To drive from Hockenheim to Budapest is about 960 kilometers or just under 600 miles. It’s a reasonable drive, with the A6 Motorway going through the north of Austria before hitting Budapest, the site of this weekend’s last F1 Grand Prix before the near month long season break. It’ll be a race weekend all teams will be keen to see, partly because they know there’s some time off, and partly because of the wet weather shenanigans at the Hockenheimring.
What the German F1 GP showed was just how much of an equalizer rain can be, and possibly how much faith was put into drivers that do so well in a dry weather environment. There was conversation aplenty after the last race and it’s fair to say most would have been on the final corner, Turn 16. That’s the one that saw the likes of Lewis Hamilton “exceed the limits of adhesion” and skid off into the barrier and/or the kitty litter. Having commentated many, many races where rain has been part of the equation, experience shows that it really does go a long way to flattening the peaks and filling in the troughs.
In a way, F1 is possibly, perhaps, maybe, more affected by wet weather than most other categories in motorsport. There’s plenty of horsepower on tap, and let’s say for the sake of argument that all of the engines produce 900 horsepower. That’s a hefty amount of oomph, but to produce that the engines have to be revving quite high. Of particular note is how free revving an F1 engine is, so breathe on the throttle pedal and watch the rev counter spin crazily. That rush of power gets to the tires and on a ice-rink like surface, grip suddenly disappears, and hello tire barrier.
Tickle the throttle on a dry corner and the car launches at rocket-like speed. Do that on slicks on a wet corner, and well, we saw the results. Smaller, lighter, cars in categories such as Historics, and let’s use the mighty Mini as a humble example, tend to deal with wet weather in the hands of competent drivers better simply because they have less mass and less power. Try the same track in a powerful V8 Sports Sedan in the dry and it will easily lap the Mini. In the wet? It’s a fair guess it’ll be a lot, lot, closer.
As has been discussed elsewhere since Sunday, a contributing factor to the end results were the relative lack of brain-training the drivers have had, and in the real world, experienced, when it comes to wet weather driving. All of them are excellent drivers, they have to be to be selected to be part of what is seen as the pinnacle of motorsport. But it’s safe to presume that most of what the world saw was drivers unsure of how to deal with the wet simply because they haven’t seen enough of it. And as F1 has seen in regards to road cars, the trickle down effect of technology, the standard road driver around the world is more prone to having “an off” in wet weather” simply because they’re unable to make the mental switch to deal with it.
What will be a surety this coming race weekend will be the determination of the leading teams to put Germany’s results behind them. Max Verstappen showed a lot of class and a lot of skill to deal with the wet, but eyes will be on Pierre Gasly. Sebastian Vettel provided history with one of the greatest come-from-behind drives, but eyes will be on Charles Leclerc. Mercedes? “We had a painful Sunday in Hockenheim” said Toto Wolff, and then adds:”…we are determined to fight tooth and nail this weekend to achieve another strong result.” Mercedes have shown that they’ve been virtually unbeatable, in dry track conditions, in 2019. It’s taken Mother Nature to shoulder them out of the checkered flag situation.
Also of note has been the call from former champion, Nico Rosberg about Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. It’s a simple statement but one that’s thought provoking. As good as his performance this year has been, says Rosberg, with Verstappen finishing in the top five in every race this year, Rosberg has said if he was inside a Mercedes, Verstappen would be the championship leader.
Before the teams have nearly four weeks off, they must do battle again for one final time before that well deserved break. It’s to the Hungoraring for the Formula 1 Rolex Magyar Nagydij 2019, and 70 more laps of the 4.381 kilometre track. race distance is 306 kilometres in total and the race record is still held by one M. Schumacher, at 1:19.071. Incidentally, it was reported during the week that Jean Todt had spent the weekend with the Schumacher family, and that Michael watched the German F1 GP with him. Nothing else was made public about his condition.
The track itself saw its first race in 1986, which was won by Nelson Piquet. The track’s layout has been likened to a go-kart track thanks to the relative lack of straights, and as such becomes a high downforce circuit to deal with the tight mix of 14 corners. This, says Daniel Ricciardo, is where Renault have slipped in 2019. The Australian driver has pointed out Renault’s chassis issues as being an major area of concern, saying: “The French [Grand Prix] upgrade we were definitely expecting more and didn’t get as much, so there was a little bit of [an] underachievement feeling through the team.”
Practice starts on Friday August 2 at 11:00 AM local, with the first qualifying run set for Saturday at 15:00 local. Race start is 15:10 on Sunday, August 4, with teams no doubt hungry to get the weekend done before the summer break.