NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturday: Radio Rules, Track Limits and More at the Hungarian Grand Prix

As Formula 1 is set to have back-to-back race weekends before the summer break, here’s a look at what’s happening at this week’s Hungarian Grand Prix.  

Mercedes and Nico Rosberg tested the limits of the radio rules governing F1 this year at Silverstone, giving with the team giving him coaching which resulted in a ten second penalty for the driver.  Though the infraction did not cost Rosberg his second-place finish, it did become a serious talking point for teams as they then recognized that they could break the rule and suffer little for it.  In response, F1 has added stipulations to the rule.  Now, if a team coaches a driver, the driver is forced to bring the car to pit lane or face not being scored.  The idea is that an unwanted trip to pit lane is more hampering than something Rosberg endured.  Perhaps, though, for cars that are in serious need, this rule is a way to get themselves back on track while incurring just a modest penalty – and even allowing for new tyres.  This rule continues to baffle those in F1 and it will be interesting to see how it further develops both in criticism and in strategy.  

– Qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix proved to be a bit challenging this weekend.  Two quick showers drenched the track and made a mess of the first session.  Four red flags plagued the session, with Marcus Ericcson of Sauber, Felipe Massa of Williams and Rio Haryanto all wrecking their cars.  The first session finally ended early.  The drying conditions also made the battle for the pole difficult as Lewis Hamilton suffered on his fast lap because of a spun out Fernando Alonso.  Rosberg ultimately took the pole.  

– Speaking of Fernando Alonso, with one year left on his contract at McLaren, is making his usual noise.  Alonso seems to voice his displeasure about once a year and this time his focus wasn’t on his team but more toward F1.  His notable comment was that drivers are unable to attack in the sport.  Due to the limits of the tyres, lack of refueling, and the car’s design, drivers, Alonso feels, prevents drivers from taking the cars to the limits.  The two time champion mentioned LeMans and the Indianapolis 500 as targets should he decide to leave the sport.  This seems like usual Alonso banter but does give an indication of where his eyes are wandering.  

– Formula 1 gave a presentation to the drivers on the Halo cockpit protection that will be used next year.  The officials showed how the Halo would assist drivers by going over crashes from F1, F2, and F3 and detailing what the Halo would do in those instances.  Perhaps the key part of the presentation is when officials showed how the Red Bull developed cockpit screen would not hold up to the same wrecks.  

– The previous two races, at Red Bull Ring and Silverstone, saw a number of drivers test the track limits.  Even defending world champion Lewis Hamilton had a qualifying lap deleted at Silverstone for putting four wheels off course.  In response to drivers pushing the track limits, and an effort to take the decision making out of the steward’s hands, F1 will be implementing electronic scoring of the cars.  

– Mercedes announced this past week that it had re-signed Nico Rosberg through 2018.  This move is another that quiets silly season on the heels of Ferrari keeping Kimi Raikkonen for next year.  The one move that continues gain to get attention is that Massa is likely out at Williams.  Jenson Button, whose contract with McLaren ends this year, is likely to make the move back to Williams as he closes out his career.  

The Race

The Hungaroring opened in 1986 and has held the Hungarian Grand Prix since.  The track was repaved for the 2016 and features 14 turns on its 2.72 layout.  Teams are likely to use a higher downforce package on the course.  Michael Schumacher leads all drivers with four wins while Lewis Hamilton paces the active drivers with three wins.  Though Mercedes has been dominant the last two years overall, they have not won this race during the span, as Daniel Ricciardo took first in 2014 and Sebastian Vettel in 2015.  

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