- Round Three of the 2020 Formula 1 season takes place this weekend at the Hungarian Grand Prix
- Mercedes eye third successive win to open campaign, with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton each holding victory a-piece
- Red Bull seek a reversal of fortune, as Ferrari look to once more heal wounds with wet race forecast
HUNGARORING, BUDAPEST – As Round Three of the 2020 Formula 1 season rolls on relentlessly this weekend, will Mercedes make it three-in-a-row at the Hungarian Grand Prix?
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New season, same story?
Two races in the books, two wins for Mercedes. Though the environment may have drastically changed for the 2020 Formula 1 season, it appears neither Valtteri Bottas nor Lewis Hamilton have read the altered script, as the German manufacturer continues to rule the roost.
As Hamilton bounced back from his fourth place at the Austrian GP, last weekend’s latest serving from Styria saw the six-time World Drivers’ Champion return to his best after dominating in Spielberg at the second take – including putting on one of his finest pole drives yet in conditions more suited to a novel by William Shakespeare.
Followed home by his Finnish teammate, Mercedes kept the advances of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at bay in third as the 35-year-old Briton romped home to his 85th F1 victory, now just six short of Michael Schumacher‘s tally.
After 1-2 finishes in the opening five races in 2019, Mercedes go for their third-straight win to open the 2020 campaign in Hungary. So, even though the new campaign finds itself confronted by very differing challenges for the entire paddock, is is still a case of same old, same old in F1?
Scuderia seek unity
As one garage in the paddock rolls on harmoniously – for the moment at least – the same cannot be said for Scuderia who after their latest dose of woe last weekend, arrive at the Hungaroring looking to disable the ‘i’ in Ferrari.
Whilst Sebastian Vettel has often been the source of consternation in recent time, it was Charles Leclerc during the Styrian GP however, who was forced to don the team dunces cap after colliding with the German from behind – forcing the retirement of both drivers.
Openly apologising for his uncharacteristic and rash error, the Monagesque’s full accountability for the Prancing Horse would have been a step in the right direction for inter-team relations, however with now eight races since both men shared the podium, the on-going wranglings continue to damage Ferrari’s eroding reputation.
With only four months together remaining with Vettel being replaced at the end of the season – now linked with a switch to Racing Point as reported by BBC Sport – Team Principal Mattia Binotto will be keen to heal wounds and bring his still-fractured drivers together in Hungary.
But, as we have seen before – not least with two respective careers heading in seemingly opposite directions, not least a remaining needle between the two racers – that is easier said than done.
Red Bull go again
Had plans gone accordingly – at least in some measure – Red Bull’s arrival in Budapest could have seen Max Verstappen as leader at the top of the points standings. However, with just a third place to shout about, Christian Horner will be keen to move on their two weekends on previously solid home track.
After both Verstappen and Alex Albon‘s retirement in the Austrian GP, Styria last weekend offered up greater fortunes, with Albon following home for a Red Bull 3-4 finish.
Ahead of double duty at Silverstone though, Verstappen in particular will see 70 laps of the Hungaroring as a vital junction even at this early stage, of the campaign not least with Hamilton afforded two races on his home track in Northamptonshire – and a possible 50-point haul over the fortnight to come next month.
The same will be true of Albon, who after being denied his first podium finish two weeks ago – even a race victory – a possible weekend of changeable conditions in Eastern Europe may be the perfect avenue for the London-born driver to exhibit his true scrapping abilities.
Slick Hungaroring could surprise
As traditionally the mid-point of the season before F1 goes into its’ summer break, Hungary often offers up sweltering conditions that has n the past favoured the greater reliability and faster engines of both Ferrari and Mercedes.
The duo have held a monopoly of wins at the Hungaoring since 2015, however, with the forecast conditions for this weekend looking unpredictable, weekend three of the campaign could throw up some further surprises.
Whilst Saturday’s qualifying for the moment looks calm – but shying away from more typical heat in the thirties – Sunday’s race proper carries the threat of significant rain or thunderstorms.
Built in the suburbs of Budapest, the usual dusty environs that shroud the 4.381km circuit are prime for the quicker cars with few opportunities for overtaking, but once slicker tarmac comes into play, racing becomes something of a lottery.
Indeed in 2006, the Hungaroring saw its first wet GP and the sparks flew. Starting from 14th place on the grid Briton’s Jenson Button claimed his maiden F1 victory in the Honda, with a hugely unlikely podium of Pedro de la Rosa and Nick Heidfeld in tow.
With eight retirements including those of defending and soon-to-be reigning champion Fernando Alonso, Marc Webber and pole-sitter Kimi Raikkonen, the Briton came out on top after a game of safety car cat-and-mouse, during an explosive 70 laps of racing.
This weekend could serve up something similar should forecast prove accurate, and after the theatrics of the Austrian GP on opening weekend, Hungary may be next in line to thrill as an increasingly condensed 2020 campaign rolls on.
The 2020 Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix takes place this weekend at the Hungaroring, Budapest.
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