NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturday: The Hungarian Grand Prix & More

This weekend, Formula 1 makes its return to the Hungaroring for the (surprise surprise) Hungarian Grand Prix.  This race brings with it a particular eagerness from all parties involved as it is the last event before the summer break.  Another way of looking at things is that it’s like the last day of school before summer, meaning that while everyone may be focused on the race at hand they are also rather keen to get to the beach, mountains, clubs, or wherever else they may be looking to roam.

Because of this attitude, teams are pushing, bringing upgrades, double-checking their strategies, while the drivers may also be suffering from a bit of extra adrenaline.  This latter aspect can be found in some of the silly mistakes in the first two practices of the weekend even if you may want to argue that the drivers are just testing the limits of the 2017 car on the track.  It should be mentioned that speeds are up almost three seconds as compared to last year.

Then there were Jolyon Palmer and Pascal Wehrlein.  Palmer wrecked in both practices, first tearing apart the underside of his Renault and following up with a drive into the barriers.  If his job was already tenuous at best these two incidents should seal the proverbial deal and let the speculation begin as to who will be taking over his seat for the second half of the season.  

Wehrlein’s incident shouldn’t be nearly as troubling but did look a little peculiar as it appeared something must have come undone in the front suspension before he slid into the barriers, bringing out a red flag.  The cars, on the whole looked a bit unsettled which is something that should make for an interesting race on Sunday.

One final note, Red Bull brought a host of upgrades to their car, including side-pod, floor, and fairing modifications.  Their car ought to be strong at the Hungaroring as it isn’t as dependent on outright speed and it is perhaps showing already as Daniel Ricciardo paced both practices.  Such optimism toward Red Bull leading the field should be tempered as Lewis Hamilton managed a lap only three-tenths slower on a harder compound tyre.  

Odds & Sods

– The allegiance that Sauber and Honda had struck for next season has been terminated.  Sauber will go back to using Ferrari engines in their cars in a move that should come as no surprise.  There are a couple things in play with this situation.  First, resuming the partnership that Sauber has with Ferrari makes things easier for them but the more notable aspect is that they’ll be using the Ferrari 2018 engine in their Sauber 2018 car.  Right now, Sauber is using last year’s Ferrari engine as stipulated.

Second, Toro Rosso has become the new focal point for Honda.  The team also currently uses last year’s Ferrari engines and a switch to Honda could bring the team more to the fore as the Japanese supplier will also be re-upping with McLaren.  Though Honda has proven to be terrible since they’ve returned, this kind of commitment is what should help hammer out the flaws and bring greater success to all parties involved.  

Halo F1 FIA 2018 1 red bull
The Halo will be part of the 2018 season (photo: Getty Images)

– In what has become a contested decision, the governing body announced that the Halo cockpit protection device would become the norm for the 2018 season.  Those involved in the sport have expressed reactions running the gamut.  Some feel it is ugly, that it hasn’t been tested enough, that the sport could do better.  Others have taken the position that there was no need to do anything at all, as they, like Max Verstappen, feel the cars are safe and that danger is part of the sport and should not be written out of it.  Then there’s those, like Sebastian Vettel, who take the pragmatist perspective and see how the Halo could be beneficial and how keeping the drivers alive is a good thing – after all, unless you’re a sadist, no one likes seeing their drivers get mangled in sport.  

While it does seem that the Halo may be being rushing into implementation, it should be recognized as a start rather than a finality.  The sport loves to tinker with everything it can and there should be little doubt that what will be seen on the cars next year is merely the first iteration of what will be a part of the car that will continue to face updates.  

One final note about the Halo is that there is potential promise in making them stand out individually.  The device could easily become a place for either or both drivers and sponsors to decorate as they may see fit.  Such a position on the car, one of high visibility, would be an important piece.  

– The sport is facing an intriguing dilemma.  It is now at the onset of a youth movement as teams now have stacked talent behind their primary drivers.  Take Ferrari, for example.  They have both Antonio Giovinazzi and Charles Leclerc waiting, yet even if Kimi Raikkonen were to leave at the end of the year neither would be moving on to take his seat, yet both young drivers have shown they are hot talents in the lower ranks and important components for the sport’s future.  

Ferrari isn’t alone.  The problem is that there just aren’t very many seats that are liable to be open in the near future.  Even a spot, like if Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso weren’t retained, is likely to bring about any massive changes.  This aspect of the sport should be fascinating to watch as these drivers could certainly seek finding homes in a place like IndyCar or what looks like a burgeoning sport, Formula E.  

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 mile layout.  Teams are likely to use a higher downforce package on the course as there’s a perception that it drives in a similar way to Monaco, just without the walls.  Lewis Hamilton paces both retired and active drivers with five wins.  Though Mercedes has been dominant the last three years overall, they had struggled at the track the previous two races until Hamilton took the win last year.  

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