What to watch for: Hungarian Grand Prix (7:30am ET on CNBC and Live Extra)

0 Comments

Lewis Hamilton enters today’s Hungarian Grand Prix with his sights firmly set on a perfect weekend, which is something of a rarity in Formula 1.

The defending world champion has finished fastest in every single session so far this weekend at the Hungaroring – FP1, FP2, FP3, Q1, Q2 and Q3 – and has just one more leg to go: the race.

However, Hamilton is also on the cusp of history. A win on Sunday would make him the most successful driver in Hungary, given that he is currently level with Michael Schumacher on four wins in Budapest.

Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg will be doing all that he can to stop the Briton from getting further away in the battle for the drivers’ championship, but damage limitation may be all that he can hope for on Sunday.

Here’s what to watch for in today’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

HAMILTON HUNGARY FOR MORE

There is something about the Hungaroring that Lewis Hamilton just gets like no other driver. The Briton is a four-time winner at the circuit, and he probably should have another one or two to his name.

The 0.575 second gap to Rosberg in qualifying was indicative in the gulf between the two drivers this weekend. Barring something out of the ordinary, Hamilton will win today’s race. The question perhaps should be ‘how much?’ – if he can crush Rosberg with a perfect display to cap off a perfect weekend, it would be a huge statement to make before the summer break.

ROSBERG RESIGNED TO SECOND?

Perhaps the only way Nico Rosberg could feasibly win in Hungary would be via an alternative strategy. It would require a huge slice of luck – a safety car, perhaps – but taking a different approach to Hamilton might be worth a gamble.

Rosberg thinks otherwise. In quite a telling post-qualifying interview with NBCSN, the German said that he would not be doing this, and instead preferred to win by skill, not luck (try telling him that after Monaco).

You have to admire Rosberg for backing himself to outrace Hamilton in Hungary. Very brave indeed.

RED BULL VS FERRARI FOR THIRD

One year on from his victory at the Hungaroring, Daniel Ricciardo looks set to enjoy his strongest weekend of the 2015 season so far. The Australian driver had a race pace that rivalled the Mercedes drivers in FP2, and he ran well in qualifying to stick his car on the second row of the grid.

A race win may be a little too optimistic for Red Bull, but a first podium of the season remains in reach. Ferrari’s reliability has been particularly poor so far this weekend, and if Ricciardo can get the jump on Sebastian Vettel at the start, he’ll be hard to beat in the race for P3.

MCLAREN TO BOUNCE BACK?

The positivity that comes out of McLaren after each race can seem a little feigned at times given the team’s struggles in 2015, but in practice on Friday, it appeared that genuine progress had been made. Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button looked capable of easing into Q2, and may even have been able to edge into Q3.

Qualifying proved to be a very different animal, though. Both cars suffered a technical problem that dumped Button out in Q1 and caused Alonso to stop on track in Q2. The end result? They will start P15 and P16 on the grid today.

That said, the pace of the MP4-30 in Hungary certainly looks like a marked improvement on other races. Points aren’t out of the question yet for McLaren, so keep an eye on its drivers in today’s race.

FORZA JULES

Following his death at the age of 25 last week, Jules Bianchi remains at the forefront of the F1 paddock’s mind. Before today’s race, a minute’s silence will be held in tribute to the popular Frenchman, and according to veteran F1 reporter Adam Cooper, Bernie Ecclestone has laid on a private jet to bring the Bianchi family to Budapest today.

Let us hope for an entertaining, close and – most importantly – safe Hungarian Grand Prix today.

STARTING GRID FOR THE 2015 HUNGARIAN GRAND PRIX

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
4. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
5. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
6. Valtteri Bottas Williams
7. Daniil Kvyat Red Bull
8. Felipe Massa Williams
9. Max Verstappen Toro Rosso
10. Romain Grosjean Lotus
11. Nico Hulkenberg Force India
12. Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso
13. Sergio Perez Force India
14. Pastor Maldonado Lotus
15. Fernando Alonso McLaren
16. Jenson Button McLaren
17. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
18. Felipe Nasr Sauber
19. Roberto Merhi Manor
20. Will Stevens Manor

The Hungarian Grand Prix is live on CNBC and Live Extra from 7:30am ET on Sunday.