Start, Hungaroring, 2013

Which Mercedes driver will lead at the summer break?

2014 Hungarian Grand Prix previewPosted on | Author Will Wood

Start, Hungaroring, 2013The season-long struggle for supremacy between the two Mercedes drivers reaches an important point at this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

As the last race before the four-week summer break, both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will be looking to seize the momentum in Hungary ahead of what will be a crucial final third of the season.

A Hamilton victory could go a long way towards the 2008 world champion overhauling a points deficit to his rival for the second time this season, while another win for Rosberg could restore his points lead to the heights he enjoyed pre-Silverstone – and deliver a crucial psychological blow to his team mate.

Despite losing ten points to Rosberg last weekend, Hamilton will likely take heart from the fact that this weekend’s race takes place at a circuit where he has so often dominated – having taken four victories here in his career, including the last two Hungarian races.

The removal of FRIC suspension from the cars in Germany did not have any immediately obvious major repercussions for the front running teams. That could change at the bumpier, twistier Hungaroring.

But while Williams continue to impress with three consecutive podiums finishes, which has moved them up to third in the championship, Red Bull will be looking to provide a more formidable challenge for the final podium place around a circuit which should suit the RB10.

Hungaroring circuit information

Lap length 4.381km (2.722 miles)
Distance 67 laps (293.5km/182.4 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

It is perhaps surprising to think that the Hungaroring has now hosted more Grands Prix than over half of the circuits on this year’s calendar. The Hungarian Grand Prix has been a permanent fixture in the championship since it hosted its very first race in 1986.

With its lack of long straights and many slow-to-medium speed turns, the Hungaroring is the slowest permanent course on the calendar. With only one straight of note, the lack of major overtaking opportunities mean races here are often decided by strategy, rather than on-track heroics.

The low average speed around this 4.3km circuit means that a high-downforce setup is required and low level of surface grip places a premium on good mechanical grip. Once again, the question of track limits will become a talking point – particularly at the fast left-hander of turn four where Romain Grosjean was caught out last year during an overtaking move.

While the weather here is often warm and sunny, when the rain does come on Sundays, the Hungaroring can produce spectacular wet races. This year, Pirelli will bring the soft and medium compounds to Hungary.

Even though there are no Hungarian teams or drivers to cheer, there is typically a healthy attendance here, bolstered by a substantial turnout from travelling Finnish fans.

Hungarian Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Hockenheimring, 2014Having failed to make ground on the Mercedes out front, Red Bull must be becoming increasingly concerned about the pace of the Williams over recent races.

With its low average lap speed and frequent turns, the Hungaroring is likely to suit the RB10 more than many of the races that follow the summer break.

Sebastian Vettel knows it is unlikely that he will be able to take his first Hungarian victory this weekend and will be looking to beat team mate Daniel Ricciardo, who maintained his impressive run of form with a good recovery drive in Germany.

Mercedes

After dropping ten points to his championship rival in Hockenheim, Hamilton will be looking to regain the momentum at Hungary as we head into the long summer break. Fortunately for Hamilton, the Hungaroring is by far his strongest track statistically, having taken four wins in seven starts around the high-downforce circuit, including his sole 2013 victory.

But Rosberg knows that even if he finishes second to his team mate on Sunday, he will retain his lead heading into the break.

Ferrari

A forgettable season for Ferrari was made even more frustrating last weekend as the Scuderia lost its hold on third place in the constructors’ championship to Williams.

With rumours over Fernando Alonso’s future with the team growing slowly louder, Ferrari’s performance heading into the break could well go some way to deciding whether the double-world champion will remain with the team into next season or consider jumping ship.

Kimi Raikkonen was roughed up by his rivals at the Hockenheimring, but despite finishing out of the points he has made some more positive comments about the car’s handling. Keep an eye on his performance at a track where he has traditionally been strong.

Lotus

Germany proved that Lotus were one of the teams who were the most affected by the loss of FRIC suspension, but Pastor Maldonado was still able to match his best result of the season with a 12th place finish.

But 12th place finishes are not what Lotus are targeting at this stage of the season and the team will be desperate to secure their first points since Monaco to provide a much needed boost ahead of the final stretch of the season.

They may be encouraged by the fact that the Hungaroring has been one of their strongest circuits in recent years, having taken three podium finishes from a possible four in their last two visits to the Hungarian circuit.

McLaren

Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, Hockenheimring, 2014McLaren were disappointed to have scored only six points in Germany after Kevin Magnussen’s race was compromised at the first corner following his contact with Felipe Massa.

With the Woking team keen to take fifth place in the constructors’ championship back from Force India, Magnussen feels as though McLaren have another chance for good points this weekend.

“I think we’ve shown recently that our car performs slightly better on tracks with a combination of low- and mid-speed corners,” he said. “After a couple of frustrating races, I’m hoping for a weekend where everything comes together.”

Force India

With Vijay Mallya having hailed his team for its best performance in a season so far, the team are keen to avoid a similar slump in performance to the second half of 2013.

“Performance-wise we have some developments which will be on the car soon and that should give us a useful step,” says Mallya. “In terms of targets I certainly feel that more podiums are possible. We need to end the season in the same way we started it.”

Sauber

Adrian Sutil’s spin and subsequent retirement at Hockenheim last Sunday was perhaps the perfect metaphor for Sauber’s desperately disappointing season.

With the team now in the midst of their longest-ever points drought, it is difficult to see Sauber’s fortunes turning around dramatically this weekend.

Toro Rosso

After a frustrating run of races including four retirements in the last five outings, Daniil Kvyat is determined to have a strong result around a circuit he describes as one of his favourites.

“It can be very hot and from a physical point of view, Budapest can be even tougher than Malaysia because you don’t get time to rest as there are no long straights,” says Kvyat. “Quite a lot of Russians come to this race, so I am looking forward to seeing a lot of Russian flags in the grandstands: not on the scale of Sochi of course, but a nice feeling all the same.”

Williams

Valtteri Bottas, Williams, Hockenheimring, 2014Three successive podiums for Valtteri Bottas have helped to cement Williams’ position as ‘best of the rest’ behind Mercedes. Having taken third place in the constructors’ championship off Ferrari, the Grove team will now have their sights firmly set of chasing down the 67 point gap to Red Bull over the second half of the season.

But to do that, Williams need to start getting both cars into top five finishes – something that the team has only achieved once all season, compared to five occassions for Red Bull.

As a high-downforce circuit, Hungary should not suit the FW36 quite as well as many of the circuits that follow the summer break. But with the team introducing what Rob Smedley describes as a “mightily impressive” upgrade package for this weekend, expect Williams to be fighting for podiums again this weekend.

Marussia

After a run of difficult races, Max Chilton – notably in Hockenheim where the removal of FRIC clearly hurt impaired the MR03’s performance – is aiming for a good result at the circuit where he won his first GP2 race back in 2012.

“In development terms we need a strong and reliable weekend, hopefully benefiting from what we learned in Germany last week,” says Chilton. “The progress continues but we need to ensure we can realise more of it during the course of a race, so we’re not finding ourselves out of position with the Caterhams.”

Caterham

The change of ownership appeared to be having an immediate effect on the fortunes of Caterham with the team now mixing with the Marussias once more. Christijan Albers is aiming for further improvements this weekend.

“In Germany the gap to our competitors was closer than it has been for several races and we are definitely aiming to continue that progress in Hungary,” says Albers. “We can keep making small but significant improvements across the whole team, both on track and at the factory, and they will contribute to our ongoing development.”

2014 driver form

Driver G avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 6.90 4.29 3 6 7/10 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 5.20 4.00 1 8 8/10 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 4.50 1.50 1 3 8/10 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 2.00 1.56 1 2 9/10 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 6.90 5.20 3 9 10/10 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 9.30 9.67 7 12 9/10 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 14.10 10.83 8 14 6/10 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 18.00 14.00 12 17 6/10 Form guide
Jenson Button 9.20 8.10 3 17 10/10 Form guide
Kevin Magnussen 8.40 8.67 2 13 9/10 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 8.80 6.60 5 10 10/10 Form guide
Sergio Perez 11.60 8.63 3 11 8/9 Form guide
Adrian Sutil 16.00 13.40 11 17 5/10 Form guide
Esteban Gutierrez 17.00 15.17 12 19 6/10 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 11.20 10.20 8 13 5/10 Form guide
Daniil Kvyat 10.40 10.50 9 14 6/10 Form guide
Felipe Massa 8.40 9.29 4 15 7/10 Form guide
Valtteri Bottas 8.20 5.22 2 8 9/10 Form guide
Jules Bianchi 18.00 14.86 9 18 7/10 Form guide
Max Chilton 19.30 15.89 13 19 9/10 Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi 19.10 15.14 13 18 7/10 Form guide
Marcus Ericsson 20.50 16.83 11 20 6/10 Form guide

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Images © Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Red Bull/Getty, McLaren/LAT, Williams/LAT