Hungary Preview Feature
Sebastian Vettel is yet to win in Hungary - perhaps his time will come on Sunday - Credit: Drew Gibson/Getty Images
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Hungarian Grand Prix 2013: Preview

This weekend it is the turn of Hungary to host its annual grand prix and the race in Budapest marks Round 10 of this 19-race Formula 1 season.

If you are blessed with even a tiny amount of mathematical nous, you will realise that this is the race that takes us into the second half of the season, at least in terms of races completed.

(In terms of the total numbers of laps completed in the season, we actually reach the halfway point on Lap 13 of the next race, and we also have to wait until the Belgian Grand Prix to reach the half the total race distance in the season).

The end of the Hungarian Grand Prix will also mark the start of the Formula 1 summer break. There will be two weeks of compulsory shutdown for the teams, and a four-week break from the racing.

With such a break, and with reaching some sort of milestone fraction of the season, there will be the usual inevitable mid-season reviews sprouting in every corner of the internet (perhaps even on this site). Many of these will look back over the events of the first ten races, and then try (and inevitably fail) to predict what will happen in the remainder of the races.

The Hungarian Grand Prix could have a big affect on how these summary pieces are written. At times this season, it has seemed like 2013 will just feature the straightforward march to a fourth title for Sebastian Vettel. However, the competitiveness of Mercedes, Ferrari and, to a lesser extends Lotus, coupled with that gearbox failure for Vettel at the British Grand Prix, will instil some hope that this season is not over already.

And yet the championship standings rarely lie. Vettel has a 34-point lead over Fernando Alonso going into this race, and Kimi Räikkönen is a further seven points behind. The lead is already greater than the amount of points rewarded for a race win.

If Vettel were to win in Hungary, and his nearest rivals were to either fail to score, or score badly, his lead would edge close to or beyond the 50-point mark. In a worst-case scenario, the German’s lead could become 59 points.

Then, when the mid-year reports are being written, and Vettel is coming off the back of two race wins (in races that he had never won before) and has such an commanding lead, the prospects for a championship battle over the rest of the year become incredibly bleak.

Some more observant commentators may also note that Vettel would have won the British Grand Prix had it not been for the mechanical problem. That would have given him four consecutive wins (he also won his first race in Canada this year), and we would be claiming déjà vu from the 2011 season that the German completely dominated.

If we see more of this on Sunday, is it game over for the 2013 championship? - Credit: Lars Baron/Getty Images

If we see more of this on Sunday, is it game over for the 2013 championship? – Credit: Lars Baron/Getty Images

 

Now think of the alternative, which is that Vettel and Red Bull struggle at the Hungaroring this weekend, a track that is not regarded as one of their strongest – Vettel has never won this race, although Mark Webber did win it for the team in 2010.

With Vettel scoring few points, or perhaps none, and then Alonso or Räikkönen perhaps taking the win, suddenly Vettel’s lead is down in the teens, or dropping towards single figures.

That result would put these summer holiday pieces in a completely different light. Vettel would probably still be the championship favourite, but there would be the sense that we could have a real battle on our hands for the rest of the season.

Of course, one race in isolation has very little effect on how the championship pans out, but heading into the summer break, there could be a perception (and only a perception) that we are at a pivotal moment. This championship story could go down two paths: the 2011 path, where Vettel enjoys total dominance, or the 2012 path where, despite Vettel being the favourite for the title, he has to fight for it.

Looking at previous races at the Hungaroring, the stats would suggest that McLaren would be odds-on favourites for the victory, with five wins in the last six races at the track, and two of those for Jenson Button. However, in McLaren’s current state, it is hard to predict that they will even be on the podium this weekend.

Lewis Hamilton is the most successful of the current drivers around this track, having won this race three times, including the event last year. It is also worth noting that Lotus went well at this track last season, with Räikkönen finishing second, and Romain Grosjean third. The team actually scored the exact same result in Germany at the last race, so the omens look good for a successful weekend in Budapest.

The top three finishes at the 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix - Photo Credit: Pirelli

The top three finishes at the 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix – Photo Credit: Pirelli

 

Tyres (it is the penultimate paragraph, they had to get mentioned somewhere) played an important part in the race last season, and late pit stops at Red Bull meant that Vettel and Webber finished only fourth and eighth. Pirelli will introduce their tyre with the 2012 construction at this race, and both tyre safety and tyre strategy are likely to be big talking points this weekend.

The summer holidays are approaching, and there are long articles to be written over the break. This race could have a big impact on the content of those articles but whichever way the penny drops there will still be some great races to come in 2013. Perhaps Hungary may even be one of those races.

 

FORMULA 1 MAGYAR NAGYDêJ 2013
Timetable (all times BST)
Friday 26th July
Free Practice 1 09:00
Free Practice 2 13:00
Saturday 27th July
Free Practice 3 10:00
Qualifying 13:00
Sunday 28th July
Race 13:00
Coverage (UK)
Live: Sky Sports F1 HD, Highlights: BBC One, Radio: BBC Radio 5 Live / 5 Live Sports Extra