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GP Week : Issue 164
21 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: I n the absence of any wayward tyre temperatures, surface debris, brake imbalance or pit stop glitches, Lewis Carl Hamilton calmly went about his business in Hungary, taking the pole with ease and controlling the race from the front. It’s what he does so well – even if 2012 to date hasn’t allowed him to do it very much. No matter. Days like this can make the past seem vague and the future crystal-clear. As fortune-cookie says: why not? Why can’t there be more days like Hungary, when the McLaren MP4-27A is a Ferrari/Red Bull/Lotus-Renault- beater, and Lewis thus goes on to win his second world title? It’s a good way to launch the August break, at any rate. To think ahead. To wonder “what if?” . McLaren, of course, are far too basic to be so induced. They’ll continue to work, to capitalise on the success of their recent updates. And Ferrari – whilst in no way being trite – will realistically point to Hungary not being their sort of circuit. Too many long, slow corners. Too narrow a groove. Red Bull? They will be more worried. They were out-downforced, out-front- ended and out-tractioned not only by McLaren but also by Lotus-Renault. They lacked sheer qualifying pace and they had no advantage when it came to tyre consumption. Where is the RB8 that dominated so much of Valencia? Red Bull spokesmen say emphatically that it hasn’t in any way been affected by the most recent round of engine map “clarifications” . Or the alternator quick-fix. Hungary isn’t your Valencia; that’s true. It’s much more of a driver’s circuit (in the sense that small errors have large impacts in Hungary) and that risk-taking, if successful, brings you rewards. We were talking on last Wednesday’s The Flying Lap about potential outcomes; it wasn’t difficult to foresee Lewis as the logical winner and Kimi as the driver who would push him hardest (or take the win should Lewis strike his now-customary trouble). There are enough flicky change- of-direction sections in Hungary for Lewis to find those miniscule, trademark flat-car zones of his, where he unloads the car and reduces slip angle, and thus frees-up his exits, and there’s enough emphasis on positive steering lock in Hungary for Lewis to be able to ‘shorten’ his corners with his early, Alonso-like initial turn and thus to reap the rewards with a straight- line exit from the corners and onto the straights beyond. It was difficult, in short (excuse the pun) to see how Jenson was ever going to out-qualify Lewis in similar cars. Question was: where would Red Bull and Lotus-Renault be (given that Ferrari were obviously going to struggle in Hungary from the first minute of FP1)? Lotus-Renault were closest. I said earlier this year that in my view Kimi is today about 0.2sec away from where he was at his peak in the McLaren days. He’s right there in race conditions; in qualifying, when the tyres are new and the time is now, he is just a tad away. So it proved in Hungary. Hanging his car on the (not so) ragged edge, the super-reflexy Romain Grosjean managed to out-qualify Kimi by 0.364sec in the dying seconds of Q3. Given that Kimi until that point had either been quicker than Romain, or about with him – and that Romain had in addition nudged the nose of the car on Friday, in the damp – that lap would have shocked Kimi. He was P5 – a position from which he could challenge (if you wanted to be kind; Romain, though, was P2. That would make said challenge all the harder. For me, the best moment of the Hungarian Grand Prix came when Kimi emerged from his second pit stop. Until then, it had been all Romain. Romain it was who consolidated second place behind a brake-locking Lewis into Turn One; Romain it was who took the race to Lewis – who never let Lewis F1 >>> BUDAPEST