Hungarian Grand Prix – seven things to look out for at the Hungaroring

A storm is coming at the Hungaroring! Max Verstappen aims to head into summer break with huge advantage, Lewis Hamilton targets a record win and Sebastian Vettel begins farewell tour… seven things to look out for at the Hungarian Grand Prix

  • Max Verstappen and Red Bull have a commanding lead in both championships
  • But Red Bull and Mercedes will be keen to challenge them at the Hungarian GP
  • The race in Budapest could be hit by storms in qualifying on Saturday
  • Race will see Sebastian Vettel race for first time since announcing retirement 

It’s the final Formula One race before the teams’ factories shut down for the summer break, but there will be no cases of anyone letting up ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Red Bull will be looking to extend their healthy advantage in both championships as Ferrari aim to claw their way back into contention – and yet both will be wary of the ever-improving Mercedes outfit.

Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel’s announced retirement plans and the potential for a jumbled grid in Budapest ensure we could have all the ingredients for a thrilling race as we run down seven things to look out for at the Hungaroring. 

Max Verstappen heads into the Hungarian Grand Prix with a 63-point lead in the championship

It’s not taken the most observant of Formula One fans to acknowledge that Max Verstappen has been well in control of the championship fight across the first half of the season.

The world champion leads the standings by 63 points from Charles Leclerc having taken full advantage of the Ferrari driver’s failure to finish in France last time out by clinching his seventh victory of the campaign.

While even in the worst case scenario he will still have a decent lead of the championship battle heading into the summer break, it could be even better.

Another win for the Dutchman would mean he has a significant psychological advantage of knowing he could finish all of the remaining races behind Leclerc and still become world champion.

Such a situation as the races count down remains unlikely to happen, but with that sort of cushion it would mean Verstappen could take a much more cautious approach when F1 returns for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa at the end of August.

Verstappen took victory last time out after winning at the Paul Ricard circuit in France

Mercedes progress

Both championships may be long out of reach now for Mercedes but even among the dark clouds over Brackley there are silver linings for the Silver Arrows.

Primary of those is their recent form. While they are still F1’s third quickest team behind Red Bull and Ferrari, they have gradually started to go toe-to-toe with those teams.

The French Grand Prix was by far their best result of the season, with Lewis Hamilton’s second place and George Russell’s third the first time both of the team’s cars had been on the podium since last season’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Red Bull chief Christian Horner admits he will have one eye over his shoulder for the rest of the campaign.

‘You can see they’re chipping away at it, they’re getting closer,’ he said.

‘I hear Toto [Wolff] said they’re going to work throughout the summer break to improve the car, which would, of course, be illegal. You can see they’re getting closer and closer.’

With constant upgrades bringing them back into play, a Mercedes win before the season is out is not out of the question.

Mercedes recorded their first double podium of the season at the French Grand Prix

Hamilton could be on cloud nine in Budapest

Formula One is still trying to adjust to Hamilton not being in contention for race wins but unlike earlier in the season we now seem to be at a point where you can’t rule him out.

After a slow start and some poor luck, the seven-time world champion has hit back to record an impressive four consecutive podiums, including a season-best second place at Paul Ricard last time out.

We are not silly enough to think logic dictates that after three third places and a second he is due a win, but if we were to entertain that idea then there is hardly a better track where Hamilton can produce the goods outside of the Hungaroring.

The Brit has won there eight times in his career – and if he wins in Hungary again he will set an outright record for the most victories at one circuit.

It’s also a key venue that has allowed him to win a race in every season since his debut. In his ill-fated first title defence in 2009, his first victory as world champion came at Budapest, while his first season at Mercedes in 2013 saw Budapest give him his only win of the year. Could the stars finally align for him this weekend? 

Lewis Hamilton will be looking for a record ninth Budapest win as his Mercedes improves 

Leclerc chases redemption

No one needs to head into the summer break with a bigger boost than Charles Leclerc right now.

The Ferrari star’s world championship hopes were already drifting off into the distance this term thanks to a combination of errors on his and Ferrari’s behalf that have allowed Verstappen to build a 63-point lead.

In fairness, it’s already difficult to see him clawing his way back into the title fight from here, even though it is not impossible. 

But Leclerc’s costly error to spin out from the race lead at Paul Ricard last time out to hand the Dutchman a simple victory has just about summed up his and Ferrari’s season – very quick but capable of imploding at any given moment.

Victory in Hungary would keep the title battle just about alive and at the very least give the Monegasque star a positive platform to return to once the summer break ends.

Charles Leclerc reflects after spinning out of the French Grand Prix last time out

Leclerc had led at Paul Ricard before his hugely costly spin saw him crash into a barrier

Vettel farewell tour begins

No fan really likes to see the fall of a champion, and it’s been a sad sight to witness Sebastian Vettel’s tumble down the order in recent times when compared to his success a decade ago when he was racking up a series of four world championships with Red Bull.

But the great champion has become part of the also-rans in the F1 midfield with the Aston Martin team and the German has now announced he will be retiring from the sport at the end of the season. 

The countdown is now on to the 35-year-old’s departure and you can be sure he will receive a warm welcome across the remaining tracks on the calendar as fans get the privilege to see the German drive an F1 car competitively for the final time.

Given his popularity in the paddock and among supporters he will be missed and many will be hoping he can bag many more points and even a potential final podium as he enters his final 10 races.

Sebastian Vettel has announced he will retire from Formula One at the end of the season

Hungary for a downpour?

One of the tracks where rain seldom features is the Hungaroring – despite appearing last season – yet it could play a major role this weekend.

While raceday is forecast to run in dry conditions with little chance of rain, qualifying on the other hand could see drivers having their pole position hopes in the lap of the Gods.

Rain and even storms are predicted around the Hungarian capital on Saturday afternoon with precipitation chances at around 75 per cent. 

Whether it’s a flash storm or a consistent downpour, a wet track offers a chance of an equaliser for any team or driver on the grid and could lead to a fascinating and jumbled grid ahead of raceday.

Last year’s race in Hungary saw Valtteri Bottas (left) cause a first lap crash in damp conditions

Lightning strikes twice for Alpine?

It was the mixed conditions that allowed Alpine to claim their first win last season with Esteban Ocon and while another win seems incredibly unlikely for the French team, there appears to be a window open to grab more big points.

The team are involved in an ultra close scrap for fourth place in the constructors’ championship with McLaren – with just four points separating the teams.

They are in good form too, Fernando Alonso still looks at his imperious best despite turning 41 ahead of the weekend while Ocon has also been bagging regular points finishes.

Alonso showed his skill in the wet qualifying in Canada to bag a front row sport and with more rain on the way this Saturday by current forecasts, he could once again be in position to land major points. 

The Alpine team celebrate Esteban Ocon’s maiden Formula One victory in Budapest last year

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