Hungarian Grand Prix Preview

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Image: cristiano barni/

A short two weeks ago, we F1 fans were deprived of any racing, and now this weekend marks the third and final Grand Prix of the opening triple-header salvo of races. The teams are at Hungary for round 3 of the championship at the second circuit of the season.

In the background of any action at the Hungaroring will be the ongoing news linking Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin together for 2021. The German champion is rumored to be signing for the rebranded Racing Point team next year, possibly at the expense of Sergio Perez. With Fernando Alonso signing at Renault, and Valtteri Bottas looking likely to extend his time at Mercedes, the financial might and lofty ambition of team owner Lawrence Stroll may be enough to convince Vettel that Aston Martin is preferable to retirement.

Last year

Max Verstappen finally broke his pole position duck at the Hungaroring in 2019 when he became the first Dutch driver in F1 history to top the qualifying sheet. His advantage of starting from the front at a notoriously difficult track to overtake at meant the challenging Mercedes pair starting behind him had to pass the Red Bull quickly, or else utilize strategy to win the race.

Valtteri Bottas opted for the former but locked up on the first corner resulting in him doing battle first with teammate Lewis Hamilton, and then Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc whose overly-aggressive defense damaged the Finns front wing. With Bottas needing to pit for repairs, Verstappen and Hamilton were in a race of their own out front. Despite making the right strategy call initially of getting Verstappen in for the undercut and keeping first place, Red Bull eventually lost the lead.

With a gigantic gap to the squabbling third-place Ferrari’s and knowing their drivers tires offered no more fight, Mercedes brought Hamilton in for an unconventional second stop. The final twenty laps had Verstappen’s lead quickly reducing before Hamilton on grippier rubber overtook on the pit straight to claim his seventh win at the Hungarian circuit.

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In a similar contrary strategy, Sebastian Vettel overtook Leclerc in the closing stages in a sign of things to come for Ferrari as the two drivers were inches from contact. Bottas’ recovery only netted him 8th place. For Pierre Gasly, who finished a lap down to his teammate Verstappen, the Hungarian Grand Prix became his last in a Red Bull as the team demoted him to Toro Rosso in the subsequent summer break.

Romain Grosjean was the only non-finisher of the race, having retired with a water pressure issue, which strangely was the same problem he faced in qualifying for the Styrian Grand Prix last week.

What to look out for

Lewis Hamilton has a prolific record at the Hungaroring, winning seven of thirteen races at the circuit, including his first victory at Mercedes in 2013. Hamilton’s history here, coupled with the advantage Mercedes showed in Austria, spells trouble for everyone else. I can’t see past the Briton making it consecutive wins unless he is involved in an incident or adverse weather plays a part.

Ferrari must show something resembling competitive speed this weekend, be it at the works team, or with Alfa Romeo or Haas. The Red Bull Ring is a power circuit practically made up of three straights and a handful of turns. The Hungaroring is the opposite, with sectors 2 and 3 being a constant barrage of low to medium speed corners. If Ferrari is to struggle all year with their power unit, this is their opportunity to show their car is useful in other areas.

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Racing Point didn’t quite manage the best of the rest award at either of the races in Austria, thanks to a particularly plucky McLaren team and a poor wet qualifying performance last time out. However, the pink panthers are seriously quick this year. Sergio Perez was unlucky to not snatch fourth place at the Styrian Grand Prix from Alexander Albon. With his race seat possibly on the line, could we see the Mexican driver fight harder than ever and propel himself towards podium positions?

More details from the protest by Renault against Racing Point’s car design could emerge this weekend too. The French team waited until the second round to protest, which would do more damage thanks to Racing Point’s stronger race last week. If found guilty of copying parts from Mercedes, the Silverstone-based team would be excluded from the Styrian Grand Prix, and would quickly need to find approved parts to replace those deemed illegal.

The Locals

There are no Hungarian drivers in Formula 1. Like Austria, the Dutch army of Max Verstappen fans have descended en masse to the circuit in recent years. With no fans attending this year, and Red Bull not hosting the Grand Prix, round 3 of the championship seems a foreign outlier in these early events.

Much of the F1 paddock is British, and for them and the other non-EU personnel, such as any American Haas employees, the Hungarian authorities have threatened €15,000 and imprisonment if they break quarantine restrictions. Half of the grid, including Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton, and Lance Stroll, won’t be allowed out of their hotels or out of the circuit’s perimeter, aside from traveling between the two.

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Circuit Notes

The track is tight and twisty and sometimes compared to Monaco. Drivers have often noted that it is dusty compared to other circuits as it receives very little use outside of Formula 1, unlike many others on the calendar. This can make driving early in FP1 and any excursions off the racing line a possibly treacherous adventure.

Last year, Max Verstappen’s maiden pole position was a 1:14:572 to give an idea of the lap times to expect this Saturday. He also holds the race lap record from the race last year, though Michael Schumacher was the fastest man around the track in its slightly shorter layout before it changed in 2003.

Generally, any on-track overtakes are executed in the first sector. The first corner is a downhill hairpin after the pit straight, which has DRS assistance for challenging drivers. Expect most of the passing to be here.

Circuit length: 4.381 km / 2.722 miles

Race length: 630 km (190.531 mi)

Laps: 70

Lap Record: 1:17.103 (Max Verstappen, 2019)

Originally published at

A tall man, living around the world, watching fast cars

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