Hungary preview - rivals predict Red Bull renaissance 28 Jul 2011
Ironically, after Red Bull team boss Christian Horner described the German Grand Prix as a wake-up call, neither McLaren nor Ferrari, winners of the last two races, are expecting to beat them in Hungary this weekend. Well, not unless the weather intervenes
McLaren say that if the Hungarorings ambient and track temperatures are normal - around 30 degrees Celsius - then they expect to suffer. Ferrari say that will suit them very nicely, but that they expect Red Bull to be very strong after their performance there in 2010.
"I think if you look at Valencia, McLaren was down a bit there as well and Ferrari was up a bit, but for sure they are both great teams and they are both pushing very hard," Horner said after the Nurburgring defeat.
"We have managed to be competitive at many, many different types of track. We have had pole position at every single GP this year; we have won six out of 10 and been on the podium at every single race, so it is far from a disaster.
"But for sure the German race was a reminder that we cannot back off, and not any member of the team is backing off at the moment. Everybody is pushing flat out."
Sebastian Vettel is keen to make amends after falling asleep behind the safety car here last year, while Mark Webber is desperate to score his first win of the season, and a repeat of his superb drive here last year would do very nicely.
Meanwhile, despite his dominant victory in Germany last Sunday, Lewis Hamilton insists that he will let the pace of his McLaren do the talking rather than predict his chances of beating Vettel to the world championship.
Were not really looking at the percentage chance of winning the title, Hamilton said. Going into last weekend, I said we would just try and take it one race at a time. We never really anticipated being so competitive, but weve just had a win and its a massive bonus or positive for us. But theres still a long, long way to go and its about trying to keep doing this, trying to get some consistency. If I say something now, and then the next race could be a disaster because its a very, very hot track in Budapest, we could be in a similar position to Valencia. So I'd rather keep my mouth closed.
Both McLaren and Ferrari have made inroads into the performance advantage that Red Bull have enjoyed so far this season.
It appears we are ahead of them, Hamilton conceded, but like I say, we didnt really think we would be so fast and I'm not quite sure what weve done, because weve not really brought much here. I dont know if its the conditions. I think we were competitive in Montreal and in Monaco, but in Valencia, in hot temperatures, we were less competitive. We obviously went to Silverstone with the rule changes which were a big problem for us, and then we come back here to where we were, really, in cool conditions and I think were there or thereabouts. But I do still feel that the overall performance of the Red Bulls is slightly better than ours.
After my win at the Nurburgring, the Hungarian Grand Prix cant come soon enough. The team performed brilliantly last weekend and I want to maintain that momentum. Its going to be a completely different challenge. The weather conditions will be much hotter than they were at the Ring and the nature of the circuit will be very different too. The Hungaroring is a tight and twisty racetrack, not dissimilar to Monaco in terms of downforce levels, and it offers no let-up for the drivers. Were always working behind the wheel, so its very physical.
Ive always gone well there. I like the circuit because its old school. It has a very historic feel to it, with hills and bumps and cambers changes, and it has massive character. There wasnt much between McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull in Germany. Its going to be fascinating to see which team holds the advantage here.
Fernando Alonso is also cautious about his title prospects, despite Ferraris recent significant upturn in pace. It seems that one weekend is good for us in terms of Silverstone, the characteristics of the corners or whatever, he said. Last weekend seemed good for McLaren, for whatever reason, but Red Bull are always there. It seems that all conditions on most circuits are good for them, so thats the only difference and I think we need to make another step if we want to be at the same level.
That step needs to come in qualifying, so that the Spaniard isnt faced with the need to pass people to hit the front.
"We have made up a lot of ground compared to the very early part of the season in terms of performance, but we must take a further step forward, as I have said so often before," he said. "We still lack something, especially in qualifying: it's true that in the race we can make up for this, but it's not always possible to move up two places compared to our grid position, as happened in Monaco, Valencia, Silverstone and Nurburgring."
Alonso is pinning his hopes on Hungarys usual weather. "At the Hungaroring it should be more in keeping with summer, which is no bad thing as I've had enough of the cold and damp we experienced in England and Germany," he said. "That goes not just for me, but also for our car: it would definitely work better in temperatures higher than the 13 degrees we had last Sunday.
But the forecast suggests there could be showers each day, and the ambient temperature isnt expected to exceed 26 degrees. But thats still a lot warmer than it was in Germany
The race marks several anniversaries. Jenson Button, who scored his first Grand Prix win at the 113th try here in 2006, will compete in his 200th F1 race, while it will be Nico Rosbergs 100th. Its also the centenary of the 2.4 litre V8 engine, which was introduced in 2006.
The Hungaroring requires the same downforce level as Monaco, and drivers are only at full throttle for about 55 percent of the lap. It also has a low overall level of grip, which means that tyre wear is much less of an issue. Thus Pirelli are bringing their soft and supersoft compounds, something else that Alonso hopes will work in his favour.
The 4.381 kilometre (2.722 mile) Hungaroring is unchanged from 2010 apart from asphalt run-off areas replacing the old gravel ones in Turns Three, Eight and Nine in the interests of safety. The single DRS zone is on the start-finish straight, with the detection point just before Turn 14 and the activation point just after it.
The race, which begins at 1400 hours local time (1200 GMT), will be run over 70 laps or 306.630 kilometres (190.539 miles).
For tickets and travel to 2011 Formula One races, click here.
For Formula One and F1 team merchandise, click here.