here have been won by the driver who exited T1 in 3rd position.

    1. Raikonnen then! :D

    2. On the other hand, drivers starting third on the grid are yet to finish on the podium this year.

      1. Vettel in Silverstone…

        1. Vettel qualified 4th at Silverstone.

          Mark made a mistake in S2? :/

          Lost .268 in relation to Vettel but not mentioned on broadcast.

          Was .027 behind in first sector and ahead by .139 in third.

      2. @andrew81 That’s a very good stat!

    3. Considering yet another Red Bull controversy with their car, i’m doubtful Vettel will get anywhere now.

  4. If it stays dry, I’d put money on Grosjean. Given the right situations, that Lotus is fantastically fast, and if he manages to stay close to Hamilton, he might be up for a great finish.

    If it rains, then it’s a big lottery, ofc. I’d put my money on Alonso instead.

    BTW, the “Hamilton handed…” worried me a bit on Twitter. Glad I got to read the whole sentence before drawing any conclusion xD.

  5. Viva la Romain! C’mon this is your chance to take a win! Please be dry for the race!!!

    1. would love to see GRO make a fab start, he has no one has no one in front of him so he can just GO!

  6. Hopefully its not a boring progression. HAM winning will make it no more exciting than if any of the other 4 contenders win.

  7. Dimitris 1395 (@)
    28th July 2012, 19:22

    Sebastian Vettel is 4th in the speed trap. Unexpected…

    1. @dimitris-1395 He was also top in Friday Practice. Strange! I assumed he got a tow but you saying that makes me think otherwise.

    2. I would assume they would run their usual high downforce set-up, that is rather strange!

  8. ‘Hamilton handed’ fooled me as well…

    I do wonder about the consistency in the quality of the Pirelli’s.

    I know there are lots of checks to make sure everybody gets the same tyres, but I keep hearing and reading comments, like now from Webber, where a driver or a team was surprised by the performance of one set of tyres.

    I remember that in the past you sometimes heard the same: one set of Bridgedtones / michelins / good years which just don’t work as expected. But now I hear it a lot more. Inconsistent quality @ Pirelli? Or media overload in an age where every little fart gets reported?

    1. Webber FP3 time would have been good enough for fourth on the grid. I just assumed he made a slight mistake in S2 as that sector has the flowing section where a slight mistake in the early corners gets magnified at the end.

      Nice to see Felipe nearly matching Alonso in qualy, hopefully he can get a good race in.

      1. yes and Webbers Q2 time would have given him 5th. These tyres are certainly strange, we seem to be hearing the story/excuse that 1 set did not work as well as the last a lot more widely through the field this year. I wonder if there are actual detrimental differences in the tyres or whether its all due to track conditions.

  9. Well, being an Alonso fan I want it to rain. Can help but remember his first lap in Hungaroring ’06 in wet.
    Just spectacular

    1. And F2012 seems to be the best car when it’s wet.

    2. I Also recall him binning it in 07.

    3. I’m wondering if Ferrari and RedBull, amongst others, might be having a bet each way with a wet or semi-wet set-up on 1 or both cars.

  10. I’ve just checked the weather and I’s already raining in Budapest so i assume that it is also raining at Mogyoród where the track is located. According to the satellite pictures it looks like the rain will continue all day long.

    1. Wow, you’re right. it would be interesting.

  11. Nehad Hussain
    29th July 2012, 7:46

    Am i the only one who wasn’t fooled by the title?

    1. Nope, I was expecting the pre-race analysis and clicked on it without really reading the title :P

  12. There was a heavy thunderstorm in the night but it is clearing up now.

    1. Never trust any weather radar or the weather itself until the race begins. Seeing is believing.

    2. There is another storm cell approaching Budapest from the East. Anyway, as @JohnBt says, weather is very difficult to predict so you never know.

  13. Keith, headline shoulda been ‘Hamilton grabs pole blinfolded’ honestly he earned it!

  14. Looks like it will be clear, dry and warm for the race, but not as hot as yesterday. http://www.myweather2.com/Motor-Racing/Hungary/Hungaroring-Circuit.aspx

  15. Hamilton is in the same WDC championship position now that he is been since 2009 nothing new, if he is to stay in Mclaren well paid need to get some results, other than poles….
    Hulkenberg or Bottas can do really good with the fastest car in my opinion and Maclaren is not new to giving rookies a front car from start !

  16. Heavy rain is expected at the Hungaroring today but the question is will it arrive in time for the F1 race?

    It rained at the circuit this morning and the GP3 race ran on a wet but drying track. However it was won by a driver who switched to slicks during the race, and it was slicks all round for the GP2 race which has just finished.

    Thanks to @exeter for this link to the forecast for nearby Mogyorod, which shows a lot of rain is expected today but possibly too late for the race which starts at 2pm local time:

    This radar shows the movement of the band of rain in the area, it’s just edging into view on the last image which was at 08:45 UTC (10:45 in Hungary):


    You can see the location of the Hungaroring here:


    Will the rain arrive in time for the race? We’ll keep a close eye on it on F1 Fanatic Live and of course I’ll be posting updates via Twitter.

  17. Three words…Come on Lotus!

    It’s not like I’m pining for a victory because it’s Lotus but I do think they would be a massive spanner in the works if they bagged a victory tomorrow. Their car is long overdue a race win, but their lack of decent execution on a Saturday leaves a lot to be desired. Notice how I say ‘car’ and not team, if that makes sense!

    At the moment, McLaren seem pretty much on form, I can only see Hamilton losing it off the line or in the first couple of laps. Their pit-stops are quick and their strategy seems to be working well for the moment.

    Interestingly though, for the first time in a couple of races the drivers are starting the race on the tyres they qualified on. I wonder if that will shake thing up a little?

Comments are closed.