Hungarian F1 GP Preview: Red Bull's second golden chance of the season?
"It's like a go-kart track", "It's Monaco without the walls".
"It's like a go-kart track", "It's Monaco without the walls". With its tight and twisty layout, mix of high-and-low speed corners and reduced significance on straight-line speed, are Red Bull set to repeat their Monaco Grand Prix display of speed?
With Red Bull struggling to compete on the higher power circuits in the last few races, the Milton Keynes team might have a chance to wedge themselves in amongst the battling championship contenders; Mercedes and Ferrari.
Daniel Ricciardo took a hard-fought victory at Monaco earlier in the season, but their golden chance for their first Red Bull one-two since the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix was ended by Max Verstappen's crash in free practice three, which ruled him out of qualifying.
The team clearly feel that the Hungaroring represents one of their bigger chances of the season; they chose to take power unit-related grid penalties on Ricciardo's car at the Hockenheimring to reduce the risk of penalties this weekend. They took three new power unit elements, and they would've taken all six, but their request to do so was rejected by Renault.
Ricciardo - who has won in Budapest before, back in 2014 - is also hoping to 'stop the rot' against his team-mate. Since his success at the Monaco Grand Prix, the Australian has been out-qualified by Verstappen in every race and he is now only one point ahead of his colleague in the drivers' standings.
But what of Ferrari and Mercedes?
Ferrari have good recent form at the Hungaroring, with Sebastian Vettel winning two of the last three races there. The team were able to deliver one-two results in both Monaco and Hungary last year. Does the fact that they once again had the upper hand on Mercedes in Monaco this year point to continued success in Hungary?
Their shorter wheelbase in the 2017 car was one of the main factors in their success on the twistier tracks last year, but with this year's Ferrari being almost as long as the Mercedes, have they sacrificed some of their shorter-circuit advantage in order to make progress everywhere else?
Mercedes have one advantage going into the Hungarian Grand Prix; they have the most successful driver at the Hungaroring driving for them.
With five wins, Lewis Hamilton is the most successful driver at the Budapest circuit, with only one of his wins coming in the turbo-hybrid era.
The current championship leader, fresh from his fourteenth-to-first victory at the German Grand Prix, may require all of his Hungaroring nous to try and prevent his championship rival Sebastian Vettel from hacking into his 17-point lead.
But despite Hamilton's success at the circuit, he's been out-qualified by his team-mate at three of the last four Hungarian Grands Prix, including last season when Valtteri Bottas had one of his better showings against his Hamilton.
Given the uniqueness of the Budapest circuit, it's worth bearing in mind that from thirty-two races, only on eight occasions has the Hungarian Grand Prix winner gone on to win the championship, with the last man to do that being Michael Schumacher in 2004.
Haas hoping to prevent Monaco-style anonymity
With the Renault team proving to have one of the better 'all-round' cars this year, the Hungaroring is expected to suit them, and this may be their big chance to fend off the threat from Haas and Force India to their fourth place in the constructors' championship.
Haas in particular seem to heavily favour the higher-speed circuits, as witnessed in Monaco when they couldn't qualify any higher than fifteenth and finished the race in thirteenth and sixteenth.
However, team principal Guenther Steiner is confident that Haas have got to the bottom of the issues they faced in Monaco and is optimistic that the team can provide a stronger showing in Budapest.
“Let’s wait and see on Friday in Hungary what we are capable of doing. I never go in beaten to a race already. We know what happened in Monte Carlo. We analysed that one and we know where we ended up.
"We know the reasons, and they will not happen in this race. We might not be as good as on the high-speed tracks, but I don’t think we’ll be really bad. We knew what went wrong in the races that went wrong for us.
"For sure, we are not going in beaten, saying we cannot achieve anything here. Our car, and our drivers, are good enough to get good results at all the tracks. Some are better than others, but nothing will hopefully be as bad as Monte Carlo.”
Following three double-points finishes in a row, Force India team principal Vijay Mallya hasn't ruled his team out of retaining fourth place in constructors' standings. They're now tied with Haas on 59 points.
"The midfield battle is as close as it has ever been and each race weekend can swing the balance one way or the other: we have shown in Germany how crucial it is to take your chances when they materialise, when perhaps earlier in the season luck wouldn’t have favoured us.
"Our target for the rest of the year doesn’t change: we are still aiming to retain fourth place in the championship and we will give everything to make it happen.”
By: Luke Murphy
All images: Motorsport ImagesWho do you think will take the victory in Budapest? Leave your comments in the section below.
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