We often hear the remark that, because we work in the exciting and thrilling world of Formula 1, surely life is one long holiday! Sure, we love what we do, but consider that some of our team personnel have been travelling for almost 24 weeks since winter testing started in February, prior to the eleven Grands Prix we have had so far. And the factory-based staff has also been flat out, as the development work on a Formula 1 car never really stops. That was evident at the Hungaroring, where we had some new developments to evaluate on the STR12, which made for a busy time in the free practice sessions. The tight and twisty circuit always throws up plenty of challenges and if you listened to the radio chatter down pit lane on Friday, it was all about drivers complaining of too much understeer, with the occasional voice reckoning oversteer was slowing them down. The dusty conditions and track temperatures reaching 50 degrees Celsius all contributed to presenting an interesting and sizzling puzzle for the engineers.
It's fair to say the Toro Rosso crew did a pretty good job of solving that puzzle, because on Saturday, we managed to beat some cars that had more outright pace than us, to get Carlos Sainz into Q3. Proving just how close it is in the mid-field, Daniil Kvyat was only around 2 tenths of a second slower than his team-mate in Q2, but that was enough to put him three places behind in 13th spot and therefore out of the top ten shoot-out. Unfortunately, the Stewards deemed he'd held up another driver and gave him a three place grid penalty. Meanwhile, Carlos found himself moving up one slot to ninth on the grid, because a driver ahead of him had to drop back with a penalty.
Many years ago, race morning was enlivened by an on-track session called the Warm Up, when drivers were allowed on track for 30 minutes to check that all was well with their cars. This was scrubbed in 2003, so that today, the drivers make the odd appearance for team sponsors, have a meeting with the engineers and only go on track for the Drivers' Parade prior to the actual race. In Budapest, we were told to get our drivers to the Parade holding area a few minutes earlier than usual: in the new spirit of injecting some lighthearted fun into the sport, the drivers arrived to find they could play table tennis and table football, or have a go on a giant slot car track. Carlos took on fellow Spaniard and former F1 driver, Pedro de la Rosa in a weird game played on a sloping table tennis table, but using a small football!
Then it was time for business and 70 laps later, Daniil was statisfied having made up five places over the course of the race, even if having started from 16th that wasn't enough to reward him with any points. That's no mean achievement on a track where overtaking is extremely difficult. However, As for Carlos, he said he had "a great race!" Indeed he did, getting the jump on the two McLarens around the outside going into Turn 1 immediately after the start. It wasn't just the drivers who were on great form yesterday, as our pit crew pulled of a blindingly fast pit stop to allow Carlos to stay ahead of Fernando Alonso. However, the McLaren man had the quicker car and after a thrilling duel between the two Spaniards, Carlos had to give best to the double world champion. Nevertheless, he brought home valuable points for seventh place so that the mood in the camp was upbeat on Sunday night: just what you need to enjoy a nice holiday!