How do you follow a result like that in Germany? The first points of the season and a ridiculously strong performance, I can’t see me beating that this season now but it was all kinds of awesome to get some points for Marussia. However, that was then and it was now time to focus on Hungary… until I noticed I had an email in the game which was as follows:
A contract offer from Force India! From the wording, it seemed they wanted me to move mid-season… so an immediate change of location. I decided to think about it during the Hungary Grand Prix weekend and see if the offer still stands following the race; it seems they want an answer immediately so I’m not sure if it will, but it was certainly worth considering however happy I may currently be driving for Marussia. Right now, it was time to look forward to another race; the weekend’s forecast predicted a dry weekend.
Despite an overcast, cloudy start to practice it seemed like it was going to stay dry as predicted. The team had an R&D objective to go through in order to bring new parts to the car so that was the main goal for practice. To try to increase the brake efficiency, the team’s aim was for me to stay off the brakes for 78% of the lap over the course of three laps whilst still maintaining lap times of under 1:39.792. It was actually a fairly simply test for us – I’d hit the target within three laps at an average of 86% off-braking time per lap and my lap times were considerably quicker than the target. It was almost ruined on the third lap by Maldonado turning into me as I went around him… but luckily I avoided it before any major disaster, but that aspect of practice was a big success for us. We seemed to be a few seconds off the pace as usual but the car felt good. I made a mistake on the chicane at turn 6 which was my fault and hit the barrier to lose my front wing, which a momentary lapse of judgement with the kerbs but it wasn’t a problem really. Timo was a few seconds slower than me which was satisfying, but as the session went on I just threw out laps to get a feel for the fast flowing nature of the Hungaroring. I’d managed to climb my way up to 14th and that’s how it ended for practice which was a really satisfying time, especially being several seconds quicker than my team-mate and to be quicker than the Williams’ too. Promising!
The team’s goal for Qualifying was to try to get 12th or above, obviously because of the success of Germany. It was a very tough goal but one that I felt I could do with how well this car was doing at this point of the season. I immediately came out to try to make the most of a quiet track and threw in a 1:25 for good measure so that was a good starting point I felt. 5 minutes into Q1 it was looking pretty good too but it was still early days as I’d soon dropped down the pecking order. With 7 minutes left I put in a time to leave me 14th so it was all very close. It felt like I was making stupid little mistakes and honestly became a bit of a frustrating session. With a few minutes to go, I came back out admist traffic and again made mistakes to not put in any faster laps. However, I did manage to make Q2 which is brilliant news! Surprisingly Massa and Maldonado went out in Q1, and JB only just made it through himself…
Of course, 12th was still the goal for Q2 and I wasn’t sure at the start of Q2 whether it was possible but it was certainly worth a go. I also had to keep in mind my tyre consumption and make sure I didn’t go crazy on my use of tyres. Vergne and myself both spent our first lap or two battling each other as if it were a race which was kind of ridiculous but I was off the pace, or at least in comparison to the other teams. I came in and changed from the scrubbed options I was using to a set of fresh new options and it really made the difference – immediately I jumped from a 1:25.3 to a 1:24.9 onto a 1:24.2 for the next lap too putting me in a respectable 14th. Vergne made his return and almost caused issues by slowing down hugely on my final lap of Q2 but I had begun to run out of fuel in the middle of this lap and instead crawled my way back to the pits for a solid 14th place start. However, the team were disappointed because of the 12th target so that’s annoying. Still, I qualified ahead of Vettel amazingly!
Race – 18 laps
As the target for the team was a 13th place finish, I decided to take quite an aggressive approach to the fuel consumption which would require more fuel management through the race but obviously made the car lighter for our advantage. We were starting on primes so we could run a longer stint and be lighter on fuel for the option tyres with the goal to hopefully nab a few points.
The start was very clean really; immediately I lost places to the faster cars like Vettel behind me but a nicely slotted place in turn 1 let me slide through into 8th which was a fair old jump. However, Schumacher soon jumped me leaving me to fall into 9th. Behind me was Senna and Alonso fighting for position and, unsurprisingly, it was a matter of time before Alonso was right behind me looking at 9th. Schumacher already had a gap ahead so it was all about keeping those behind me at bay really. On Lap 3 Alonso really began to give it a go at getting past me – here I was in a Marussia fighting Fernando bloody Alonso! It was all too easy for him to overtake using DRS and KERS on the start of Lap 4 and the Spaniard soon raced away. Damn.
However, being in 10th still meant a points so I was happy to do what I could to maintain this position as the car was feeling very good and I had no major issues with the race this far. Behind me was still Senna and a few others like Raikkonen and Vergne but there wasn’t a huge challenge from them for my position at this point. It all stayed rather quiet for a few laps, but a mistake on Lap 5 from mistake leaving me to go wide allowed Senna through for an easy overtake and I came back on in 11th. It was just another lapse of judgement. Senna was right ahead of me though so I used the start of Lap 6′s DRS zone to get the position back at Turn 1 – yay!
The pit stop window began from lap 8 and it led me to move up to 6th as I was staying out a bit longer than the people ahead of me. Kobayashi got really rather close coming out of the pits too on this lap but it wasn’t an issue – it was just nice to be in 6th! In fact, on the start of Lap 10 I’d found myself in 3rd as more people pitted, jumping Lewis Hamilton as he left the pits and leaving him behind me. Surprisingly I managed to hold back Kobayashi and Hamilton behind me for the lap as this was the lap I had my scheduled stop on which went fine – jumped onto the options and came out in 10th so still in the points.
There was absolutely no-one around me when I came out which was nice so my goal was now to hold 10th and get a point for the final 7 laps of the race. I preferred the options so I was looking forward to the possibility of getting a point. Behind me several seconds away were Massa and a group of cars so I had to be aware of them. To add a little more spice, the in-game menu was showing my fuel consumption to the end of the race as optimal so I needed a bit of fuel management for a few laps to ensure I made it home. This meant up until lap 13 I put the engine fuel mix into lean causing a slower car but allowing fuel to be saved. This did mean that Massa’s gap had decreased from 7 seconds to 4 seconds…
Suddenly, on lap 14 I noticed a change in position behind me in 11th – it was now Vettel who was behind me. Vettel!! And he was catching fast, on average a second a lap. On lap 16 he was right behind me and pretty much in a position to gobble me up and get that last point finish I really wanted of which he took advantage of with KERS and DRS to get me on the start of Lap 17 but, in a bit of a brave moment, I took a go at getting up the inside of him at Turn 1 and it paid off! Very proud of how clean it was but very risky. I wanted that 10th though! It was the penultimate lap and I knew I could do this.
…Unfortunately the chicane at Turn 6 caught me out and I messed up, almost losing the back-end but holding onto the car to only lose 10th. I was still 11th, but now out of the points. Argh! Luckily Raikkonen didn’t manage to get past and I avoided him, but he later crashed into Rosberg who tried to overtake him and lost his front wing anyways. Alas, I settled for 11th which is a really good result but I’m still absolutely gutted I lost that point on the penultimate lap. A bit of a frustrating ending.
A strange one to evaluate, that. 11th beat the target set by the team which is awesome, but I can’t help but be annoyed that I missed out on a point so close to the end after hard work getting that far. Still, another strong showing from the Marussia and the best race of the season was up next at Spa, can’t wait!
…oh, and that Force India contract offer still sits in the game’s inbox awaiting a decision. What do you reckon, guys? Is it worth packing my bags to go and move onto Force India already, or should I see things out with Marussia?