After a three week gap, F1 is back this weekend with the Hungarian Grand Prix. Since the last race, the teams have run their “young” drivers tests and Pirelli have changed the tyres again and it looks like it might help Ferrari and Lotus more than it will help Mercedes and Red Bull.
If that is the case, then it is good news for Alonso and Raikkonen as they try to catch Vettel before he builds up an unassailable lead for the 2013 World Championship. It’s not great news for Hamilton though. His Mercedes was blisteringly quick on one qualifying lap using the 2013 tyres but not so good over race distances. The switch to the new 2012/2013 hybrid tyres may well remove Mercedes qualifying advantage without improving their race pace.
If Pirelli’s new tyres for this weekend act as expected, then the softer tyre should last slightly better than the previous tyres and thus cars that can look after their tyres may be able to make better use of the softer tyres that should be up to 1 second a lap quicker that the harder tyres – which teams have found to be the better race tyre in the last few races. If the tyre update does give teams more options for race strategies, they will also need to factor in the new lower pit lane speed limit.
From this weekend, the Pits speed limit has been reduced to 80 Kmh – this means nearly 4 seconds extra for a complete pit stop at the Hungaroring. When teams are considering race strategies, they factor in the performance of the tyres over a set number of laps and the “cost” of stopping in the Pits. With a longer pit-stop, looking after tyres becomes even more important. If the Lotus can look after both hard and soft tyres this weekend, we may well see their two drivers on the top two steps of the podium instead of the second and third steps they achieved last time out.
The over-riding good news about the tyre developments is that it seems from the tests that the changes made for this race won’t change the order on its head and make the 2013 championship a game of two halves. Of course that’s probably not great news for McLaren who are having their worst year for a long time. The team who have won 6 out of the last 8 races in Hungary have pretty much admitted defeat this year and will be doing everything possible to ensure that their fortunes are reversed in 2014.
As a long time McLaren fan, I really hope that they bounce back next year and we can all enjoy seeing Button mix it up at the front again.