Hungarian Grand Prix | Sunday 26 July | Hungaroring | 14:00
Despite a valiant effort from Williams at Silverstone a fortnight ago, Mercedes managed to claim their sixth one-two finish of the season. With even the uncontrollable (a timely late British rain shower) seeming to be falling in favour of Lewis Hamilton and his Silver Arrows cohorts, the question we’re left to ask is can anyone delay Hamilton’s march to a third successive Drivers’ title when the field takes to the grid at the Hungaroring?
A glance at the race result would have most thinking that the British Grand Prix was another damp squib dominated by Mercedes. However, this could not be further from what actually transpired at Silverstone. The race was packed with excitement and unpredictability which was in evidence from the moment the lights went out. A brilliant start from both of the Williams drivers saw Alonso get the better of Hamilton off the line and move into first spot, whilst Bottas overtook slow starting Nico Rosberg to claim third. An incident between the two Lotus drivers and Jenson Button saw all three retire and the safety car make an appearance before the completion of first lap. When the safety car period ended, Hamilton went on the charge, however a mistake into Vale corner by the Silver Arrows man allowed Valtteri Bottas to steal into second place. There was some serious dicing between the front four with the Mercedes duo struggling to overtake their Williams counterparts, who were consolidating if not strengthening their lead. Finding it near impossible to get past the William’s duo, Mercedes elected to pit Hamilton early and implement an undercut. The strategy worked a treat and when Massa came into the pits a lap later Hamilton emerged in front of him. Bottas, who had occupied provisional first came into the pits on the following lap and suffered the same fate, with Hamilton passing the Finn on his outlap.
With reports of rain coming in midway through the race, the field’s strategists had their hands full. Some opted to pit their drivers early, as was the case for Kimi Raikonnen who was one of the firsts to go onto intermediates. This proved to be a poor choice with the rain only coming into full effect in the final ten laps or so of the Grand Prix. Kimi lost a huge amount of time due to the tyre change and had to settle for eighth place. His teammate fared a lot better; Sebastian Vettel neglected to change tyres and continued on the mediums until late on in the piece. When he eventually changed he was in an ideal position to challenge the now struggling Williams duo. Vettel eventually overtook both Massa and Bottas to claim third on the podium while the rain caused the Williams boys to settle for fourth and fifth. At the front of the field Hamilton had changed to the intermediates and held Nico Rosberg off to take victory. There would have been a few smiles in both the Red Bull and Force-India garages at the conclusion of the race. With Daniil Kvyat claiming sixth spot and eight valuable points for his struggling team, Nico Hulkenberg took seventh and added six points to Force-India’s Constructors tally. The top ten was rounded off by Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso who crossed the line in ninth and tenth respectively.
The city of Mogyorod which is located 18km outside of the Hungarian capital of Budapest will host the F1 field this coming weekend. The circuit dubbed the “Hungaroring” hosted the first ever Grand Prix in the former Soviet Union in 1986 and boasts the fastest construction time of any F1 facility, taking little over eight months to build. The track consists of fourteen turns and covers a total race distance of 306.630km. Drivers will do battle over seventy 4.381km laps which feature the standard two DRS zones.The zones are located between turns one and two and on the start/finish straight. Last year’s Grand Prix was severely affected by thundershowers and it looks like the teams may have to contend with similar conditions this time around, with the Hungarian weather service predicting thunderstorms for the final qualifying session as well as during the race. Last year’s podium was lead by Daniel Ricciardo, who took the spoils. He was followed across the line by Fernando Alonso while Lewis Hamilton was Mercedes’ sole representative on the podium despite his teammate qualifying on pole.
To Win Outright
Lewis Hamilton 4/10
Nico Rosberg 9/4
Sebastian Vettel 12/1
Kimi Raikkonen 20/1
Valtteri Bottas 40/1
Felipe Massa 40/1
Daniel Ricciardo 200/1
Daniil Kvyat 200/1
Lewis Hamilton - Fastest Qualifier (4/10) & To Win Outright (4/10)
If you need a reason to back Hamilton for victory this weekend all you need to do is look back at what transpired at the Hungaroring twelve months ago. Having not posted a lap time in qualifying due to his car catching fire in Q1, Hamilton was forced to start from the back of the grid. To make matters worse, the Brit spun his car at turn two on the first lap of the main race. Most drivers would give up at this point but not Hamilton, the Brit took the race by the scruff of the neck and surged through the field eventually claiming third spot on the podium. With each passing race it looks more and more likely that Hamilton will canter to a second consecutive Drivers’ Championship. I fully expect him to have edged even closer to this feat come the conclusion of the Hungarian Grand Prix. The return may not be great but I can’t see anyone upsetting the odds this weekend.
Kimi Raikkonen - Fastest Lap (13/2)
It has been a season of ups and downs for the usually consistent Ferrari man. A miscalculated early switch to the intermediate tyre at Silverstone saw him drop out of the Top 6 running. He eventually finished the race in eighth place, which would have been made harder to accept by the fact that his teammate managed to sneak onto the podium. Despite the upheaval he endured at the British Grand Prix, Kimi would have put it all to the back of his mind and will come to Hungary with a strong appetite for points. The Finn produced a solid drive at last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix; having qualified in sixteenth place he scythed his way through the pack and eventually finished in sixth. He has a much more competitive car this year and will be looking to finish higher up the pecking order at the Hungaroring this time around. Although I can’t see Kimi getting on the podium this weekend, he’s sure to put in some blistering lap times.The Flying Finn offers great value at 13/2 for the fastest lap.
Valtteri Bottas - Podium Finish (7/2)
Like his above mentioned countryman, Valtteri Bottas was also handicapped by his team’s strategists last time out. The young Finn was setting some exceedingly fast lap times early on in the piece and was plying the pressure on teammate and race leader Felipe Massa. However Bottas’ plea to the Williams garage to be allowed to overtake his slower teammate fell on deaf ears. Despite this hindrance Valtteri managed to stay in contention for a podium place until the late rain shower hit Silverstone. The Williams man will want to make up for what was a disappointing main race in last year’s edition of the Hungarian Grand Prix. Having qualified in third, the Finn was on for a solid points finish until an early safety car saw him caught unawares. He missed the chance to pit on the first lap behind the safety car and had to come into the Williams garage on the following lap. When he emerged from the pit lane he found himself in eleventh place. He went on to finish the race in eighth but it could have been a much more profitable Grand Prix. With the disappointments of Silverstone and last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix acting as galvanising factors, I can imagine the Finn has a fire in his belly and will want to prove a point to both his team as well as the watching world. If the poor weather abates Bottas is definitely in with a sniff of making it onto the podium
Daniel Ricciardo - Top 6 Finish
2015 has been a year to forget for the talented young Australian. An underpowered car has seen him go from podium contender to top ten scraper. His dismal season continued at Silverstone where he failed to finish the Grand Prix due to an electrical issue with his Red Bull. Ricciardo will be hoping his mechanics can get rid of the reliability gremlins which seem to have set up camp in the Red Bull garage. The Hungaroring is a track the young Aussie seems to excel on. Although it’s a major risk to back a Red Bull to even finish a race this season, Ricciardo at ? offers great value. However, it’s not a bet I’d advise if you’re looking for a guaranteed return.