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The Hungarian GP - Preview

2017-07-30 00:00:00 (This report was created at 2017-07-25 15:16:12)

Momentum means a lot in sport and in F1 right now the momentum is with Mercedes. Valtteri Bottas is the highest point’s scorer in the last five races (81) closely followed by Daniel Ricciardo (80) and Hamilton (78). Championship leader Sebastian Vettel has manged just 73 in the same time and his lead is now just one point. Ferrari need to stop the rot or the 2017 season is going the same way as the last three but there is some real hope for a non-Mercedes win come Sunday.

This weekend’s venue, the Hungaroring, gets a bad press for being too difficult to overtake on but it can and does produce some great races. It is a short, slow, twisty lap that requires a high downforce set up and there are some similarities to the demands of the Monaco GP. The fact that is not a power sensitive track goes some way to negate Mercedes edge in the power department. The track is mostly about slow and medium speed corners and there is just the one long straight.

Monaco saw an all Ferrari front row and no Mercedes on the podium, a low point of the season for the Silver Arrows. Their car has a long wheelbase which is not ideal for slow twisty tracks like Monaco and here to a lesser degree. There is no doubt that Mercedes have addressed those Monaco failings but they just face stronger competition when it’s not all about power. Their qualifying pace is on the up again which is making it tougher for Ferrari whose race pace remains competitive but they have started behind a Mercedes in every race since Monaco. Hamilton and Bottas locked out the front row at Silverstone for the first time this season.

Ferrari need a strong weekend or the summer break will be a very nervous time. Qualifying is were Ferrari are falling behind again and with overtaking difficult in Hungary, a good grid position is very important. However if Vettel finds himself behind one or two Mercedes at the start he does have the chance to get a tow down the long starting straight with a decent possibility of passing into the first corner.

Red Bull will have been targeting this as one of their best opportunities for a race win this season. The lack of power demanding straights will be a great relief to a team that are slowly getting there. It was clear that it was going to be the second half of the season both this years Red Bull was sufficiently refined from the rather uninspiring car that was launched back in March. Ricciardo won in Azerbaijan but that was a result of Hamilton and Vettel’s struggles rather than a great car.

This slow, downforce dependant track will allow them to play to their strengths and the lower power sensitivity will minimise their weaknesses. Reliability is still a problem with Verstappen having five DNF’s and the consistent Ricciardo having his Silverstone weekend ruined by a gearbox failure and subsequent grid penalties. He produced a great drive to come from 19th to finish 5th and Red Bull must be expecting to be in the hunt for a podium.

Ricciardo loves the track, as do most drivers, and he has had a win and two third places in the last three seasons. He has been very consistent this season, five consecutive podiums before the Silverstone problem. Verstappen has had the lion’s share of the mechanical problems but he has had the edge in qualifying (4-1 up for the last five). It’s hard to separate the two but they have to overcome their reliability problems before they can be backed with confidence.

Force India continues to collect points and they are safely in 4th place at the halfway point. The problem is that the gap to the top three is huge and to score a podium they need something extraordinary to happen to the cars in front. Monaco was their low point of the season with not a point scored. That will be a worry for this weekend and they will face stiffer competition from Renault, Haas, Toro Rosso and McLaren this weekend. It has not been a good race for Perez in the past with just one top 10 from six starts.

With lots of slow and medium speed corners this is going to be difficult for Williams They struggled in Monaco and they have struggled here in the last two years. That will open up chances for other teams to get into the points. Haas, Toro Rosso and Renault should all be relatively more competitive here.

It’s all gone a bit wrong for Toro Rosso with just one points finish from the last four races. Kvyat has been terrible at his starts and he is taking out other drivers and last time out he hit his own team mate. I really don’t know why he is still driving in F1 as he has shown nothing for a couple of years now. He did get a podium here in 2015 but he is now becoming a liability. Sainz had five point’s finishes from the first six races but just one from the last four and Toro Rosso isn’t a happy camp. Currently 6th in the constructor’s championship, they could be down to 8th very quickly and that will cost a lot of money.

Renault introduced some new parts at Silverstone and the new floor, which was fitted to Hulkenberg’s car only, did make a difference. He qualified a season best 6th which is where he finished the race. Palmer will also have the new floor this weekend and he can realistically think of reaching Q3 and finally scoring some points. If not, and perhaps even if he does, this could be his last race. Renault is evaluating Robert Kubica in the post-race test here and by all accounts this is a serious effort to get him back into F1. His on track tests have impressed and he was faster than their reserve driver. In the simulator his times have been faster than Palmer and Hulkenberg.

Palmer very nearly got points here last year, running inside the top 10 but he dropped it off the track with an unforced error. We backed him for a points finish at Silverstone at 9/1 and he was in a good position having qualified 11th. Of course the car packed up on the warm up lap and we never got to see what would happen. With the new floor he must have a good chance of points but the odds this time? 11/4 which is disappointing but understandable. With three 11th place finishes in the last five, an improved car and Williams set to struggle he will not get a better chance.

2 points Palmer to finish in the points @ 11/4 with Betstars

McLaren also recognise that this is their best chance of more points since Monaco. They got both cars into Q3 only to see Button get a 15 place grid penalty for getting new engine parts. Both cars retired from the race with damage rather than mechanical failure. Vandoorne has yet to score a point but like Palmer, he has been knocking on the door and won’t get a better chance. His last three races have seen him finish 12th/12th/11th and this track will allow him to start much higher up the grid than normal. The car is actually very good in corners and the fact that this is not a power circuit minimises their major weakness, the Honda power unit. Of course reliability is still shocking but they can’t afford to keep on giving McLaren duff engines otherwise their out on their ear.

2 points Vandoorne to finish in the points @ 33/20 with Sportingbet

Alonso took a lot of grid penalties for power unit changes made at Silverstone. That was done to put him in the best position to have a good result this weekend rather than at Silverstone where they were out gunned in any case. What is a good result for Alonso? A point’s finish? He has managed one of those already in Baku, one of the two races this season were he has made it to the finish line. He qualified and finished 7th here last year but last year’s McLaren was a better package and scored points regularly. Alonso is just 4/5 to finish in the points and only 7/2 for a top 6 finish. Very short odds on a guy who has completed 20% of the races so far.

Sauber will be bringing a ‘significant’ aero upgrade for this race. They are struggling with a lack of power from their year old Ferrari and this race is seen as a rare opportunity to run with the back of the midfield. With a bit of attrition they could luck into another point. Wehrlein has two points’ finishes from his eight starts this season so the 16/1 on offer is not to be sniffed at. However their updates for Monaco were not effective and the bigger teams will have been pulling away from them with every race.

Fridays free practice will be a useful pointer to see just were the top three teams are likely to be come Sunday but that’s it for now. Next update will be around 30 minutes before the start of qualifying.