By Nicola Kenton
- Lewis Hamilton leads the drivers’ championship having claimed a dramatic victory at the German Grand Prix
- Sebastian Vettel crashed out at Hockenheim and is now 17 points behind the Brit
- The Hungaroring hosts the final Grand Prix before the summer break
MOGYOROD, HUNGARY – It’s the last race before Formula One takes its summer break but who will lead the drivers’ championship: Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel?
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Hamilton hoping to carry momentum
After winning a dramatic German Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton will be hoping to extend his championship lead and take a sixth victory at the Hungaroring. At Hockenheim, the Brit started from 14th position on the grid and, due to a good mix of strategy and weather conditions, he was able to clinch his fourth victory of 2018. While his closest rival, Sebastian Vettel, crashed out and consequently squandered his championship lead.
In the past few years there has been an intense battle between the top three teams at the Hungarian Grand Prix. The last three editions has seen Vettel win twice with Hamilton claiming victory in 2016. As the last race before the summer break, Hungary can provide the opportunity for the momentum to swing but also it can provide a hunger to come back better than ever when racing returns.
Speaking about the race, Hamilton told BBC Sport: “The pressures are huge. The demands and the desires of myself and Sebastian are higher than ever. I am not fazed by it. I am excited by it. We are racing a team that are faster than us this year. Last year, we were quite balanced. There were some weekends, they were faster than us, some weekends we were faster than them. This year it is swinging more in their direction, so we are having to over-deliver on weekends and try to pull out more on weekends when we are not quick enough so the pressure to extract every last millimetre is greater than ever if I want to be number one at the end.”
Frustrated Vettel needs to bounce back
When Vettel won the British Grand Prix, his radio message afterwards was about beating Hamilton at his home Grand Prix. Unfortunately for the German, it was Hamilton who was the victor at his home race in Germany.
The four-time World Champion made a small mistake during the wet conditions at Hockenheim and that led to him going off the track and into the barrier. As a result, Vettel lost his championship lead and the Hamilton regained the momentum and the confidence – having started the race in 14th place. However, Hungary has been a successful hunting ground in recent years for the German who claimed victory in 2015 and 2017.
Last summer, Vettel headed into the summer break with a lead of 14 points over Hamilton but the Brit came back and won his fourth title by 46 points. Ferrari have had the better car this year and have also made stronger strategic decisions than Mercedes. Vettel will be hoping to put a disappointing German Grand Prix behind him and concentrate on the ten remaining races.
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Red Bull looking to capitalise in Hungary
Last weekend’s race was one of mixed fortunes for Red Bull Racing and they will be hoping to turn it around this weekend at the Hungaroring. The circuit is far more suited to their car, as it is not a power circuit, and as such the gap between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull is smaller than at other circuits. Red Bull’s last victory at this track came in 2014 when Daniel Ricciardo clinched the win having started under wet conditions.
Another aspect this weekend is the driver standings heading into the summer break. Currently, Ricciardo and team-mate Max Verstappen are placed fifth and sixth in the standing with just one point separating the pair. Both drivers are on an even pedestal and it will be interesting to see how the intra-team develops throughout the weekend.
Ahead of the Grand Prix, team principal Christian Horner told Formula One: “We can afford to attack. We can throw the car up the inside and have a go. Both of our drivers have got that kind of inertia behind them, so I think, given half a chance, they are going to go for it because they know this is a real opportunity for us this weekend. The next one probably won’t come a long until Singapore.”
Will team orders come into play?
Both Mercedes and Ferrari issued team orders during the German Grand Prix. One of the most controversial, but perfectly legal, aspects of Formula One reared its head as Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Räikkönen had to concede position to their team-mates.
In Hamilton’s case, it was after the safety car restart and the Brit’s tyres did not warm up as quickly as those of Bottas. The Finn was able to challenge Hamilton on the first lap after the restart but Hamilton stayed ahead and later, a radio message was played where Bottas was told to hold position by Mercedes’ chief strategist.
Contrastingly, Ferrari’s incident happened earlier on in the race when both of their drivers had pitted for new tyres. Räikkönen took his pit-stop earlier and as such, when Vettel returned to the field after receiving his fresh rubber he was behind his team-mate. It took eight laps but eventually Ferrari made the call and Vettel was at the front of the race once again.
As the drivers’ championship battle continues to heat up, team order may continue to impact the race. Although there are supposedly no definitive number one and number two drivers, championship position determines who has the most say. Therefore if it will not impact their constructors’ points total, teams will potentially allow their drivers to swap positions as a result of team orders.
The Hungaroring hosts the last race before Formula One’s four-week summer break, qualifying is at 14.00 BST on Saturday 28th with the race proper at 14.10 BST on Sunday 29th.
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