Reflections from Budapest

July 27, 2009

Well aside from the racing (commentary on which I will leave to the experts such as autosport.com), there have been a number of developments (and non-developments) arising from the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The most important, and most concerning, is that the safety agenda has again come to the fore and shown that F1 can never be complacent about the safety of the drivers and all those present at a Grand Prix. The tragedy which befell Formula 2 driver Henry Surtees at Brands Hatch has had a deep impact on all those involved in motor racing, and at Budapest there were a number of reminders of the elements that conspired to bring about the loss of Henry’s life. Felipe Massa appears to have been both unlucky and incredibly lucky. Unlucky in that he was four seconds behind Rubens Barrichello when a spring became detached from the rear damper assembly and bounced along the track at head height at the moment Felipe arrived at the scene. Lucky in that the spring did not strike him full on in the face which would have undoubtedly been fatal and also lucky that, despite his speed, he crashed directly into a tyre wall which absorbed most of the resulting lethal G forces. The potential for disaster was further underlined when we saw Fernando Alonso’s front wheel detach itself and bounce freely down the track, thankfully coming to a halt without endangering other drivers or spectators. The significance of this was not lost on the FIA who have now banned Renault from the next Grand Prix in Valencia for not adhering to safety regulations, a double whammy for poor Fernando, but indicative of the focus that will be brought to bear on the issue of safety.

McLaren and Ferrari’s return to form (as suggested in my blog of 20 July – although I seem to have got the bit about Brawn rather wrong!) is significant for two reasons. First it underlines the strength in depth that these two teams have in developing their cars, second it shows that the much maligned KERS technology can really deliver results on the track. I’m a supporter of KERS because I believe that F1 has to lead, not lag, passenger cars, in the areas of energy recovery, hybrid technology and biofuels. The interesting question is whether KERS will be banned, like refuelling, in 2010. The teams will now be well advanced with their 2010 designs and presumably most are being built without KERS, but if McLaren and Ferrari believe that KERS offers them a competitive advantage they will seek to maximise the benefit of their investment in this technology. A KERS option in 2010 could still be very much on the cards.

And of course the final point from Budapest is that we have not (as widely anticipated by the press) had a signed Concorde Agreement. It appears that the cost-cutting agreement is still to be signed off and that Williams and Manor are holding back until this is resolved.

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