THE NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Hungarian GP: Six out of six, with Lotus in front
AUGUST 6, 2010
There were no surprises in the New Kids on the Block group in the Hungarian Grand Prix and that means that Lotus ended up with the two best placed cars at the end of the race, but with Heikki Kovalainen holding off Jarno Trulli during most of the race to claim the top place. Timo Glock was their only real rival during most of the race, after Lucas di Grassi's challenge was effectively ended when his tyre change went massively wrong. And with the two HRT-Cosworth completing the race too, the whole group saw the chequered flag at the Hungaroring, just one week after only Glock and Senna completed the race in Hockenheim.
Like in Germany last weekend, Jarno Trulli was the fastest man in the group, but his qualifying run went wrong, first when he lost 0.4s after being blocked by none other than Sebastian Vettel and, later on, when his second set of tyres lacked in grip. That allowed Timo Glock to be the quickest of the group in qualifying, ahead of Kovalainen and Trulli, as di Grassi's car lost a lot of downforce after he went hard on a kerb and damaged the floor at the start of his first run. At the back Senna just edged out Yamamoto, the Japanese driver doing a much better job than in Hockenheim.
Trulli made amends for his qualifying woes when a great first lap saw him jump his direct rivals and also both Toro Rosso drivers. Jaime Alguersuari retired on lap two, so Trulli had Sebastien Buemi all over the back of his car and eventually relinquished the position on lap four. Running on the softer tyre the Italian pulled away from di Grassi - who had done another great first lap - Kovalainen and Glock, with Senna hanging on and Yamamoto dropping fast as his car's engine seemed to be lacking in power.
For the first 15 laps it looked like Trulli was finally going to have the reward he has deserved for a while, but with the arrival of the Safety Car on the scene - for debris to be removed from the track - threw a spanner in his works. Reckoning it was too early to change his tyres Lotus left him out on the track, while his five rivals duly pitted. It was decision that had some logic, but proved to be costly, as Mike Gascoyne explained to us at the end of the race: "We knew the Safety Car was going to be out for just a couple of laps and reckoned Jarno would just catch it as it would be heading into the pits. Leading the group he would be able to open enough of a gap to change tyres later on and resume still in the lead, but that didn't happen, so apologies to him, as he was the quickest out there today."
As soon as the track was clear, Kovalainen and Glock started to make ground on Trulli, making the most of their new tyres, so Lotus reacted quickly and called him in on lap 20. But that wasn't enough to keep the Italian in the lead of his group, as Kovalainen got past him and he had to battle it out with Glock as he came out of the pits to stay ahead of the Virgin driver.
For the rest of the race Trulli followed his team mate very closely, but as Kovalainen made no mistakes the order remained unchanged to the frustration of the Italian. Kovalainen, obviously, was quite pleased with his result: "The first lap was not great as Jarno and di Grassi got past me but I could follow Lucas easily and got ahead of him at the stops. I pushed hard and managed to pass Jarno when he pitted and then it was just a case of making no mistakes, especially while being lapped, to finish the race ahead of the group. It was a good payback for my misfortune in Germany and a good result for the team."
For Trulli, "this was a missed opportunity. I managed to correct the problems from qualifying and was leading comfortably, but we took a strategic gamble that backfired. I spent the last 50 laps right behind Heikki's car, but here it's not possible to pass if the driver in front doesn't make a mistake. He didn't, so I couldn't get past him. Still, with another 1-2 for Lotus, we proved yet again we are the most competitive team of the group."
Glock kept the pressure on until the last ten laps, when he ended losing time while being lapped. The German didn't manage to repeat his result from Hockenheim, but saw encouraging signs from this weekend: "I could almost keep up with the two Lotus, so we are clearly making progress and getting closer and closer to them. I actually had a good start but got boxed out in the first couple of corners and lost a lot of places. The team did a good job in the pits and the rest of the race was smooth, but I lost ground while being lapped and couldn't catch the two Lotus again."
His team mate Lucas di Grassi should have been a feature in the fight for the lead but it all went wrong for him when he pitted under the Safety Car. The right rear wheel was not properly attached and he had to crawl back to the pits for a new change of tyres, and even with the field running behind the Safety Car that cost him one lap and put the Brazilian out of contention. He managed to pass Yamamoto within a few laps but was too far behind to catch Senna before the end of the race. Like in Hockenheim, he was frustrated with the result but happy with his pace: "Once again the first lap was great and it was not a problem to keep Kovalainen behind me. I wasn't pushing too hard, as I wanted to save the tyres, but when the SC came out we decided to pit and that's where our race was lost. After the wheel was properly fit I could run as quickly as the leaders of my group, but the gap was too big and the final result doesn't reflect the speed we had this weekend."
Di Grassi's problem handed Bruno Senna 4th place in this group and the Brazilian also did well to avoid being lapped by the two Lotus. Without a car quick enough to fight with his rivals, Senna had a lonely race and was pleased with his pace: "Things went better than in qualifying but it was not an easy race. We managed the best result we could and completed the race with two cars, so there are some positives to take home from this race."
Team mate Sakon Yamamoto did more than 50 laps with the softer tyres, having pitted during the SC period on lap 15 and with an engine down on power, couldn't fight with his rivals. Still he saw the chequered flag and explained, "things went better than in Hockenheim and the tyre strategy gave us a lot of data to analyse and put us in a better position for the final races of the season, after the Summer break."
With all cars completing the race the New Kids on the Block proved that reliability is no longer an issue for the three new teams, and now they'll all bring updates for the Belgian Grand Prix, to be held on the last weekend of August, where the battle will resume.