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Analysis: F1 moves on to Mercedes' bogey track as season hits half way stage

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Analysis: F1 moves on to Mercedes' bogey track as season hits half way stage
Jul 19, 2016, 2:23 PM

This weekend is the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest; a track where Mercedes domination of F1 has been turned on its head in recent times.

This weekend is the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest; a track where Mercedes domination of F1 has been turned on its head in recent times.

The Silver Arrows have won an incredible 41 Grands Prix in the two and a half seasons since the introduction of the hybrid turbo engines, but Hungary has caused them much pain in the last two years, due to reliability and other issues.

Instead, Red Bull (2014) and Ferrari (2015) have taken at the Hungaroring victory and there is a strong chance that Red Bull will be the team to beat this weekend, based on the performance of its chassis lately and the improvements in the Renault power unit which is now within 15hp of the Mercedes.

Hungarian Grand Prix 2015

As the Hungaroring layout features 12 out of the 14 corners at sub-200km/h, it's all about aerodynamic balance, mechanical grip and acceleration, which are areas where the Red Bull excels. Both Red Bull drivers excel here too; Daniel Ricciardo won in 2014 and Mx Verstappen had his breakthrough result here last year in 4th place for Toro Rosso.

Both men will be going for the victory this weekend and qualifying will be critical. Verstappen out qualified Ricciardo for the first time in Silverstone and will come to Budapest full of confidence, while Ricciardo must respond to the growing threat from his 18 year old team mate as they battle for supremacy.

It is known as a tough track to overtake on; last year saw nine normal overtakes and 16 DRS overtakes on the 900m main straight, where the cars are expected to reach 320km/h this year. An offset in tyre performance is a core requirement for a successful pass here.

Lewis Hamilton

We've also seen Red Bull and Mercedes in a class of their own lately in terms of managing the tyres and this will be crucial this weekend with the supersoft, soft and medium Pirellis on the menu. The supersoft will be around 0.6s faster than the soft so will be the qualifying tyre, while the soft was 2.1s faster than the medium on low fuel last year and 1.6s faster on high fuel. the soft was good for 25 laps.

So the soft should be the default race tyre after the first stint on supersofts. Red Bull and Mercedes should reach the finish on Lap 70 with two new sets of softs, but others will struggle to do that.

The rear left tyre is the limitation at this 4.381km circuit; normally the teams would try to set the car up with understeer to compensate, but there is a big time penalty to be paid for that on the Hungaroring. So the challenge is to look after the tyres in the race without losing too much lap time.

Max Verstappen

Hungarian GP – the key numbers:

Despite it’s famously tight and twisty nature, the Hungaroring has often been a track to produce surprising race results. Mercedes is yet to secure a top two finish in Budapest since the V6 turbo engines were introduced at the start of 2014, and Lewis Hamilton’s win in 2013 came in a season dominated by Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull.

In 2014, Ricciardo won after a frenetic final few laps as he battled Hamilton and Fernando Alonso for the win, and in 2015 Vettel leapt off the line and won for Ferrari, as the Mercedes drivers were involved in a number of high-profile incidents.

Hamilton also secured an unlikely win in Hungary in 2009 as McLaren struggled to catch Brawn and Red Bull in the first year of the new aerodynamic regulations. A year before that, Heikki Kovalainen took the victory for the British team after Felipe Massa’s Ferrari engine failed with a few laps remaining.

Jenson Button Hungary 2006

Perhaps the most famous surprise victory at Hungary came in 2006 when Jenson Button won for Honda from 14th on the grid to secure his first F1 triumph and the Japanese manufacturer’s only win as either a constructor or an engine supplier since the 1992 season.

This year, Hamilton heads to Hungary with yet more F1 records on his horizon. If the world champion wins this weekend he will overtake Michael Schumacher as the most successful driver at the Hungarian Grand Prix – they are currently tied on four victories each. Hamilton also only needs to lead 18 laps on Sunday to move ahead of Schumacher’s circuit record in Budapest.

The British driver’s home victory last time out at Silverstone was his 28th pole-to-win success – the same number as Vettel – and just one behind Ayrton Senna’s career tally. Schumacher holds the all-time record with 40 pole-to-win conversions.

XPB.cc Lewis Hamilton

Several drivers are on success streaks of their own heading into the Hungary weekend. Carlos Sainz has scored five times in the last six races, while his former Toro Rosso teammate, Max Verstappen, has finished second in the last two races (although only after Nico Rosberg was handed post-race at Silverstone).

Rio Haryanto’s performance in qualifying for the British Grand Prix meant he tied his Manor teammate Pascal Wehrlein at 5-5 in their head-to head so far in the 2016 season.

Rosberg has never finished on the podium in Hungary, while Alonso’s last F1 podium came at this race in 2014.

Hungarian Grand Prix 2014

What do you expect from the 2016 Hungarian Grand Prix? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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