Hungarian Grand Prix Preview and Tips

Take pole position at the Hungaroring with Betsafe and PlanetF1

One point. That is all that separates championship leader Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton as we head into the halfway stage of a fascinating 2016 season.

Rosberg was 43 points clear after an electric start to the campaign. It could all disappear in Budapest as Hamilton secured a fourth win in five races to the delight of the home crowd at Silverstone.

To get you on the right track, Betsafe have joined forces with Planet F1 to bring you the definitive guide ahead of Round 11 in Hungary..

Hat-trick for Hamilton

Even the weather gods are against Rosberg. After being pipped to pole position by Hamilton, the German revealed he was hoping he could capitalise if his team-mate suffered another slow start off the grid. A sharp shower just before lights out – which led to the race starting behind the safety car for only the 11th time in F1 history – quickly put an end to that plan. It completely changed the complexion of the race and the ability of the drivers came under real scrutiny.

When the safety car came in after five laps, Hamilton showed his class. By the time the rest of the field reached Luffield, the reigning world champion was already three seconds ahead of the pack and, barring a spin out on lap 28, he produced the perfect performance in the most testing of conditions.

With Hamilton in a league of his own, it made Rosberg and Max Verstappen the main focus of the afternoon in a fascinating battle for second place – one that would see Rosberg eventually give up even more ground in the title race. Eighteen-year-old Verstappen had everybody in awe when he passed round the outside of Rosberg at Chapel, but the joy was short-lived as the Mercedes’ superior package allowed the German to re-take the position at Stowe on lap 39.

However, the drama did not end there for the championship leader. After encountering gearbox problems toward the end of the race – an issue that he was able to fix with the help of team radio – he was found in breach of the strict regulations by the race stewards and slapped with a 10-second penalty which demoted him to third place long after the teams had packed up in the garage.

The omens do look good for Hamilton, who became the first-ever driver to record a British Grand Prix hat-trick and moved to within one win of joining Alain Prost and Jim Clark at the top of the multiple winners’ leaderboard. After wins at Silverstone in 2008, 2014 and 2015, Hamilton went on to win the world championship. Will his 2016 win produce the same result?

Fellow Brits Jenson Button and Jolyon Palmer did not have particularly memorable weekends, with the 2009 world champion finishing 12th and the Renault rookie forced to retire.

The other major talking point was the continued regression of Ferrari. Kimi Raikkonen was cut well adrift of fourth-placed Daniel Ricciardo; Sebastian Vettel finished a lowly ninth after a five-place grid penalty for the second race in a row and also suffered from a real lack of pace.

What to expect in Budapest

Rosberg’s body language after the race had the mark of a beaten man, not just at Silverstone but in the title race, too. However, with 11 races still left on the calendar this season, he would be foolish to think that the world championship is now Hamilton’s to win.

A strong reaction in Hungary – where he has only finished as high as fourth during his career – is an absolute must. Reliability has been a much bigger issue for Mercedes this season, so it does give a little bit of encouragement to the other teams to fight for a position that will enable them to take full advantage should more problems occur.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner seemed quietly confident ahead of Hungary. He described the Hungaroring as “Monaco without the barriers” and the team may be able to show once again that they do have a car capable of pushing the Mercedes as long as they do not become the masters of their own downfall again. Horner was also upbeat of a positive response from Ricciardo, who was outperformed by his team-mate Verstappen for the fourth time in six races.

The slow corners will also give Ferrari an opportunity to get back on the right track, as the circuit should mask their problems with straight-line speed.

Mercedes are the obvious favourites to collect what would be their 10th win in 11 races this season, but the gap between them and their nearest rivals should be a little closer.

Hungaroring circuit

2016 marks the 31st edition of the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring in Budapest and a narrow, twisty, tight circuit awaits the drivers which is purpose-built for F1 after initial plans for a street circuit were quashed.

The 11 braking zones means there are limited chances to overtake on this challenging track, so races are often won and lost in the pit lanes through strategic calls. Drivers will certainly have to adjust quickly from the fast and furious Silverstone circuit.

The 14-corner, 4.38km track is negotiated at an average speed of 187 km/h which makes it one of the slower circuits on the F1 calendar. Turn One provides the best opportunity to attack, meaning a clean exit out of Turn 14 is absolutely crucial if you are to have a chance of a successful weekend here.

There are 70 technical laps to tackle, with the faster lap times at the front of the grid coming in around the 1:24 mark.

Previous winners and track suitability

The Hungaroring will evoke happy memories for a few of the current drivers. Last year, Vettel gave Ferrari their first win at the track in 11 years after an incident-filled thriller, while his former Red Bull team-mate Ricciardo won only the third Hungarian Grand Prix to be affected by the rain in 2014.

Back-to-back victories in 2012 and 2013 means Hamilton is a four-time winner at the Hungaroring and has another chance to overtake Michael Schumacher on the all-time winners’ list. Fellow Brit Button is a two-time winner here, with his 2006 success proving to be an iconic victory as he came from a lowly 14th to finish at the top of the podium and secure the first win of his F1 career.

Kimi Raikkonen (2005) is another current driver who has a race win to his name in Hungary.

As does Fernando Alonso, who made history in 2003 when becoming the first-ever Spaniard to win a Grand Prix and also the then youngest-ever driver to win a Grand Prix aged 22 – beating Bruce McLaren’s 44-year record.

Only four different constructors have won in Hungary, with McLaren well out in front with 11 race wins. Williams are trailing behind on seven and have Ferrari on their tail with six victories. Completing the list are Red Bull with two successes..

About Mark Scott

Mark Scott is a contributor for PlanetF1, the definitive site for Formula One news, features, galleries and live coverage.