It’s often said that rain is motor racing’s great leveller: where driving ability makes a difference more than in any other conditions. Whether this is strictly true is debateable, but the history of Formula 1 is certainly littered with examples of when the greatest drivers excelled in wet weather, whether it was Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton.
There are a number of things required to be quick in the wet: bravery, good car control, having the right car setup and choosing the best lines through the corners. Of course, it’s also important to be on suitable tyres for the conditions, and to get the best out performance from them.
When the Formula 2 feature race at the Hungaroring began, there was no question that the Pirelli wet tyre was the one to be on, following the rain that had affected the F1 qualifying session. In these conditions, it was Lando Norris who came to the fore quite literally, as the Carlin driver worked his way up from sixth on the grid and into a 12-second lead by lap 15.
The thing with rain-affected races is, however, that unlike in fully dry races, conditions rarely stay the similar over the whole duration: usually it is getting wetter or dryer. In Hungary, the warm temperatures meant that the track began to dry quickly, and it wasn’t long before the teams were considering when to bring their cars into the pits for a change of tyres. With no intermediate tyre available in F2, the teams at least knew they would be switching to slick tyres, but they still had to time it right.
Norris changed to slicks on the same lap as the driver behind him, Nyck de Vries, but it was here where the advantage shifted to the Prema driver, who quickly reeled in his fellow McLaren F1 junior and made a pass for victory.
Afterwards, de Vries felt that favouring dry conditions with his setup gave him the advantage, although Norris later found that a damaged wing had reduced his front-end downforce: an important aid around the Hungaroring’s many corners, even though the relative low speeds mean mechanical grip from the tyres is key.
Nonetheless, it was a race where both drivers were able to put on a demonstration of their abilities, which is exactly what Formula 2 is about.