Hungarian Grand Prix: The PUMA Perspective

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Amid all the podium celebrations in Hungary it was easy to overlook one very simple, yet telling, statistic: Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso scored more points out of the past four races than any other driver. Having placed second, first, second and third in Valencia, Britain, Germany and Hungary respectively, the 2005/6 champion took home 76 points versus the 73 of reigning champion and points’ leader Sebastian Vettel, and the 55 of the German’s Red Bull Racing team-mate, and current runner-up, Mark Webber.

More significantly, Fernando would have topped the haul total over six races had Jenson Button – who won on Sunday in Budapest – not punted the Spaniard off in Montreal before going on to win from Vettel. With Alonso’s second place in Monaco, an almost-certain Canada win would have seen him score more points than any other driver over the last six of the season’s first eleven races – providing proof, if it were needed, that overall PUMA’s partner team Ferrari now has the edge in the race stakes.

Yes, in Hungary Ferrari could manage no better than third and fifth places via Fernando and Felipe Massa, with the former ending the 70-lap race 20 seconds adrift of Button, who consolidated his fifth place in the championship with his second win of the season. However, this overlooks the fact that the Ferrari driver, who started fifth, had earlier lost 30 seconds sitting behind a slower Webber, which further compromised his tyre strategy and forced Fernando to switch to a four stopper to pass the Red Bull, which then cost him time on the leaders.

One can but wonder about the outcome had he managed to qualify better, but Ferrari has taken this on board and promised to up their Q3 pace, which is where the red cars seem to be on the back foot.

"I think that we have now a situation where from the performance in the race we are all there," Ferrari sporting director Stefano Domenicali explained on Sunday evening. "This weekend, in terms of the absolute result, there were a lot of things that could have changed the outcome, but in terms of performance - in qualifying we have to improve Q3 because there is something that is still not there.

An old racing adage has it that IF is F1 spelt backwards, and there are no IFs in the sport, simply hard facts, but still the team can take solace from the fact that the Ferrari F150° Italia is now fast enough to fight at the sharp end after the team sorted its aerodynamic issues.

This was further underscored by Felipe’s performance. The treacherous conditions meant all drivers had a moment or three during the race from which most escaped unscathed, but Felipe suffered the misfortune of lightly tapping a barrier when he slid off, ripping off a portion of the left sideplate of his rear wing. Still, he managed to set the race’s fastest lap with the car in that state.

All this bodes extremely well for the second half of the 19-race season. After F1’s four-week summer holiday racing action resumes at the ultra-fast Spa-Francorchamps circuit on 28 August before heading to Ferrari’s home race at Monza on 11 September. Thus the team faces two classic venues in succession at circuits where the red cars have superb records, having won the Belgian Grand Prix thrice in the last five years and in the Royal Park twice in the same period.

Thereafter it is off to Singapore for F1’s annual night race where Ferrari also has a strong record, having won there with Fernando last year. Much to look forward to after the break, then.