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Hungary GP preview: Vettel & Hamilton face Budapest battle for summer supremacy

Written by  Jul 26, 2017

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are preparing for a battle for supremacy heading into the summer break, as the final chapter of the opening saga of Formula 1 in 2017 will be written at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The two drivers are separated by just a single point at the halfway point of the season and whoever comes out on top on Sunday in Budapest, will be able to relax on the beach a little more comfortably as the championship leader.

Heading to the Hungaroring, the momentum is firmly in Hamilton and Mercedes' favour. Had it not been for a headrest in Baku and a gearbox penalty in Austria, the Briton could have very well won all four races since Vettel and Ferrari's last win almost two months ago in Monaco and the Silver Arrow does appear to be edging away from the Prancing Horse in the development race too.

In recent years, however, Hungary hasn't been so kind to Mercedes. Sure the Briton claimed his first win with the team in 2013 and led a 1-2 with Nico Rosberg last year but the two years in between, while they were dominating, Daniel Ricciardo and Vettel walked away with the honours as the weather, tyres and bad luck intervened.

That should offer hope to Ferrari that they can end the recent rot and look to reset over the summer, particularly as the team has been successful on less power sensitive circuits of which Budapest certainly falls under the category of.

But to come out on top they will have to beat Hamilton at one of his most successful tracks with the 32-year-old holding the most wins of anyone with five at the Hungaroring.

Mention less power sensitive and a need for high downforce in the same sentence and Red Bull can not be kept out of the conversation. The team will be under scrutiny with the legality of their front wing being called into question but there's little doubt the progress made since Spain with the RB13 means Max Verstappen and Ricciardo will likely be in the mix.

Both had good races for different reasons at Silverstone as the Dutchman ended a barren spell of results with a fourth place finish and the Australian recovered from the back of the grid to take fifth. Though the pace

Though the pace shown didn't meet expectations at the British track, another significant upgrade package is due for Budapest as the Milton Keynes-based outfit continue their quest for a three-team fight at the front.

Entering the midfield and, in a similar vein to Red Bull, McLaren is the team to watch this weekend. This race has been targeted as one of their best opportunities for points and with the updated Spec 3 Honda engine and the known qualities of the MCL32 chassis, they could well take the battle to Force India, Renault and Haas, who are the other likely main contenders for the top 10.

Hungary is a critical race for all involved at Woking, as Fernando Alonso is likely to start seriously considering his future in the month ahead and a final decision on any change in engine supplier also likely in August.

As mentioned Force India is likely to remain a strong top 10 contender, the outfit has improved tremendously from being one that only thrived on low downforce circuits but interestingly, neither Sergio Perez nor Esteban Ocon has finished as the leading midfield runner since they finished fifth and sixth in Canada.

Haas and Renault have on the other hand with Romain Grosjean sixth in Austria and Nico Hulkenberg matching that result at Silverstone. Both teams are expected to be better suited to the requirements of the Hungaroring too, making it a titanic tussle for those final points.

Two names not mentioned are Williams and Toro Rosso. For the Grove-based team, single lap pace has been a major problem since introducing updates in Austria and, with overtaking difficult, chances of another recovery drive would be reduced should that happen again.

As for the junior Red Bull team, Carlos Sainz is a name you would throw into the hat as a top 10 contender with Daniil Kvyat not far behind, do they have the same  potential in the car to match their performance from Monaco, the last circuit bearing any resemblance to Budapest, we'll have to wait and see.

Finally, Sauber will bring their own significant aero upgrade package but it's hard to see it being enough to close on the rest of the midfield with the gap growing ever wider at recent races.

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