How Red Bull made the calls that propelled Ricciardo to victory

Daniel Ricciardo’s superb win in Hungary was a result of both the irrepressible Aussie’s driving, and a unique strategy that proved to be just the ticket.

For the second time this year Ricciardo and his team were able to take advantage on a day when things did not go entirely to plan for the usually dominant Mercedes team.

“I think this is even more satisfying than Montreal because we actually beat them without problems,” said Horner when asked about that double by this writer. “We got the strategy right, a great performance by Daniel today, the pit stops were good, overtaking moves were excellent, and I think we beat two Mercedes that didn’t have any problems today.”

Ricciardo did of course gain ground on those ahead when he was able to duck into the pits at the first safety car, but the key was coming in under the second safety car. Only three drivers opted to do that, and while Daniel went for soft tyres, with the intention of stopping again and thus having reasonably fresh rubber for as long as possible, the two Williams drivers went for mediums.

It was that third stint, before he put on fresh tyres for the final charge that saw him pass Hamilton and Alonso, that proved critical.

“Obviously starting on the inters the circuit in sector one was taking quite a bit of time to dry up. The safety car then came out after the Caterham had a big shunt, we immediately knew it was going to be a safety car, so we called both the boys, ‘box, box, box.’ Seb being a bit further up the road was half way up the last turn, Daniel being a bit further back managed to make the pit lane.

“The first four cars didn’t make the pitlane, the group behind, the ones that did, were then in the pound seats Jenson then stayed out on the inters, which were the right tyre for half a lap of the restart, and then Daniel was able to get into an aggressive strategy.

“The bit that really made it work for him was his penultimate stint, he was able to go so long on the option. We were looking at Massa thinking he was going to try to get to the end, and we were trying to get a pit window to him, then it was a question of we’ve got to stop again, we’ll stop as late as we can to have as fresh a tyre as we can for the last 10-15 laps.

“And it didn’t look like it was going to work, because he closed up very quickly, the guys were fighting so hard, it looked like we were going to cook our tyres, and we’ve not been quick on the straight all weekend, and it didn’t look like it was going to happen. Then obviously as they started to get more and more into deg, Daniel just paced himself, and then a fantastic move on Lewis round the outside at Turn 2, and a pretty straightforward move on Fernando, and job done.”

Horner was full of praise for his driver: “The guy is riding the crest of a confidence wave at the moment. You probably heard his radio message after he passed two World Champions. He’s driving the car with such ease at the moment, and things are just falling right for him as well. Being able to get in at the right time for that first stop was a critical element of the race.

“We then had a problem with one of the cylinders on the engine in that penultimate stint, but again the Renault guys were able to find a way around it and disable the sensor, and then his passing moves in the last five laps just topped a fantastic race really.”

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Nico Rosberg: “Lewis didn’t let me by although he was ordered to do so, and that’s obviously not good…”

Nico Rosberg made his disappointment clear after finishing fourth in the Hungarian GP, but in the immediate aftermath of the race he was keen to avoid saying anything about the team order controversy.

“We have to discuss that internally, it would not make sense to speak about that now,” he said. “I don’t want to speak theoretically about that situation or what if, it’s better to discuss that in the team, such situations, I hope you understand.”

Later in his regular video message he added: “Lewis didn’t let me by although he was ordered to do so, and that’s obviously not good, and we need to discuss that internally.”

It was clear that he was frustrated by not being able to pass Lewis Hamilton on the last lap.

“I didn’t see anybody for a while, then I caught him on the last two laps, unfortunately not enough to get by. That’s the most annoying thing now, the last lap. I had the chance, but I wasn’t able to use it. Of course it was very difficult, so that was a pity. Other than that, a very up and down race. It was always going to be difficult in those conditions. There were some things that went against me today, I’m not complaining, but that was the case, especially the safety car and things like that, the strategy also wasn’t the best.

“At the moment I’m still very annoyed, because I’m still on the last lap at the moment. It will take some time and then I’ll be OK for the holiday.

“It was a very difficult race today. Some things went against me, I don’t complain, that’s very normal, that happens, and I just didn’t quite make it happen today, together with my team. It’s a team effort and we’ve just got to do better next time. But still ahead in the championship, that’s important. Got some time now to rethink everything and then full attack again for the next races.”

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Fernando Alonso: “Today we had a little bit of a chaotic race…”

Fernando Alonso was one of the stars of the Hungarian GP, the Spaniard making a set of soft tyres last for the final 32 laps of the race and holding off Lewis Hamilton at the flag.

Along with leaders Rosberg, Bottas and Vettel he lost out by not making it into the pits when the first safety car came out, but he alone managed to recover to the podium.

“It means a lot,” said Alonso. “Obviously we had some tough races recently, and to see one Ferrari again on the podium is the best news. We took the opportunity after a difficult race, with a wet start and then some difficult decisions to make around the safety cars – if we pitted or not. Unfortunately at the first safety car we went a little bit out of position, because the safety car went out and we were in the last corners, so we missed the opportunity to stop.

“We stopped the lap afterwards and we lost a couple of places. We have to attack, we have to overtake a couple of people and just 10 laps to the end we were discussing if we stop and secure the fourth place that we really needed, those points, so just tried to defend the position as much as you can and maybe finish in fourth, so at the end it’s the same result but at least you have the chance to fight for the podium positions.

“So we were in that position 10 laps to the end and at the end we chose the right thing – stay out, defend the position as best we could and secure this second place that, for sure, it tastes like a victory for us at the moment.

“I don’t think that is one of the best in my career. It has been a good and a complex race, let’s say, to execute and perform – because there were some difficulties around the race that make the 70 laps not straight forward. You just need to make decisions during the race and all of them were, together with the team, and I think we did the best we could.”

Alonso admitted that circumstances had helped him.

“This circuit didn’t change much our performance, our position but today we had a little bit of a chaotic race and we took every opportunity we had in front of us. I think cars from behind also had some issues, with Rosberg, with Hamilton yesterday, with the issues in qualifying, we get this position for free. Vettel had a problem in the last corner today, the Force India [crashed]. We had some cars out of the way let’s say and we took benefit from this and we secured some very strong points for the team.”

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Hamilton was right to ignore team orders, says Lauda

Niki Lauda has made it clear that he supports Lewis Hamilton’s decision to ignore the instruction to move over for Nico Rosberg in Hungary.

Lauda admitted that the call had resulted from “panic” on the pit wall, but agreed that Rosberg was never really close enough to justify any help from Hamilton.

“Mercedes was used to being in the lead and race against each other,” said Lauda. “This race, out of the safety car in the beginning and the wet conditions, was a completely different race, so every minute you had to decide something different. In this stress the team told Lewis he should let Nico by, he’s on softer tyres, and has to come in anyway.

“But in Lewis’s position it was clear that if he had been in the DRS position, Nico one second behind, for sure he would have let him by. But Nico never got that close, so therefore I do understand that Lewis said, ‘Why? Why should I stop now in the middle of the circuit to let my team colleague by?’

“He’s fighting for the championship anyway. From my point of view, Lewis was right, and why the call came, this happened out of the panic, and we had to make up for what we were losing. Ricciardo was the best today, unbelievable drive, Red Bull, enormous car performance under these conditions. Alonso did a perfect job to go for the right strategy for second place, and the Mercedes team was fighting all that. So the call was unnecessary afterwards, but it was made. So what. And Lewis ignored it, and finished third. So looking backwards, nothing wrong, from my point of view.

“We want both to have the same material and they can race each other the way they want. I think is important that Lewis said, ‘No, I’m racing my team mate anyway.’ So he did the right thing.”

Lauda said he understood why both drivers were unhappy afterwards: “It’s completely normal from drivers that they want to be one in front of the other, so the reaction of the drivers for me is completely normal. For sure Nico was not happy with the passing at the end of the straight, where Lewis stayed on his line, which is normal.

“This happened in Bahrain 10 times one way or the other. I think when everything comes down, there was nothing wrong. It was good racing, this is for me the most important thing, between the Mercedes guys and the rest.”

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Lewis Hamilton: “I was very, very shocked that the team would ask me to do that…”

Lewis Hamilton has made it clear that he was surprised that Mercedes asked him to move over for Nico Rosberg in Hungary.

The pair came together on track while running different strategies, with the German on soft tyres and planning on making one more stop and Hamilton committed to running to the end on mediums. The team decided that Rosberg would benefit by being let past, but Hamilton refused to comply. He ultimately beat Rosberg to the flag by a tiny margin.

After the race team chiefs Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff said they understood why he hadn’t followed the instruction, but the saga has inevitably created some tension in the camp, and for Hamilton it had clearly taking the edge off a superb drive from the pitlane to the podium.

“You know, I was in the same race as him,” said Hamilton. “Just because he had one more stop than me doesn’t mean I wasn’t in the same race as him. And naturally if I’d have let him past, he would have had the opportunity to pull away, and when he does pit, he’s going to come back and overtake me, so I was very, very shocked that the team would ask me to do that, to be able to better his position.

“But to be honest, he didn’t get close enough to overtake but I was never going to lift off and lost ground to Fernando or Daniel to enable him to have a better race. So that was a bit strange. But we’ve got a long way to go, moving forwards still and, as I said, thankfully I’m still in that battle, so, I hope we can come away stronger.”

Regarding his own race, he said: “I was just pushing as hard as I could to see if I could get as high as I could. Obviously this is damage limitation. On one hand I’m very grateful to have been able to get through with all the difficulties I’ve had this weekend, obviously yesterday and the first lap.

“I can’t believe how things have gone, but to be able to come back through – the safety cars obviously helped quite a lot, but naturally I look at the fact that I had the pace this weekend and I lost quite a lot of opportunistic points. Still, we’re there in the fight, fortunately I stayed ahead of my team mate, which means I’m still there or thereabouts.”

Despite the controversy, Hamilton said the result was still a big boost.

“I can’t express to you the pain that you feel when you have issues such as the issues that I’ve had in the last couple of races. It’s very, very difficult to swallow, and, to come back the next day and get the right balance between not attacking too much, and not making mistakes, all these different things. Obviously when you’re at the back you’re having to push way past the limit than perhaps you would off pole position or in the top five.

“So the fact that I’m managed to come back through obviously is a showing of just how great this car is and how great this team is – but ultimately we’ve worked, I’ve worked hard for it so it feels probably better than perhaps a win, gliding from the lead. It feels definitely much more satisfying when you come back through. And, as I said, to be ahead and to win the fight is really encouraging.”

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Former Mercedes DTM boss Ungar starts new Caterham job

Former Mercedes DTM technical director Gerhard Ungar has now officially joined Caterham, as first predicted here on July 8.

Ungar will work alongside Christijan Albers in a Newey-style ‘chief technical officer’ role, although his job title has yet to be determined. John Iley remains technical director. Ungar is in Hungary with Caterham, although he’s not wearing team gear.

Ungar is highly regarded within the sport. He first joined AMG at the end of 1987. After AMG morphed into HWA he became its chairman in 2009, and then CEO in 2012. He was also responsible for the F3 engine programme, which means that he is well known to several current F1 drivers, including Lewis Hamilton.

His departure was announced in May after Mercedes experienced a difficult start to the DTM season.

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Hamilton and Magnussen to start from pitlane

Lewis Hamilton and Kevin Magnussen will both be forced to start from the pitlane in Hungary after their respective teams were forced to build up their cars around the spare chassis overnight, which leads to an automatic penalty.

Hamilton’s Mercedes was obviously badly damaged by the fuel fire that took hold early in Q1, and Paddy Lowe confirmed to this writer that the change will be made. McLaren discovered that Magnussen’s car had suffered both gearbox and chassis damage in his impact with the tyre wall at the start of Q3.

Eric Boullier said: “The track conditions at that particular corner took everyone by surprise, and Kevin was powerless to avoid locking the wheels and hitting the wall. Of course, the good news is that he’s safe and well; the bad news is that his chassis and gearbox are quite significantly damaged, and both will need to be changed this evening.”

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