The 11th round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend at the Hungaroring in the village of Mogyoród, just outside of Budapest in Hungary.
Sebastian Vettel comes into the Hungarian Grand Prix with a one point lead over his nearest championship rival Lewis Hamilton. Vettel leads on 177 points after a late tyre puncture cost him vital championship points at the British Grand Prix, finishing in seventh, and last on the lead lap at Silverstone.
Meanwhile, Hamilton (176 points) cruised to a fifth British Grand Prix victory, which equalled the records of Jim Clark and Alain Prost, which was his fourth victory of the season, and his third grand slam (pole position, race win, fastest lap, and leading every lap of the race) of 2017.
Challenging those two in the world championship battle is Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who is just 23 points behind Vettel in the Drivers’ World Championship on 154 points, after helping Mercedes grab an unexpected one-two at Silverstone, capitalising on the tyre issues suffered by both Ferrari’s after starting ninth on the grid due to an unscheduled gearbox change.
Daniel Ricciardo is fourth in the world championship for Red Bull on 117 points, 60 points behind Vettel after finishing fifth at the British Grand Prix after starting 19th due to mechanical problems with his car in qualifying (although he had a five-place grid penalty for a unscheduled gearbox change), and an early run off the circuit during the opening laps of the race.
Kimi Räikkönen is fifth in the drivers’ world championship on 98 points after a brilliant drive at Silverstone, running in second for the vast majority of the race, and was faster than his teammate Vettel, before he had to pit because of a slow puncture. However, Räikkönen did recover to salvage third for Ferrari, and proved to all of the doubters, including his own team, that he is far from done in his Formula One career.
Talking about being far from done, Max Verstappen’s 2017 season hasn’t really gotten started, but at the British Grand Prix, his Red Bull managed to hold up and be reliable enough to claim fourth in the race to return to sixth in the world championship on 57 points, sneaking ahead of Force India driver Sergio Pérez (52 points), who finished ninth at Silverstone.
Esteban Ocon is eighth in the world championship on 43 points after finishing a position ahead of his teammate Pérez at the British Grand Prix, with Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jr. (29 points) ninth in the championship standings, ahead of Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg (26 points), who produced arguably his best performance of the season to date, qualifying sixth, starting fifth, and finishing in sixth position in a car that is no where near the standard of the front-runners.
Taking a look at the Constructors’ World Championship, Mercedes (330 points) have extended their lead to 55 points over Ferrari (275 points), with Red Bull comfortably in third position on 174 points, ahead of Force India (95 points), who are comfortably ahead of a great scrap for fifth place, with Williams (41 points), Toro Rosso (33 points), Haas (29 points) and Renault (26 points) all within 15 points of each other.
Ninth in the Constructors’ World Championship is Sauber on five points, with the struggling McLaren on just two points.
Looking at who will be strong at the Hungaroring, the top three teams in Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull have cars that should suit this circuit quite well, with some longer, faster corners that should suit Mercedes, point and squirt sections which will suit Ferrari, and a lack of long straights that will give Red Bull a podium sniff.
However, looking at the drivers who have been successful at the Hungarian Grand Prix, only one driver stands out.
That is Lewis Hamilton, who has won at the Hungaroring on five occasions, and while his main objective will be to claim his sixth Hungarian Grand Prix victory on Sunday, Hamilton, on Saturday, will be looking to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 career pole positions in Formula One, and similar to when he equalled Ayrton Senna’s pole position record in Canada, this would be the perfect place to equal this record, given the success he has had here, a place where Schumacher won at on four occasions.
Hamilton is my tip for the Hungarian Grand Prix, and if he does win, he will take the lead in the world championship.
As for the other podium positions, I am tipping Kimi Räikkönen to continue the form he showed at Silverstone to finish in second, ahead of a tight battle between (in no particular order) Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 10am and 2pm local time (6pm and 10pm AEST).
The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 11am and 2pm local time (7pm and 10pm AEST).
The 70 lap race is on Sunday from 2pm local time (10pm AEST).