As we cross the half-way point in the 2017 Formula 1 season, our two title contenders are separated by just one point in the Championship. Both will be fighting for the lead going into the summer break, but only one will be successful. Who will it be? We head to Hungary to find out.
The Hungarian Grand Prix is held at the Hungaroring – a track which has 14 turns crammed into just 2.72 miles of track, giving it a go-kart track feel that suits some drivers more than others. The driver most suited to the track? Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton has more wins than any other driver at the track, and that includes former champions Damon Hill and Nelson Piquet, (two wins each) Ayrton Senna (three wins) and Michael Schumacher (four wins). In fact, he has the same number of wins as Piquet and Senna combined. Sebastian Vettel, on the other hand? Just one win.
In true Hamilton style, whilst he has a commanding hold over the track, he’s no stranger to controversy there either. Last year he famously came under fire for gesturing at rolling roadblock Esteban Gutierrez, who had ignored blue flags and cost Hamilton time.
Hamilton was on the receiving end of controversy in 2007, when then-team-mate Fernando Alonso famously held Hamilton up in the pit lane, denying him the chance to get a final qualifying time and giving himself pole position. Alonso would receive a five-place grid penalty, whilst Hamilton would go on to take the first of his five wins at the track.
Short track, long history
The 2007 fight for pole came as the track is notoriously difficult to pass on. Its short distance, many turns and narrow width means that any overtaking manoeuvres have to be bold, dedicated and executed to perfection. Piquet famously showed this with a stunning overtake around the outside of Ayton Senna at the inaugural race, in what’s considered by some to be the best overtake in Formula 1 history.
More recently we saw Kimi Raikkonen make a successful overtake last year whilst completely opposite-locked.
For all the great moments in Formula 1 history at the track, there have also been some truly dire times as well. 2009 saw a collision that shook the world of Formula 1, and almost cost one driver his life.
Felipe Massa suffered a fractured skull during qualifying at the track when a spring from fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello’s car flew off and struck Massa’s helmet. Massa was heading towards turn four at 162mph when the spring struck him in the helmet, knocking him unconscious and sending him hurtling towards a tyre barrier.
The damage caused meant Massa had to have a titanium plate inserted into his skull, and he missed the remainder of the 2009 season.
Interestingly, the Halo (which has been announced for next year to almost universal disappointment) likely wouldn’t have prevented this from happening, whilst Red Bull’s much more popular aeroscreen would have.
What’s it look like this year?
Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team have won three of the last four races, putting them firmly in the driver’s seat for this weekend’s race. Add to that Lewis Hamilton’s propensity to win at Hungary, and you’ve got a strong looking team heading into the summer break. They currently head the Constructor’s Championship, leading second-place Scuderia Ferrari by 55 points.
It’s been a tough few races for Ferrari, who have been losing some of their early-season mojo of late. They haven’t won since Monaco, and have only had two podiums since then compared to Mercedes’ three wins and six podiums in the same timeframe. They’ll be looking to stem the loss of points ahead of the break in the schedule.
Red Bull Racing are looking strong, coming off the back of a fourth and fifth finish at Silverstone. It’s a track that has favoured Daniel Ricciardo over team-mate Max Verstappen over the years, with Ricciardo having taken his second ever win at the track in 2014.
Sahara Force India will be pinning their hopes on Sergio Perez, who’s already got experience of the track, over Esteban Ocon who will be racing there for first time this weekend.
It’s also Williams Martini Racing’s Lance Stroll’s first time racing in Formula 1 in Hungary. He did well here in the lower formulas last year, taking a third place in Formula 3, but can he hold onto the far more powerful Formula 1 car around the narrow, tricky track?
Scuderia Toro Rosso will just be hoping that their drivers can manage to not hit each other at Hungary, coming off the back of yet another collision last time at Silverstone. The team hasn’t had both cars finish a race since Spain, greatly hindering their Championship hopes. They’re sixth in the standings, just four points ahead of Haas F1 Team.
Haas confirmed this week that they’ll be keeping the line-up of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for next year, which will allow them to head into the summer break with one less thing to worry about.
Renault Sport Formula 1 Team on the other hand have been openly flirting with former Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica, who will even drive the in-season test at the Hungaroring following the race. Terminally luckless Renault driver Jolyon Palmer has burned his unlucky pants in an effort to keep Kubica out of his seat – this race will be a good indication of whether it has worked.
Sauber F1 Team are plugging along, with Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson both failing to score points for the last two races. They’re ninth in the Championship.
And, inevitably, it’s McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team at the bottom of the pack. They’ve been daring to dream of points recently though, with Stoffel Vandoorne finishing eleventh at Silverstone.
Breaking up on a high
The pendulum seems to be swinging in Mercedes’ favour, with Ferrari struggling to maintain the pace they had at the start of the season. As the end draws closer, will the prancing horse start to gallop, or will the Silver Arrows fly true? Only time will tell.