This is Sidepodcast's F1 Advent Calendar 2010, and we are on to Day 18. We're heading into the final stretch of the season now, and yesterday we were talking about Hungary. Today we're moving on to, oh wait, still Hungary. This is Day 18 - Highs and lows.
For the Hungarian GP, Sidepodcast was lucky enough to be invited to the Renault factory for one of their open days - an initiative where the team open up the factory to the public so that fans can come along, see how the team work, link up with those at the track and then watch the race on a giant screen.
To be watching the Hungarian Grand Prix with Renault was both a blessing and a curse. The team had gotten both cars into the top ten in qualifying, with Petrov unusually managing to get ahead of Kubica, the pair lining up 7th and 8th.
The race began, and on the 15th lap, a collision involving Liuzzi saw the Force India's front wing fall off, and the Safety Car deployed. Absolute chaos ensued. Nico Rosberg came in for a stop and he was released without one of the wheels attached properly. The tyre came flying off, and bounced down the pitlane, at one moment going scarily high, and eventually coming to a halt in the Williams garage. On it's way, though, it managed to strike a Williams mechanic. He was hustled to the medical centre for a quick checkup but suffered no serious injuries, mostly bruising. He was so hardy, in fact, that he returned to finish his shift and complete the final round of pitstops for the team before the end of the race. Mercedes were fined $50,000 for an unsafe release.
The chaos in the pitlane was not limited to a bouncing wheel, though, Renault brought in Petrov and released him in a straight-forward fashion, with Kubica following behind. It wasn't so good for Robert, as the lollipop man released him from his pitbox straight into the path of an incoming Force India. Sutil was headed for the space directly in front of the Renault garage, and the pair collided. It was enough to see the end of Sutil's race, but Kubica managed to continue.
The stewards looked into the incident and decided that it too had been an unsafe release. The team were fined the standard $50,000 and Kubica was handed a ten second stop/go penalty. He came in to serve the penalty, and returned to the track, but only a lap or two later, he had retired to the garage. The team were concerned that the damage to the car from the initial collision was too great, so they had to retire the car.
This was not a great moment to be sitting in the Renault factory.
Meanwhile, though, Vitaly Petrov was still out there and doing well. He had moved up a couple of places from his start position of 7th, and by steering clear of the trouble the rest of the field faced, he crossed the line in fifth position - best non Red Bull or Ferrari car out there, and certainly Petrov's best result of the year.
This was a good moment to be sitting in the Renault factory.
Petrov's next-best finish was at the last race in the year at Abu Dhabi, where Kubica finished 5th, and Petrov just behind in 6th. After his strong performance in Hungary, the team admitted they were seriously considering Vitaly for 2011, despite previous indications suggesting they would be shopping around for a new driver. Suddenly he was a contender, although Éric Boullier was happy to admit that the rookie had made some mistakes and had quite a way to go to be a good second driver.
That's all for this episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2010. I'd love to hear what you think about Renault's performance this year, and what kind of line-up they should feature for next season. And don't forget to join me again tomorrow for a peek at what's behind the door for Day 19.
All content in the series F1 Advent Calendar 2010
Filed under Mini Series
References Éric Boullier, Nico Rosberg, Vitaly Petrov
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