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      Sebastian Vettel Q&A: Maybe I'll say I've lost the trophy…

After four years ruling the F1 roost, Sebastian Vettel is facing a huge challenge this season as his Renault-powered Red Bull team struggle to compete with their leading Mercedes rivals. Vettel insists he remains as focussed as ever, however, and all the while he can still mathematically retain his title, it seems he won’t be too eager to hand back the championship trophy. We caught up with the German for an exclusive chat ahead of this weekend’s Budapest race
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Emmo reveals F1’s REAL heroes

Emerson Fittipaldi

As you read these words, the Formula 1 teams are all working flat-out in preparation for the Hungarian Grand Prix, the final grand prix of the first half of the 2014 Formula 1 season, just days after having worked flat-out throughout the German Grand Prix meeting last weekend.

Hockenheim was very hot - 30-plus Celsius every day - and Budapest may well be hotter still. The pit garages will be hotter again. As for the engineers and, in particular, the mechanics, therefore, clad as many of them often have to be in thick all-enveloping four-layer fireproof overalls, well, just imagine how exhaustingly overheated they become. And yet they have to work not only extremely hard and extremely long but also extremely accurately.

I have often said that the job of a Formula 1 mechanic is the hardest in the world, in fact, and when you stop to think about it you can understand why I have come to that opinion.

Moreover, when a Formula 1 mechanic makes a mistake, his error is shown on live TV in front of 100 million viewers worldwide, and it is usually castigated by commentators and pundits, sitting in air-conditioned booths, sipping chilled mineral water, many of whom have little notion of the stresses that may have contributed to that error.

Why am I telling you all this? I am telling you all this because the best Formula 1 drivers - the world champions - have always been acutely aware of it, and have always conducted themselves accordingly.

One of my all-time heroes is the great Juan Manuel Fangio, who studied to be an automobile mechanic after leaving school at 13, then attempted to become a professional footballer, then did his military service with the Argentine armed forces, then continued to work as a mechanic, then finally made his racing debut at the ripe old age of 27, in the 1938 Turismo Carretera, a road race in his native Argentina, in a Ford V8 sedan.

By the time the Formula 1 World Championship had been inaugurated, which event was marked by the running of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1950, Juan Manuel was 38. He did not win that race - he retired his Alfa Romeo 158 with an oil leak, on lap 63 out of 70, having led much of it - but, of the 50 grands prix he started thereafter, he won 24. Oh, and he won five Formula 1 world championships, too.

Of course, Juan Manuel was fabulously talented - naturally quick and possessed of a wonderfully calculating racing brain. But an aspect of his skill-set that is often overlooked was the way he engaged his mechanics in his success. He raced at a time when Formula 1 cars were massively less reliable than they are today, yet his cars always seemed a little more robust than those of his team-mates and rivals.

Why was that? It was because he was courteous and friendly with his mechanics, spoke to them as equals, and even sometimes shared his winnings with them. He did that for two reasons: because he was a nice guy, and because he knew it meant they would go the extra mile for him in an effort to ensure that his cars were as well screwed together as possible.

It is not fanciful to suggest that that attitude may have saved his life, in fact, for in those days a shunt was often fatal, so perilous were the circuits and so unprotected were the drivers, unbelted in their wide-open cockpits, clad in cotton shirts and leather skull-caps.

For many years Juan Manuel’s magnum opus of five Formula 1 world championships stood as a record. Now, that benchmark has been surpassed, and the record is held by Michael Schumacher, who became Formula 1 world champion seven times in his long career.

Like Juan Manuel, Michael was a superbly gifted driver. But, also like Juan Manuel, Michael prioritised engagement with his engineers and mechanics.

Have you read Steve Matchett’s excellent autobiography, ‘The Mechanic’s Tale’? If you have not, you should. Steve is a 51-year-old Englishman who worked as a Formula 1 mechanic for the Benetton team from 1990 to 1998, a stint that encompassed Michael’s two world championships for the team (1994 and 1995), and now works as a commentator for the American TV network NBC. I enjoy Steve’s TV commentaries, but the following four paragraphs from his autobiography, describing Michael’s first grand prix win (at Spa-Francorchamps in 1992), are as revealing of Michael as anything I have ever read.

"His rapture at winning that race is something he has continued to show with every successive win. Here is a man who delights in winning and takes no win for granted. He understands that to cross the finish-line ahead of all the others involves a massive amount of effort - effort by the whole team as well as the driver - a simple fact that some other drivers have clearly forgotten.

"On the occasion of that first win, as with each of his subsequent wins, Michael’s sheer happiness was recognition of all that team effort, from the work of the fabricators, the machinists, the composite specialists, the electricians, the mechanics and the drawing office. The toil of hundreds was reflected in the utter joy of his podium celebrations.

"On returning to the garage, he shook every one of us by the hand, thanking us all individually for our help, another genuine show of appreciation that would continue with each subsequent win.

"I have never felt such an integral part of a team than when working with Michael and sharing in the pleasure of one of our victories."

That last paragraph is particularly telling - and you can be well sure that Michael continued in the same vein when he arrived at Ferrari and began to win and win and win again.

Clearly, since I admired Juan Manuel so passionately, you will not be surprised to hear that I also tried to emulate him where I could. It so happens that I had myself begun my racing life as a mechanic, at home in Sao Paulo, working on my elder brother Wilson’s karts when we were both teenagers, and later also performing the same role for our great friend Carlos Pace.

But I wanted to race myself. The trouble was, racing cost money, and I was only a teenager so I did not have any. But the fact that I was becoming a good mechanic was something I could use to my advantage. In fact, when I was only 15 I started a car accessory business. I patented an aluminium steering wheel, with leather trim, and sold it as the ‘Formula 1 Steering Wheel’ to Brazilian motorists who usually bolted them onto the steering columns of their Volkswagen Beetles. I also sold magnesium road wheels, sports exhausts and twin-carb engine conversions, and in the end I was building and selling mini-karts too.

That way I was able to finance my racing in Brazil, achieving a lot of success in so doing, and soon determining that the next stage of my racing career would involve moving to England.

When I duly arrived in the UK, in February 1969, as a 22-year-old far more experienced in the realities of hard work than 22-year-old racing drivers usually are today, I knew that I would only ever be as successful as my mechanics wanted me to be.

The first mechanic I really gelled with, and whom I hold in high and warm regard even now, was Ralph Firman, who was the mechanic assigned to me by Jim Russell when he invited me to race his Lotus 59 Formula 3 car in the 1969 Guards Trophy at Brands Hatch.

I was unclassified in heat one, but I won heat two and I finished third in heat three. Ralph and I were on our way, and we went on to enjoy great success together that season, at the end of which I had become British Formula 3 champion.

When I moved up to Formula 1 in 1970, I soon carved out the same kind of relationship with Lotus boss Colin Chapman - and also with my mechanic, Eddie Dennis. Eddie was a fantastic mechanic and a lovely guy. I won nine grands prix for Lotus, and one world championship (1972), and I couldn’t have done it without Eddie and his boys. They worked brilliantly and tirelessly for me, and I will never forget it.

They made very few mistakes, but I want to share with you a funny story about one of the few errors they did make. The 1971 season was not a great one for Lotus, sandwiched as it was between two successful ones, in each of which we won the world championship (with Jochen Rindt in 1970 and with me in 1972).

But at the 1971 British Grand Prix, at Silverstone, we were looking pretty competitive. I had qualified my Lotus 72D in fourth position, behind only Clay Regazzoni’s Ferrari 312B2, which had taken the pole, Jackie Stewart’s Tyrrell 003 in P2, and Jo Siffert’s BRM P160 in P3.

On the warm-up lap, just before the race, I was accelerating up through the gears as usual, and as I changed up from third to fourth I felt the engine revs die on me. I played around for a few hundred metres, changing up and down to try to work out what was going on, and soon I realised what had happened: Eddie and the boys had fitted the fifth-gear cog in the position that the fourth-gear cog should have been fitted in, and vice versa.

There was no time to correct the mistake, of course, and, as a result, in my confusion, I made a poor start, dropping to 11th place on lap one. But soon I managed to work around the problem, moving the gearlever to what should have been the fifth-gear position when looking for fourth, and likewise moving the gearlever to what should have been the fourth-gear position when looking for fifth.

It felt weird at first, but after a while I got the hang of it and soon I actually began to enjoy myself. In the end I managed to work my way back up to third place at flag-fall - one of the hardest podiums I have ever earned!

When, in late 1973, Colin and I had a disagreement, and I began to search for an alternative team to drive for in 1974, the key factor for me was always going to be the quality of the team’s engineers and mechanics. Nothing else mattered to me nearly as much as that. And, although I considered Brabham and Tyrrell very seriously, the reason I finally selected McLaren was that the team was so well organised, so highly motivated, and so unselfishly disciplined. The guys there wanted to help one another win more than anything else in the world, and it showed.

When I arrived at McLaren in early 1974, I very soon formed close and collaborative relationships with a number of key individuals: Teddy Mayer (team principal), Gordon Coppuck (chief designer), Alastair Caldwell (team manager), Tyler Alexander (senior technician) and Phil Kerr (commercial director), but the mechanics were all great guys too, and the atmosphere at that little factory at 17 David Road, Colnbrook (Berkshire), which the team had moved to after the death of their founder Bruce McLaren in 1970, was always buzzing with industry, effort, enthusiasm and good humour.

We bonded well together - and, as had been the case at Lotus, I achieved great success at McLaren, winning five grands prix in our two years together, plus the drivers’ and constructors’ championships in 1974, the team’s first ever such triumphs in Formula 1.

I would never have achieved any of that success without working so closely with such a great bunch of guys.

Believe you me, that kind of intimate working rapport is just as important now, despite all the hi-tech gizmos that assist engineers’ and mechanics’ understanding of how their racing cars are behaving. Yes, those ultra-sophisticated systems are crucial, of course they are, but the most conscientious drivers still work long into the evenings with their engineers and mechanics, in an effort to help them arrive at an optimal chassis set-up for the following day, and they are consequently respected better than their less hard-working peers. And, as a result, they win more.

But, as I say, however good a team’s drivers are, its heart and soul are its engineers and mechanics, So, this coming weekend, when you watch Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen flinging their McLaren MP4-29s around the tortuous Hungaroring, spare a thought for the McLaren engineers and, in particular, the mechanics, who will have worked 18 or more hours a day, every day, in extreme heat, under excruciating pressure, often without time even for a cooling beer before bedtime.

They are heroes, every one of them.

from McLaren Mercedes

      Mexican duo hail Mexico City's F1<sup>®</sup> return

Sergio Perez and his Mexican countryman Esteban Gutierrez both expressed their delight at the news that Formula One racing is set to return to Mexico City after an absence of more than two decades. Formula One group CEO Bernie Ecclestone revealed on Wednesday that an agreement to hold a Grand Prix in Mexico in 2015 had been reached
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      Rossi joins Marussia as reserve driver

Alexander Rossi has been appointed as Marussia’s official reserve driver for the remainder of the 2014 season. The 22-year-old American, who left his reserve driver role at Caterham earlier this month, will join the Banbury-based squad from this weekend’s race in Hungary and will provide cover should either of the team’s regular drivers be unable to compete
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      Pirelli reveal tyre choices up to Singapore

Pirelli have confirmed the tyre compounds that they will take to Belgium, Italy and Singapore. Formula One racing’s official tyre suppliers will bring their soft and medium compounds - also available this weekend in Hungary - for Spa-Francorchamps, which will host the 12th round of the 2014 championship
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Milan, July 24, 2014 – Pirelli has revealed the tyres that will be taken to the grands prix of Belgium, Italy and Singapore.

At Spa – one of the most spectacular and demanding circuits on the calendar – the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft tyres will be used, which will be well-suited to the varied track and weather conditions often found in Belgium.

For Monza, the ‘temple of speed’ and Pirelli’s home event, the two hardest compounds in the range have been nominated: P Zero Orange hard and P Zero White medium. This is to combat the high-energy loads that are put through the tyres as the result of high traction and braking demands, sustained high speeds and frequently warm temperatures.

Singapore is the final street circuit of the season and held at night, providing a unique combination of conditions. The two softest tyres in the range will be used: P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red supersoft. These will provide maximum mechanical grip.

The tyre choices so far:

  P Zero Red P Zero Yellow P Zero White P Zero Orange
Australia   Soft Medium  
Malaysia     Medium Hard
Bahrain   Soft Medium  
China   Soft Medium  
Spain     Medium Hard
Monaco Supersoft Soft    
Canada Supersoft Soft    
Austria Supersoft Soft    
Britain     Medium Hard
Germany Supersoft Soft    
Hungary   Soft Medium  
Belgium   Soft Medium  
Italy     Medium Hard
Singapore Supersoft Soft    
via Pirelli: Press Release ..

Budapest: Where the Hungary thrive

Alan Henry

It’s funny how some things get under your skin, isn’t it?

Back in 1986, when we all arrived in Eastern Bloc Budapest for the very first Hungarian Grand Prix, we weren’t really sure what we were getting into.

Even back then, the F1 circus moved quickly. We’d already seen the resurrection of the Spanish Grand Prix – after a five-year hiatus – at the brand new, dusty and half-finished Jerez de la Frontera circuit. Later that same year, Formula 1 would return to Mexico – this time after a 16-year hiatus – at the refurbished, dusty and half-finished Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

So, it was pretty much par for the course when we turned up in the middle of season, during a typically scorching summer on the baking plains of eastern Europe, at a brand new, dusty and half-finished circuit called the Hungaroring.

Little did we know it then, but this was the very start of Formula 1’s migration towards more sanitised autodromes – a trend that, in more recent years, has been led by the Hermann Tilke-isation of Formula 1 across the world. It’s hard to believe, but I’m reliably informed that the Hungaroring was Formula 1’s first-ever purpose-built circuit.

Of course, tracks like Monza, Silverstone and Zandvoort had already been around for decades, most of them spent hosting F1 grands prix, but they’d been built as racetracks, not purposely brought to life as venues for Formula 1. Nowadays, perversely, the opposite seems to be true: venues are solely created for Formula 1, and are rarely used for any of this so-called racing nonsense that happens at other times throughout the year.

So we turned up at the Hungaroring, in our rusted Trabants, still clutching our passports and precious visas, with our eyes wide, not really expecting to see a grand prix circuit, let alone an impressive, modern facility. Yet, there it was: built as it was in rural scrubland, the track was dusty, but, as far as we could tell, finished. In the paddock, the local cleaning ladies were out in force with their buckets and mops, and, most importantly, there were Formula 1 cars sat in the garages awaiting the off.

Our first visit to the Hungaroring still felt a little antiseptic. After all, back in those days we were still accustomed to visiting places like Brands Hatch, the Osterreichring, Imola and the old Hockenheim - those high and mighty circuits of old.

Fast forward 28 years, however, and the Hungaroring’s unbroken run has gradually earned it the respect and, dare I say it, love of the Formula 1 paddock. Like Sepang in Malaysia, the years have certainly been kind to it.

Somehow, Hungarian Grand Prix earned itself a place in our affections – and I think that’s due to two things.

The first of those is that, almost uniquely, the race organisers listened to criticism of their track and worked to improve the place. First they ironed out the tight and niggly esses that used to sit between Turns Three and Four. Then, for 2003, they dramatically re-profiled the first corner, turning it from a rather anodyne perfect semi-circle into a far tighter hairpin. The new layout not only encouraged overtaking into the corner, but also encouraged racing at the exit – forcing drivers to vary their entry and exits, they were compromising their exit speeds and leaving themselves vulnerable.

Secondly, the venue has always been a place that’s encouraged the trade of the ‘scrapper’ – by that, I mean it’s become a showcase for the skills of those with a more, shall we say, pugnacious character.

If you asked me to pick an archetypal Hungarian Grand Prix moment, I’d instantly plump for Nelson Piquet’s ridiculously ballsy overtaking attempts to overtake Ayrton Senna for the lead in that very first race back in ’86.

Nelson, in the Williams-Honda FW11, had the benefit of a power advantage, but, Ayrton, in his beautiful black and gold Lotus-Renault 98T, had the lead – and, just as importantly, the advantage of the racing line.

Nelson was undeterred: he was trying to win a world championship and was clambering all over the back of the unflappable Senna.

Into the closing stages, Nelson had a practice run: as they barreled down toward the first corner, Nelson threw his car up the inside – the move almost stuck, but he ran wide, allowing Senna to calmly continue on the racing line and maintain the lead.

A lap later, Nelson was back absolutely glued to his countryman’s tail. This time, he took the outside line, running his two left-side wheels onto the grass before heaving the heavy turbo machine into the corner. At first, the car refused to bite, sliding lazily across the dusty Tarmac, but – in true rally-drive style – Nelson gave the steering a couple of hefty yanks – and the front tyres dug in, allowing Nelson to skate across the arc of the turn in a brilliantly controlled drift, tucking his car back on-line before Ayrton was able to fight back.

That was how you overtook Ayrton – by overwhelming and out-fumbling him; in a fair fight, he’d always come out on top, so you had to topple the odds to be in with a shout.

Nelson is a grand prix driver that the history books these days tend to overlook. Unfairly, in my view; he was good company and a fantastic racer. And that overtake on Ayrton is deservedly, I think, the circuit’s most emblematic moment.

Another little scrapper with more fight in him than he necessarily always needed, was Fernando Alonso. In 2006, he was particularly wound-up, having been unfairly (in his view) relegated in qualifying for a footling indiscretion during practice. He lined up 15th – on a cold, grey and wet day, that’s just what you don’t need.

Ordinarily, that would be the beginning and end of it – you might expect Fernando to pass a few cars and then settle down on the fringes of the top 10. But the young and feisty Spaniard never got that message.

Off the line, Fernando has the throttle nailed hard open. The car hurtles into a grey fug of spray. Rain lights blink from the murk, and still Alonso presses on, two wheels on the grass as he dives into the braking zone.

His progress is swift: he isn’t simply out-braking cars – he’s passing them at the exits of corners, he’s edging alongside at corner entry, braving it out as they both swing for the apex. At one point, he’s intimated by a Ferrari, who runs out wide to try and push him back, and he doesn’t mind running two wheels along the pit entry road, before charging flat-out into river-like puddles.

Hunt the race down on YouTube – it is one of the most intense and mesmerising pieces of onboard footage that you’ll ever see.

Any motor racing history book will go to great lengths to tell you how spectacular was Ayrton Senna’s opening lap at the 1993 European Grand Prix. Senna started fourth, dropped to fifth, then battled back to pass four cars and lead at the end of the first lap.

Starting so far down the field on that day in 2006 doesn’t allow us to be so precise; and, truth be told, it’s hard to be precise in all that chaos, but the lapchart records that Fernando started in 15th, and crossed the line sixth at the end of that incredible opening lap.

Four laps later, he was in the top three. He was leading by lap 18, and would have won had it not been for an incorrectly fitted wheel at his last pitstop.

Of course, one door opens as another one closes, and Fernando’s failure firmly left the door ajar for Jenson Button to squeeze through and record his first-ever grand prix win. Jenson’s drive, too, was worthy of victory. Like Fernando, he had also suffered in practice – an engine failure robbing him of 10 grid places and relegating him to 14th on the grid. He too drove like a champion, running in the top four by lap seven, then calmly picking off his rivals as he made best use of the changing track conditions.

His wide-eyed delight at taking victory, and finally getting the monkey off his back, was another of those emblematic Hungarian Grand Prix moments.

And, to add to my thesis that this is a race that favours the fighter, take a cursory look at Jenson’s brilliant victory there in 2011. It was his 200th grand prix, and he was well up for the fight, taking on allcomers and sweeping home imperiously.

With mixed conditions forecast for the weekend, will my theory once again hold true?

Let’s hope so!

from McLaren Mercedes

      Hungary preview - can Williams spring a surprise?

Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg heads to Budapest looking to increase his world championship lead, but can he equal team mate Lewis Hamilton’s tally of five 2014 victories, or will Hamilton make it five wins in eight years at the Hungaroring? Or will a track that has a habit of throwing up interesting results favour the resurgent Williams team whose flying Finn Valtteri Bottas has taken three consecutive podium finishes
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      Vital Statistics - the Hungarian Grand Prix

Did you know that Lewis Hamilton has won more than half of the Hungarian Grands Prix he has entered? Or that Fernando Alonso has won just once in Budapest, while racing for Renault more than a decade ago? Ahead of this weekend’s Formula 1 Pirelli Magyar Nagydij 2014, we present all the need-to-know facts, stats and trivia
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Behind the Legends: Ayrton Senna with Neil Trundle

News & Offers

In the second instalment of our “Behind the Legends” video series, we get a first-hand account of the great man himself, Ayrton Senna,

In this episode we hear from Neil Trundle, chef mechanic for McLaren in 1987. He shares some of his thoughts on what made Ayrton Senna great, the 1988 car and its performance, as well as some great stories from a truly unique time in the sport. 

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from McLaren Mercedes

      Moments in time - The Hungarian Grand Prix

In our series exploring the history of Grands Prix through a selection of iconic images, we turn our attention to the Hungaroring - home to the Hungarian Grand Prix since 1986. This look back through history takes in defiant drives by Nigel Mansell and Thierry Boutsen, one of Michael Schumacher’s greatest ever victories, maiden wins for Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, and more
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