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
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