Pierre Gasly, Red Bull, Hungaroring, 2019

Paddock Diary: Hungarian Grand Prix day three

2019 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Negotiations over the 2020 F1 calendar continue in the paddock, while Max Verstappen’s performance on the track puts his team mate under pressure. @DieterRencken reports from the Hungaroring.

7am

I catch up on motorsport and international news and pay particular attention to the weather forecast: apart from early morning rain, the day looks set to be dry and hot.

After breakfast – dubbed a ‘Swedish Buffet’ and comprising fresh(ish) fruit, coffee and French toast – I take a walk around the neighbourhood. My hotel is situated in what appears to be one of Budapest’s middle-class class suburbs, but clearly the basic infrastructure lacks investment.

Despite almost three decades having passed since the hated Berlin Wall was torn down, decades of communist (mis)rule are evident throughout the city, and will clearly take many more years to eradicate – and more is the pity, for both country and city are top class destinations. The people are as warm as you’ll find anywhere, and the local cuisine marvellous. Think a proper goulash, either as stew or soup.

9am

Although final practice won’t start until noon, I head to the circuit. I intend following up on the Spanish GP saga and the related question of pre-season testing. A fixture during grand prix weekends at which F1 CEO Chase Carey is present is a Saturday morning ‘Coffee with Chase’ debrief session, with all team bosses present. Thus the matter is sure to be discussed today.

11am

I spot various team bosses heading towards Mercedes, and from my media centre desk I note Toto Wolff chatting to Carey on the rooftop terrace of the team’s hospitality unit while other team bosses take up seats indoors. They all emerge around 45 minutes later in time for the final hour of running before qualifying. The trick now is to find someone willing to talk about the meeting…

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1pm

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2019Lunch at Ferrari, or more precisely, Philip Morris, for the team’s primary sponsor provides media hospitality. Chicken salad starter, followed by a generous portion of pasta do me while I sit with Paula Calderon, who manages sister Tatiana’s F2 career, so we discuss various challenges facing young drivers of whatever gender. One of the issues is that F1 does not have enough seats, causing ‘bottlenecks’ down the order.

During my subsequent walk through the paddock I find a senior team source willing to provide some ‘Coffee with Chase’ feedback. We move onto the driver market, and he predicts that 2020’s Silly Season – i.e. ahead of 2021 – will be “Explosive, with virtually every driver worthy of consideration being out of contract at the end of 2020.”

Thus, in a little over a year, F1 not only faces totally revised technical, power unit and sporting and commercial regulations and a restructured governance procedure, but will be hit by a disrupted driver market. The sport could looks very different the year after next.

2pm

George Russell, Williams, Hungaroring, 2019A timely interview with Claire Williams as part of our monthly team boss series, and I’m delighted to relate that she is extremely bullish about the team’s future. More details during the summer break.

The interview runs slightly over the allocated 25 minutes, so thereafter I hot-foot back to the media centre in time for qualifying. I’m told certain journalists jeered when Nico Hulkenberg denied Williams their first appearance in Q2 this year by knocking out George Russell in Q1, but that does not hold true on my floor – the media centre is spread over two floors of the control tower complex, and I’m in the top, less populated, room. What happened below I do not know.

Whatever, on cue Russell put in a demon performance. While that single lap does not in itself provide incontrovertible proof that Williams is back, it does underscore the deputy team principal’s earlier confidence that the team has turned a corner. I, for one, hope so.

That said, the lap of the day was undoubtedly Max Verstappen’s scintillating final effort. Not only did he claim his first pole position, but the first for a Honda-powered car for 13 years, emphasising how much progress they have made. The mere fact Max, who drives at nothing less than ten-tenths, previously failed to score a pole position, proves how much he ‘over-performs’ in races.

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4:30pm

I speak to the drivers after qualifying. From this year Ferrari has canned post-qualifying media sessions (save for obligatory TV stuff) and as neither car made it into the top three on this occasion, there are no Ferrari interviews. This suggests a touch of red arrogance – the team seemingly believes it would have one or both cars in the top three, and thus in the podium press conference. Best laid plans…

Over at Red Bull, Pierre Gasly gets snappy when asked about his future by a French colleague, and so he should, having been out-qualified by team-mate (and pole sitter) by almost a second.

“Everything’s been clear,” says Pierre. “I think you guys have spoken to Helmut [Marko] enough. What do you want me to comment? I’m not going to answer that question every interview…”

7pm

Interviews over and sent, it’s time to pack up and hit the road. I’d been advised the dining room in the hotel is closed tonight on account of a wedding reception, so I stop at a McDonalds along the way. Despite the distant thump-thump of wedding music I clear my desk and turn in at 11pm.

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2019 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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9 comments on “Paddock Diary: Hungarian Grand Prix day three”

  1. I don’t blame him for being snappy. It indeed has been quite evident for a number of races already based on not only Helmut’s but Christian’s words as well that any changes to the driver line-ups of the two teams owned by the energy drinks company would only concern next season, not the current campaign anymore.

    1. @jerejj, the thing is, the team were also saying very similar things about Kvyat before he was dumped from Red Bull back into Toro Rosso, and then repeating a similar refrain earlier in the season before Kvyat was then dumped in favour of Gasly at Toro Rosso. That prior behaviour is why I suspect you’ll find some have their doubts over whether Red Bull really are being sincere about keeping Gasly on for the rest of this season.

      Furthermore, whilst Red Bull don’t have a driver who can immediately claim a superlicence (O’Ward is not even remotely close – his championships had such small fields they failed to meet the minimum qualifying threshold for superlicence points), Jüri Vips may become eligible for a superlicence at the end of September.

      I think that is why there are a few who feel that Gasly’s seat isn’t necessarily secure for the whole of this season – even if Red Bull stick with the policy of only promoting from within their ranks, if Vips becomes available, then it becomes viable for Red Bull to replace Gasly with one of their drivers at Toro Rosso and then promote Vips to Toro Rosso.

      1. Well said anon, continuing doubt about his position isn’t odd. But, I do get Gasly’s point that it’s not for him to answer (anymore), but rather up to the management whether they do make changes this season or the next. As such, asking the question is maybe more cruel than effective.

        1. Given that Gasly was lapped by Max, does raise the question of why keep him in the primary seat when you could let Albon or Kvyat have a crack at it for the rest of the season.
          Albon especially might benefit from the chance to drive a front-line car, an opportunity that Gasly seems to be squandering.
          One fly in the ointment, might be tied to the set-up, technical and race support that Gasly is getting. Is he on a level footing with Max and if not, then Red Bull would benefit from some careful in-team management.
          DR … Really nice to get some inside-scoop on wheelings and dealings. Much appreciated. Thanks.

  2. This suggests a touch of red arrogance

    Flip it on them, at the next interview ask if they’re ashamed to face the press if they don’t qualify in the top three :)

    1. Now that would be a good question @phylyp!

  3. Thanks for your paddock insights, Dieter. Often I’m envious of your fancy F1 journo lifestyle… and then this:

    so I stop at a McDonalds along the way

    And the envy turns to nausea. ;-)

  4. Fantastic to read that, after many very nice paddock hospitality lunches, Dieter has to resort to McDonalds!

  5. A ‘proper’ goulash really should be prepared a day ahead (or even two) and let sit…but that happens to be against EU food safety regulations, so I suppose there is no longer ‘proper’ goulash possible now on restaurant menus.

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