31 July 2011
Coletti wins thrilling wet-dry-wet sprint race
Stefano Coletti proved the unexpected master of wet/dry conditions at the Hungaroring, while a thrilling battle for second saw Esteban Gutierrez beat Romain Grosjean to the line.
There are few things you can rely on: a British summertime that will leave you shivering under cold, rain-filled skies; and a Hungary in late July that will be hot, sunny and dusty - there's only been one wet F1 Grand Prix here in 26 years.
But this week Budapest threw an almighty curveball, and presented us with a distinctly British version of mid-summer with the track wet from earlier rain and the skies promising more to come as teams tried to decide whether to start on wets or slicks for the Sunday morning sprint race at the Hungaroring in Budapest.
After testing the slicks on the formation lap, most drivers ran scared and settled for wet tyres; only Luca Filippi, Adam Carroll, Stefano Coletti, Jolyon Palmer, Esteban Gutierrez, Johnny Cecotto and Fairuz Fauzy opted to try and make it on slicks. The leaders - Christian Vietoris and Jules Bianchi on the front row - played safe.
Their caution seemed prudent when Vietoris eased away at the start, while Filippi once again struggled off the grid and then completely failed to correctly judge the braking point for slicks into turn 1, running deep into the run-off before rejoining well down the order. He wasn't alone in his excursion, Jules Bianchi soon running wide to allow Romain Grosjean up to fourth while Michael Herck was an early retiree from proceedings as he spun out on lap 2.
Vietoris meanwhile was looking imperious at the front, pulling out almost 2s a lap on the Barwa Addax duo of Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic over the opening five laps, with Romain Grosjean, Jules Bianchi and Fabio Leimer forming up the rest of the top six places.
The concern now was that the drivers on slick tyres were clearly faster where they weren't spinning, while the wet tyres were starting to overheat and lose their cohesion on the dry line that was appearing on the circuit even if a fine spray was still visible as the cars ran through damper parts of the Hungaroring. One by one - a trickle at first - drivers decided that they had to risk a throw of the dice and come in for a change to slicks before they missed the crucial tipping point.
Even though Luca Filippi spun on his slicks as they were making the call, Rodolfo Gonzalez, Max Chilton and Marcus Ericsson were all in on lap 7 and next time around pit lane saw visits from Charles Pic, Josef Kral, Dani Clos, Davide Valsecchi and Mikhail Aleshin; but the warning signs that it might still be too early for the switch soon came when Max Chilton spun on his outlap at turn 2 and stalled the car.
That brought out a safety car while a crane was brought onto the track to remove the stricken Carlin, and the opportunity forced the leaders' hands: now Vietoris led the remaining cars into pit lane for a switch to slicks while retaining track position, with the only cars to stay out exclusively comprising those who had started on slicks in the first place.
Vietoris kept the lead for the restart ahead of Van der Garde, Grosjean, Bianchi, Leimer and Luiz Razia, with Varhaug the highest-placed of those who hadn't pitted in seventh place and Charles Pic badly caught out by coming in under green a lap earlier now down in tenth.
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