Going back to Friday; what was the schedule for the guys in free practice?
We used FP1 to try out a few new things which proved to be a successful exercise. Even though we were focused on aero development, Kimi was still getting a good feel for the car and was very happy with it which meant we had relatively few changes to make before FP2 aside from removing the new parts. The second session saw him again very happy with the car and getting increasingly quick; unfortunately though we lost the second half of running due to the rain which meant we were unable to do our usual long run simulation, but aside from that all went smoothly for Kimi.
Romain was less happy and unusually off the pace compared to his team-mate. He chipped away at it through both sessions and gradually improved, but was not as comfortable as he would usually be with the car. Overnight the engineers looked through all the data with him and made quite a few setup changes – some mechanical some aero – reverting to a base line from a couple of races back. While we was still some way off Kimi in the early stages of Saturday, Romain quickly grew in confidence and was right on the mark by the end of the day, so a good job all round by the guys to make that step.
Kimi and Romain seemed to have somewhat opposing journeys through qualifying…
Kimi’s Q3 lap was actually slower than his best time in Q2, which was itself hampered by traffic in the last two corners. Heading into the final session we were predicting a low 21 second lap; especially with a new set of option tyres which tended to get quicker on each run. Unfortunately Kimi – by his own admission – didn’t have the cleanest of laps, dropping a couple of tenths in the first sector and then fighting to recover that lost time.
Romain by contrast started off quite steady, but we’ve said his confidence grew and grew through the day and by the end he was absolutely flying. To come from where he was on Friday to P2 on the grid was a huge turnaround and it was evident how much more comfortable he was in the car just by watching him around the lap.
The forecast looked a bit suspect on Sunday morning, but for once we seemed to get lucky with the weather!
Sunday began with all eyes on the weather. We were hopeful of a strong result based on previous comparisons between qualifying and race pace, but with rain predicted at around half distance that could have mixed the field up completely. Fortunately however the sky remained clear and track temperatures were pretty high which tends to suit the E20.
The opening stints once again seemed to go in different directions for the drivers…
Both drivers got a decent start. Romain did well to hold of Sebastian [Vettel] and then keep pace with Lewis [Hamilton] but with Kimi falling behind Fernando [Alonso] his opening stint was immediately compromised. Luckily we managed to jump him in the first round of stops and Kimi immediately started putting in some very quick times to close up to the guys in front.
From there it seemed to be a game of cat and mouse, particularly with Kimi’s strategy; can you talk us through it?
With Kimi we knew that he had to go quite long on the second set of tyres, as losing our long run simulation on Friday meant that we weren’t as confident as would normally be of how the primes would last. He therefore decided to save his tyres early in the stint and push hard towards the end, with people who pitted earlier falling into traffic. While they were wasting the best laps of their fresh rubber, Kimi was banging in a series of fastest laps which ultimately put him ahead of both Sebastian [Vettel] and Romain after the final stops.
Kimi was right on the tail of Lewis [Hamilton] in the final phase; just how close was he to taking the win?
With tyres that were the same compound [medium] but five laps newer than Lewis [Hamilton], Kimi could really get the hammer down and managed to catch up to the back of him relatively quickly; making gains of around 0.5s per lap. However, with the Hungaroring being the type of circuit it is he would have needed a more significant pace advantage than that to be able to get past. We had hoped that the McLarens’ tyres would fade towards the end giving Kimi a shot at the lead, but unfortunately this wasn’t the case.
Things seemed to get quite nervy for Romain at the end; what happened there?
A big gap behind to Fernando [Alonso] meant that – with around 12 laps to run – Sebastian [Vettel] had enough time to pit for fresh option tyres without losing a place. He was then seriously quick in the last part of the race, and finished just over a second behind despite losing around 17 seconds in the pits. It was quite close, and with a few more laps things could have got a bit hairy, but Romain controlled the pace well and never looked under any real threat.
Finally, we have to talk about that moment with Kimi and Romain; how tense was the atmosphere on the pit wall as they headed into that first turn?
From a team perspective, having our drivers come home in P2 and P3 is a great result no matter which order they finish in and with Sebastian [Vettel] so close behind, it was essential that both Kimi and Romain pushed as hard as possible to keep both cars in front. With Romain told to get on the gas and Kimi to use KERS coming out of the pit lane, it was always going to be a close call.
Romain looked as though he’d sail around the outside at first, but Kimi was carrying good corner speed so it was neck and neck. Fortunately for us they’re both great drivers and we knew we could trust them to be sensible about it, which I think they both were. We got the result which is the important thing, now for a well-earned break!
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A well-earned break for the team now as Enstone closes its doors for the summer shutdown. Belgium is next on the list, with the on-track action kicking off on Friday 31st August. In the meantime, stay tuned to our website, Twitter feed and Facebook page for all the latest news from Enstone.
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