Paddock Postcard from Budapest 29 Jul 2012
The quick turnaround between last weeks German round and this weekends Grand Prix in Hungary meant that there was little time to carry out any pre-race activities and most teams extra-curricular outings were kept to a minimum.
Ferrari, however, managed to slot in a brief trip to visit those affected by the two earthquakes which rocked Northern Italys Emilia-Romagna region in May. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa both took time out of their busy schedules to accompany other team members. Ferrari hosted an online auction in June to raise money.
Felipe and I went to visit some of the camps, where the people living there are still not clear on when they can move back home, as some of the cities are damaged and the buildings need repair, explained Alonso. Its a sad feeling and we tried to give them some support on behalf of the Ferrari team and the factory. When it first happened, their story was in the news every day, but months later people forget.
Back at the Hungaroring, fans packed into the pit lane on Thursday, whilst the teams prepared for the weekend ahead, to catch a glimpse of the cars and their favourite drivers. They were then treated to a highly popular autograph signing session, where they could meet and greet their racing heroes.
There was a more sombre paddock gathering on Saturday afternoon after qualifying as race organisers held a ceremony to remember long-time Hungarian Grand Prix promoter Tamas Frank, who sadly passed away earlier this year. Numerous drivers, team bosses and Bernie Ecclestone were among those in attendance as a special plaque was unveiled.
Other famous names in Hungary this weekend included Indianapolis 500 victor and former Tyrrell F1 racer Danny Sullivan, who was back in the paddock as the driver steward, joining other luminaries such as UBSs Bjoern Waespe and Unilevers Jean-Marc Huet, Anthony and Linda Hamilton, and singers Bryan Adams and Placido Domingo, with the latter carrying out the post-race podium interviews.
On track, Briton Max Chilton scored his first GP2 race victory in great style for Carlin on Saturday despite heavy pressure throughout from title contenders Davide Valsecchi (DAMS) and Luiz Razia (Arden).
Starting from pole position Chilton led Valsecchi and Razia as fellow Britons Jolyon Palmer and James Calado made slow starts from third and fourth on the grid, the latter having qualified second but been given a two-place penalty for holding up cars on a slow lap. Calado was then passed going down to Turn One by Lotus GP team mate Esteban Gutierrez.
Felipe Nasr (DAMS), Palmer (iSport) and Fabio Leimer (Racing Technology) were the first to pit, on lap 11, forcing the leaders to react. Razia, Calado and Giedo van der Garde (Caterham) came in next time around, with Chilton and Valsecchi thus being forced to do likewise on lap 13.
Gutierrez, who unlike the early leaders had opted to start on the hard tyre, now led from Stefano Coletti, Julian Leal, Simon Trummer, Nigel Melker and Stephane Richelmi, and their slower progress enabled Valsecchi to reduce Chiltons lead to nothing, especially as he got trapped behind Leal. Chilton kept his cool, however and never made a mistake despite the pressure to cross the line 0.6 seconds ahead of Valsecchi, with Razia in their wheeltracks. Calado was fourth, well ahead of Van der Garde and Palmer.
Separate incidents involving Barwa Addaxs Johnny Cecotto Jnr and Nasr, who both crashed, and a technical problem from Barwa Addaxs Josef Kral left Nathanael Berthon seventh and Gutierrez eighth, so the Mexican thus landed pole for Sunday mornings sprint race.
Gutierrez made good use of his P1 starting slot, cruising to victory over Berthon and Razia, who now leads Valsecchi - who finished fourth - by seven points in the championship fight, with six races remaining.
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