The drivers arrive in Hungary this weekend for what is expected to be a seminal F1 race following Lewis Hamilton’s unlikely win in Germany last week.
With the Formula 1 intermission just one race away, we take a look at the key contenders for the Hungarian Grand Prix and ask what the result could mean for the season as a whole.
The Form Guide – The Drivers to Watch
This weekend’s action takes place at the famed Hungaroring, which debuted on the Formula One circuit back in 1986. Hamilton is expected to arrive in a bullish mood after claiming his first triumph since June 26th and opening a slender 17 point lead. To date, he remains the most successful driver in the history of the Hungarian Grand Prix, having won on five occasions over the last ten years – most recently in 2016.
The Brit has alternated victories with Vettel during the last three years, with the German taking the win in 2015 and 2017.
We shouldn’t discount Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, especially after Vettel himself earmarked them as his two favourites ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix. This is largely due to the nature of the track, which features the type of low and medium-speed turns that are ideal for the Red Bull vehicles.
So, despite only two Red Bull drivers having won here (Mark Webber in 2010 and Ricciardo in 2014), we may see a third win this weekend.
The Key Statistics
The Hungaroring has emerged as one of the most popular F1 tracks, with only Monza and Monaco boasting longer streaks for hosting consecutive races. This means that all the leading drivers have a tremendous affinity with the track so there will be no surprises for the top contenders.
The race will be keenly contested with the lead of this years’ championship changing five times over the last eleven races.
However, history suggests that winning the Hungarian Grand Prix may not be in the best interests of any aspiring F1 champion, with Michael Schumacher the last driver to win at the Hungaroring and lift the drivers’ title in 2004. In fact, out of the thirty-three races at the Hungaroring to date, only eight winners have gone on to achieve championship success.
Ultimately, qualifying could play a significant role in determining who’ll win in Hungary and in this respect, Vettel might have a chance at success. He’s enjoyed more consistent qualification performances than Hamilton so far this season, while the last teammate to achieve a better starting grid position at the Hungaroring was Toni Liuzzi way back in 2007.
Coincidentally, this was also the last time that Kimi Raikkonen out-qualified a teammate in Hungary, so this bodes well for Vettel as he looks to rectify Hamilton’s tentative lead.
What about the Circuit and Tyres?
Recent races have been held at so-called ‘power tracks’, where constructors such as Ferrari and Mercedes have remained dominant.
However, the Hungaroring is an entirely different kind of circuit, featuring an array of tight corners that typically favour good chassis performance. Red Bull are expected to perform especially well here, with Ricciardo having already ousted both Vettel and Hamilton at the similarly constructed Monaco track earlier in the season.
Average corner speed and acceleration are key in Hungary and natural talent is likely to play a big part in determining who wins. With this in mind, it’s little wonder that Ricciardo and Hamilton will start as the initial favourites here, with Max Verstappen also expected to begin qualifying in a confident mood.
For tyres, each team will have the same choice that they had for Hockenheim last time out. The selection includes the white-walled medium, the yellow-walled soft and the purple-walled ultrasoft, while the red super-soft tyres are once again eschewed in order to create more drama between compounds.
It will be interesting to see how each F1 team copes with the deterioration of their tyres and graining issues against the soaring track temperatures in Budapest. Ultimately, the teams that utilise their tyres correctly and develop a match-winning strategy have a good chance of reigning supreme at the Hungaroring.