Hamilton eyes record-breaking win – but there’s a close fight behind

2015 Hungarian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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There’s no obvious way Lewis Hamilton could have asserted his dominance over proceedings at the Hungaroring any more emphatically than he has done so far.

Every practice and qualifying session has ended with his name at the top of the times sheets. Nico Rosberg is further behind his team mate than he has been at any time since the first race of the year.

And if Hamilton finishes on top again tomorrow, he will become the first person to win the Hungarian Grand Prix five times.

But as the last race showed, Mercedes cannot take it for granted that they will have things all their own way. They were mugged by the Williams drivers at the start in Silverstone, and as the Hungaroring has one of the longest runs to turn one of the season, a repeat of their sluggish starts will almost certainly be punished.

This is a greater concern for Rosberg than Hamilton, however, as he is starting off the racing line, which tends to be a particular disadvantage at this track. In today’s GP2 and GP2 races the second-placed driver on the grid struggled to get away cleanly.

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Although Rosberg’s Q3 lap was a little untidy, his problems this weekend haven’t entirely been of his own making. “We must apologise to him,” said Mercedes’ executive director for technical Paddy Lowe, “as we only discovered last night that there had been a configuration error on his car throughout Friday which hasn’t given him an easy ride thus far”.

Rosberg’s difficulties continued into practice where he was plagued by apparently incurable understeer. “The positive could be that this setup might help me a bit more in the race,” Rosberg reflected optimistically, “as understeering could keep the rear tyres more alive”.

However the question of tyre wear will be influenced by an expected change in conditions at the Hungaroring. Air temperatures tomorrow are expected to be around 10C lower than today, and the track temperature correspondingly far short of the mid-fifties peaks seen over the past 24 hours.

On the strength of the running so far, if the soft tyre remains so much quicker than the medium then expect to see drivers tending towards two-stop strategies in order to minimise the time spent on the harder rubber. But the cooler weather could have a significant effect on this. It will be revealing if anyone chooses to start the race on the medium tyres, and if not, who plumps for them first.

As usual, the entire top ten will start on the soft rubber. Of them, the only driver with a new set for the race is Romain Grosjean.

Behind the Mercedes drivers, look out for a tight battle between Ferrari, Williams and Red Bull for the final podium position. The latter are enjoying their strongest weekend of the year so far, and Daniel Ricciardo came within three hundredths of a second of beating Sebastian Vettel to third place on the grid. However he has the disadvantage of starting off-line which, compounded by his Renault’s lack of straight-line speed, may leave him vulnerable to Kimi Raikkonen at the start.

Nonetheless, the race pace Red Bull showed on Friday indicates they may have a genuine chance of taking their first podium position of the year.

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’22.8901’22.285 (-0.605)1’22.020 (-0.265)
2Nico RosbergMercedes1’22.9791’22.775 (-0.204)1’22.595 (-0.180)
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’23.3121’23.168 (-0.144)1’22.739 (-0.429)
4Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’24.4081’23.230 (-1.178)1’22.774 (-0.456)
5Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’23.5961’23.460 (-0.136)1’23.020 (-0.440)
6Valtteri BottasWilliams1’23.6491’23.555 (-0.094)1’23.222 (-0.333)
7Daniil KvyatRed Bull1’23.5871’23.597 (+0.010)1’23.332 (-0.265)
8Felipe MassaWilliams1’23.8951’23.598 (-0.297)1’23.537 (-0.061)
9Max VerstappenToro Rosso1’24.0321’23.781 (-0.251)1’23.679 (-0.102)
10Romain GrosjeanLotus1’24.2421’23.805 (-0.437)1’24.181 (+0.376)
11Nico HulkenbergForce India1’24.1151’23.826 (-0.289)
12Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso1’24.6231’23.869 (-0.754)
13Sergio PerezForce India1’24.4441’24.461 (+0.017)
14Pastor MaldonadoLotus1’23.8951’24.609 (+0.714)
15Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’24.563
16Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’24.739
17Marcus EricssonSauber1’24.843
18Felipe NasrSauber1’24.997
19Roberto MerhiManor1’27.416
20Will StevensManor1’27.949

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton29.153 (1)29.818 (1)23.016 (1)
Nico Rosberg29.207 (2)30.057 (4)23.137 (2)
Sebastian Vettel29.323 (3)29.862 (2)23.438 (5)
Daniel Ricciardo29.442 (6)29.976 (3)23.356 (4)
Kimi Raikkonen29.391 (5)30.272 (5)23.308 (3)
Valtteri Bottas29.442 (6)30.279 (7)23.464 (6)
Daniil Kvyat29.537 (10)30.301 (8)23.481 (7)
Felipe Massa29.349 (4)30.474 (10)23.612 (8)
Max Verstappen29.576 (12)30.319 (9)23.634 (9)
Romain Grosjean29.663 (13)30.273 (6)23.768 (13)
Nico Hulkenberg29.501 (8)30.609 (13)23.716 (12)
Carlos Sainz Jnr29.565 (11)30.530 (12)23.774 (14)
Sergio Perez29.733 (14)30.801 (16)23.850 (16)
Pastor Maldonado29.524 (9)30.520 (11)23.830 (15)
Fernando Alonso29.998 (17)30.620 (14)23.673 (11)
Jenson Button30.130 (18)30.775 (15)23.653 (10)
Marcus Ericsson29.917 (16)30.995 (17)23.931 (17)
Felipe Nasr29.886 (15)31.124 (18)23.967 (18)
Roberto Merhi30.874 (20)31.977 (19)24.565 (19)
Will Stevens30.794 (19)32.302 (20)24.622 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes321.2 (199.6)
2Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes320.0 (198.8)-1.2
3Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes318.9 (198.2)-2.3
4Romain GrosjeanLotusMercedes318.8 (198.1)-2.4
5Valtteri BottasWilliamsMercedes317.9 (197.5)-3.3
6Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes317.4 (197.2)-3.8
7Pastor MaldonadoLotusMercedes316.9 (196.9)-4.3
8Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes316.7 (196.8)-4.5
9Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari316.2 (196.5)-5.0
10Felipe NasrSauberFerrari315.8 (196.2)-5.4
11Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari314.3 (195.3)-6.9
12Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari313.9 (195.0)-7.3
13Max VerstappenToro RossoRenault311.0 (193.2)-10.2
14Daniil KvyatRed BullRenault310.8 (193.1)-10.4
15Carlos Sainz JnrToro RossoRenault310.7 (193.1)-10.5
16Fernando AlonsoMcLarenHonda309.6 (192.4)-11.6
17Daniel RicciardoRed BullRenault309.6 (192.4)-11.6
18Jenson ButtonMcLarenHonda307.6 (191.1)-13.6
19Will StevensManorFerrari302.4 (187.9)-18.8
20Roberto MerhiManorFerrari299.8 (186.3)-21.4

Over to you

Can Rosberg keep Hamilton from victory? And who will be ‘best of the rest’?

Share your views on the Hungarian Grand Prix in the comments.

2015 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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23 comments on “Hamilton eyes record-breaking win – but there’s a close fight behind”

  1. Hope Redbull will avoid us a total borefest!

  2. I’m in Budapest and I’m looking forward to witness history tomorrow. Go Lewis.

    1. Im in szentendre…. And we will both witness history tomorrow 😀 lh44

  3. Neil (@neilosjames)
    25th July 2015, 18:22

    Ricciardo and Vettel should be a good fight (and anyone else who can get involved).

  4. It’s interesting that a man conventionally deemed the last of the late brakers is so fast on a circuit that places so little emphasis on braking performance. Furthermore, the heaviest braking zone on the track, turn 1, is more about ensuring a great exit than entry speed.

    In my opinion Hamilton gains time on this track through the mid-corner phase. The flamboyance of Hamilton’s driving style is perhaps overstated, when in actual fact precision is as much a feature of his matured style. The geometric finesse of Lewis’ lines around the circuit allow him to chase the throttle through the apex. For me, it is Lewis’ finesse on throttle application that is the key to his speed, and subsequently he is so adept at scoping up oversteer, he feels confident to squeeze the throttle earlier and harder than most.

    The gyros in Lewis’ body are clearly so sensitive because he is quite easily the grid’s best at managing a sliding rear without hemorrhaging time.

    1. when in actual fact precision is as much a feature of his matured style

      I’m afraid I don’t understand some of your comment, but I do agree with your comment on the precision of Hamilton’s driving style. While he had the highest average speed, he wasn’t the fastest at the speed trap, his top speed was actually the slowest of any Mercedes powered car.
      Last week I was able to watch the British GP from the perspective of the On Board Cameras mounted on various cars. It seemed to me Hamilton was very conservative in terms of how high he would let the engine “rev” compared to other drivers. I don’t recall ever seeing his RPMs go as high as 12000rpm, and he rarely went into the high part of the 11k rpm range. One possible reason (apart from excellent cornering) is Hamilton is changing up a gear at the exact moment the power of the lower gear drops below the power the next gear up will have.

      1. I can neatly tie these together @drycrust @countrygent. When you are more accurate with the racing line, you can afford to use a higher gear and let the torque of the engine do more of the work in accelerating (or act as ‘traction control’). This is because with better lines you need less corrections and they are easier to do when higher in the rev range, as the car feels more controllable with the throttle.

      2. I am talking about how Lewis can hit the sweet 1.8 meter train-tracks even when the car is at maximum load on a qualifying lap @drycrust: to those that know, apex precision was a key factor in Ayrton Senna’s raw speed.

        As @fastiesty eludes to, Lewis’ precision reduces the load angle of the car mid-corner, which enables him to open the throttle earlier. Be careful when looking at the RPM telemetry during the race, the drivers will be short-shifting to cut the torque to the rear axle so reduce the stress on the rear tyres. However in qualifying the drivers are looking to maximize the amount of RPM and torque they can deliver to the tarmac, so whilst I haven’t seen a side-by-side RPM figure with Rosberg, I wouldn’t be surprised to see higher figures for Lewis and with his immense throttle control allowing him to change up later too.

  5. Willem Cecchi (@)
    25th July 2015, 19:43

    Vettel to get the jump on the Mercedes drivers going into turn 1.

    1. I’d like to see Rosberg mugged by the Williams again.

  6. I cannot help but wonder (I am not making excuses or anything as such, this is completely and utterly curiosity) what would happen if both sides of the Mercedes garage swapped mechanics and engineers just for a few races. Could we see the dominance switch, even out, or would it be no different? There is no way of telling but one does wonder.

    1. Same with Ferrari.

    2. We might get a clue when Jock Clear moves @strontium. Maybe the dominance will increase.

    3. It would just harm both drivers, because they build up a relationship with their team, I wouldn’t say that any one side of the garage has a better team, maybe just how they work with their driver is different.


      Although Jock Clear is still part of the team and helping out back in Brackley he isn’t in the same position he was before and I would imagine his knowledge or certain elements are now very much limited.

  7. In today’s GP2 and GP2 races the second-placed driver on the grid struggled to get away cleanly.

    Found a mistake there @keithcollantine

  8. Rosberg was only a couple tenths from starting 5th. If he loses a spot to a clean-side car or two this could get interesting at least for p2 and p3.

  9. Close fight? with whom? Honestly.

    1. Which is why the huge “RECORD” means little to nothing IMO

      1. Records mean legacies, which are important to any driver on the grid who hopes to be classed as one of the all time greats of the sport. It’s what they are judged by after they retire, without them and unless they do something really special then they are often forgotten, and what driver wants to be forgotten?

        So I would disagree that records mean little to nothing, They mean a great deal whoever is breaking them. Vettel for example was supposed to be very focused on breaking records in his Red Bull days and i doubt that has changed since his move to Ferrari.

        1. If Sebastian Vettel finishes 3rd today, he will have the record for most points scored in a driver’s F1 career.

  10. What a boring race, Ferrari always win……

  11. But as the last race showed, Mercedes cannot take it for granted that they will have things all their own way. They were mugged by the Williams drivers at the start in Silverstone, and as the Hungaroring has one of the longest runs to turn one of the season, a repeat of their sluggish starts will almost certainly be punished.

    Way to call it!

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