BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) No one has been able to stop Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg so far this season – except themselves.
The slow, twisting track of the Hungarian Grand Prix could prove challenging Sunday for the Mercedes teammates who have collided twice already this year.
After 10 races, Rosberg has five victories and leads the F1 championship with 168 points, but he has seen his lead over Hamilton, who has four wins, cut from 43 points to just one.
The season’s turning point came in May at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. Rosberg had won the first four races but the two Mercedes collided a few turns after the start and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took the checkered flag.
Since that fiasco, three-time world champion Hamilton has won four of five races, while Rosberg, championship runner-up in 2014 and 2015, has won just once. Halfway through the longest-ever Formula One season of 21 races, Mercedes has won nine of 10.
“The battle is on with Lewis and I’m feeling great in myself and great in the car, so bring it on,” Rosberg said ahead of the 31st Hungarian GP. “I can’t wait for the next battle between us in Budapest. It’s a tough circuit that really tests you as a driver.”
The Hungaroring has not been kind to Mercedes lately. Last year, Hamilton finished sixth here and Rosberg eighth – the only 2015 event in which neither driver had a podium finish when completing the race – while Hamilton was third in 2014 and Rosberg fourth.
Nonetheless, Hamilton has won four times in Hungary during his 10-year career.
“It’s a track that for some reason has always suited my style,” Hamilton said. “The past couple of years I haven’t had the smoothest weekends in Budapest, but I know I’ve got the pace so I’m gunning to turn that around this time.”
Besides the crash in Spain, Hamilton and Rosberg also collided in the last lap of the Austrian Grand Prix, as Hamilton attempted to pass Rosberg for the lead. Hamilton won the race but the German driver lost his front wing and had to settle for fourth.
Rosberg’s troubles continued at the last race, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Hamilton won again and Rosberg fell from second to third after being penalized 10 seconds for receiving illegal assistance over the team radio.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen is third in the standings but 62 points behind Rosberg. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo has 100 points, two ahead of Raikkonen’s teammate Sebastian Vettel. Verstappen is sixth with 90 points and no one else has more than 54.
Mercedes isn’t relaxing.
The Hungaroring “plays to the strength of our rivals,” said Mercedes chief Toto Wolff. “We will need to be flawless to come out on top at this track.”