Advantage Alonso as summer break looms

2012 Hungarian Grand Prix preview

Start, Hungaroring, 2010Whatever happens at the Hungaroring this weekend, we already know one thing for certain: Fernando Alonso will be leading the drivers’ championship as the teams head into the five-week break before the next race at Spa-Francorchamps.

The Hungarian Grand Prix brings to a close the second phase of the season which began after the test at Mugello. Since then Ferrari’s upgrades have allowed Alonso to challenge for victory at every race.

In that space of time the top teams have been very close on performance but Alonso has outstripped his rivals, scoring 111 points to next-best Mark Webber’s 72.

Sebastian Vettel may lament the 32-point swing to Alonso which came with his retirement while dominating in Valencia, but even without that Alonso would still be 12 points ahead.

But there’s still half the season to go and 250 points to be won. Alonso’s rivals need to keep as many of them out of the Ferrari driver’s hands in this last race before the summer break.

Hungaroring circuit information

Lap length 4.381km (2.722 miles)
Distance 70 laps (306.6km/190.5 miles)
Lap record* 1’19.071 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)
Fastest lap 1’18.436 (Rubens Barrichello, 2004)
Tyres Medium and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Hungaroring track data in full

The Hungaroring is holding its 27th round of the world championship and its tenth on this particular track configuration.

The extension of the start/finish straight and tightening of the first corner has gone some way towards make overtaking easier, but this remains a tough track to make up places on. That makes Saturday’s qualifying session one of the most important of the year.

The circuit does not get much use during the rest of the year, so the track surface is usually dusty at the start of the weekend and tends to develop little grip. This year Pirelli are pairing their soft compound with the medium rubber, unlike last year when the chose their two softest tyres.

Temperatures are usually high this time of year but the early weather forecasts paint a slightly volatile picture with the chance of some storms over the weekend. We’ll take a more detailed look at the likely conditions tomorrow before the action starts on Friday.

Red Bull

Red Bull head into the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend in the expectation that the controversial engine maps they were found using in Germany will be banned.

Their rival teams are unsure how much of a setback this will be for them. But as the maps were designed to help send gasses from the exhaust into the diffuser to increase its performance, it will penalise them at a circuit like this where sheer downforce counts above all else.

But don’t expect it to seriously compromise their competitiveness. Vettel has been on pole position here for the last two years in a row and will surely be in contention once again.

McLaren

The extensive changes made to the MP4-27 at Hockenheim came not a moment too soon, as they seemed to be on the verge of losing touch with Red Bull and Ferrari. Jenson Button’s battling drive to second showed both he and the team are back on form.

The team have an excellent record in Hungary, winning four of the last five races here. Two of those wins were taken by Lewis Hamilton, who will be eager to bounce back from his misfortune last weekend.

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Silverstone, 2012While Alonso continues to impress, fresh attention has fallen on Felipe Massa’s meagre contribution to Ferrari’s championship effort so far. He scored less than 15% of Alonso’s tally in the first half of the season.

If ever a track owed a driver a favour, it is surely the Hungaroring to Massa. Not only was he badly injured here in 2009, he was robbed of a likely win the year before when his engine died three laps from home while leading.

That came after a brilliant move on the first lap when he took the lead off Hamilton at the outside of turn one. Will we ever see that Massa again?

Mercedes

The last two races featured Michael Schumacher qualifying well but dropping back in the race, while his team mate qualified less well.

Nico Rosberg reckons the track should suit their car but he said the same thing about the Hockenheimring where they finished as sixth-best team.

Lotus

Kimi Raikkonen’s season is developing into one of dependable points-scoring which could yet come very good for him if Lotus can find the qualifying pace to match their race performance, particularly in hot conditions.

The team are expected to continue testing their innovative new DRS set-up but are unlikely to race it.

Force India

Hockenheim highlighted Force India’s midfield struggle: despite starting with both cars ahead of the Saubers they fell behind them by the end of the race.

However Nico Hulkenberg’s ninth place moved them closer to passing Williams for seventh in the constructors’ championship.

Sauber

Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber, Hockenheim, 2012Fourth and sixth in Germany was Sauber’s best two-car finish since becoming an independent team again.

Sergio Perez has not started higher than 15th in the last five Grands Prix. He made it into the points at three of those, but a better qualifying effort at this tight track is essential.

Toro Rosso

Daniel Ricciardo has comfortably had the upper hand in qualifying over Jean-Eric Vergne thus far. Vergne has tended to come back at him in the races, but it will be harder to pull that trick off at the Hungaroring.

Williams

Germany was Williams’ fourth point-less weekend of the year as both drivers suffered from damage during the race.

The FW34 was weak in slower corners at the beginning of the season but Pastor Maldonado’s pace in Valencia indicated they’ve addressed that shortcoming, and the team should be in the hunt for points again.

Caterham

Caterham still believe there’s more performance to come from their Silverstone upgrade.

But although Heikki Kovalainen “nailed every apex and had a clean lap” in qualifying at Hockenheim, he was 0.9s slower than Jean-Eric Vergne, which suggests their latest developments have not brought them on terms with the established teams just yet.

HRT

Narain Karthikeyan, HRT, Hockenheim, 2012Dani Clos will have another outing for HRT during practice. For Narain Karthikeyan this will mark his first appearance at the track since 2005, as he’d been replaced by Daniel Ricciardo by this time last year.

Marussia

Timo Glock scored his first podium at the Hungaroring in 2008, and retains an affection for the track which he describes as “like a second home race”.

“For some reason I always seem to come to terms with the track very quickly and I?ve always enjoyed good races because of that,” he added.

2012 driver form

Q avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 4.7 4.56 1 11 9/10 Form guide
Mark Webber 6.3 4.8 1 11 10/10 Form guide
Jenson Button 7.6 9.6 1 18 10/10 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 5.7 6.44 1 19 9/10 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 6.1 3.6 1 9 10/10 Form guide
Felipe Massa 11.4 11.11 4 16 9/10 Form guide
Michael Schumacher 7.2 7.4 3 10 5/10 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 7.1 7.7 1 15 10/10 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 8.7 5.8 2 14 10/10 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 7.2 6.5 2 18 6/10 Form guide
Paul di Resta 11.7 9.44 6 14 9/10 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 11.6 10.22 5 15 9/10 Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi 11.2 8.29 4 13 7/10 Form guide
Sergio Perez 13.7 7.63 2 11 8/10 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 13.2 13 9 17 9/10 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 16.9 12.89 8 16 9/10 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 11.5 12.13 1 19 8/10 Form guide
Bruno Senna 14.3 12.67 6 22 9/10 Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen 18.1 17.22 13 23 9/10 Form guide
Vitaly Petrov 18.6 16.43 13 19 7/10 Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa 21.33 19.86 17 21 7/9 Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan 23.11 20.29 15 23 7/9 Form guide
Timo Glock 20.78 17.63 14 22 8/9 Form guide
Charles Pic 21.4 18.43 15 20 7/10 Form guide

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2012 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Images ?? Red Bull/Getty images, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Sauber F1 Team, HRT

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64 comments on Advantage Alonso as summer break looms

  1. carbon_fibre (@carbon_fibre) said on 25th July 2012, 14:56

    Woot! A new Grand Prix already! I love back to back races!

  2. Eggry (@eggry) said on 25th July 2012, 14:58

    I think this is again track for Red Bull. even temperature is usually very high so it’s suit to them. I’m not sure Mclaren is consistently fast so it remains to be seen. Ferrari should not be the fastest here as far as I concern. Mercedes wouldn’t be considers as top 4 here instead Lotus would be. Another Valencia-like weekend? I just hope Vettel would not 0.5 sec faster than anyone…

    • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 25th July 2012, 23:53

      I don’t agree. I think the restrictions of the Red Bulls’ engine mapping could hurt them badly.

      I expect McLaren to be more or less clearly on top. They had arguably the quickest car in terms of race pace at the Hockenheimring and more updates could further increase their advantage. I predict Hamilton for the pole.

      I think Ferrari – or more so only Alonso – could be the best positioned though: they don’t have to worry about the quicker McLaren as of yet and Alonso could pull off another podium ahead of the mapping-restricted Red Bulls.

      I agree though that we should keep an eye on Lotus. They could well be in contention on Sunday, if their Valencia-pace is anything to go by.

      • AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 26th July 2012, 12:08

        @atticus-2, it seems Red Bull changed their engine mapping only after Silverstone, where they won, and their Valencia dominance was also achieved without it. I would be surprised if we do not see at least one Red Bull on the front row.

        • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 26th July 2012, 13:23

          Yes, that’s true.

          The engine map restriction cutting their performance back will have more emphasis on Silverstone-like tracks, such as Spa or Suzuka.

          So yes, based on their performance in Valencia (with the previous engine mapping), they could be in contention for the pole indeed. Especially that Saturday has the least percentage of a possible shower out of the three days.

          And in any case, temps will be high even on Sunday, so the track could dry up very quickly after some rainfall, which is predicted.

          Thanks for the remark. :)

  3. Dan Thorn (@dan-thorn) said on 25th July 2012, 15:18

    Although Red Bull are the form team here, this is surely a track where Alonso will expect another good result – he won his first race here in 2003, produced probably the best opening laps of a Grand Prix ever in 2006 and was robbed of a win, took ‘pole’ in 2007 before his unnecessary pit lane incident and took a very unlikely pole in 2009 with the dog of an R29, following on with strong podiums here in 2010 and 2011. It’d be wrong to rule him out of contending for victory here, even with the form of the Red Bulls and the recent dry weather pace of the McLaren.

    As ever though, Lotus and Sauber could be the flies in the ointment. Two very strong cars with good drivers who haven’t quite managed to string everything together yet. If they can get up the front on Saturday, then the race could take very different shape to what we’ve seen recently.

  4. reg (@reg) said on 25th July 2012, 15:39

    With regards to the constructor’s championship — are the final placings in the championship paid by points scored or by their placement in the standings? The mid field teams are obviously scoring a lot more but I wonder if it helps their finances or if they are just racing for their placement and the money for fifth in the constructors is worth the same at the end of the year no matter how many points they score.

  5. Manferscud (@feralsa) said on 25th July 2012, 15:41

    @eggry.Well Hungary is a high downforce track where traction and ability to change direction will be crucial.Ferrari were quick in silverstone (high Df) so were Rb.Macca will be quick too.So expect an evenly matched race with the fastest car with better tyre degradation.

    • Eggry (@eggry) said on 25th July 2012, 15:48

      even though Silverstone and Hungaroring require good downforce but it’s not the same. Silverstone is high speed circuit while Hungaroring is slow-mid speed circuit. It’s more about traction which Ferrari is now much better but not the best. Every car has different characteristics on different corner speed. Hungaroring is quite similar to Monaco or Valencia.

      • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 25th July 2012, 16:34

        …two circuits at which the Red Bulls won or would’ve won at, and scored poles at.

      • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 26th July 2012, 4:22

        @eggry it’s not really about traction, because the’re “flowing” corners. Sector 2’s corners are more about carrying as much speed as you can, and positioning for the next corner.

        There are only really 4 key traction zones here – The last two turns and the first two turns. Turn 7 is traction-limited on exit too, but it’s not severe because you’re only on full throttle for a bit before you have to brake for Turn 8.

      • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 26th July 2012, 4:33

        Before I forget – Valencia is more similar to Hockenheim. Valencia, despite being a street circuit, has fast straights, and the corners are very stop-start, making traction a key element. Both not really a feature in Hungaroring

  6. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 25th July 2012, 15:45

    Alonso’s race finish average is just mindblowing. He likes this track, so it’s going to be a difficult one for the rest of the guys to seriously outscore him.

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 25th July 2012, 23:53

      @fer-no65 That’s the worrying thing for everyone else! Though I wonder if misfortune will pay Alonso a visit soon.

      • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 26th July 2012, 0:08

        @andrewtanner one can only pray for something bad to happen to his car during the race. Or at least during qualifying, to make the race much more interesting!

        • suka (@suka) said on 26th July 2012, 3:46

          Rain always mixes things up….

        • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 26th July 2012, 4:35

          Knowing Bernie – maybe a suicidal bird will fly into Alonso’s airbox?

        • Broom (@brum55) said on 26th July 2012, 7:29

          Well to be fair his car was awful in the first 4 races and he qualified 11th in Valencia due to bad luck.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2012, 7:41

            How was he unlucky?

          • Broom (@brum55) said on 26th July 2012, 10:00

            Were it not for bad strategy in Q2 he would have got into Q3 and had a shot at much higher grid position.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2012, 10:06

            @brum55 I’d call that a mistake rather than misfortune.

          • he was unlucky, because ferrari was very confident to pass the q2 with medium compounds, and they lose 10 min in q2 (trying medium tyres) when all the other teams make their chance with soft tyres…they decide to put then the soft tyres and make only one shot…both Alonso and Massa were in top ten…but all the others driver makes their second chance with soft tyres and beat ferrari’s times…we all know that the second run is better than the first in exact tyres…driver more confident in breaking point, engineers make setup change…etc. the pace that Ferrari shows in race demonstrate that their qualifying result was unreal…and after the race S.Domenicali, P.Fry admitted that they make an error in qualifying and were too confident…I think formula 1 fan shold be very atentive to details adn look carefully… So it was a team error but the drivers were unlucky, both ferrari’s had the pace in valencia to be in top 5 in quali…

      • Ribf1 (@) said on 26th July 2012, 9:07

        NOOOOOOOOO!!!

  7. Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 25th July 2012, 16:05

    “Chance of some storms over the weekend”? Surely not a third wet qualifying in a row?! (and probably Alonso on pole too) but I wouldn’t mind at all – it’s great drama, and keeps all the tyre strategy on race day, where it belongs.

  8. colinf (@colinf) said on 25th July 2012, 17:00

    What has to look ominous to the other teams is Alonso record for this circuit:
    Ret, 1, 3, 11, Ret, 4, 4, Ret, 2, 3. That is a total of 4 podiums out of 10 starts and if we omit the retirements, Alonso has an average finishing position of 4th. Considering the excellent reliability of Ferrari in recent years, it looks like Fernando is well on his way to another clutch of points and at this point, that is all he really needs to stay up front when you consider that the race winners have been so varied this season.

    • Eggry (@eggry) said on 25th July 2012, 17:15

      also for latest 5 yeas Alonso’s car was never better than this year except 2007 which made some noise and self-destruction. so I safely assume he would finish higher than 5th. but I’m not sure he would win. Certainly F2012 is not the fastest and I don’t think there would be another wet session or failure from front runners.

  9. Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 25th July 2012, 17:12

    Stormy Hungaro, this might be interesting.

  10. Tayyib (@m0nzaman) said on 25th July 2012, 18:34

    People saying it could rain IF it did rain surely it would soften the blow if fernando, or lewis hamiton or someone with hopes of winning the race eg when button won in 06, but if it didn’t rain I think the red bull will be the team to beat in dry hot conditions, lotus could be a surprise their car likes the hotter temps, mclaren normally do well at hungary and i felt their upgrades took them a step closer and alonso will always be there fighting it out for a race victory. Alonso has to finish ahead of webber a good result for him would be 1 ham/but 2 alo 3 vet/web, if its a wet race he has a good chance having taken pole at germany and silverstone and having won in malaysia the ferrari looks quick in wet race conditions.

  11. romeo said on 25th July 2012, 18:55

    Kimi, Hamilton, Vettel, Webber or Button may win the next race if not Alonso wins again. Advantage of Alonso is, he is always around the top step while others are coming and going.
    Unless one of the rival teams come with a dominant car for the 2nd half of the season, it will be very hard for their drivers to catch Alonso.

    • OOliver said on 26th July 2012, 1:02

      Only both Redbull drivers are with a chance of catching Alonso, especially now that the Ferrarii is a much faster and reliable car.
      Mclaren as a team don’t know what they want. So far they have been more interested in the post race interviews than mounting a competitive challenge.
      For Lotus to have a chance, they will need RBR and Mclaren to be faster than Alonso, with either Grosjean or Kimi winning a good number of races.
      Mercedes at the moment just flatter to deceive.

  12. Broom (@brum55) said on 25th July 2012, 20:55

    If there is rain in Q3 or during the race Alonso has a great chance, Schumi 2nd, Massa 3rd (can dream). Otherwise Vettel or Hamilton will win from pole probably with Alonso 3rd at best.

  13. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 25th July 2012, 22:16

    I expect a Hamilton-Button McLaren 1-2. The upgrades looked seriously impressive in Germany and Hamilton has a great record around here.

  14. gwenouille (@gwenouille) said on 25th July 2012, 23:06

    I don’t know why, but the Hungaroring is a favourite of mine… I really like this little circuit. In fact I prefer to watch Hungary than Monaco (I am serious…) !
    The bad part is that it is associated with summer break. But then come Monza and Spa, yeeeesss !

    If I had to predict, I’d say the McLarens shouldn’t be too bad… I am desperately hoping for a Nice Lotus result too !
    My dream podium would be GRO, BUT, KOB, in any order…

  15. Younger Hamii (@younger-hamii) said on 25th July 2012, 23:32

    The last thing I think we need is more rain, it’s plagued the last two race weekends whether it’s during FP or qualifying, I want the weather to be a replica of the great weather we’ve been embracing in the UK recently to really see a better indication of who is where.

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