Lewis Hamilton has hit a bit of a rocky patch, with Max Verstappen emerging as a serious threat week by week. The grip of Mercedes is under threat, but can they restore their aura of invincibility ahead of the summer break?
There’s a lot on the line in this weekend’s Grand Prix in Hungary. There’s a month-long break coming up after this meeting, but just how comfortable will Mercedes be during that month? While Lewis Hamilton will be clear at the top, can he extend his lead or will it be eaten into again with another poor finish?
We’re past the half-way point, which brings us to Hungary for the final leg of a thrilling hat-trick of races. This has been a staple of the F1 calendar for over 30 years, with the Hungaroring hosting all of the previous Grand Prix in Hungary. It will continue to host races here through to the 40th anniversary of the first Hungarian Grand Prix in 2026.
|12/21||Hungary||Hungaroring||306km / 70 Laps|
|Date||Start Time||Finish Time||Forecast Conditions||TV Coverage|
|Practice 1||Fri 2nd Aug||10:00||11:30||Dry / 28°||–|
|Practice 2||Fri 2nd Aug||14:00||15:30||Dry / 28°||–|
|Practice 3||Sat 3rd Aug||11:00||12:30||Dry / 26°||–|
|Qualifying||Sat 3rd Aug||14:00||15:00||Dry / 28°||Sky F1|
|Race||Sun 4th Aug||14:10||16:10||Dry / 28°||Sky F1|
Previous Race Results (2018)
Lewis Hamilton claimed success in the Hungarian Grand Prix last year, while this race has been a happy hunting ground for the Mercedes man. Hamilton is a six-time winner in Hungary, but he’s “only” won two of the last five races here. His latest came comfortably ahead of the rest, leaving him 24 points clear at the top of the Drivers’ Championship table.
The biggest story of the race came with the Red Bull duo. They each had trouble in qualifying, with Max Verstappen finishing in seventh, while Daniel Ricciardo was 12th. However, things got worse for Verstappen early on, as a power failure took him out after five laps of the race. Ricciardo got things right, surging to fourth from a lowly spot on the grid. However, that great display wasn’t enough to break into the top three, which had two Ferrari drivers in behind Hamilton.
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||12||12|
|6||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||6||8|
|9||Carlos Sainz Jr||Renault||5||2|
Analysis: No Breathing Space After Thriller
This is one of the rare F1 double-headers, but the timing is both good and bad. The Hungarian GP comes hot on the heels of a thriller in Germany, which saw Mercedes shaken. Max Verstappen claimed his second win of the season, as the leading team failed to win for just the second time in 2019. However, the drama didn’t end there. Lewis Hamilton ended up in ninth, but only just after being promoted following the race.
Sebastian Vettel took second, with Valtteri Bottas retiring early to leave a free run at first place for the chasing pack. That win has moved Verstappen into a great position in the table, while his star is rising after a great few weeks for the Dutchman. That’s certainly something which should worry Hamilton moving forward.
Showdown in Hungaroring
Though Mercedes may hold first and second in the standings, it is Verstappen who is closest to Hamilton in terms of ability right now. The Dutchman is causing all kinds of problems for Hamilton. This is the first time in years that we’ve seen a driver not just beat the Brit, but rival him in terms of ability. There was a feeling that Nico Rosberg was punching above his weight for his world title win, but Verstappen looks destined for the top. The only question is how long will it take him to make it?
A rare strong start to the season has put Mercedes in control of the 2019 campaign. There’s little chance of a turnaround in the coming months, but Verstappen could copy Rosberg. The German’s strong finish to the season in 2015 set up his title success the following year. If Verstappen can rival Hamilton now, then in 2020 everything is up in the air.
Verstappen Going for Glory
While Hamilton is the favourite for this race, we struggle to look past Verstappen now. He’s won two of the last three races, while he has a point to prove at this circuit after last season’s early exit. The Dutchman is making brilliant progress, which is bound to worry Hamilton into the summer break and beyond. That makes him great value at 9/4 to claim a victory in Hungary.
The German GP has left things open, while we can expect more twists this weekend. With Ferrari landing two podium spots here last season, we expect them to get one in 2019. Charles Leclerc seems like a great option for a top three finish, after making the podium in four of his last five races. He had to retire early last week, but we are backing him at 8/11 to bounce back with a top three finish in Hungary.
About the Hungarian Grand Prix
The Hungaroring is one of the most iconic circuits in the world. Whilst it was F1 that arguably put the circuit on the map, it’s been able to enjoy success from a number of different motorsports, including the likes of the World Touring Car championship, World series by Renault and the FIA GT Championship, to name just a few.
The first grand prix was held back in 1936, but following that, it didn’t hold another until 1986. Since then it’s been a permanent on the F1 calendar and widely regarded as one of the most popular spots for the drivers.
The track is situated 19km from Hungary’s capital of Budapest, the Hungaroring is set in a natural amphitheatre. The layout means that spectators can see more than 50% from pretty much every vantage point around the track, making it a firm favourite for the fans and probably about as good value for money as you will find from any race.
The Hungaroring is very twisty and bumpy and is often compared to Monaco; a street circuit, without the houses. The narrow track means that overtaking is often quite difficult, so the race relies heavily on the optimum strategy for both tyres and engine wear. However, the 4.3km circuit has still seen some great racing over the years.
Setting up out of the final corner, drivers are required to get the best line possible, so they can maximise traction and just touch the apex on the way out. The start finish line is also a DRS zone as the race infolds and heading up and over the crest, you get the first real perspective of how the track drops away into the braking zone of turn 1. The turn allows drivers to drift a little wider than normal, often seeing them missing the apex here, but because of the nature of the racetrack, it costs drivers minimal time in doing so and preserves tyres.
As cars move back up towards turn 2, they get to utilise another DRS Zone. The corner itself is a sweeping left hander and there have been numerous overtakes made here through the years, offering up one of very few opportunities on the track.
Turn 3 is a simple little kink in the road that the drivers barely have to flinch for taking it flat out. But, turn four is actually a blind apex, so the driver needs to make sure that they are attacking the braking zone and also trusting their ability and judgement of when to turn the car in, just clipping the kerb as they do so.
Turn 5 is another long, sweeping corner, which drivers often navigate fairly comfortably. It’s all about getting the right drive into the upcoming chicane. It’s another area of the track that is action packed and often one that fans are keen to be based around. There have been several incident and accidents over the years and offers a good chance to sneak through catching sleeping drivers out.
The following sequence of corners, through the kink at 8 and the high-speed corner at 9 are some of the most difficult for both driver and car. The lateral G’s can be as high as 4 for these corners and really challenges both the set-up of the car and the ability of the driver in question.
The drop down the bank into turns 10 and 11 see the cars having deal with huge G-force again, hitting as high as 5 this time. The breaking zone into 11 is crucial as if they miss it, it means they will run massively wide, often locking up in the process. Oversteer is also an issue here as drivers try and use as much of the track and kerb as they dare. The wider they go, the more speed but at the same time, the less grip they have.
The penultimate corner, turn 13, is another of the sweeping corners and is very long. Drivers will often have to break or slow throughout the corner to get the best line and exit to come into the final turn. The drivers are then looking to clip the apex on the way out and with it get a good run back across the start finish line.
The success of the Hungaroring is largely down to that of former F1 boss, Bernie Ecclestone. It was Eccleston who was keen to bring his F1 franchise to a location behind the Iron Curtain and whilst it was a venue within the then USSR that was favoured, it was recommended to him that Budapest would make a great alternative.
The track was always planned to be a street-like circuit, similar to that of Monaco. Original plans were for the track to be made within the city centre, amongst the national park, but instead, it was decided that it were to instead be built in Mogyorod, just outside of Budapest.
2006 – FIRST WET RACE
The 2006 race was quite iconic for the Hungaroring as it was the first Formula 1 race held there that was run during the wet. Teams had no testing and no previous experience of these types of conditions on this track, so the retirement of several drivers, including that of championship rivals Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso, allowing Jenson Button to take the win in his revitalised Honda.
2009 – FELIPE MASSA’S CRASH
In the qualifying round of the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, Felipe Massa was struck on the head by a suspension spring that had fallen from Ruben’s Barrichello’s car. He was knocked unconscious whilst the car was still moving, before eventually crashing into a barrier. Massa underwent surgery for originally life threatening injuries, but later made a full recovery before returning to Formula 1.