After the team claimed double points in Silverstone, its focus shifts to Hungary. Executive Director Marcin Budkowski analyses the previous round and looks ahead to racing in Budapest this weekend for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
How does the team reflect on Silverstone?
Marcin Budkowsk: While it's good we scored double points in Silverstone – and very important points for the championship - our ambitions remain higher than finishing seventh and ninth. That said, as a team, we contributed to the success of the first Sprint Qualifying in Formula 1, thanks to a brave tyre choice and great drives from Fernando and Esteban, which allowed us to recover from a somewhat disappointing qualifying performance on Friday - and to put on a good show for the fans in attendance.
How would you describe Fernando and Esteban's performances last weekend?
MB: I think Fernando has now silenced for good whoever doubted his return would be a success. His speed is still there, and his race-craft is second to none, as we saw once again in both races last Saturday and Sunday. He will no doubt continue pushing himself and the team as the season goes on. After two difficult weekends, it was great to see Esteban in good form and a solid weekend allowed him to return to the points. He can now build on this good performance and retrieve his superb early season form.
Is the team looking forward to racing in Hungary?
MB: On a personal level, I always enjoy the trip to Budapest. It's a beautiful city and one of my favourite destinations of the season, and I think most of the team will agree with me! The Hungaroring is a tight and twisty track and notoriously difficult to overtake on. That means qualifying will be important and we will need to realise the potential of the car on Saturday to put ourselves in a place where we can fight for the higher points-scoring positions in the race.
It's been an intense season so far, how is the team approaching the final race before the summer break?
MB: It's the stage of the year when Grand Prix fatigue is kicking in after quite a few races already. It's been a big push from the start of the season with both Enstone and Viry working hard to develop the car. The focus has now switched entirely to 2022 at both factories, meaning there are fewer new parts coming to the track, but the second half of the calendar is a gruelling schedule and everyone in the team looks forward to the two-week break to recharge. But, before we can relax, we are aiming for another strong showing and a double points finish in Hungary.
Esteban Ocon made a return to the points in Silverstone to end a four-race point-less streak. Now, he is looking ahead to racing at the Hungaroring, one of his favourite circuits on the Formula 1 calendar. The Frenchman is targeting more points before the summer break.
What's the feeling heading to Hungary?
Esteban Ocon: The Hungaroring is one of my favourite tracks on the Formula 1 calendar. It's a great place to drive a Formula 1 car as it has a nice flow and rhythm to it: it's all about maximising corners and piecing everything together. I'm feeling happy going to Hungary after a promising weekend in Silverstone where the car felt much better than it had in previous rounds. The team and I have continued to work hard in our preparation on the simulator to be ready for Hungary. It's the final round before the summer break, and the aim is to score more points to end the first part of the season on a positive trend.
What's your record like there?
EO: I have some good memories from the Hungaroring. I won two from three races there in 2014 in Formula 3 with three pole positions. In GP3, I was on the podium twice, so it's definitely a circuit I feel positive about. In Formula 1, the results haven't reflected my confidence at the track, so that's a record I want to improve. This year, we will target a solid Friday's work ready to attack the rest of the weekend.
How challenging is a lap of the Hungaroring?
EO: The circuit is fast with a lot of interesting corner combinations. It's a fun lap when you get it right. Sector 1 has the long straight with an overtaking opportunity into Turn 1 and then again at Turn 2 where it's possible to overtake. Turn 4 is a very satisfying corner as it's so fast and blind on the entry. The rest of the lap is relatively fast and quite twisty, except the chicane, with the final sector quite tight with the two hairpins. The tyres tend to overheat in the final sector so that's something we have to keep an eye on.
How important was it to be in the points in Silverstone last time out?
EO: I was pleased to return to the points in Silverstone after a difficult run of races. It was important that we bounced back and our performance, in general, was good. I think the Sprint format worked in our favour on this occasion as we took a gamble by starting on Softs and it meant we were better placed on the Sunday grid. I was a little unfortunate at the start but other than that, our pace was competitive, we have identified further areas to work on and that means we're feeling ready to go for it this weekend in Hungary. I'm looking forward to it!
Fernando Alonso heads to Budapest for the final Grand Prix before Formula 1's summer break, having mesmerised the paddock with his performances in the British Grand Prix. The Spaniard now returns to the place of his first ever win in Formula 1 as he aims to celebrate his birthday weekend with another good result at the Hungaroring.
You made it five points scoring finishes in a row at the British Grand Prix, how was the weekend for you?
Fernando Alonso: It will be interesting to see what the fans thought of the new format as, at the end of the day, it was designed for them, but I did like that there was action on all three of the days. I did well in Sprint Qualifying and made the most of my start, overtaking quite a few cars around the first few corners. Then the race on Sunday was tough and felt very long. We executed a very good race and strategy, scoring some more points for the team. It was nice seeing the fans in the grandstands and it really added to the occasion. The result means I have to continue doing a track walk in Budapest, which will probably be a hot one!
You're returning to the track where you took your maiden Formula 1 victory in 2003. What are your thoughts heading into the weekend?
FA: I'm looking forward to it. Obviously, it's a circuit where there isn't much time to breathe with lots of tight corners. It feels like a big go-kart circuit. We all love driving there because I think the driver has a quite a bit more input than some circuits. I've had some good results in Hungary, most notably in 2003 when I took my first ever Formula 1 win. I've also scored a few podiums too and the pole position in 2009 was good. I feel like the team is improving all the time, especially after the performance at Silverstone where both cars finished in the points, so we're hopeful of another good weekend.
It's your birthday on Thursday, what will you be doing to celebrate it?
FA: I am looking forward to the birthday celebrations. I think the team have a few things planned too. It's quite nice to be celebrating a birthday at a Formula 1 weekend so I can't complain. We will be sure to have some cake and celebrate a little bit, but we have an important weekend ahead, so I'll be fully focused on racing. It's our last race before the summer shutdown and I am looking to continue our good form in Budapest.