Budapest - Just a week after the German Grand Prix, Hungary stages the 11th round of the season this Sunday before Formula One takes a month-long break.
This may be a race that diverts from an otherwise predictable script, as the Hungaroring is a circuit where Renault-powered Red Bull might give Mercedes F1 and Mercedes-powered Williams a better run for their money.
Where fast-paced Hockenheim saw another podium lock-out by Mercedes-powered teams (Nico Rosberg won from Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton), the tight and twisty Hungaroring outside Budapest places less emphasis on top speed, a Renault weak point, and more on mechanical grip, of which Red Bull has plenty.
“It’s a track that demands low speed driveability and torque control rather than outright top speed.”
Rémi Taffin, Renault’s Head of Track Operations, said: “We believe it should suit the Energy F1-2014 a lot more so we should be able to break out of the routine of third and fourth positions we’ve got into recently.
“The new software introduced this weekend has helped in this respect and we aim to exploit even more in Hungary.”
It may be Sebastian Vettel’s best chance at a win this season.
The reigning four-times champion finds himself in an uncharacteristically low sixth place in the championship in a car that has been both slow and unreliable, while the German has also usually been outpaced by his new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
Cars run maximum downforce in Hungary to make the most of the mechanical grip through the slow corners.
As in Monaco, overtaking is rare, giving more prominence to pitstop strategies and a good qualifying slot.
The winning strategy in 2013 was three stops, as used by Lewis Hamilton taking his first win for Mercedes, while Kimi Raikkonen finished second for Lotus after stopping only twice.
Hungary is where Felipe Massa had a freak accident during qualifying in 2009.
The Brazilian, then with Ferrari, was knocked unconscious when a spring, detached from the rear suspension of Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn, struck him on the helmet.
The Williams driver is due some good luck.
Massa has crashed out of the past two Grands Prix on the opening lap, first at Silverstone where he was taken out by Raikkonen’s out-of-control Ferrari, and then at Hockenheim in a first-lap clash with McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen.
He also crashed out of the Canadian Grand Prix when he tangled with Force India’s Sergio Perez on the last lap.
In contrast Massa’s team-mate Bottas has scored three consecutive top-three finishes and has amassed 91 points to Massa’s 30.
At Ferrari there is a similar mismatch in driver fortunes, where Raikkonen has consistently been outperformed by team-mate Fernando Alonso both in qualifying and in races.
The much-anticipated “fire and ice” duel between the two drivers has seen the Finn fizzle to 12th in the standings with just 19 points and a best finish of seventh, while Alonso is in fourth place on 97 points. - Star Motoring
World Championship standings:
1 Rosberg, Mercedes – 190pts
2 Hamilton, Mercedes – 176
3 Ricciardo, Red bull – 106
4 Alonso, Ferrari – 97
5 Bottas, Williams – 91
6 Vettel, Red Bull – 82