As Racing Point’s 2020 car and 2021 driver line-up come under scrutiny, Lewis Hamilton searches for a record-equalling eighth Hungaroring win. Here are five of the biggest talking points ahead of the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix.
The Vettel rumours intensify
In recent days, reports from Germany have suggested that Sebastian Vettel has been offered a contract to drive at the re-branded Racing Point team next year. Aston Martin signing a four-time World Champion would be a statement of intent on their entry to the sport as a “works” team. But who would partner Vettel in this scenario is up in the air. Would it be Sergio Perez – arguably the best midfield driver, a consistent points-scorer who also brings financial backing – or Lance Stroll – son of team owner Lawrence Stroll? You can expect plenty more speculation over the coming days, and questions will surely be posed to the team, and Vettel, on media day at the Hungaroring. Read more: F1 2020-21 Silly Season.
Racing Point under investigation
The Vettel rumours aren’t the only reason why the Silverstone-based team have been in the news this week. The biggest story of the past week came just hours after the Styrian Grand Prix, when Renault launched a protest against Racing Point, claiming that the team had not designed listed parts of their own car. Brake ducts from the team’s car have been impounded by the FIA, who will investigate the matter further and compare them with those from Mercedes’ 2019 challenger – the car which it is alleged has been duplicated. Racing Point maintain that, while elements of the RP20 are heavily inspired by Mercedes’ W10, the car is of their own making. Should the teams involved be found guilty, the repercussions may prove costly.
On track, it could be a more difficult weekend for Racing Point. After the first two races, the team sit fourth in the Constructors’ Championship and have amassed 22 points. However, the Hungaroring is a track which has not historically suited their car. The team have not scored at the circuit since 2017, a season which marks the only time both of their drivers have finished in the points here. In fact, they’ve scored only thirteen points in their Jordan, Spyker, Force India and Racing Point guises since 2003. Furthermore, in the last five seasons, the team have had only one Q3 appearance at the track – in 2016. Sergio Perez last qualified in the top ten here in 2013, when driving for McLaren, while Lance Stroll is yet to make a Q3 appearance at the circuit. But with a car that looked to be challenging the second fastest spot in Austria, will their performance in Hungary be a marked improvement on recent seasons? Read more: Hungarian Grand Prix Team Form.
Will Mercedes’ dominance continue?
Two races in, two wins for Mercedes. While the order behind the reigning champions appears more mixed up than in recent seasons, Mercedes continue to lead the way in 2020. Valtteri Bottas won from pole at the Austrian Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton winning from pole at the Styrian Grand Prix. As F1 heads into the third race of the season-opening triple header, and with a six point gap in the lead of the Drivers’ Championship, the Mercedes pair will be vying for the win again in Hungary.
Looking at previous form at the Hungaroring, Hamilton is best placed to win this weekend. He has won here more often than any other driver, and a win this weekend would see him equal the record for most victories at a single Grand Prix. Bottas’ best result is third in 2017 – the only time he has finished on the podium at the track. In each of the last two seasons, the Finn has been caught up in incidents which have prevented him from finishing higher than fifth. Read more: Hungarian Grand Prix Driver Form.
Will Ferrari’s woes continue?
Things have gone from bad to worse at Ferrari. At the Austrian Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc managed to score a podium despite the SF1000’s woeful pace. But there was no such luck in last weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix. The Italian team rushed through a number of upgrades in order to move up the field, but their hopes were dashed on the first lap of the race as Leclerc collided with his team-mate, resulting in Ferrari recording two double DNFs in the space of four races for the first time since 1996. 1996 is also the last season in which Ferrari failed to score in Hungary – a fact that the team can perhaps take solace from. They currently sit only fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, and need to recover well this weekend; but the pace of the ‘midfield’ teams in front of them, namely McLaren and Racing Point, could make that difficult.
A new track, the same order?
After all the action in the first two races, it’s easy to forget that we’re yet to race on more than one circuit this year. The Hungaroring presents a different challenge to the teams and drivers. While the Red Bull Ring has few corners and long straights, the Hungaroring is more tight, twisty and technical and, as a result, overtaking is much more difficult. For that reason, Saturday’s qualifying session will be all the more crucial.
Keep an eye on McLaren, who performed well at this track even in their struggling Honda seasons. Lando Norris has finished in the top five in each of the first two races of the year, and team-mate Carlos Sainz was not far behind in either race. If not for a pit stop issue, Sainz would have been further up the order in the Styrian Grand Prix. Keep an eye on Williams too. George Russell reached Q2 for the first time in his career last weekend in the wet conditions, and the Hungaroring is the track on which he scored his best qualifying result of the season in 2019.
What are your predictions for the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix weekend? Leave a comment below!