Depart for circuit to arrive at 9:30am, hoping to beat the rain – which we do with minutes to spare, but not without some amusement en route: the sight of a farmer and his son carting produce to market with horse and cart. Once at the circuit I note as I pass through the tunnel that 2021 winner Esteban Ocon has added his name (and signature) to the 'Wall of Fame' mural depicting past winners of this race. Shame on the circuit for this omission… Upon entering the paddock I grin at the sight of a barrier placed around Sky TV's (daftly sited) interview area to prevent folk inadvertently photobombing their broadcasts as I did on Friday while rushing to an interview. Note to Sky producers: Hindsight truly is a wonderful thing…
First appointment of the day is the FIA team boss press conference, where Red Bull Racing’s Christian Horner confirms that any joint venture with Porsche remains a long way off – and is contingent upon the power unit regulations finding favour with Porsche. He also confirms that regardless of badging on the engine that the power unit will be engineered and manufactured by the team's nascent powertrains division. The facility, previously known as Hall 8, has been renamed 'Rindt Building' – in honour of Austria's 1970 posthumous World Champion Jochen Rindt, a childhood friend of the team's main mover-and-shaker Helmut Marko. Horner then raises a smile when asked whether his team may draw inspiration from Aston Martin’s controversial rear wing: "For a change we may copy something from Aston Martin," he says with a grin – a cheeky reference to some eerie similarities between the dominant RB18 and the green team's latest upgrade. After the session I meet with Franz Tost to review AlphaTauri’s season to date – and the Austrian admits to being "bad tempered" due to the lack of results, many incidents having been outside the direct control of the team. He also indicates that Yuki Tsunoda requires a third year before he can be considered a fully rounded F1 driver, but Franz falls short of confirming that the Japanese will be retained for 2023.
Between the two sessions I sit down with Roberto Dalla, F1's Managing Director Media and Technology Centre to discuss the sport's latest drone experiment. The first thing he asks me is whether I had noticed any difference in broadcast quality this weekend, to which I answer "No" – obviously but unintentionally the answer Roberto wishes to hear as he is aiming for a seamless transition between drones and trackside cams. F1 first experimented with geo-fenced dronecams – effectively converted racing drones fitted with video kit – during the Spanish Grand Prix, where the results were encouraging but not top drawer. They have since engaged with another provider, in this case a Premier League contractor whose kit has double the payload (now 25kg) and double the battery and flight duration (now 20-25 minutes between changes). According to Roberto, additional tests are planned during Sunday's race, with further tests scheduled this year, likely at Zandvoort and Abu Dhabi. The eventual target is to replace helicams for ecological and costs reasons, all while offering a better visual experience to fans. He admits that is, though, a long way off, not least because drones are not (yet) permitted to fly across the track for safety reasons.
After the day is done my Hungarian colleague Sandor and I head for a rated restaurant in downtown Budapest, where dinner awaits with Peter Secchi, a top F1 sponsor and marketing agent whom I have known for 20 years. Dinner is, though delayed by an hour due to the horrific traffic jams exiting the city. I hear that for fans it is even worse – and fear that F1's new-found popularity will eventually overwhelm the sport. When fans pay up to a hard-earned EU500 for a ticket they certainly deserve better, and it is up to F1 to ensure that promoters across the globe are fully geared up to meet demand or the entire product risks getting seriously damaged.