24 August 2003
Friesacher finally breaks duck.
Under pressure to perform in what is his third season in the FIA F3000 Championship, Patrick Friesacher finally delivered his first win at the Hungaroring, in a race that will be remembered as the first to feature pit-stops.
The introduction of the pit-stop element transformed the face of the race, with early leader Vitantonio Liuzzi dropping to fourth after his decision to stop late in the race dropping him to fifth on the road, and other drivers further down the field, notably new champion Bjorn Wirdheim, gaining ground.
Starting from first and third on the grid, the Red Bull duo of Liuzzi and Friesacher made the most of the clean side of the track to jump into an early 1-2, while the second place starter, Giorgio Pantano, struggled with the dusty surface offline and dropped back down the order.
It appeared that the Italian veteran did not just have the track conditions to blame for his slide down the order, however, as fourth and sixth placed starters Townsend Bell and Ricardo Sperafico managed to vault ahead of the pale blue Durango car on the run to the first corner, with Wirdheim, who gridded a seasons-worst fifth also losing out to Sperafico.
At the end of the opening lap, the two Red Bull cars were making good their escape, followed by Bell, Sperafico, Pantano, Wirdheim and Tony Schmidt, who made a good getaway from ninth to lie seventh in the early stages. Enrico Toccacelo, meanwhile, joined Pantano in the loser stakes, dropping a couple of places from eighth to lie behind Jaroslav Janis and Raffaele Giammaria as well as the German.
Schmidt's fortune turned around shortly afterwards, however, slipping back to tenth after a brief incident, but it was the advent of the pit-stops that really shook the order up on a circuit not known for promoting changes of position.
With the pit window opening on lap eight, it was interesting to see who adopted what strategy, with wisdom divided between taking new tyres early on to try and steal a march on the opposition, or running as long as possible on older rubber in order to have a late race advantage.
The new champion opted for the former, pulling in at the end of lap nine - one after Schmidt - and dropping towards the end of the field. Pantano and Sperafico followed soon afterwards, the Brazilian not rejoining, followed by Toccacelo, while Giammaria opted for the halfway mark as his time to stop.
The losses appeared to be limited by the lateness of each drivers' stop, with Giammaria only conceding a couple of places compared with team-mate Pantano's six. However, the two Italians crossed paths during the former's pit-call, suggesting that getting onto new rubber earlier may have been an advantage.
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