Thirty minutes south-east of the beautiful and picturesque cities of Budapest is the Hungaroring circuit , comprised of several 180⁰ turns, elevation changes and a maximum down-force, almost street circuit like vibe.
A track that is notoriously difficult to over-take on, Hungary promotes close racing, strategic thinking and tyre management know-how.
This was the final pre-season race before we head out to Bahrain for round one of the Invictus calendar next week, it gave the driver’s one final race to assess the competition and properly prepare for the season.
The no-assist league provided one of the most entertaining races in a long time for pre-season two in Hungary this week, the league saw numerous battles throughout qualifying and into the race leaving the viewers desperately awaiting next week’s round one race.
Having taken victory in the USA one week prior, Scott (BoyBetterKnowSB) was in high spirits as he got to the European track and that translated into strong early pace for the Red Bull driver.
He would spend the session trading fastest laps with rookie drivers’ Nismax7 and Gavpig in the Renault cars. The three would be joined by late lap from Humbostone in the Sauber; he would split the Renaults and finish just two thousandths of a second off of the front row.
Scott would come across the line with a matter of moments left in the session and take another solid qualifying result giving himself a clean track on the run down to turn one.
The first stint would see a fantastic battle between the top four, but as the ultra-soft tyres started to fade away the real beneficiary of this was current no-assist champion Speed_Queen80, she had started on the yellow walled softs and was starting to make her way through the pack picking off drivers one-by-one.
The pit-lane opened for the first runners to come off the ageing ultra-softs, this allowed Speed_Queen to assume the lead, which was a remarkable feat after starting just inside the top ten on the harder tyres.
Lap 13 saw a strange occurrence, after a good start RickWR88 unfortunately lost control at turn five and hit the wall, he was almost immediately joined by front runner Gavpig who in an almost carbon copy had the exact same incident. Stifler1980 in the Force India would survive the spin under yellow at the same corner and manage to re-join in what was evidently a true showing of how important tyre management is around the Hungaroring.
Speed_Queen had maintained her lead of the race after the pit-stops as she emerged half a second ahead of the chasing pack, but Scott would push her all the way to lap 32 of 35, when after a crash for Mike on the final corner saw a safety car released and give us the pleasure of a two lap shootout for the win.
Both lead drivers seemed to favour track position and stayed out, but the likes of Humbostone and Delange came in for a shot on the ultra-soft tyres. Bernd Maylander would only stay out for one lap with the re-start seeing a frantic end to what was a superb race.
Scott on much older tyres would go toe-to-toe with Speed_Queen, and after a controversial move around the outside of turn three took the lead with one and half laps remaining, Speed_Queen would then drop to third behind a flying Humbostone as they started the final lap.
Scott would come across the line first, but a mid-race penalty would relegate him back to second with Humbostone taking on a huge penalty and dropping from second to ninth, this promoted Speed_Queen up into the eventual race victory. Delange would also use a brilliant final two laps to climb up and make it a second consecutive podium in third.
It was a real classic to watch, it left the commentary team and the viewers in awe of what was a fantastic end to the race. The no-assist league was announced post-race that it would see equal performance continue throughout the season, and with races like this, it should be a superb championship.
After last week’s strong start for WaveIntel, the Scot would be looking at finishing off pre-season on a high and going into the season with the most momentum possible.
However, with drivers such as BoyBetterKnowSB (Scott), LoZac and Betrayer all vying for the top step of the podium, it was going to be a true battle of attrition to see who could take the final win of the pre-season before round one.
The times in qualifying were steadily falling across the 18 minutes, and with less than a minute to go, SJD1988 would superbly drop a provisional pole time that would eventually go unchallenged.
It would be Scott alongside him on row one as he looked to continue his good form he showed in the no-assist league, whilst LoZac added another strong qualifying performance to sit in third alongside reigning champion SkyZii.
SJD lined up and as the five red lights were extinguished he was immediately swamped and passed by both the Red Bulls of Scott and SkyZii into turn one. The pole-sitter would struggle to hold onto the leaders are by lap three saw his Renault drop out of the podium positions with WaveIntel getting past.
The early stages of the race saw Fascone crash out early as the Irishman would bemoan a poor pre-season, but as a multiple race-winner, it is certain that you can’t count him out for a good haul of points over the full calendar season.
Scott started suffering on his ultra-soft tyres, and after a pit-stop dropped him down the order he caught up to the gearbox of Captain_Stiff down the main straight, but disaster struck for the Red Bull!
After trying to switch back on Stiff to get the inside line, he was pinched in between the Williams ahead and the Renault of LoZac emerging from the pitlane, and with carbon fibre and tyre tethers flying the race was over for Scott.
The race seemed to be causing drivers’ real problems with tyre temperature issues, and by lap 30 of 35 the race had seen six retirements. This included Benjym214 who would be disappointed not to build on his good result last week as he ended the race in the wall.
The race reached its climax with Betrayer46 having made up several positions taking the chequered flag at a canter, he never seemed to be involved in any fights but calmly made his way to the front and controlled the pace.
He was joined on the podium by SkyZii and SJD with both drivers happy with their results as Performance 1 rounded out its pre-season races.
It’s all up in the air about who will take the win in Bahrain next week; the allocations may make all the difference.
Tuesdays Performance 2 race became a real struggle to survive as only four of the eleven drivers finishing on the lead lap, the race saw five retirements leaving the grid guessing to who will be the pace-setter at round one.
Scopefielder recovered from a slightly off colour showing in the no-assist league to take pole position, he was joined by Jos_Heinssie who made it an all Renault front row as the French manufacture cheered on their success.
The race as afore-mentioned saw several retirements, drivers like Sab7786, mj_coop and NickLJThomson all fell off track and saw their pre-season end earlier than expected. At the front it was Jos who made his one-stop strategy work best as he took the race win by almost twenty seconds to Humbostone who recovered after Monday’s disappointment to take second place.
Pole sitter Scopefielder would only come home third, he had a massive gap between himself and fourth place, with the top three almost 45 seconds ahead of the rest of the field as the grid struggled with the tricky kerbs and tyre degradation in the hot Hungarian sun.
The driver’s eagerly await the allocations for the first race in Bahrain, it is a circuit which benefits the more powerful cars, who will make the most of their race and take the opening victory in round one?
It was an all-star cast in F1 for the final pre-season race, and with the prospect of a full grid heading to Bahrain next week, the drivers would have to use this final race as the perfect preparation before next week’s big opener in the gulf state.
F1 saw the debut of VSR_Odemz, a prolific winner across many F1 leagues and equally the very fast Samuthepito would enter into the league in Hungary, both would look for a positive way to start off their Invictus careers.
However it was Dutch driver Jos_Heinssie who would take pole position in the Renault after a blistering lap of 1.16.554 saw him beat out mdoran to second place with the Irishman just over one and half tenths away.
None of the top drivers selected to start on the ultra-softs, which meant it would be a battle of the one stop strategies, and as the race played out it was soon becoming aware that VSR_Odemz was going to immediately install himself in the conversation as championship favourite. The Haas driver utilised a superb two stop strategy after starting from last pace to come home and take the race victory ahead of fellow debutant Samuthepito.
It was WaveIntel would claim the third spot on the podium, only continuing to spotlight the incredible talent the young Scot possesses after his promotion to the top tier of equal performance.
F1 is absolutely stacked with race winners and potential highlights this season, it looks like qualifying session in Sakhir may be one of the most competitive we’ve ever seen.
Pole position in F2 was split by less than two hundredths of a second as Humbostone edged out Tony-Y for the prime run down to turn one.
The league sees a number of new drivers’ on the mix this season alongside a healthy amount of experienced returning Invictus members and it only adds to build the excitement for the opening race.
The race would see Tony-Y go for the very tricky one stop after starting on ultra-softs and unfortunately for the Scot it did not pay off, he would finish down the order in sixth, whilst his front row compatriot in Humbostone would only manage to bring his Sauber into third after he struggled with tyre wear before he made his first of two spots.
Their places would be taken by the ever consistent mj_coop who took home the final pre-season race winner’s trophy ahead of Nismax7 who made up several positions to get onto the second step of the rostrum.
F2 is anyone’s guess when it comes to deciding on a favourite, but one thing is for sure, come race time in Bahrain, there will be a full grid of full determined drivers ready to taste the victory and take home a bottle of rose-water.
The field in F3 this season looks wide open this season, with a number of drivers in the mix for a championship challenge, along with the assumption of multiple race winners, the championship looks like it may go down to the wire.
FerociousDan had a perfect start to his pre-season the USA last week with a comfortable victory, but with McLaren team-mate F1Richard looking strong this season, the McLaren garage could possibly see a hotly contested battle. It’ll be interesting to see if team tactics come into play or if the two will be allowed to fight on track.
Dan would go on take pole in Hungary on the fastest ultra-soft tyres ahead of the Ferrari of xMIKExSI who equally used the fastest compound to see himself start on the front row.
The grid saw a number of strategy calls in qualifying and with Captain_Stiff sneaking into the top ten on the mediums; he would possibly give himself a good chance at a push for the front later in the race.
Dan led the field away to turn one, however Mike was no so fortunate, his Ferrari bogged down off the start-line and by the entry to the first corner he found himself back down in eighth place and with a lot of work to do.
It was Sab7786 who would utilise a very strong first stint on his yellow walled soft tyres to move into the lead after Dan’s stop meant he would have to fight his way back into contention. The Mercedes of Sab would proceed to maintain his lead; he kept F1Richard at bay with superb late pace and crossed the line to take a debut win in F3.
The two McLarens would round out the podium with Dan managing to stave off a late charge from Captain_Stiff. It was a good day for both the McLaren and Williams team who saw both cars finish in the top five, could that be our battle for the constructors this season?
The F3 paddock is full of hungry and excited drivers ready to do battle in the gulf next week, and with the prospect of a multi race-winner season. This is shaping up to be the most fun and compelling season yet.
That’s pre-season done and dusted in Invictus, the drivers now have one week to prepare for round one next week as the team pack up ready to roll out to the desert. There are some tantalising battles building and the excitement levels will hit critical as we await that final fifth red light illuminating in Sakhir. Join us from next Monday at 8pm for the return of the Invictus Racing League!