A heavy-hearted F1 field will gather at the Hungaroring this weekend for the first race since the death of Jules Bianchi.
Formula One’s regular hand-wringing over the state of the sport and the one-sidedness of the competition pale into insignificance following the events of the past week.
Past generations of drivers had all-too common experiences of attending the funeral of a rival. For today’s drivers it is a mercifully rare event, but all the more shocking because of it.
A minute’ silence in honour of Bianchi will be held ahead of Sunday’s race. While we all want to see a competitive and exciting grand prix, the first and foremost hope is that it will be a safe one.
This year sees the 30th running of the Hungarian Grand Prix, and while the Hungaroring may never be revered in the same way as Spa, Monza or Silverstone it has become a popular stop on the schedule.
Track data: Hungaroring
|Lap length||4.381km (2.722 miles)|
|Grand prix distance||293.527km (182.389 miles)|
|Lap record (in a race)||1’19.071 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)|
|Fastest lap (any session)||1’18.436 (Rubens Barrichello, 2004, qualifying one)|
|Tyre compounds||Medium and Soft|
|2014 Rate the Race||9.14/10|
|2014 Driver of the Weekend||Fernando Alonso|
*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix
The views of the two Toro Rosso drivers sum up the general opinion of this event: while Max Verstappen thinks of it as “a bit of a Mickey Mouse track” but Carlos Sainz Jnr considers it “definitely one of the historic European tracks that everyone loves going to”.
Even in the DRS era, the difficulties of overtaking at the Hungaroring are such that last year was only the second time the race had been won by someone who did not start on the front row. With strategic options likely to be limited on Pirelli’s choice of the soft and medium tyre for this weekend, Saturday’s qualifying session will be one of the most important of the year.
Last year this was the only circuit where Mercedes got both cars to the finish with neither of them in first place. But it took a rain shower and the appearance of the Safety Car for that to happen.
The gap between their two championship-leading drivers has ebbed and flowed over the last five races, and both will be eager to seize the initiative as F1 heads into a four-week break after the chequered flag falls.
Go ad-free for just £1 per month
Hungarian Grand Prix team-by-team preview
The Hungaroring tends to be a stronghold for Lewis Hamilton The world champion already has four wins and four pole positions at this track.
So it’ll be a coup for Nico Rosberg if he can cut his team mate’s points lead here. Last year a turbo fire for Hamilton in qualifying helped Rosberg to pole position, but the sudden appearance of the Safety Car and Medical Car during the race thwarted his bid for victory.
Daniil Kvyat reckons the tight circuit is “probably a little bit too narrow for modern Formula One cars”. However it should mitigate the weakness of the Renault engine and give Red Bull a shot at their best result of the season so far.
Last year Daniel Ricciardo took an opportunistic victory but in the past few races he has been shown the way home by his junior team mate. The contest between the two will be fascinating this weekend.
Although neither FW37 finished on the podium at Silverstone it was arguably the team’s most competitive showing of the year so far. But while the team can expect to go well at some of the other high-speed tracks coming up – notably Spa-Francorchamps and Monza – the slow Hungaroring may play against them, especially after their poor showing at Monaco.
“This circuit wouldn’t normally suit our car because it’s quite low speed,” admits Felipe Massa, “but we have improved the car so much in recent races with the upgrades we have introduced so we should have another competitive weekend.”
For all McLaren’s troubles, perhaps Fernando Alonso has managed a wry smile over the past few races over the form of his ex-team. Despite Sebastian Vettel’s Malaysian Grand Prix victory, Alonso has stuck to his view that Ferrari has not made any substantive gains on Mercedes this year, and at Silverstone they seemed further away than ever – only the rain made a podium possible.
Kimi Raikkonen can expect another weekend in the media spotlight as reports in Italy indicate he may have already lost his Ferrari seat for 2016.
With Honda beginning to make noises about having got on top of their reliability problems, McLaren’s season could be about to get interesting. Fernando Alonso has indicated that once the team are able to turn up the wick on the Honda power plant the performance gains could be substantial.
They need to be, especially with Spa and Monza coming up soon. Until then, the down-tempo Hungaroring could help mask their key weakness and even give them a crack at the points.
Nico Hulkenberg has been in fine form since his Le Mans 24 Hours victory and is hoping for more gains in the team’s second race with its revised VJM08.
“There’s a good feeling in the team and I think we can be competitive again this weekend,” he said. “The low and medium-speed corners should suit us and the tyre choices are a bit softer than Silverstone, which should help us.”
The big question, as is so often the case with this team, is reliability.
Romain Grosjean has a real affinity for the particular challenges of the Hungaroring, and mustered top three qualifying spots in 2012 and 2013. “I like the feeling you get when driving on the track and the grip you get from it,” he said.
However he is also frustrated by the memory of his 2013 pass on Massa at turn four. Grosjean considers it “one of my best overtaking [moves] ever in my Formula One career” but he was “penalised for being a few small centimetres over the line, which was tough at the time.”
Marcus Ericsson won’t have to do much to improve on his showing in last year’s race, where he crashed out early on. However he has generally been shown the way by his less experienced team mate this year.
Of course the weekend will be hardest of all for Bianchi’s former team, who twelve months ago saw one of their cars reach Q2 as Bianchi knocked Raikkonen out in the first round of qualifying.
2015 driver form
|Driver||G avg||R avg||R best||R worst||Classified||Form guide|
|Lewis Hamilton||1.11||1.56||1||3||9/9||Form guide|
|Nico Rosberg||2.11||1.89||1||3||9/9||Form guide|
|Daniel Ricciardo||8.33||8.25||5||13||8/9||Form guide|
|Daniil Kvyat||9.89||8.43||4||12||7/8||Form guide|
|Felipe Massa||7.00||6.56||3||15||9/9||Form guide|
|Valtteri Bottas||6.44||5.75||3||14||8/9||Form guide|
|Sebastian Vettel||4.89||3.22||1||5||9/9||Form guide|
|Kimi Raikkonen||6.78||4.71||2||8||7/9||Form guide|
|Fernando Alonso||15.63||11.00||10||12||3/8||Form guide|
|Jenson Button||16.89||12.25||8||16||4/8||Form guide|
|Nico Hulkenberg||11.00||10.13||6||15||8/9||Form guide|
|Sergio Perez||12.56||10.11||7||13||9/9||Form guide|
|Max Verstappen||11.00||11.60||7||17||5/9||Form guide|
|Carlos Sainz Jnr||11.22||10.17||8||13||6/9||Form guide|
|Romain Grosjean||9.78||9.17||7||12||6/9||Form guide|
|Pastor Maldonado||10.89||9.67||7||15||3/9||Form guide|
|Marcus Ericsson||13.11||12.13||8||14||8/9||Form guide|
|Felipe Nasr||12.67||10.63||5||16||8/8||Form guide|
|Will Stevens||18.38||15.83||13||17||6/7||Form guide|
|Roberto Merhi||18.63||15.43||12||18||7/8||Form guide|
|Kevin Magnussen||17.00||0/0||Form guide|
Are you going to the Hungarian Grand Prix?
We’ve got a dedicated group and forum for people going to the race.
You can embed your pictures from the race via Flickr and videos via YouTube and other major video-sharing accounts. Join in here:
Over to you
Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Hungarian Grand Prix? Have your say below.
And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying: