Formula One heads to the Hungaroring this weekend for the final race before the summer break.
Two weeks since the dramatic British Grand Prix that saw championship leader Max Verstappen crash out in the opening lap after contact with his title challenger Lewis Hamilton, the stakes have never been higher. With Hamilton making the most of Verstappen’s misfortunes, the lead at the top of the table has been cut down to seven. Red Bull are well aware that they cannot afford any slip-ups in Hungary as the champions will be waiting to pounce on the errors and regain the championship lead.
After Formula One’s very first Sprint qualifying at Silverstone, racing returns to a more traditional format, with two practice sessions on Friday, a practice session, and qualifying on Saturday followed by the race on Sunday.
The circuit favors high levels of downforce and strong mechanical grip. Given the track conditions at the Hungaroring, tyre wear would be playing on the minds of the teams in the hot summer. Like a large go-kart track with a series of corners, teams ideally would want to set the downforce levels as exact as they do in Monaco.
The main straight sees drivers hitting almost 320 km/h before the heavy breaking zone at a sharp right angle, which is generally where most overtaking occurs. Turn two is a relatively slower corner at 120 km/h, with drivers needing to make sure that they don’t run wide, especially during qualifying, as it can cost quite a lot of lap time. Arriving at turn three, the drivers need to take the corner at almost 230 km/h before heading off to turn four, which is also one of the longest straights on the circuit that sees a slight downhill run before rising a steep incline. Turn five sees a long hairpin, which requires the drivers to have the perfect entry to maximize lap times. The following two turns see the drivers break hard at the turn seven chicanes at 100 km/h before sweeping into the medium speed turn eight.
Turn nine once again sees a sharp right-hander, needing the drivers to slam through the corners in an effort to keep the momentum going. As the drivers cross the barely visible turn 10 corners to head into the flat out turn 11, the drivers run into the fastest corner of the circuit, after which they return back to a twisty technical corner at turn 12. The final few corners see a deep right-hander at the turn 13 hairpin before reaching the final corner of turn 14. Coming into the final turn, drivers would need a perfect exit to get the momentum heading into the next lap.
Given the tight nature of the track and sharp twists, qualifying will be critical for teams and race strategy.
A Couple of Things To Look Forward To
A Bruised Lion
As he is commonly referred to, the Dutch lion, Max Verstappen, heads in the Hungarian Grand Prix, bruised and battered, quite literally.
After taking a 51G impact crash, Verstappen was lucky to walk away without any major injuries. The Red Bull driver, whose championship lead was drastically cut down post the British Grand Prix, will be out to settle the scores. Verstappen, throughout his career, has been an aggressive driver, and that at times, it caused him dearly, but it is that aggressiveness that sees him as the current championship leader. Once Max gets out on the Hungaroring, it won’t be a surprise if he’s on the pace right away, with a point to prove and rebuild a solid championship lead.
As strong as the Red Bull has been this year, Verstappen and his team know they are coming to a venue where Hamilton has won a record eight times! Although, on paper Red Bull have the faster car, it would be daft to write off Hamilton completely.
The Team Game
With Hamilton and Verstappen in a league of their own, their teammates have had a mixed season so far. Sergio Pérez has enjoyed his first win with Red Bull in Baku. Still, apart from that, he has had only one podium appearance, while Valtteri Bottas is yet to get on the podium’s top step, although he has had six podium finishes.
With the gap between the two teams a mere four points in the constructors’ championship, Bottas and Pérez will need to support their teammates more and provide more strategic options for their teams. Bottas has played the team game throughout his career at Mercedes and continues to do so, after playing the perfect wingman to Hamilton in Silverstone, but Pérez is more under the pump.
Pérez has generally had strong Sundays, but his Saturdays have been relatively poor given the machinery he has. Poor qualifications have meant Mercedes has been able to have two cars once again to counter Verstappen at the top, hampered the Austrian team a bit.
After two consecutive poles and a podium each for their drivers, the Scuderia seem to have made significant ground in an attempt to get back to the front of the field.
The new pairing of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz has helped the Maranello team get back in the fight for P3 in the constructors. Leclerc had a genuine chance of winning the race in Silverstone showcases the improvement made by the Scuderia. Ferrari now are a serious podium contenders and just 15 points behind McLaren in the constructors’ standings.
The fact that Leclerc took back-to-back poles in Monaco and Baku, although Hungary might not have as low-speed corners as those two have, but the fact that all of these tracks have somewhat of a similar outline might bode well for Ferrari.
- Aston Martin, along with Ferrari are another team who should prefer to come to Hungary. Given the track layout, the Silverstone-based team might fancy their chances for a good points haul.
- After a tough start to the season, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo slowly seems to be finding his feet with his MCL35M. Coming off the back off two strong races which have helped him score good points for the team, Ricciardo, who is regarded as one the best on the grid, shouldn’t surprise many if he ends takes his first podium at the venue of his second Formula One victory.
- Although Mercedes mounted a comeback in Silverstone, Red Bull’s superior power unit gives them the edge. It won’t come as a major surprise if they head into the summer break with a victory in Hungary.
Number of Laps – 70
Circuit Length – 4.381 km
Race Distance – 306.630 km
Lap Record – 1:16.627 (Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2020)