Arrive at the circuit on time at noon, having again flown low-cost simply because a) scheduled airlines have perfected the art of passenger rip offs, and b) they don't seem to care that schedules and operations are in disarray, probably because most operate to civil service policies.
At the Media Centre I'm met by bleary-eyed Germans who had driven overnight from Stuttgart to Budapest because Lufthansa abruptly canned 1000 flights; another travelled by train, a nine-hour journey.
I've always enjoyed the Hungarian Grand Prix, having first reported on the event in 1998. Apart from 2006, when the race clashed with a personal matter and 2020's Covid race, I've attended all since, making this my 23rd race at the Hungaroring, and I can't recall a tedious race here. There have always been some unexpected twists – this year's being Seb Vet's retirement announcement.
Am I astonished? Not that he's retiring – I'd said during Monday's French Grand Prix podcast that I figured he'd hang up his hard hat this year – but the timing took me (and most in the Media Centre) by surprise. On second thoughts, possibly it was timed to coincide with bad news from Aston Martin Lagonda, the associated road car company, which simultaneously announced 2022 first half losses of £285m. These need burying…
Whatever, Seb is gone from F1 after Abu Dhabi, and the four-time champion, third in the all-time win list behind Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher and ahead of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna – which points to the irrelevance of such lists – provides lucid reasons for his decision: family matters coupled with concerns about F1's environmental impact, and that he's become slightly disillusioned by not having a winning car.
On reflection, the biggest surprise is that the decision was not taken in 2020 after Ferrari dropped him…
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The media canteen overlooks the main straight, providing birds' eye views of the optional (at a fee) pitlane walk for fans. It is absolutely thronged, and I later hear reports of folk being refused entry despite holding valid tickets which gets me wondering whether circuits (and surrounding infrastructures) are geared up for F1's sudden surge in popularity. Airports, hotel, car rental, access roads – all are heaving under the crowds.
This event traditionally coincides with the first release of the calendar for the following year – even if the final version is later ratified by FIA votes, either during formal meetings or convenient e-votes, but the word is the calendar will only be formalised in October, suggesting delays in agreeing dates and contracts.
Unconfirmed at this stage are: Monaco, Mexico, Belgium and South Africa, last-named hoping to make its return but facing a struggle to get its project together. A number of promoters are in Hungary, and I hear talk of push-back against 'clustering' of dates for 'green' reasons. Canada is said to insist on its traditional June date rather than being twinned with Miami in May, so will likely again be paired with Baku…
Spend the morning chasing driver market permutations and surprisingly the three managers I consult on the most likely scenarios, listing Mick Schumacher as a potential shoo-in at Aston Martin and Nyck de Vries replacing Nick Latifi at Williams if Oscar Piastri goes to McLaren. They also agree it's a touch too soon to elevate Logan Sargeant to F1, talented as the Williams recruit is. The analysis here.
The trio is also disappointed by the current F2 grid, agreeing that there are no obvious stars bubbling under. I hope they're wrong but won't hold my breath.
Between the two sessions I interview McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl for a summer break feature and am amused when I ask about Piastri and he insists the team's 'current' focus is on assisting Daniel Ricciardo regain some form. Yes, Andreas, but I'm talking about next year…
Post-FP2 I hear about an absolute shocking incident: A photographer colleague, a man as docile as they come, is assaulted by security guards after insisting that his media pass and tabard permit him to enter non-public areas. I hear the security company's boss has connections to the country's office and holds various government contracts, so why am I not surprised at this modus operandi?
Last year we experienced similar heavy-handedness at the same corner – albeit fortunately without the violence – and were only granted entry after a marshal recognised my (local) accomplice and persuaded the guards. About 20 years ago Spa-Francorchamps was threatened with removal from the championship after a similar incident, and I hope the governing body investigates this matter and takes the necessary action.
En route to the post-FP2 sessions I make my weekend TV appearance by inadvertently rushing through Sky's circuit studio, daftly sited in the middle of a walkway from media centre to paddock. Competent broadcasters have 'minders' to prevent such occurrences…
F1 Podcast: Does Leclerc make too many mistakes to become F1 champion?
RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken and Michael Butterworth discuss the key topics from the French Grand Prix, including Charles Leclerc dramatically spinning out of the lead.