2014 Hungarian Grand Prix Preview

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Formula 1 heads to Hungary for the final race before the summer break this weekend, and with championship protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg separated by just 14 points at the top of the standings, there is everything to play for at the Hungaroring.

The race graced the F1 calendar back in 1986, and was the first to take place behind the iron curtain of communism. Bernie Ecclestone had wanted to take a round to the Soviet Union, but eventually settled for Hungary, which has remained a mainstay on the calendar ever since.

In more recent times, the race has been a stronghold for Lewis Hamilton. The Briton is the joint most successful driver at the track, having won it four times in seven attempts. Only Michael Schumacher has won as often at the Hungaroring.

As a result, he goes into this race weekend as the favorite despite losing out to Nico Rosberg at Hockenheim. The German driver will be well aware of his teammate’s penchant for this track, and may have to settle for only a seven point lead before the summer shutdown.

2014 Hungarian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Lewis chases a high-five

The hallmark of a legendary driver in Formula 1 is the ability to create a an association with a circuit by winning there, making it their own. For Lewis Hamilton, it is the Hungaroring. Four wins in seven years, and even when the McLaren was a pig of a car back in 2009, he dragged it to victory. Last year, he claimed his first win for Mercedes at the track, calling it a “miracle”; will he move clear of Schumacher and claim a fifth win in Hungary on Sunday?

A charge for the returning Red Bulls?

Red Bull’s recent form has been good, but not great. This weekend, the defending champion team could strike back at a circuit that should suit the RB10 better than most. Although a victory or even a second place finish is out of the question if Mercedes keeps things pointing in the right direction, a strong double-score could see the team move back ahead in the pecking order after three races on the back foot.

Don’t stop Bottas now, he’s having a good time

Valtteri Bottas is quickly becoming the break-out star of the 2014 Formula 1 season, securing three straight podium finishes since the Austrian Grand Prix. He was the only driver to enter battle with Lewis Hamilton at Hockenheim and win. The flying Finn now wants podium number four, and although the Hungaroring may not be as suited to the FW36, the team should still be fighting at the sharp end of the top ten in Hungary. Felipe Massa will also want to get back into the top ten after two first-lap incidents in the last two races.

Fernando’s choice?

Paddock chatter suggests that Ferrari’s drop to fourth in the constructors’ championship may not seem as innocuous as it actually is. Apparently, Fernando Alonso has a clause in his contract allowing him to leave if the team drops out of the top three in the standings, thus opening the door for him to walk away if he wants. With McLaren sniffing around the Spaniard, you can expect silly season to really get going this weekend.

Hungary for rain

We’re still yet to have a truly wet weather grand prix since Brazil 2012, where Sebastian Vettel edged out Fernando Alonso for the title at Interlagos. This weekend, the forecast suggests that heavy rain and thunderstorms could grace the Hungaroring, and it might just be what F1 needs ahead of the summer break: a crazy race to turn everything on its head and leave us a lot to mull over ahead of the final stretch. With eight races in fourteen weekends from Spa, the stage will be set for a straight fight between Lewis and Nico for the title.

Hungary – Facts and Figures

Track: Hungaroring
Laps: 
70
Corners: 14
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:19.071 (2004)
Tyre Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
2013 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2013 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:19.388
2013 Fastest Lap: Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1:24.069
DRS Zone: Main Straight (T14 to T1); T1 to T3

Hamilton and Vettel already focused on 2018 F1 title battle

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are already looking forward to fighting each other for a fifth Formula One title next year.

With Hamilton wrapping up this year’s title two races ago, the pressure is off this week at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Both are projecting to 2018, where the four-time champions get back to the serious business of trying to catch Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio on five titles.

“Certainly we will never match him in how successful he was in such a short space of time,” Vettel said on Thursday at a news conference. “Back then racing was different. The cars were not that reliable and he still managed to be successful. (He was) the best we’ve ever had in terms of putting it all together and skill.”

Only Michael Schumacher with seven titles has won more than Fangio, who drove in F1 from 1950-58.

“It was the most dangerous period of time in motorsport. I feel honored to be so close to such a great sporting icon,” Hamilton said of Fangio. “He should be celebrated more for his success. He’s not mentioned a huge amount. He’s kind of the godfather of the sport for the drivers.”

Some may come to revere Hamilton like that in time.

He has won 62 races – second only to Schumacher’s 91 – and holds the record for pole positions with 72. The 32-year-old British driver has won three of the past four titles – losing to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016 – and was at the peak of his powers this season.

After trailing Vettel at the halfway point, he pulled away after the summer break and leads the German driver by 43 points.

Hamilton is arguably the fiercest competitor around and is already thinking about how Vettel plans to turn the tables.

“Whatever weakness Sebastian had, he’ll work on those over the winter. No one’s perfect, even I have things to work on,” Hamilton said, without a trace of irony. “He’s going to raise the bar next year and I’ll have to as well, otherwise things won’t be the same.

“Ferrari had a very, very good season. Half the season they were in the lead and that wasn’t down to luck,” Hamilton added. “Red Bull is also going to be (competing for the title) next year.”

Considering how poor Ferrari was in 2016, this year can still be viewed as a success with Vettel winning five races compared to none last year.

Vettel joked that winning the title in 2018 will be “a walk in the park” if Ferrari improves by the same amount, then took a more serious view of the situation.

“That final step is always the hardest. But the team is ready and fired up,” said Vettel, who won four titles with Red Bull from 2010-13. “We made the biggest step of all. We lost out as the season progressed. In the end we weren’t good enough to take it to the last race, but there’s so much potential still.”

He accepted that he ultimately fell short because “Lewis made less mistakes” than he did.

Poised to regain the championship lead, he crashed out of the Singapore GP from pole position back in September – turning the tide in Hamilton’s favor. Reliability issues plagued Ferrari at the next two races. He started last and finished fourth at the Malaysian GP and then qualified third before retiring from the Japanese GP.

In June, the rivals were embroiled in their most heated clash at the Azerbaijan GP in Baku.

Vettel drove alongside Hamilton’s Mercedes as they waited behind the safety car for the restart, and was adjudged to have deliberately nudged the side of him. Tempers frayed and barbs were exchanged. Vettel initially denied it was deliberate but subsequently apologized for dangerous driving.

That incident genuinely threatened to spoil their healthy rivalry, but they joke about it now.

Asked on Thursday what their highlight of the season was, both drivers – sitting next to each other – laughed easily when Baku was suggested.

Referring to the upcoming end-of-season F1 awards, Vettel put himself forward for three.

“I should get (overtaking) move of the year, personality of the year, and fair play … maybe not.”