Three weeks after Sebastian Vettel’s home victory in Germany, the Formula One paddock regroups for the Hungarian Grand Prix (Race, Sunday, 1pm BST, live on Sky Sports F1) at the Hungaroring circuit on the outskirts of Budapest.
Vettel held off a late challenge from the two Lotus drivers to secure his fourth victory of the season in Germany and now leads his nearest challenger Fernando Alonso by 34 points in the drivers’ championship. Raikonnen (pictured) is third, 41 points behind Vettel.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton had taken pole position, but faded in the race as the tyre wear problems that blighted the team earlier in the season struck once more. His team-mate Nico Rosberg, winner of two of the previous three Grand Prix, could only manage ninth.
McLaren secured their best double finish of the season, with Jenson Button qualifying ninth and finishing sixth and Sergio Perez working his way up to eighth from 13th on the grid. Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg finished in the points for the second consecutive Grand Prix.
The race was followed by a young driver and tyre test at Silverstone, in which the teams got their first significant running time with the new Pirelli tyres that will be used in competitive action for the first time this weekend. The new rubber is more durable, but with the track temperature likely to top 50 degrees, tyre wear will still be an issue.
This weekend’s race will also see the introduction of a reduced pit lane speed limit following the errant tyre from Mark Webber’s Red Bull that struck a television cameraman in Germany. The drop from 100 to 80 kilometres per hour will add in the region of three seconds to the time required for a pit stop.
These new elements are likely to make it a tactical race at the Hungaroring, a tight, twisty circuit where, aside from DRS-assisted moves into Turn 1, genuine overtaking opportunities are limited.
Coming into the 10th race of the season, Mercedes and Red Bull are still the only two teams to have had a car on pole position this year and there is little to suggest that any of the other teams will be in a position to challenge them this weekend.
Mercedes should have the edge in Hungary due to two factors. Firstly, they were by some distance the class of the field at Monaco, the only other comparably high downforce track so far this season. Secondly, Hamilton has a superb record at the Hungaroring, starting from pole position on three occasions since his debut in 2007.
Hamilton is also in excellent qualifying form, having started from the front of the grid in each of the last two Grand Prix. He is a good bet to secure a hat-trick of pole positions this weekend.
Hulkenberg has been a fairly consistent qualifier this season, twice getting his Sauber into the top 10, but also qualifying 11th on three occasions and 12th once. He has out-qualified his teammate Esteban Gutierrez in each and every race to date.
Hulkenberg was right on the cusp of the top 10 in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix earlier this year and has a good record in Hungary, having qualified 10th on both of his previous visits to the circuit. He is capable of again making the final qualifying session on Saturday.
McLaren have won five of the last six Hungarian Grand Prix, but although they are highly unlikely to be in contention for this victory this year, in Jenson Button they have a driver with the necessary ability to score some good points.
Button scored his first ever F1 victory at the Hungaroring in 2008 and won the race again in 2011 at the wheel of a McLaren. He has achieved nine points finishes, including three more in the top six, in his 13 races at the circuit since his debut in 2000.
The Englishman finished sixth in Germany three weeks ago, having also done so at Monaco earlier in the year. In the hot conditions the Mercedes drivers – who did not get an opportunity to run at the recent tyre test – are likely to fade in the race, and Button can be the one to take advantage and secure a top six finish.
Lotus enjoyed a return to form in Germany three weeks ago, with both Kimi Raikonnen and Romain Grosjean showing excellent pace throughout the race, particularly as they homed in on Vettel in the closing laps.
One of Lotus’ key strengths so far this season has been their ability to manage the tyres, and although the new tyres are more durable that their predecessors, there is still a strategic advantage to be gained from looking after them, especially in light of the aforementioned lower pit lane speed limit, which will add time to pit stops.
Lotus finished second and third in Hungary last year and as long as he can qualify in the top four or so Raikonnen can be fancied to storm through to victory on Sunday.
F1 Hungarian Grand Prix Betting Tips Verdict
- Back Lewis Hamilton to qualify on pole position @ 9/4 at Paddy Power or William Hill
- Bet on Nico Hulkenberg to reach qualifying session three @ best odds of 11/8 with BetVictor.
- Put your money on Jenson Button to finish in the top six @ best odds of 3/1 with Coral.
- Bet on Kimi Raikonnen to win the race @ best odds of 11/2 at Stan James or William Hill.