Hungarian Grand Prix Preview
Jenson Button returns to the scene of his first Formula One victory in 2006 leading the championship. However, it has been all about Red Bull for the last two races and Button’s lead has been cut to 21 points. With hot temperatures predicted for the weekend, can Brawn strike back or will Red Bull’s roll continue?
The Main Challengers…
The last two races have all been about Red Bull with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber sharing first and second place between them as they make a two-pronged attack on Button’s lead in the Championship. Just one and half points separate them in second and third place respectively and Red Bull insist both are free to fight for the title. “There’s a long way to go to catch up with Jenson Button,” says team principal Christian Horner, “If and when we reach a point where there is a significant gap, or it becomes mathematically impossible for one of them to challenge for the championship, then they are both team players and one of them will play a supporting role should it be required.” In some ways, the momentum is with Webber having finally put his bogey of 129 Grand Prix without a win to rest and seemingly put his off-season injury behind him. The team have also responded with positive noises about renewing his contract even if designer Adrian Newey has been bemoaning the extra weight of the metal in Webber’s leg (with his tongue firmly in cheek).
Button seems to like the Hungaroring, taking his only victory before this season at the circuit in 2006 (right) and last year delivering one of Honda’s better results in the second half of the season.
“The circuit holds some very special memories for me as the venue of my first Formula 1 win three years ago and it’s fantastic to be going back there with the chance to compete for the win again.” - Jenson Button
Brawn have blamed the cool temperatures in Britain and Germany for the team’s downturn with the team struggling to get their tyres up to optimum temperature, forcing them to adopt a three-stop strategy at the Nurburgring and culminating in Button swerving down the main straight to generate heat. With temperatures expected to be in the high 20s°C things should improve although cloud may stop the track temperatures really climbing. “We are confident that the inherent performance of the BGP001 which was demonstrated during the first half of the season has not disappeared and the problems that we faced were unique to the circumstances of those races,” says Ross Brawn, “Our focus now is to maximise the performance that we know is in the car whilst continuing to develop improvements which will maintain our championship challenge.” Brawn also promise significant aerodynamic upgrade for the race as the team seem intent on gambling some of next year’s budget on the financial pay day that comes with having the number ‘1′ on next year’s car.
Others to Watch…
All eyes will be on Toro Rosso debutant Jaime Alguersuari who has plenty of questions to answer after replacing Sebastien Bourdais, not least the question of how to pronounce his name. Nobody is expecting much of him, even team boss Franz Tost said, “I do not expect anything from him for at least his first three races, during which he has to get used to the car, the team and to the Formula 1 environment.” However, Toro Rosso will at last join the double-decker diffuser club in Hungary with the updates that gave Red Bull such a boost at Silverstone finally filtering down to the sister team. Whether Sebastien Buemi and Alguersuari are the men to exploit that remains to be seen.
The surprise package in Germany was the updated McLaren-Mercedes, even if ultimately Lewis Hamilton finished the race at the back of the field. The Hungaroring should play to their strengths and with both cars now sporting the upgraded package, Heikki Kovalainen might just fancy his chances of repeating last year’s victory.
The Hungaroring is one of the most technical and demanding circuits on the calendar, despite also being one of the slowest of the season. Unfortunately the combination of tight corners and a dusty track off the racing line adds up to little in the way of overtaking. “The Hungaroring is a good track, one of the smaller circuits, with a lot of corners so in some respects it’s a bit like a kart track,” says Adrian Sutil. “It is actually challenging as each of the corners are different, some 180 degrees and some long, some in third gear. It’s very bumpy in places, which also makes it a bit more difficult to drive, but overall there’s a good flow to it.” More on the circuit including lap simulation here.