Hungarian GP 2002
AUGUST 18, 2002
Hungarian GP, 2002
A lovely, long and lazy afternoon...
IN the Formula 1 paddock they like it when the journalists are positive about the sport. So let us be positive about the 2002 Hungarian Grand Prix. It took place on a lovely afternoon. It was one of those days that remind one of those wonderful afternoons of childhood where time seems to stand still and it never seems to get to tea time. The sun shone down and the birds (probably) sang. If we could have heard them we would have enjoyed the humming of hard-working bees and were it not for the flashing of wildly-colored racing cars and banners fluttering in the breeze we might have noticed butterflies as well. Or the occasional hawk floating lazily against a hazy blue backcloth...
That was all very positive. So too was the fact that Michael Schumacher did not win the race. One can have too much of a good thing. But the Schumacher fans went home happy, knowing that Michael could easily have won if he had actually been racing.
What other things were positive?
There was the additional bonus that the track was not flooded despite the fact that the Danube was swelled to bursting point. The traffic was light because the crowd stayed at home, although those who did show up were able to see a Hungarian driver doing some demonstration laps in a Jordan. He did not crash.
There was a little more space than normal in the paddock because Arrows decided not to make the trip to Budapest.
Ferrari won another Constructors' World Championship.
If one had to write a 300-word race report it did not cause a major headache.
And up in the press room we had a very enjoyable quiz as the 77 laps filled the long and lazy afternoon.
Other than that one has to say that it was just a little (teeny-weeny) bit short of action. After the first lap there was only one proper overtaking maneuver.
Rubens led from start to finish and was never really under any threat from Schumacher. If Michael had actually been racing it would probably have been a different story but he was just cruising along behind Barrichello. We might have been convinced that it was a proper race were it not for the fact that Michael has the ego of a winner and could not restrain himself from leaving a little clue behind. His lap times in the closing laps were as follows: 1m19.564s, 1m19.801s, 1m20.275s, 1m16.207s, 1m20.884s, 1m19.679s.
With that one lap Michael showed what he might have been doing if he had really been fighting...
The Hungaroring has never been a track where there is much passing and so much is always expected from the first lap as the racers scramble for position. But on this occasion everyone was far too well-behaved. Barrichello took the lead while Ralf Schumacher made a better start than his brother and thought about challenging for the position as they went down into the first corner. He then realized that Michael is a hard man and that if he had to punt his brother off into the dust he would do it and so Ralf, one eye on the World Championship, backed off and slid in behind Michael. Behind them there was a bit more bustle as the rest of the field sorted itself out. The man who made the most of it was Giancarlo Fisichella who emerged fourth with a very fast-starting Felipe Massa, having jumped from seventh to fifth. Jenson Button and Montoya got in each other's way and even bumped one another at one point and so ended the first lap in sixth and seventh positions but they were still ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Jarno Trulli and the rest.
On the second lap David Coulthard pulled off the one overtaking maneuver of the afternoon, passing Nick Heidfeld as they went down into the first corner. A while later (quite a long while) Kimi Raikkonen overtook Juan Pablo Montoya on the run down the hill after the second corner at the same time Montoya went bouncing over the grass, but there was some dispute as to whether it actually constituted a proper pass.
Beyond that there was just a string of cars running nose-to-tail all afternoon. If the Formula 1 world is going to keep coming back to Budapest, the locals are going to have to rebuild the racing circuit so that we can see a bit more entertainment. This track layout is lousy and as was seen at Hockenheim with a little imagination one can build tracks were passing is possible. One can argue that the cars could be changed to achieve the same result but aerodynamics are aerodynamics and the problem keeps coming back. If the race track had more than one line there could be overtaking and until it does there will not be any.
The other people who need to get themselves organized are Ferrari's rival racing teams. The Italian team has done a highly competent job but all the other teams should be doing better. Michelin should be doing better. Until the opposition get their act together we are going to be suffering from more Ferrari domination. The press can try to make the racing interesting but in order to do that one needs to have something about which to write. Formula 1 cars are wonderful pieces of machinery and they are driven by the greatest drivers in the world but trying to claim that one is watching art in motion is not good enough. Formula 1 is part of the entertainment business and the Hungarian GP of 2002 was not entertainment.
There have been more exciting cooking shows. The pit stops changed little except that halfway through them Button spun out under pressure from Raikkonen and so Kimi was sixth for the second stint. Coulthard was seventh having overtaken Trulli during the pit stop sequence. And then came Heidfeld and Takuma Sato (who gained from the retirements of Villeneuve and Eddie Irvine). Everyone else was by then a lap behind.
The Ferrari lead remained at around 10 seconds for most the second part of the first stint. In the second stint the gap went out to 20 seconds. The second pit stops ruffled the order a little in that both McLarens were able to vault past Massa and Fisichella so that Raikkonen was fourth and Coulthard fifth. For McLaren it was a good race given that the team had started so far back.
The only car other than Villeneuve, Irvine and Button to retire was that of Anthony Davidson who spun the second Minardi on lap 59.
That aside the only major excitement came when Mika Salo was given a post-race 25 second penalty for an unsafe pitstop as he tried to stay ahead of Pedro de la Rosa. That dropped him from 13th to 15th.
Jean Todt summed up the feelings of many F1 fans on Sunday (probably without realizing he was doing it). "A dream race with a dream result," he said.
Yes, one does dream when one is asleep...