2014 Hungarian Grand Prix: Weekend Preview

It’s certainly a quick turnaround. After having just finished digesting the German Grand Prix, we now start the process all over again and within a week of the previous instalment, we have another weekend preview, as the teams and drivers begin preparing in Hungary. The Hungaroring is often described as Monaco without the walls and this is understandable, as the relentless cornering through low and medium speed turns requires substantial mechanical grip. It is certainly a challenging circuit, but these very same challenges can often make for thrilling races. Consequently, its fair to say that most fans and pundits have high hopes for another exciting weekend.

The Facts…

  • The Hungaroring has been the home of the Hungarian Grand Prix since 1986. 
  • The Hungarian Grand Prix was the first race to ever be held behind the Iron Curtain.
  • The circuit is 4.381km long and the race will be comprised of 70 laps on Sunday. 
  • Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton both have four victories at the circuit, with the latter winning for McLaren in 2007, 2009 and 2012, with his fourth win coming in 2013 – his first for Mercedes.
  • McLaren have won 11 of the previous 23 races at the Hungaroring.

Rewind 12 Months…

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes career exploded into life, as his first victory in the Silver Arrow came in sublime fashion in Hungary. Lewis’ win may have been from pole, but it was far from straightforward. The Brit had to pass both Jenson Button and Mark Webber in order to make his strategy work, with Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean also challenging for victory. While Lewis’ overtakes were quick and clinical, Seb and Romain struggled to find their way through the traffic and being stuck behind Button’s McLaren for most of the second stint ultimately handed the race to Hamilton. His fourth win at the Hungaroring was an emphatic victory and well deserved.

Lewis: “Equality Is Key”

As this championship battle intensifies, equality at Mercedes is becoming more and more key. Every strategy call, pit stop struggle and faulty brake disk could have major implications in terms of the title race and as a result, the equality within Mercedes continues to be essential. Thankfully, the team acknowledge this, with strategy calls predetermined before the race and both drivers being given an opportunity to head out onto the circuit last in Q3 at alternate races. Among all of the conspiracy theories which have surfaced over the past few weeks, (all of which are quite frankly absurd), Lewis Hamilton has praised this non-partisan nature of his team. 
“I feel really comfortable. The team is doing a great job. I’ve great engineers and the support from my guys on my car,” Lewis identified. “I’ve never seen such a hungry group of guys passionate to win from their side. It’s the same on Nico’s side, they want to win so badly.” Hopefully, this declaration from Lewis will silence some sections of his supporters who seem convinced that Mercedes favour the German.

Williams Looking For Consolidation

Williams are a team on cloud nine at the moment. They may not have returned to former glories just yet, but their growth curve has been virtually vertical in the past 18 months. Despite Bottas’ podium hat-trick, Williams are not about to rest on their laurels – after all, they have set their sights on P2 in the constructors. The team have announced a rather hefty upgrade package for this weekend’s race, which they hope will improve the mechanical grip. In wet qualifying session earlier this season, the FW36 demonstrated its deficiencies in this area, hence it is key to development, especially at a circuit where mechanical grip is essential, regardless of climatic conditions. 
Current man-of-the-moment, Valtteri Bottas, highlighted the significance of this coming weekend – “Budapest is the last race before the summer break. We are aiming for a good result there so we head into the holidays with a good feeling. We know it’s not the best circuit for our car but we are working on getting more grip in the corners and we have some upgrades that should help as well.” 

Prediction Corner

Well, its the final round before the summer hiatus and therefore, the Hungarian Grand Prix carries a much greater significance than most Grand Prix, (although, perhaps not in the case of Abu Double). No team wants to enter the summer break on the back of a difficult weekend and a good points haul in Hungary can usually stimulate a successful summer. However, perhaps those drivers not driving a silver arrow will have to treat P3 as a victory this weekend as it is difficult, as always in 2014, to see past the Mercedes duo. I will come to them later.
So, P3 is perhaps the position to debate. The non-Mercedes spot on the podium has been claimed by Valtteri Bottas in recent times, but considering the nature of the Hungaroring, the Finn will have to put in his best performance yet if he is hoping to grab a fourth consecutive podium spot. The upgrades may bring Williams into play for a strong points haul, but perhaps Red Bull will be out of reach on this occasion. Another Daniel Ricciardo podium may be a safe bet this weekend, but both Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso will be looking to make experience count.
As for Hamilton and Rosberg…toss a coin? History suggests that Lewis Hamilton will take the chequered flag, but history suggested that Nico Rosberg would win in Bahrain, and looked what happened then! Ultimately, Lewis’ past visits make him my favourite for the victory but Nico will obviously be a huge threat this weekend. If they both perform on Saturday, it could be a tense race, with overtaking opportunities at a premium. Excitement will hopefully not be at a premium.
 

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