Hungary Grand Prix | Sunday 27 July | Hungaroring | 14:00
Back-to-back races before the summer hiatus see the teams rush from Germany to Budapest to compete at the tricky Hungaroring track this weekend. The race in Hungary gives Nico Rosberg the chance to cement his lead over Hamilton before the teams and drivers take a well-deserved holiday and make the most of the European summer. Racing resumes in Belgium toward the end of August. Opinion is divided as to whether the break will affect the momentum of the Mercedes, with the team dominant over both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships this year.
Mercedes and Rosberg had a stellar weekend at their home Grand Prix, with Rosberg tucking his first win at Hockenheim under his belt while simultaneously strengthening his lead over teammate Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship. Spectators were reminded of Hamilton’s pure skill on Sunday afternoon as the Brit drove a spectacular race, carving his way through the field to finish third after an accident in Qualifying saw him start down in twentieth. Another early crash along the lines of Silverstone brought the Grand Prix to a halt, albeit for a less lengthily period (much to the relief of fans). Massa once again found himself in a tangle, this time his car skated along the circuit on its roof before flipping back onto the surprisingly still-there tyres to bring his race to swift end. Valtteri Bottas continued his string of impressive results and found himself back on the podium between the Mercedes teammates. Familiar sparring partners Vettel and Alonso battled for fourth and fifth, with Vettel coming out ahead at his home track. Ricciardo prowled close behind Alonso, desperate to catch up to his teammate and pass the Ferrari. Alonso just managed to hold on as his tyres waved the white flag and Ricciardo was forced to be satisfied with sixth. The rest of the Top 10 was filled by the Force India and McLaren drivers, with Hulkenberg in seventh, separated from his teammate Perez in tenth by the two McLarens.
Hot, dry and dusty, the Hungaroring holds no mercy for the Formula One drivers as they head to track just outside of Budapest. The circuit is fairly slow, but easy to underestimate. The layout is tricky and the track surface is bumpy; expect the times to improve over the weekend as the dust is cleared and fresh rubber is laid down. Pirelli have supplied their medium and soft compounds for this purpose and despite its bumpy nature, the track isn’t too taxing on the tyres. Although the Hungarian summer is usually hot, the weather can be unpredictable, much like the Hungaroring itself. The tight track doesn’t lend itself to overtaking, however the two DRS zones aim to alleviate this. The circuit has been compared to Monaco, so expect a lot of jostling for position, wheel touching and most probably more than one collision.
To Win Outright
Lewis Hamilton 7/10
Nico Rosberg 27/20
Valtteri Bottas 18/1
Felipe Massa 22/1
Daniel Ricciardo 33/1
Sebastian Vettel 33/1
Fernando Alonso 50/1
Jenson Button 150/1
Jenson Button (Top 6 Finish, 2/1)
There’s a small fortune waiting to be made off of Jenson Button, because, frankly, nobody expects much from the veteran McLaren driver. He’s racked up some decent points so far this season, but he’s also fallen short of the top ten a few times. I would, in all honesty, be quite shocked if he managed to claw his way onto the podium (stranger things have happened in F1) but a Top 6 finish is well within his grasp. At 2/1 there’s nice money to be made on a very achievable feat for the 2009 World Champion.
Fernando Alonso (50/1 a win, 11/4 a podium)
Alonso is another previous winner at Hungary, although his victory was back in 2003, before he became top dog at Ferrari. His teammate has struggled to adapt to the car and has subsequently failed to make any real impact this season. The hope of the Italian team rests on the shoulders of Alonso, who is thankfully a very capable choice (he is a double World Championship winner after all.) His last few races have produced a slew of fifth and sixth place finishes which are, although fairly mediocre, at least consistent points finishes, which is more than can be said for Raikkonen. As long as he holds off Vettel, Alonso has a decent chance of making it onto the podium this Sunday.
Valtteri Bottas (18/1 a win, 7/4 a podium)
Bottas tackles the Hungaroring coming off three straight podium finishes. A fourth in a row is a strong possibility considering Williams’ recent affirmation that Red Bull are not yet out of reach in the Constructors. The team have come a long way since last year’s ninth place finish. They emerged as a potential threat to Red Bull as early as pre-season testing and they seem to be making good on their promise of seriously competing with some of the bigger teams this year. Bottas seems to outperform his more established teammate on most occasions and this, coupled with Massa’s penchant for crashing, leads me to back Bottas over the Brazilian. Bet on a podium finish for the Finn and for those more daring, Bottas just happens to be my choice for the non-Mercedes driver most likely to win in Hungary. He’s consistently impressed and the only step of the podium he’s yet to warm is the top. At 18/1, it’s well worth the risk.
POLE POSITION/ WIN: Lewis Hamilton 7/10
Hamilton had an impressive drive in Germany but didn’t manage to claim the checkered flag, most probably because of the qualifying shunt that saw him start way down the pack. This weekend Hamilton will be looking to unseat his teammate at the top of the podium and if there is anywhere Hamilton can pull this off, it’s at the Hungaroring. The British Champion has won four Hungarian Grand Prix events and will aim for a hat trick of consecutive wins in Budapest on Sunday. The winner and polesitter here in 2013, Hamilton seems the most likely of the two Mercedes drivers to be victorious in Hungary. His teammate Rosberg has yet to see a victory at the Hungaroring while Hamilton could be called something of a master at the complex track. Lewis has suffered some mechanical bad luck as of late, but as long as he can quell a rebellious car, he should deliver.