A solitary point separates Vettel and Hamilton in the driver standings and there are few better places to watch the next installment of their battle for the title than at the Hungaroring.
The Hungaroring is a unique fixture on the Formula 1 calendar. Constructed in relative remoteness in 1986 while the country was still under Soviet Union influence, the track is now in the outer suburbs of buzzing Budapest and revered for its challenging nature.
Added to that, the Hungary Grand Prix is now the last race before the mid-season break bringing with it a sense of excitement and a chance for one team to stamp their authority before enjoying the summertime warmth.
‘Monaco Without The Walls’
Now within easy reach of Budapest, the Hungaroring is set in a valley giving an amphitheatre-like atmosphere where spectators can watch over large sections of the track.
It’s just 4.381km (2.722 miles) in length and while the circuit is a little shorter than most it makes up for any deficit with remarkable character.
The narrow tarmac undulates up and down over the hills as the drivers contend with regular, tight, slow corners – earning the Hangaroring the title of ‘Monaco without the walls’.
It all begins with a relatively short downhill dash to the Turn 1 right hairpin followed by the Turn 2 left hairpin. The drivers can than pump a short burst of throttle through the blind uphill Turn 4 before the never-ending 150-degree Turn 5 leads on to a challenging and enjoyable sequence of corners. A fantastic left-right-left-right combination between Turn 8 and Turn 11 pushes the aerodynamics and balance of the cars, and puts huge pressure on the drivers.
But it is Turn 14 that’s the key corner of the lap. A difficult 180-degree right-hander, the drivers need to find good traction, avoid the bump in the middle of the track and pick-up strong exit speed to get the most out of the short straight that follows.
Force India’s Sergio Perez says: “I like the twisty layout – which reminds me of a street circuit – and when you find your rhythm it’s very enjoyable to drive.”
Making the track even harder is the typically poor grip due to the dust that collects between each race. New asphalt has been laid on the Hangaroring over the last couple of years and it may take some time for the track to ‘grip in’ during the practice sessions.
Hamilton Dominates Hungaroring
It would be no understatement to say that Lewis Hamilton is a master of the Hungary Grand Prix.
From 10 starts, the Englishman has won more races in Hungary than any other driver, secured five pole positions, and led for a staggering 344 laps.
But it was the way that Hamilton totally dominated Silverstone, and the noticeable leap forward in the performance of the Mercedes, that will raise concern among the rest of the paddock.
Still, and rather perplexingly, if there is a track where Hamilton could be challenged it would be at the Hungaroring. The grip-limited circuit favors downforce over straight line speed putting teams like Red Bull in the mix and even giving McLaren a chance to score a bag of points.
“On paper, the Hungaroring presents one of the best opportunities for us this year,” said McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
“The short, twisty circuit means we are less reliant on outright power, and the drivers have to really depend on the capabilities of the chassis to get the best out of the lap.”
“The important thing for us, as always, is reliability. Even if our car could perform better in Hungary, we need to have a trouble-free weekend to take advantage of every opportunity for points. We made some big decisions in Silverstone in terms of taking grid penalties in preparation for this race, and hope that’s paid off so we can put ourselves in the best possible position for points this weekend.”