• Hungarian Grand Prix preview

Feeling the heat

ESPN Staff
July 25, 2013
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The final race before the mid-season break should give the teams plenty to discuss as they head on their summer holidays. New tyres will likely have some effect on the pecking order and Red Bull's rivals will be hoping it tips the balance of power at the top in their favour as Sebastian Vettel looks capable of running away with a fourth world title. Temperatures are expected to be higher than they have been at any race this year so it might feel like the summer holidays have started early for some, but any slacking will be punished on the tight and technical Hungaroring.

On form

Sebastian Vettel's form of late has looked worthy of a fourth world title. He is currently 34 points clear in the championship and could have won the last three races had it not been for a gearbox problem in Britain. When Red Bull and Vettel hit their stride, recent history suggests it's unlikely anyone can catch them and with Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen taking points off each other behind, a win this weekend will put Vettel in a very comfortable position heading into the second half of the season.

Out of form

It's been said many times that Felipe Massa has not been the same since his horrific accident at the Hungaroring in 2009. This weekend he returns to the track that nearly claimed his life desperate to prove he is still worthy of a place in F1. Massa believes he has the pace, and his lap times tend to back that up, but a series of mistakes have left him with just 12 points from the last four races. His spin in Germany was the most pathetic yet and more mistakes like that will see Ferrari look elsewhere for 2014.

McLaren is in need of a good result in Hungary © Sutton Images
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One to watch

McLaren's season is fast becoming its worst in recent memory. The 2009 car was a dog but won its first race that year at the Hungarian Grand Prix. 2006 was the last year the team didn't win a race but at least it scored regular podiums. Although this weekend's race is unlikely to see Jenson Button or Sergio Perez grace the top three, it will be a critical moment in the team's season. The return of 2012-style tyre structures is expected to help McLaren, and although the team is now focusing on 2014, it tested a bunch of upgrades at Silverstone last week with experienced test drivers Oliver Turvey and Gary Paffett at the wheel. If there is no sign of improvement this weekend, don't expect much for the rest of the year.

Talking points

New tyres
In the modern era of Formula One, any changes to the tyres immediately becomes a talking point. Pirelli's rubber has become the key to strategy on Sundays and tyres that last longer or perform in a slightly different way are always going to attract attention. It shouldn't be forgotten that the reason there will be new tyre constructions in Hungary is for safety reasons, but no doubt there will still be some teams that benefit more than others. The tyres should be more consistent and allow the drivers to push for longer, which is what Red Bull has been calling for all year. But picking one team that will benefit over the others is not easy, and it's likely that the engineers that can adapt their car's set-up the quickest will come out on top this weekend.

The Austrian Grand Prix
The return of the Austrian Grand Prix is good news for fans in F1's European heartland, but how it fits into the 2014 calendar opens up another question. Bernie Ecclestone has said the 2014 calendar will only have 20 races, meaning that either the new additions in Russia and New Jersey will not materialise or some of the struggling venues on the current calendar are set to drop off. It could well be a combination of the both.

FIA v FOM
Formula One is half way through the 2013 season but there is still no Concorde Agreement. With bilateral commercial deals in place with all the teams bar Maurssia, the issue is mainly between the FIA and FOM. FIA president Jean Todt has not always seen eye-to-eye with F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone and it appears as though they are still thrashing out various details behind closed doors. Elements of the FIA/FOM turf war have spilled over into the paddock with debates over which members of the media are allowed in the pit lane this weekend - a safety measure following cameraman Paul Allen's injuries in Germany - getting dragged into the tit-for-tat battle. Todt will be keen to get secure a deal with more money for the FIA before he stands for re-election in December, but Ecclestone also has external distractions as he faces legal difficulties from Germany.

Ricciardo for Red Bull
Since he tested for Red Bull last week, Daniel Ricciardo is fast becoming the favourite to replace Mark Webber at the team next year. Red Bull is expected to make a decision in the summer break and co-owner Dietrich Mateschitz has had some very kind words to say about Ricciardo following the test. Kimi Raikkonen is still a mouth-watering prospect for the team, and Mateschitz may just be posturing to try to force the hand of Raikkonen's management on a few issues, but Ricciardo at Red Bull is starting to make a lot of sense.

Formula One first raced in Hungary in 1986 © Sutton Images
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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 victory. Damon Hill, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Heikki Kovalainen all had their first grand prix victory at the Hungaroring
  • The Hungaroring has no corners with an apex speed above 250km/h (155mph)

Fast Facts

  • McLaren has won more races at the Hungaroring than any other constructor with nine wins to its name
  • There have only been two safety car periods in the last ten races at the circuit
  • The lap record of 1:19.071 is held by Michael Schumacher, set in 2004 for Ferrari
  • Drivers make 48 gear changes per lap

Circuit

Though its tight and twisting nature resembles a go-kart track, the Hungaroring was actually purpose built for Formula One racing in the mid eighties. For a good lap cars need to be able to ride the bumps well and a high level of downforce is required for grip in the slow and medium-speed corners. Good traction and torque is required on many of the corner exits, while the only real overtaking opportunity comes under braking for turn one after the start-finish straight. A second DRS zone has been added from the exit of turn one to turn two, which should spice things up in the opening sector of the lap.

Driver Steward

Three-time Le Mans winner Allan McNish will be the FIA driver steward this weekend. He drove for Toyota in its debut year in Formula One in 2002 and also worked as a test driver for Renault.

© Getty Images
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Weather

There was talk of temperatures nudging 40C this weekend, but the latest forecasts suggest it should be a bit cooler. The high temperatures will give the new tyres a full workout and will no doubt suit the likes of Lotus and Force India over others. There is a risk of thunderstorms, which could add some extra interest on Sunday.

Betting

It should be no surprise that Sebastian Vettel is the favourite for victory in Hungary with odds of 11/8. Kimi Raikkonen is at 5/1 with slightly shorter odds than Fernando Alonso at 11/2. Mark Webber, who won here in 2011, has good odds of 17/2 for the win, but it's the Force India pair at 40/1 for a podium that is the most tempting bet.

ESPN prediction

Sebastian Vettel may be the favourite, but ESPN stands by its tradition of backing the underdog and is putting its (imaginary) money on Kimi Raikkonen. The hot weather should play to the Lotus' strengths and after he came within a couple of laps of beating Vettel in Germany, a better start to the race could see him get the job done in Hungary.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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