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Image by Michał Obrochta on Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The British Grand Prix, held a fortnight ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious, with a highly controversial win. Charles Leclerc came in second, while Valterri Bottas rounded off the podium. Hamilton’s victory marked an end to Red Bull’s 5 win streak, and Verstappen’s 3 win streak. While helping the British driver to hugely cut down Verstappen’s championship lead.

This weekend, we head to the Hungaroring, in the outskirts of Budapest, for the Hungarian Grand Prix. Coming into this weekend, the top 3 in the Drivers’ Championship are: Verstappen (185 points), Hamilton (177 points) and Lando Norris (113 points). In the Constructors’, the top 3 are: Red Bull (289 points), Mercedes (285 points), and McLaren (163 points).

Ahead of today’s race at the Hungaroring, here are the battles and drivers to look out for across the 70 laps of the circuit.

The Circuit – Hungaroring

The Hungaroring serves as the venue for this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix. The 4.381km track is among one of the shortest on the calendar, beaten out by just 5 circuits for the shortest lap. The tight ,twisty, and bumpy circuit places emphasis on the handling and agility of the cars. Lewis Hamilton holds the lap record at the track, with a 1:16.627 set in the 2020 edition.

First built in 1985, the track has undergone 2 layout changes across the years. The first change occurred in 1989; just 4 years after the track was built, when the chicane after turn 3 was removed. The original layout envisioned did not include a chicane; the discovery of an underground spring necessitated the change. Culverting the spring allowed the track to be altered into the original layout planned.

The second change occurred in 2003. The start/finish straight was lengthened, while the run down to the final hairpin complex was modified. The change came as an attempt to facilitate more overtaking opportunities at the track.

2 DRS Zones are available on the track. These are located on the start/finish straight, and between Turns 1 and 2.

Things to Watch:

Red Bull v Mercedes

The British Grand Prix was a disappointing race to forget for Red Bull. The no-score on Sunday was the first in Red Bull’s 2021 campaign, and without a doubt, it hurt Red Bull’s title fight. With the gap to Mercedes closing from 44 points to just 4 points.

Red Bull’s no score also brought an end to a 5 race win streak, it’s longest since the 2013 season. Conversely bringing an end to Mercedes’ longest losing streak since the 2013 season.

In the 5 consecutive races Mercedes failed to win this season, the Silver Arrows simply lacked the pace to challenge Red Bull for the lead. And at the British Grand Prix, it certainly looked that way throughout the weekend as well.

However, based on the sessions so far at the Hungaroring, it appears that Mercedes has the edge. Mercedes topped 2 of the 3 FP sessions, and has secured a front-row lockout. The latter of which is crucial at the tight and twisty Hungaroring, where overtaking is difficult.

Verstappen v Hamilton

Prior to the British Grand Prix, Verstappen held a strong 33 point lead over Hamilton. However, the gap has been trimmed to 6 points, after a collision between the pair on Lap 1 of the British Grand Prix.

Following the collision, Verstappen slammed Hamilton for the post-race celebrations at the British Grand Prix. He described the celebrations as: “disrespectful and unsportsmanlike”, while slamming the FIA’s penalty as insufficient. It should be known that Hamilton subsequently made a phone call to Verstappen to check if the Dutchman was ok.

On Thursday, Hamilton revealed what he told Verstappen over the phone to the media, but continued to defend his move on the Dutchman. Verstappen did not divulge any details on the conversation, but clarified what he felt was “disrespectful”.

Despite the earlier tensions, respect looks to have been restored between the duo, who exchanged fist-bumps post-qualifying yesterday.

For today’s race, Hamilton will start from pole, with Bottas alongside him in P2. Meanwhile, Verstappen will start from 3rd, with Perez alongside him. A good start from Verstappen will be vital, seeing that he will be starting on the soft compound, instead of the mediums used by Hamilton.

Failing to pass Hamilton on Lap One could prove to ruin any strategy plans devised by Red Bull, and cost Verstappen his lead in the standings…

McLaren v Ferrari

Since the French Grand Prix, McLaren has overhauled Ferrari in the standings, with the gap now standing at 15 points. Across the past few races, Ferrari had lost out due to the tracks exposing the weaknesses of the SF21. With high average speeds that demanded the most from the car’s Power Unit.

Coming into the weekend, Ferrari had expected to be faster than McLaren due to the tight and twisty nature of the Hungaroring. However, Ferrari struggled in FP2 and ultimately in Qualifying. Charles Leclerc was out-qualified by Lando Norris, while Carlos Sainz crashed out in Q2 without setting a laptime.

For today’s race, Lando Norris lines up in P6, with Charles Leclerc alongside him in P7. Further behind, Daniel Ricciardo lines up in P11, while Carlos Sainz lines up in P15. Expect to see Norris and Leclerc jostle for position into Turn 1, while Ricciardo will seek to come home with points, on the back of a strong showing in Silverstone. Further back, expect Carlos Sainz to attempt a strong comeback, hopefully taking home points for the prancing horses…

Battle for 5th

Behind Ferrari and McLaren, a three-way scrap is forming for P5 in the Constructors. AlphaTauri leads the way, with 49 points, followed by Aston Martin and Alpine, who have 48 and 40 points respectively.

Between the three teams, their seasons have progressed differently. AlphaTauri started off relatively strong, with a car capable of fighting for third in the constructors. However, the team lost ground to Ferrari and McLaren, due to a lack of double points finishes. Aston Martin started off strongly in testing, but consistently failed to deliver the expected results. Alpine started off slow, but began showing consistency and pace after Bahrain.

It has been a tight fight between the 3 teams, but Alpine had previously fallen behind Aston Martin & AlphaTauri in the recent races, and is now playing catch-up. At the present, Aston Martin appears to have the most consistency among the 3, while AlphaTauri appears to have the fastest car among the 3…

For today’s race, the 6 cars start in this order:
P5: #10 Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri-Honda)
P8: #31 Esteban Ocon (Alpine-Renault)
P9: #14 Fernando Alonso (Alpine-Renault)
P10: #5 Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin-Mercedes)
P12: #18 Lance Stroll (Aston Martin-Mercedes)
P16: #22 Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri-Honda)

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