Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel will be keen to break his Hungarian victory duck and stretch his lead even further at the top of the standings heading into F1’s annual summer break. On the other hand, his rivals will be well aware of the need to halt his championship charge in what promises to be a scorcher of a race around the Hungaroring.
Vettel, who ended yesterday’s practice session on top ahead of teammate Mark Webber, heads into the tenth round of the 19-race season 34 points ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso with Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen a further seven points adrift.
The reigning world champion and his team have been consistent this year, winning four of the nine races so far, with his worst result — excluding his retirement in the British GP — a fourth place finish.
Victory in this weekend’s Hungarian GP, one of just two races on the current calendar Vettel is yet to win, could well put him on course to claim his fourth straight world title, especially given the purple patch he seems to have hit in the second half of the season as the circus swings through Asia.
In contrast, Ferrari — despite having a competitive car unlike last year — have thrown away crucial points through mistakes, most notably in Malaysia and Bahrain. The team also seem to have dropped back a little in terms of performance, with an improvement in form for Mercedes — who have won two of the last four races — further blunting Alonso’s title challenge.
In Hungary, the double world champion Alonso, who set the fourth fastest time in practice for Sunday’s race, acknowledged that Ferrari could not afford to lose any more ground to Vettel in the title race. “A good result is important. It’s important because there is the summer break now and it will be good for the motivation of the team and good for our hopes, if we can close the gap a little bit with Sebastian,” said Alonso.
Lotus, meanwhile, will also be keen to prove that their return to form at Germany, when Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean both pushed Vettel hard for the win, wasn’t one-off.
The weather forecast for Sunday calls for temperatures in the 40s and this could well play into the Enstone-based team’s hands given their car’s ability to look after its tyres.
Apart from the title battle, the other major talking point this weekend has been the tyres. Pirelli have brought a revamped range of tyres to Hungary, reverting to last year’s kevlar construction married to this year’s compounds, in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the multiple high-speed failures that marred the British GP.
Teams had the chance to test the tyres around Silverstone last week and while early indications point to them having had little impact on the competitive order, a clear picture will only emerge once teams have had the chance to race them.