The Hungarian Grand Prix may not be among Formula 1’s most glamorous or iconic events, yet it has become a mainstay on the calendar ever since it was first hosted in 1986.
Traditionally the last round before the summer break, this year the race was brought forward one week, leaving the F1 paddock with a trek from Budapest to Hockenheim in Germany before the vacation period begins.
The race is also the third of four packed into July, a month that has already seen the momentum in the title race swing emphatically in Lewis Hamilton’s favor.
Victories in Austria and Britain have seen Hamilton draw to within a single point of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg at the top of the drivers’ championship, stoking the fire in their battle ahead of this weekend’s race.
However, with Red Bull and Ferrari lurking dangerously behind, Mercedes knows it has a fight on its hands in Budapest.
Here is our full preview of the Hungarian Grand Prix.
2016 Hungarian Grand Prix – Talking Points
Party like it’s 2014
For all of Mercedes’ dominance during the hybrid era of F1, the Hungarian Grand Prix is the one trophy missing from its cabinet. Victories have been scored at the other 20 tracks on the 2016 calendar, but not the Hungaroring. This weekend is about completing the set.
Budapest was arguably where the public civility of the Hamilton-Rosberg relationship broke down in 2014. Hamilton refused to let Rosberg past, angering the German and leaving him to stew over the summer break before their on-track clash in Belgium. It was where the tide turned against him.
At a track where he has struggled before, Rosberg must fight back this weekend. He may say that the glass is half-full, but losing the title lead ahead of the summer break may leave him in a similar boat to 2014, stewing over the summer.
Opportunity knocks for Red Bull, Ferrari
The tight and twisting nature of the Hungaroring makes it a circuit where the strength of the Mercedes W07 Hybrid car is minimized, bringing Red Bull and Ferrari into the fray as contenders.
Max Verstappen won in Spain and has two second-place finishes under his belt in the past three weeks, making him a definite candidate for victory, while teammate Daniel Ricciardo famously won here in 2014.
Ferrari’s win drought in 2016 has caused concern at Maranello, with Hungary arguably offering its best chance to end that this year. Failure for either Sebastian Vettel or Kimi Raikkonen (both former winners in Budapest) to reach the top step of the podium may lead to a more serious inquest.
Six drivers all hungry and capable of victory. Sunday’s race should be a thriller.
Radio Ga Ga
The fall-out from Nico Rosberg’s radio debacle at Silverstone two weeks ago looks set to continue, with the FIA reportedly changing the rules regarding communications once again.
Teams will now be able to tell drivers to come into the pits if they have a critical problem, where they will be exempt of the radio restrictions.
To balance this out, the penalty for breaching the regulations is now more severe, potentially even as harsh as disqualification from the race.
Keep an ear on the radio channels this weekend. The boundaries may be pushed, but crossed at the teams’ own risk.
Track limits set for greater policing
Track limits proved to be a talking point over the British Grand Prix weekend as a number of drivers had their lap times deleted for running wide and supposedly gaining an advantage in qualifying.
The Hungaroring is set to offer a similar debate this weekend, but with new electronic devices in place to police it and improved curbing on corners, cases may be more cut and dry.
Keep an eye out for track limit breaches at Turns 1, 2, 3 and 4 – it could make or break a few qualifying runs.
2016 Hungarian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:19.071 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Medium/Soft/Super-Soft
2015 Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
2015 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:22.020
2015 Fastest Lap: Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 1:24.821
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T14 to T1); T1 to T2
2016 Hungarian Grand Prix – TV Times
Free Practice 1: NBC Sports App 4am ET 7/22
Free Practice 2: NBC Sports App 8am ET 7/22 (encore on NBCSN, 11pm ET)
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports App 5am ET 7/23
Qualifying: CNBC 8am ET 7/23
Race: NBCSN 7am ET 7/24