• Hungarian Grand Prix preview

Will Ferrari crack under the pressure?

Laurence Edmondson July 22, 2010

Just five days after Ferrari made headlines on the back pages of newspapers worldwide, it will fire up its engines for the start of Friday practice as if nothing happened. The slightly weird thing is that nothing has happened yet, with the exception of a paltry fine, we won't know the full extent of the team's punishment for some time. So with a massive question mark hanging over its garage, the favourites to win this weekend's grand prix will have to resume business as usual. The question is, with the media still foaming at the mouth and a number of their competitors quite obviously disgruntled, will Ferrari crack under the pressure?

On Form

After the fallout over team orders it's easy to overlook just how good Fernando Alonso's weekend at Hockenheim was. He was, as Ferrari consistently pointed out afterwards, faster than team-mate Felipe Massa all weekend and came within 0.002 seconds of depriving Red Bull of pole - a feat only accomplished by Lewis Hamilton so far this year. In the race he had the fastest car on the track and, while that isn't an excuse for Ferrari's actions, it was mightily impressive considering his recent poor run of form. The Hungaroring requires a similar set-up to Monaco and that was a track where Alonso was blisteringly quick before he wrote off his chassis during Saturday morning practice. Whether you agree with his actions in Germany or not, he will definitely be a contender for victory this weekend.

Out of Form

It's always hard to gauge the talent of a driver in a backmarker team, but it's been quite clear from his first two races back in F1 that Sakon Yamamoto isn't making the grade. To qualify over a second off rookies Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok, who let's not forget are also pay drivers, just isn't good enough. Unfortunately HRT currently needs money more than it needs talented drivers and on that basis his position in F1 can be justified. If the decision was at all based on talent Christain Kien would be in the team, who by comparison was half a second faster than Senna during his return to the cockpit this season at first practice in Spain.

One to Watch

Robert Kubica has dropped off the radar a bit in recent races as his Renault car has dropped off the pace. However, the Hungaroring is a track that favours good traction and to an extent rewards a driver's talent. While we probably won't see a repeat of his Monaco exploits, he should be nipping at the heels of McLaren again, especially in qualifying.

Talking Points

Ferrari's reaction
The result of the German Grand Prix is provisional until the World Motor Sport Council issues its ruling. That is a huge weight to have hanging over a team, especially one that already has the pressure of trying to fight back in the championship. But Ferrari has to live with its decisions and if the constant media haranguing and extra pressure makes the team crack then that is simply part of the punishment for breaking the rules.

Felipe Massa's reaction
Massa's reaction to the whole situation will be very interesting to watch. In Germany he proved that he has made steps to improve his recent dip in form, but after what happened at Hockenheim it would be understandable if he lacks a little motivation. On the other hand he may be spurred on to prove his team bosses on. One thing is for sure, he won't get told to move over for Alonso again should he be leading on Sunday.

Envious eyes will be on Ferrari and Red Bull's flexi-wings © Sutton Images
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Flexible front wings
Had Ferrari not caused such uproar in Germany, we would have had a very different news agenda over the past week. Ferrari would still have been at the centre but it would have been joined by Red Bull after both teams were accused of running flexible front wings at Hockenheim. Moveable aerodynamic devices are outlawed in F1, but photos were circulating the paddock of drooping wings on the F10 and RB6. The FIA passed both cars in scrutineering so the focus is now on the other teams to copy the design. After the race Martin Whitmarsh said: "If it is [achieved] by some clever and legitimate way, then we need to learn it very quickly."

Dust
The Hungaroring is barely used outside of the grand prix weekend and as a result it often takes a while for the track surface to offer its full level of grip. Grip improves as cars put rubber down on the circuit, but at the start of a session there is often still a fine layer of dust on the circuit. While this isn't a major problem, it does mean that drivers who chase a set-up on Friday in the slippery conditions find themselves a little bit lost by the time the track is at its best on Sunday.

Fast Facts

  • Circuit length: 4.381 km (2.722 mi)
  • Driver with the most wins: Michael Schumacher (4)
  • Constructor with the most wins: McLaren (9)
  • Lap record: 1.19.071 by Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) in 2004

Trivia

  • The first Hungarian Grand Prix was held in 1936 and won by Tazio Nuvolari in his Alfa Romeo
  • Bernie Eccelstone wanted to have a Hungarian Grand Prix in order to have a race "on the other side of the Iron Curtain". The first Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix took place in 1986 and was won by Nelson Piquet's Williams
  • The Hungaroring is known for being the circuit where drivers claim their maiden win. Damon Hill, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Heikki Kovalinen all had their first Grand Prix victory at the Hungaroring
  • At the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix it was confirmed that the country would host a Formula One race until 2016

Circuit

The Hungaroring was introduced to the F1 calendar in 1986 and was the first venue to host a grand prix behind the Iron Curtain. It's a tight track that keeps the drivers very busy but does not offer up many overtaking opportunities. As a result races can be quite dull, but it has had its moments down the years and played host to one of the best overtaking manoeuvres of the 1980s when Nelson Piquet held a lurid slide to pass Ayrton Senna around the outside into turn one. The first corner is still the most likely location for a passing move but don't hold your breath. Due to the lack of straights, cars won't benefit a huge amount by running the F-duct.

© weather.co.uk
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Weather

There is the possibility of rain on Friday, but for the most part we can expect a very dry and hot weekend. Extreme temperatures, above what is being predicted, could have an effect on the longevity of the softer compound tyres but chances are we will see another one-stop race for most drivers. Any rain on Friday after the practice sessions could wash the rubber off the track surface, making grip levels difficult to judge for Saturday's very important qualifying session.

Betting

After his win in Germany Fernando Alonso is the clear favourite to win on Sunday at 13/8 ahead of Sebastian Vettel at 5/2. Felipe Massa has remarkably long odds at 8/1 given how well he drove at Germany, the fact he won't have to use the hard tyres he has had problems with, and also that Ferrari will not risk another PR disaster by asking him to move over for Alonso. The McLarens are clearly third favourites, with Button 18/1 to win on the track where he took his first victory.

ESPNF1 Prediction

Whether you agree with Ferrari's tactics or not, its cars were very quick in Germany. They've closed the gap to Red Bull (as shown in qualifying) by improving overall downforce but have also had brilliant traction all season. The latter is what is needed at the Hungaroring and, given that Fernando Alonso looked like a potential race winner at Monaco - a very similar circuit - before his chassis-cracking accident, he is in a brilliant position to make it back-to-back victories this weekend.

Laurence Edmondson is an assistant editor on ESPNF1

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Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1 Laurence Edmondson grew up on a Sunday afternoon diet of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell and first stepped in the paddock as a Bridgestone competition finalist in 2005. He worked for ITV-F1 after graduating from university and has been ESPNF1's deputy editor since 2010