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The Daly Planet

Relief Drivers

PREVIEW: 2009 ING Magyar Nagydíj (2009 Grand Prix of Hungary)
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By Richard D Fox | 07/24/2009
Category: Relief Drivers

Üdvözöljük a Budapest és a Hungaroringen!

The Hungaroring circuit was built outside the national capitol of Budapest thanks to Bernie Ecclestone's desire to expand Formula One into what he saw as a vast untapped market behind the Iron Curtain.  While Bernie's preference was for a race in the Soviet Union, preferably in Moscow, a combination of factors led to the decision to instead build a track in the (then) relatively-open state of Hungary.

Construction of the track started in October 1985, and the first race was held there in late March 1986, with the F1 "circus" making its first appearance there in August of that year. The track, despite criticisms, has remained a late-July/early-August staple of the schedule ever since, and last April, the track's contract was extended through 2016.  While widely criticized by many fans, the track is unlikely to ever be removed from the schedule, as the race is promoted by Bernie Ecclestone's company, Formula One Management, which holds the commercial rights to Formula One and is thus able to decide which tracks host Grands Prix--a situation similar to the connection between NASCAR and the International Speedway Corporation.

The track gets mixed reviews from competitors. While Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Michael Schumacher, and Fernando Alonso have all claimed to love it, many other drivers have criticized the circuit for being torturously slow, excessively technically demanding, and lacking in overtaking zones. Likewise, while the city of Budapest is seen as a fantastic host for a Grand Prix, many drivers and team members have complained that the scheduling of the race makes the actual on-track sessions an exercise in misery due to the heat and humidity of a central European summer.

There are few actual overtaking opportunities presented on the track. The best location, following the 2003 reprofiling of the circuit, is turn one, a hairpin bend at the end of the front straightaway.  Overtaking may also be possible entering turn 14, a 90 degree right-hander near the end of the lap, but the layout of the circuit makes passing exceedingly difficult in all other corners.  This is only exacerbated by the track conditions, as the circuit was built on sandy soil and sees little use other than F1.  A monthly drag racing event, held on the front straight, is the only regularly-scheduled race to use the track, and as a result, there is a great deal of dirt and dust on the circuit, making venturing off-line to pass someone extremely treacherous.

Despite this, there have been at least two drivers who have overcome terrible starting spots to win here.  In 1989, Nigel Mansell started twelveth on the grid in his Ferrari, then proceeded to put on a clinic, passing car after car before finally overtaking Ayrton Senna's McLaren-Honda to win the race.

2006 - A Day in the Rain

Mansell's record for the lowest starting position to win in Hungary stood until 2006, when a downpour caused the race to be filled with incidents.  Michael Schumacher lost a lap pitting to replace his Ferrari's front wing after colliding with Giancarlo Fisichella's Renault, and Jenson Button, in his Honda, then proceeded to pass Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, Fisichella, and Schumacher, all within a space of two laps.  Struggling on his second set of tires, Kimi Raikkonen lost control of his McLaren-Mercedes under braking and clouted Vitantonio Liuzzi's Toro Rosso-Cosworth from behind, eliminating both from the race and bringing out the safety car; when most drivers pitted during the safety car period (at the time, drivers could dive directly into the pits before lining up behind the safety car), Button elected to stay out, promoting him to second, behind Fernando Alonso's Renault.  As the track dried, Alonso pitted for dry tires, but after the stop, his right-rear wheel nut detached, allowing the tire to come off and causing the Spaniard to crash out.  Button inheirited the lead, and while Schumacher initially attempted to challenge him, his gamble to remain on intermediate tires in the rapidly drying conditions cost him, with the drivers on dry-weather tires easily catching him.  While attempting to defend third place from Nick Heidfeld with two laps to go, Schumacher's Ferrari banged wheels with his fellow German's BMW Sauber, damaging Schumacher's suspension and forcing him to retire from the race, leaving Button to score his maiden victory after starting fourteenth on the grid.  (Even after the race was over, positions continued to change, as Robert Kubica, in his first Grand Prix ever, had finished seventh, but was found to be two kilograms underweight due to the team failing to compensate for the difference in weight between wet and dry tires, and was disqualified, promoting all those behind him one place.)

Will it Happen Again?

Unfortunately, while there is heavy rain in the weather forecast for Budapest this weekend, it's only for Saturday's qualifying session.  This may, however, result in an eventful race, as the circuit's nature means it is quite likely that some teams will elect to put a full wet-weather setup on their cars, to improve their qualifying positions while hoping that the difficulty of overtaking at the Hungaroring will allow them to maintain those positions ahead of cars that have compromised with full-dry setups.  If so, there is a good chance that the grid will be even more jumbled than it has regularly been this season, with faster cars starting behind slower cars and needing to pick their way through to the front.

Driver Changes and Driver Desperation

On the driver front, four-time Champ Car champion Sebastian Bourdais has been fired by Scuderia Toro Rosso, with 19-year-old Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari being named to replace him, although some reports indicate that multiple World Rally Champion Sebastian Loeb may potentially get the seat following the end of the 2009 WRC season (meaning for the last race of the season, in Abu Dhabi this November).  Jenson Button will be racing with extra urgency, as it is widely recognized that Brawn GP doesn't have the financial resources to "slug it out" to the end of the season against the essentially-unlimited finances of Red Bull; to win the championship, Button will need to secure as many points as he can, as quickly as possible, so that he can have a sufficient lead to survive the assault of the Red Bulls as they develop their cars more than Brawn can afford to do.  Likewise, teammate Rubens Barrichello will be under orders to take every position he can from the Red Bulls, to slow their assault.

With the annual "summer break" coming up, and only 21 and 23.5 points behind Button, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber will likely be taking few chances in their Red Bulls, instead hoping to simply gain a few points now, then return from the break with upgraded cars and mount their final assault on Button.  However, Vettel may be taking a few more risks than Webber, hoping to prove that the last race's results were a fluke and reaffirm his status as the team's #1 driver.  Given his performances in wet qualifying sessions this season, expect Adrian Sutil to once again put his Force India-Mercedes towards the pointy end of the grid; if he does, the young German will likely be on two separate missions--first, to score the team's first championship points, and second, to keep well away from Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari, as last race saw the second time that the two have collided and cost Sutil his first points-paying finish.  Defending race champion Lewis Hamilton has been a cypher this season, and his performance is almost impossible to predict from race to race, or even from day to day during a weekend.

The Battle is Just Beginning

In the Constructors Championship, the worst-case scenario for Brawn GP sees their lead cut down to a mere 1.5 points this weekend, but this would require a Red Bull 1-2 combined with neither Brawn finishing in the points.  While the championship is pretty much guaranteed to go to one of those two teams, third place Toyota (34.5 points) needs to push hard this weekend, as both Ferrari (32) and Williams (20.5) could hypothetically leapfrog them in the standings this weekend.  Williams could also, hypothetically, overtake Ferrari this weekend, but with an 11.5-point gap and the top four places in the race likely to go to some arrangement of Brawns and Red Bulls, it is quite unlikely.  However, the Williams team needs to push as hard as Toyota does, as McLaren (14 points) is only 6.5 points back and could easily overtake them, should Hamilton have a good day.  Likewise, McLaren needs to take desperate measures to improve, as Renault (13 points) and BMW Sauber (8 points) are both easily within reach of passing them for sixth place in the championship.  Meanwhile, a poor day for BMW could see Toro Rosso (5 points) overtake them for eighth--and Toro Rosso needs to worry about the possibility that Adrian Sutil could single-handedly bring Force India ahead of them in the standings by scoring the team's first points ever.  Indeed, should BMW Sauber score two points or fewer, a Sutil win would promote Force India past them into eighth.  (Note:  Due to rain, the Malaysian Grand Prix was ended at less than 75% of the scheduled distance, resulting in only half the normal points being awarded; this meant that the fourth-, sixth-, and eighth-place finishers all received fractional points.)

Live coverage of Friday's second practice session begins on Speed at 8AM Eastern, while qualifying will be shown live on Speed at 8AM Eastern on Saturday.  The race will be broadcast on tape-delay on Fox at 3PM Eastern time, with a replay on Speed on Friday, July 31, at 2PM Eastern.  This is the last race of the season to be carried on Fox in the United States; the balance of the season will be shown exclusively on Speed.

Following this, Formula One goes on its annual summer break, with the next race weekend being the European Grand Prix at Valencia, Spain, on the weekend of August 21st through 23rd.  While this weekend's race is being broadcast directly opposite the Brickyard 400, if you want a break from Cup cars trying to negotiate a track not particularly well-suited to them, or just something to amuse yourself during commercial breaks in the latter part of the Cup race, check out the GP.  At the very least, the commentary should be as entertaining as ever!



Greg in Dallas
07/24/2009 1:07 pm (1)
Nice to see your stat-heavy previews - more info on the F1 races than I'd care to dig up, but not more than I'd like to have spoon-fed to me. :)
07/24/2009 8:13 pm (2)
RD Fox looked it up so you don't have to. :-)
07/24/2009 11:12 pm (3)
*grin* Thanks go to Wikipedia for making my research a lot easier, and to Google Translate for making me look like I speak many more languages than I actually do.
07/25/2009 3:00 pm (4)
F. Massa Fractures Skull in Q2 session

Click here

He is in life threating but stable condition as of when ever the above article was written

Jim @ Home
07/25/2009 7:53 pm (5)
According to Ferrari information via Pitpass.com, Massa had successful surgery to repair skull damage and has a "brain contusion"--which is another word for a concussion--and should make a full recovery, but, obviously, will not race tomorrow.

Apparently, he was hit by a bit of suspension that fell off of Rubens Barrichello's car. There will be a further update from Ferrari "late in the morning" European time; I'll post to let you guys know as soon as I hear more. (Man, I'm glad I missed qualifying today; it would have ruined my otherwise fun day at a big steam locomotive meet...)
07/26/2009 5:11 am (6)
Per Pitpass, Ferrari issued this update about an hour ago:

"After undergoing an operation yesterday afternoon, Felipe Massa's condition remains stable and there were no further complications through the night.

"He will be given another CT scan today, which will provide more precise information."

Ross Brawn and FIA have already announced that they'll be doing a full investigation of what happened to let the spring fall off of Barrichello's car, and how to prevent it in the future and better protect drivers from debris.

More updates as I get 'em...
07/26/2009 5:54 am (7)
I saw the video before youtube pulled it. They had the onboard from Massa's car, and they showed it over and over in slower motion each time than the time before. The spring bounced and it came right for Felipe's head. After it hit, his hands stayed grasped on the wheel, but there was no more turning. It was as if he was unable to move or think what to do but instinct made him hold onto the steering wheel. He went straight ahead even though the road turned, and after he hit the tire barrier, his hands fell away from the wheel, but not flailing on impact as though he was unconscious, more like just dropping into his lap as though he were dazed and awake, but not very alert.

He is currently in an induced coma which is common after head surgery like that, and as rdfox stated, they are scheduling another CT scan today.

07/26/2009 7:15 am (8)
That seems to line up nicely with what I've heard, Carol; everyone was indicating that he wasn't knocked completely unconscious, but stunned/dazed by the impact. It's also believed that he came at least partly back to his senses at the last instant before hitting the tires, as he apparently locked down his brakes right before impact, but probably was knocked senseless again when he hit.

Barrichello visited him in the hospital as soon as the F1 regs requiring him to be available for interviews after qualifying were satisfied, and reported that Felipe was, prior to the surgery, awake and alert, but somewhat agitated and confused, though having a familiar face show up and explain what happened in Portuguese certainly seemed to help with that. (Can't say I blame him there--Hungarian is a language that's almost impossible for non-natives to learn, as it has no known connections to other languages, and if I had been knocked silly twice, was in severe pain, and in a hospital room surrounded by people who didn't speak any language I knew, I'd definitely be rather disturbed, and a familiar face explaining the situation in my mother tongue would help a LOT with that...)

When I initially read that Felipe had been hit in the helmet by debris, I had nightmarish visions of Ayrton Senna and the stub of his suspension going through his helmet visor... you can imagine my relief when I heard that Massa was nowhere near as bad a situation.
07/26/2009 12:27 pm (9)
You haven't seen the photo, have you?

07/26/2009 1:54 pm (10)
Massa's CT scan today showed favorable results. He was awake for some time, but has now been returned to the medically-induced coma. He remains in stable condition and is expected to spend at least the next two to three days under close medical supervision. No word on an estimated release date from the hospital or transfer date to another facility if that is planned.

07/26/2009 10:44 pm (11)

What photo?

I saw what happened live ( well as live as you can see it on Speed) and it looked pretty scary. Moreso when they showed the replay. He's lucky that it hit to one side rather than square in the middle of the helmet.

Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family
07/26/2009 11:11 pm (12)
No, I haven't seen any photo. (Presumably one of the helmet, Blknight.) Good to hear the favorable results of the CT scan.

I suspect that Felipe is done for the season; while he might be able to come back late this year, it's more wise to not try rushing it. I'm already seeing interesting speculation as to who will fill in for him, with suggestions ranging from test driver Luca Badoer to a rookie brought up from GP2 to Michael coming out of retirement as a fill-in driver...
07/27/2009 12:06 am (13)
There is a horrific pic of Felipe out there, not just the helmet. It's a picture that you can't forget once you see it, so be careful what you search for.

07/27/2009 6:57 am (14)
*nods* I may have seen worse (I worked in a hospital for a few months--not on the emergency room, but there were some post-op wards that I worked), but I'll try to avoid looking for it.

(As a suggestion, avoid looking for footage of former F1 driver Tom Pryce. In the 1977 South African Grand Prix, his car hit a cornerworker who'd run out onto the track to check on another driver after a crash, with the cornerworker's fire extinguisher hitting Pryce in the head. The footage is... horrific enough just from the crash. The fact that most videos then show footage of the *inside* of Pryce's car after he was extricated, however...)
07/27/2009 7:16 am (15)
...ugh. And I thought that being careful to request just the helmet would avoid it. It's not the most horrible thing I've seen (Pryce's cockpit wins that, followed by pro wrestler Sid Vicious breaking his leg as badly as Joe Theismann's career-ending injury), but it's not pleasant.

Honestly, the fact that his right eye is wide open and he's clearly awake in the shot helps make it less horrible for me, an, "Oh, good, he's alive, awake, and alert" reaction. (As I said, I worked in a hospital--you quickly learn that those three things are *very* good signs.) Still, relieved me of any desire I had for breakfast this morning. Proceed with caution if you want to find it, folks.
07/27/2009 2:15 pm (16)
Update: They're now saying it's unlikely he'll return this year, and they are concerned that he may not return at all because of damage to his left eye.

He is in "severe" but not critical condition, and he is stable.

One of his doctors said, "We can say that the immediate life-threatening condition has been averted but a complication could make it life-threatening again."

07/27/2009 2:17 pm (17)
Update: They're now saying it's unlikely he'll return this year, and they are concerned that he may not return at all because of damage to his left eye.

He is in "severe" but not critical condition, and he is stable.

One of his doctors said, "We can say that the immediate life-threatening condition has been averted but a complication could make it life-threatening again."

07/27/2009 5:15 pm (18)
The latest Ferrari press release:

"The medic's at Budapest's AEK hospital presented a chart of Felipe Massa's condition. All the exams done by the Hungarian medical team were negative, which is a further confirmation of the encouraging signs over the last hours. As far as his left eye is concerned the doctors confirmed that close evaluation has to be done over the next few days.

"The Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro driver, who's no longer artificially ventilated, has met with his family answering their questions.

"Felipe now sleeps without the help of sedatives with his wife, his parents, his brother, and his friend and manager Nicolas Todt by his side. They will spend another night in hospital, where they will meet Stefano Domenicali tomorrow."
07/28/2009 8:22 am (19)
Pitpass has posted a disclaimer-laden ("not a neurologist or opthamologist, and has not seen the charts in detail") report on Massa's likely prognosis from a British doctor who frequently corresponds with the site here. In case the link doesn't go through, the URL is http://pitpass.com/fes_php/pitpass_news_item.php?fes_art_id=38582

At the same time, they also report that Massa's personal physician has stated that Massa has "no problem" in his left eye, and that "his eyesight is OK." He reports that Massa is now correctly answering questions in three different languages(!), and that, at his current rate of recovery, he could see the Brazilian leaving the hospital within a week--but cautions that he's definitely not out of the woods yet, and could face many setbacks.

General agreement is that recovery from the concussion alone will take months, so Felipe's 2009 season is probably over, but these are very good signs for his being able to return in 2010!
07/29/2009 9:05 am (20)
Aaaand in what will probably be my last "news update" on this article, while there's no new official word on Massa's condition, BMW has announced that it's pulling out of F1 at the end of the 2009 season. While efforts are underway by Bernie, FIA, and FOTA to get BMW to reverse this decision, my suspicion is that they're doomed to failure--which means that if FIA wants a full field of 26 next season, they'll need to find a fourth new team, but quick. (If so, my money is on either Lola or Prodrive, as they're the best able to ramp up a program quickly.)
07/29/2009 10:42 am (21)
Update (excerpts from recent news):

"He speaks, can sit upright and was even able to take his first steps," said a Ferrari team statement.

"From the clinical and radiological point of view everything is going extremely well."

"If his recovery continues at this pace, I wouldn't rule out that he could leave within 10 days," said Peter Bazso, the medical director of the AEK Hospital in Budapest.

"It was incredible to see such a fantastic improvement after just three days," said Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali, who was also upbeat on Massa's chances of returning to F1. "As soon as he is back, that is his car."

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for seven-time champion Michael Schumacher said the German would consider returning as a stand-in for Massa, if asked by Ferrari, who he still works for in a consultancy role.

Barrichello said his thought were with Massa, even during Sunday's race, which was won by Lewis Hamilton.

He said: "I would love to see him because he is a friend, not just because the spring came from my car.

"It is for the fact that I know he would have done the same for me. But at the same time I have to think of my kids, of my family, and to be there for them, so it is a bit of an emotional moment.

"It is burning a little bit in my stomach and I would be lying if I said I wasn't thinking of him in the middle of the race."

07/29/2009 11:21 am (22)
Michael Schumacher is back!

This is the babel fish translation of a news story in Germany:

Shortly that becomes deal publicly: Michael Schumacher gives 1. it its comeback in the formula sits down in place of the injured Felipe Massa to the Ferrari cockpit!

Scuderia boss Luca di Montezemolo is on the way to Budapest, in order to bring to Massa the message personally to the patient bed. Massa cannot be used in the current season no more.

After the bad Crash of Massa in the Qualifying to the GP of Hungary it was speculated whether Ferrari gets seven the world champion back on board. Schumi had never disclaimed these rumors - for good reason, how becomes clear now.

07/29/2009 3:29 pm (23)
I'm glad to see the updates every day.

I'm also glad I missed that little note that told me who won last week so when I see the re-run I'll be suprised at who gets the checkerd.

I think everyone uses Babel Fish. saw a story of Fox that was about as confusing here when they quoted Michael.

Jim @ Home
07/29/2009 6:51 pm (24)
Well, lemme try and transcribe the official statements from Ferrari...

First, on Massa's condition:
"More good news from the AEK in Budapest, where Felipe has been recovering since Saturday. The driver has had more exams carried out, confirming his continuing improvement.

"Felipe speaks, can sit upright and was even able to take his first steps. Today he will leave intensive care. From the clinical and radiological point of view everything is going extremely well.

"Felipe will stay at the AEK hospital for the next view [sic] days, until he can be taken somewhere else."

Regarding Michael:
"Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro intends to put Michael Schumacher in Felipe Massa's car until the Brazilian driver is able to race again.

"Michael said he is ready and, over the next few days, will undertake a specific training programme at the end of which confirmation will be given of his participation in the Championship with effect from the European Grand Prix on the 23rd of August."

Press releases via pitpass.com, who seem to be trying very hard to make me make at least one update per day even when I was thinking that the news would be tailing off. ;-)
07/30/2009 9:03 pm (25)
Today's update: Felipe "looks like a boxer," in the words of his personal doctor, but is walking around, taking showers, and, when told that Michael was going to be filling in for him for the rest of the season, joked, "Let's see if I let him!"

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