F1 Preview: 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix

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This weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix marks the natural mid-point in the Formula 1 season, acting as the final race before the enforced summer break and shutdown.

Following his crushing victory on home soil in the British Grand Prix two weeks ago, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton (pictured above) arrives in Budapest eyeing the outright lead of the drivers’ championship for the first time this season.

Hamilton sits just a single point behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the standings, and has a scorecard at the Hungaroring that is the envy of the field, having claimed a record five wins at the track during his time in F1.

However, with Ferrari eager to strike back and end its two-month win drought at a track where its SF70H should run well, it is unlikely Hamilton will have things all his own way.

Here is our full preview of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

2017 Hungarian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Can Hamilton continue his stunning Hungary record?

Lewis Hamilton has a knack for success when it comes to the Hungarian Grand Prix. The site of his third ever win in F1 with McLaren back in 2007, Hamilton is unmatched with five wins at the circuit. Curiously though, he has just a single victory in the V6 turbo era, the height of Mercedes and his own success.

Perhaps the most significant win in Hungary came in 2013, when Hamilton took his first win in Mercedes colors. Despite having a car that was well off the pace over longer stints compared to the rival Red Bull team, Hamilton was able to deliver one of the performances of his career to win, having said it would take a “miracle” to do so.

Hamilton heads into the race as the favorite by account of his Silverstone success and Mercedes’ apparent advantage over Ferrari that has emerged in recent races. If Ferrari can strike back anywhere though, it should be here – meaning that Hamilton might have to dig deep and deliver a display worthy of the tapestry that may depict a fourth world championship win come the end of the year.

Ferrari under pressure to hit back

This race could be make or break for Ferrari’s season and its championship aspirations. After making such a strong start to the year and appearing to have the run on Mercedes at the front of the pack, the gap has shrunk dramatically of late.

Now that Mercedes has finally cracked the code for its ‘diva’ of a car, Ferrari needs to start to make up ground – and if it is on the back foot in Hungary, it will be an ominous sign for the remainder of the season.

The tight and twisting nature of the Hungaroring should suit Ferrari’s SF70H car, much as Monaco did. It is a circuit that will see Mercedes’ power advantage mean less given the absence of any long straights, with aerodynamic ability and tire management – two of Ferrari’s key strengths earlier in the year – set to mean more.

Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will still be licking the wounds of their late tire failures at Silverstone two weeks ago which cost them a decent haul of points, allowing Hamilton and – often forgotten, but a definite title contender – Valtteri Bottas to close up in the drivers’ championship.

The pressure will now be on Ferrari to answer Mercedes’ recent form and stop its winning run.

Could Red Bull come into play?

Much as the Hungaroring is a circuit that should suit Ferrari, Red Bull is another team that is theoretically set to benefit, potentially allowing Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen to move into the fight at the front of the pack.

Red Bull has been largely marooned as the third-fastest team for much of the season so far, but appeared to show signs of its gains at the Red Bull Ring earlier this month. Having trailed the race winner by 30 seconds in Australia, Red Bull was able to finish just six shy of Bottas at the chequered flag in Austria, signaling the team’s progress.

But things turned around again at Silverstone. Ricciardo was able to admirably fight his way back through the order, but Verstappen – despite a spirited early fight with Vettel – never looked within a shot of the podium. P4 and P5 thanks to Vettel’s late demise was about the best Red Bull could have hoped for.

Hungary should bring better things, perhaps allowing Red Bull to put the significant updates that have been applied to the RB13 car through the European leg of the season to good use. It could help to create a very interesting scrap at the front if the two-team battle we’ve grown accustomed to this season could expand to include a third party.

Baby I can see your Halo…

…pray, will it fade away? Beyonce puns aside, the announcement from the FIA that the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection device would be introduced to F1 in 2018 has certainly caused a stir in racing circles since the paddock last convened at Silverstone.

The decision makes good on the FIA’s desire to introduce some kind of cockpit protection in 2018, with a subsequent statement from F1’s governing body stressing that the Halo is, at present, the best solution in existence.

However, there are many parties that feel the decision has been rushed. Very little has come out of the F1 driver side or the GPDA since the announcement, so quite how they react when questioned about it through the course of this weekend will be of particular interest.

Should they tow the party line, then it would, for the most part, be a dramatic turnaround from what has previously been said. Jolyon Palmer was saying as recently as Austria how against any kind of cockpit protection he was, going as far as calling the proposed ‘Shield’ “pants”.

Lewis Hamilton has previously said he hopes that using Halo will be optional so he can decide not to do so, but don’t expect that to be a course of action that comes about.

Let’s see what they’ve got to say this weekend.

School’s out for summer

The summer break may not give the teams a huge amount of time off – just a month between races – but it is nevertheless a crucial time for the F1 paddock to finally get some rest after a busy season.

Through the month’s break, teams are required to take some enforced shut down, usually totally two weeks. It means that the drivers and, perhaps more importantly, the personnel involved behind the scenes with the racing effort are able to take a bit of time off and avoid the stresses of the sport for a little while.

Inevitably, there’ll be some news coming over the summer. Silly season will continue to rumble on, perhaps even kicking into gear in Hungary. Before you know it, we’ll be getting ready to go to Spa.

So make the most of the break, because once we get to Spa, there’ll be no slowing down until the checkered flag falls on another F1 season in Abu Dhabi.

2017 Hungarian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Hungaroring
Corners: 14
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:19.071 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Super-Soft/Soft/Medium
2016 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2016 Pole Position: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:19.965
2016 Fastest Lap: Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 1:23.086
DRS Zone: T14 to T1, T1 to T2

2017 Hungarian Grand Prix – TV/Stream Times

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.