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There’s a cracking weekend in prospect at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
High emotions, cracking battles all through the field and a genuine chance for Red Bull to play to their strengths could give us a Hungarian GP to remember.
And it’s hot – with the chance of rain, of course – so lots of beer will be quaffed and the atmosphere at the Hungaroring should be electric.
Will Red Bull be roaring at the Hungaroring?
Quite possibly Red Bull will be roaring. The circuit is tailor-made for the Red Bulls, whose nimble chassis and excellent traction should shine on the Hungarian corners.
The lack of long straights also means that Red Bull won’t be feeling as much pain from the Ferrari and Mercedes-engined cars, which still have such a power advantage.
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And Red Bull finally get to run with upgraded fuel. One of the problems they have running Renault engines is that the Renault works team and the other Renault customer, McLaren, use BP Castrol oil products, while Red Bull have a deal with ExxonMobil.
That means most of the F1 testing Renault do is focussed on the ExxonMobil fuels, for obvious reasons.
The upgrade could be worth a tenth or two. Coupled with Red Bull’s strengths at this circuit, we may well see one of their drivers leading the field.
Ferrari remember an icon
This weekend will be heavy with emotion for Ferrari.
The premature death of Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne, after complications following shoulder surgery, sent shockwaves through the organisation.
As well as being responsible for turning Fiat Chrysler into a success story, he also oversaw a wholesale restructuring of the Ferrari F1 team, the fruits of which have been on display this season.
The Prancing Horses will race with black stripes in memory of Marchionne, and expect to see tributes from other teams as well.
As tight as this year’s championship is, I suspect Ferrari will be happy to get through this weekend without any howlers, giving them a few weeks to catch breath before the final sprint to the line.
Their engine is the class of the F1 field at the moment – Merc boss Toto Wolff claimed it was half a second faster on long straights – and the red cars are really able to get the power down coming out of corners.
Whether that is down to clever use of battery electronics or more traditional F1 engineering, no one except Ferrari knows. But it’s certainly good news for Sebastian Vettel.
Can Merc maintain momentum?
Having grabbed their opportunity for maximum points at the last race, Mercedes know they can’t let Ferrari back to the top of the table.
Lewis Hamilton has been bubbling like a brook all week … despite F1’s favourite troll, Jacques Villeneuve, accusing him of acting like Jesus and being a bit too Hollywood for the outspoken Canadian’s liking.
But Mercedes do have their work cut out. At last year’s F1 event, Vettel blew Hamilton away in qualifying as Ferrari dominated both Saturday and Sunday.
In fact, in the last four years, ‘all-conquering’ Mercedes have won just once at the Hungaroring, and Hamilton has been on the podium just once in the last three races.
Couple that with the strength of this year’s Ferrari, plus Red Bull’s abilities at this track, and you have the makings of a troublesome weekend for the Silver Arrows.
If Hamilton can’t qualify on poll, Mercedes will have to go into damage-limitation mode. And let’s see if Sky’s commentators react to Hamilton’s (hastily deleted) Instagram post in which he had a pop at them for ‘undermining’ his achievements at the German Grand Prix…
Anyone else to watch?
Actually, given the season we’ve had so far, there should be battles everywhere … though whether that translates into lots of overtaking is another matter at the Hungaroring.
Pay attention to the Sauber and Haas cars. They are going to be running the Spec3 Ferrari engines – Ferrari give customer teams big engine updates before their works team, testing major upgrades in a race environment before fitting them to their own cars.
The word is the Spec3 version is a decent step forwards, though it remains to be seen whether there’s an extra 40hp on tap as some have claimed.
One team that won’t be bringing much in the way of meaningful updates is McLaren – according to Fernando Alonso, most of McLaren’s focus is on next year’s car and there has only been one genuine upgrade in 2018.
McLaren have poached themselves a new Technical Director, in the shape of Toro Rosso’s James Key, though it’s not known when he’ll be able to start work … negotiations over gardening leave can be problematical in F1, when technical experts can bring intimate knowledge of a competitor’s car to a new employer.
Anyway, for now it’s enough for the rest of us to settle down for a potentially rainy Saturday, toasting hot Sunday and maybe even an upset. Game on.