Vettel unfazed by German loss
Formula One leader Sebastian Vettel isn’t dwelling on his season’s lone dip in performance before the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Ferrari and McLaren split the last two races to re-establish themselves as rivals to Red Bull, which is top of the constructors’ and drivers’ standings after Vettel won five of the first six races.
Vettel retains a commanding 77-point lead over second-place Mark Webber, his teammate, despite one win in the last four races.
Lewis Hamilton is 82 points back while Fernando Alonso trails by 86.
“It’s not a disaster but we’re not happy with it. You have some races where things might not come together as they should—you have to go through these times,” Vettel said on Thursday from the Hungaroring. “I don’t take it personally, but I’m not happy with second, third, fourth or fifth.”
It shows in the 24-year-old German’s recent record. He has won six of 10 races this season and nine of the last 14 on his way to becoming the youngest F1 champion in history last season.
But despite starting on pole in every race this year, Red Bull hasn’t been able to convert all of those into victories.
“We had a deep look but now we know we have to focus on this race—we can’t spend too much time looking back at the Nuerburgring. We’ve been playing around, trying to make the package competitive again,” Vettel said. “We can’t change the result but there’s no point trying to find any kind of excuses. We’re not happy with that and we want to have it the other way around this weekend.”
Hamilton’s morale-boosting victory at the Nuerburgring came at the perfect time, as the 2008 F1 champion had been under-fire for his aggressive driving style. McLaren, which has won three of the past four races in Budapest, now wants a repeat of the cool conditions in Sunday’s 70-lap race.
“We know [the McLaren] is definitely not the fastest car. Red Bull has been the fastest at every race,” Hamilton warned, before saying cooler weather is predicted all weekend. “If that’s true, that’s fantastic for us. Any hotter this weekend and we might struggle.”
McLaren teammate Jenson Button has been one of best drivers in mixed conditions. The 2009 F1 champion is hoping for more of the same after having to retire from the last two races to drop 107 points back from Vettel—more than four race wins behind with only nine left in 2011.
Button will start his 200th race at the track where he picked up his first victory, in 2006, in mixed conditions after starting 14th.
“Rain would be a lot of fun around here. It would bring something to the race,” Button said. “But we have to make sure we’re quick.”
Alonso said the weather was already providing an unexpected obstacle for Ferrari.
“Hopefully, here we’ll see a hot weekend, even if the forecast says not too hot at the moment,” Alonso said. “Obviously we want it as hot as possible ... track temperature as well.”
For Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa, the track was the site of a near fatal crash in 2009. The Brazilian has failed to reproduce his best form since then, having become the only driver on the grid not to have outperformed his teammate in qualifying at least once this season.
“He’s done a better job, I have no problem saying that,” Massa said of Alonso.
While Webber has driven faster than Vettel in qualifying of late, the Australian has failed to duplicate that form on race day, helping Ferrari and McLaren to narrow the gap in the constructors’ standings.
“It will be tight again,” said Webber, the defending Hungary champion. “One of six drivers can win this race.”
The race is the last before a four-week break. The season resumes at Spa with the Belgian GP on Aug. 28.
Qualifying is Saturday following practice, which begins on Friday.—Sapa-AP