The Hungarian Grand Prix Preview 02 Aug 2007
Dont expect a happy atmosphere between Ferrari and McLaren in Hungary this weekend as the two top teams go head-to-head again on the track after doing so recently in official hearings.
As Formula One racing returns to a high-downforce circuit, McLaren are hoping that they will be able to enjoy the performance advantage they had in Monaco; Ferrari, however, believe they have made significant improvements to their F2007 since then.
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton is confident that he can defend his world championship lead this weekend. We had a productive test in Jerez, he reported. I was there for a day and spent the time focusing on set-up and development work for Hungary, in the hot and dusty conditions. Following a mistake on my out lap in qualifying, I started at the back of the grid in GP2 here last year.
It was not a great start to the weekend, but I managed to work my way back up through the field, which was a good learning experience of the track - how to drive it and where it is possible to pass, which is notoriously difficult. I quite like the circuit; it is quite quick considering how tight it is. You have gradient changes, some high and low speed corners and a good chicane up the back. There is one bump right at the back, which is so easy to catch you out, that is what happened to me in qualifying last year.
We have as good a chance as anyone at the race. We have a great car and it is important that I go with a clear mind and the same approach as normal, but there is no reason why we cant go there and win.
Since there is really only one overtaking place at the Hungaroring - the entry to the first corner - qualifying is always very important here, even at the expense of ideal race strategy, so expect even more of a shoot-out in all three sessions. Ferrari and McLaren will vie for the first two rows barring problems, with BMW Sauber again challenged by Renault and, on recent form, possibly Toyota and Williams, for row three.
Renault in particular are still smarting after some self-confessed mistakes early in the race at Nurburgring, which they feel cost them strong points finishes, and further work at Jerez is believed to have honed the car around the new front wing with which they were very pleased in Germany.
Red Bull have their tail up after strong performances from Mark Webber and David Coulthard at the European race, so it will be very tough in the midfield. Over at Honda, Jenson Buttons best chance of repeating his 2006 breakthrough victory is if race conditions are affected by the weather.
Among the smaller teams, BMW Sauber have released their reserve and test driver Sebastian Vettel, and he now replaces Toro Rossos Scott Speed alongside Tonio Liuzzi. Vettel is contracted in the long-term to Red Bull. BMW Motorsport director Mario Theissen said: As our test and reserve driver, Sebastian has carried out sterling work for us. When he stood in for Robert Kubica in the US Grand Prix he made history by becoming the youngest debutant to earn a world championship point. However, the current testing rules mean that he barely gets a chance to drive for us. Now he has been offered the opportunity to get inside a Toro Rosso cockpit. We have sponsored and coached Sebastian over a number of years. To place obstacles in his career path now would go against our concept of talent promotion.
Meanwhile, at Spyker, Markus Winkelhocks tenure of Christijan Alberss old seat is over as former Jordan and Super Aguri driver Sakon Yamamoto will be back in harness.
Team principal Colin Kolles said: Sakon is a very good all-round package. We were very clear that the driver we chose needed to bring a certain financial benefit, but needed to have good, relevant experience too. Sakon has both covered. He has driven on all of the circuits we are going to in the second half of the season, except for Spa, which will be an advantage to the team as we move forward.
Besides the fact that overtaking is so difficult, the Hungaroring poses other problems for the teams. The track is usually very green on Friday, and wont really have rubbered-in fully until Saturday afternoon. Thus, they will have to be very precise with their set-ups to avoid graining problems with Bridgestones softer tyre in the low-grip conditions. The Japanese company will be bringing the same soft and super-soft compounds that were used in Monaco and Canada.