Budapest: Game on in the championship

Budapest: Game on in the championship

25 July 2012 – The Hungaroring is known as tight, twisty, complex and boring. The people who say such things have probably not been watching closely enough, as the circuit on the outskirts of Budapest has hosted a few of the most exciting Grands Prix in recent years. Once again, it has the job of kick-starting the second half of an F1 campaign.

Hungary debuted on the F1 calendar in 1986. Back then, Nélson Piquet slid his way past Ayrton Senna for victory on the outside of Turn 1. Last year, in his 200th Grand Prix start, Jenson Button picked up his second win of the season; it’s possible a similar result could come out of this weekend because McLaren are back in touch.

Here we go...the second half of F1 2012 promises to be absolutely scintillating

Who would have expected Button to chase down and challenge Fernando Alonso for the win in Germany? No, neither did I. The McLaren upgrades – notably new sidepods and a rear wing – paid dividends and more new parts are being finished in Woking this week, ready to ship straight out to the Carpathian Basin.

What cost McLaren at Hockenheim was the wet qualifying session. Button could manage no more than seventh in Q3 and – while that meant he out-qualified Lewis Hamilton for the first time this year – it simply was not good enough. Alonso did a superb job of controlling a race from pole and, just as Juan Manuel Fangio would have recommended, won at the slowest possible speed without damaging his tyres. We saw Hamilton suffer a puncture before catching Alonso and Sebastian Vettel when a lap down – and that was all the proof we needed that McLaren are back.

Alonso will lead the championship as we head into the summer break. A quite sensational thought when you consider that his best qualifying lap for the Australian Grand Prix was one and a half seconds slower than the Hamilton pole time. That’s massive. Ferrari’s recovery has been staggering but they are still more aware than anybody that the improvement isn’t enough yet, not least as McLaren are renowned in-season developers and that the silver cars are already threatening once again.

2006: Button clinches a maiden career win for Honda

For us F1 reporters and fans alike, the most exciting fact is that we still have just as many races to run as we have already seen in 2012…and that means just as many surprises. The only difference is that we now start a ten-race scrap with a championship order to go by, whereas in Melbourne it was zeros all round. So, just who will be quickest in Hungary? Of the eight races held there since 2005, McLaren have won five, meaning history is in their favour just as the current form is. One huge outside factor is the weather…most of us expected a bright and boiling few days, but the forecasters are not ruling out a few spots of rain!

Can Ferrari keep up their great run? It will be harder this time. As highlighted by Alonso himself, the Hungaroring is only 2.7 miles long – equating to a 70-lap race – meaning that the times will be even tighter than usual. You can rest assured that the Spaniard will be more than pleased if he manages a front row start, with the like of McLaren and Red Bull to contend with. We should also watch out for Lotus, who excel in the hot conditions, and yet more Red Bull engine mapping stories…

One final note. In the last decade, only one man has prevented the pole-sitter from leading into the second corner in Hungary. That was Felipe Massa, at the wheel of a Ferrari in 2008. Is anyone brave enough to bet against them this time?

At a glance:

- Hungaroring pole position sitters
- Hungaroring Grand Prix winners

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The facts: Hungaroring
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Michael Schumacher holds the Hungaroring lap record

Laps 70

Direction Clockwise

Corners 14

Length 4.381 km / 2.722 mi

First championship race 1986

First winner Nélson Piquet – Williams-Honda

Lap record 1:19.071 / M. Schumacher / Ferrari / 2004

Local start time 2pm (BST +1)

Slick Pirelli tyre compounds
Medium (white markings) & Soft (yellow markings)

DRS zone

Detection: 5 metres before Turn 14
Activation: 70 metres after Turn 14, along the start/finish straight

FIA driver steward
Danny Sullivan

2011 pole position sitter
Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault

2011 Grand Prix winner
Jenson Button – McLaren-Mercedes
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Circuit changes for 2012
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
- Track resurfaced at final corner, Turn 14
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Gregory Haines
GPUpdate.net Editor

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