Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Changing Of The Guard?

F1 Fanatic is talking about a potential sea-change for the rest of the season based on the Hungarian Grand Prix:
The Hungarian Grand Prix was an odd race in every respect. We saw a massive shake-up of the competitive order with McLaren and Ferrari and Brawn - the team which dominated the first third of the championship - struggling even to score.

If this sets a pattern for the rest of the year, we’re in for another unpredictable end to the season.
I disagree, and this is why:
  • The Hungarian Grand Prix is a specialist event. It is very much a stop-point-and-squirt track with little opportunity to let the cars run at sustained speed. For this track, the KERS-equipped cars were always going to excel -- and surprise surprise, that's exactly what happened.
  • Brawn hasn't lost the plot. While I can accept that McLaren and Ferrari have the resources to come up with improvements to close the gap on Brawn and Red Bull, I find it very unlikely that McLaren AND Ferrari AND Williams AND Renault have all come up with developments to put the Brawn AND the Red Bull in the shade. More likely these cars suited the specialist nature of the Hungaroring.
  • Red Bull (probably) hasn't lost the plot. The fact that the other "front runner" of the season also had a poor showing at this event reinforces the fact that this is a specialist track. (I say probably because I'm still surprised at their competitive level this year!)
  • Neither McLaren nor Ferrari has a complete line-up. Let's be honest here -- Filipe Massa will probably not return to the car this year (if ever -- my feeling is that this is a career-ending injury, and even should he return he will never be as competitive again) and Heikki Kovalainen isn't getting the same performance from his McLaren that Lewis Hamilton does. One could even argue that Kimi Raikkonen's motivation is somewhat inconsistent from event to event. Without two top-flight drivers, neither team will be able to put in the consistency required to challenge for the Manufacturer's title.
My feeling is that the Brawn and Red Bull cars excel at running at sustained speeds, and should be better suited to tracks coming up like Monza and Spa. The KERS cars should do well at Valencia, and the Renault should be suitable there as well (if they can get around the ban in time). But for the end run of the season it will be Brawn and Red Bull, with McLaren amongst those scrabbling for the remaining points.