I had to do a double-take. Yes, Sebastian Vettel has won 40 Grands Prix, but quite remarkably, none of them have come in Hungary. Zero. Even in years when he won 11 races (2011) and 13 races (2013), he left Budapest without the winner’s trophy. In 2013, it was the only time in the last 11 races of that season – think about that for a second – that he didn’t win. It’s something he has to change this weekend if the outside chance he has of a fifth world title lasts through the mid-season break.
A big part for that drought in Hungary is Lewis Hamilton – the Hungaroring’s non-stop twists and turns theoretically shouldn’t suit the reigning world champion, but he’s always been amazing around there, even in 2007 as rookie for McLaren when he won for the first time. Three subsequent wins (one of them coming when he briefly interrupted the Vettel steamroller in ’13) have him tied with Michael Schumacher as the most successful driver in Hungarian GP history. Again, surprising.
This weekend’s race in Budapest comes not before time, as the season inexplicably has just one race in seven weeks through the middle of the European summer. Way to go, guys – nothing like staying in the news cycle while the sporting world keeps spinning, is there?
But for the sake of the championship and its box-office value moving into a packed second half of the year, we could use a Vettel win, perhaps a Mercedes DNF (or a double DNF), and a podium for Daniel Ricciardo. Especially the latter, as he probably has next to no chance of one anywhere else. If Adrian Newey believes that, who are we to argue?
A year after Ricciardo’s dramatic victory there, anything resembling a good result would go down well for the Australian after scoring just one point in the last three races. And if you were hedging a bet on which of those three results might just happen, Red Bull showing well at a track that will mask its straight-line speed deficit might be the one most on the cards. I still wouldn’t be running to the TAB though …
Episode 110 of ‘The Inside Line’ this week previews the Hungarian GP through the eyes of three of the main protagonists, while we also discover who is the most popular driver in F1 according to the fans. Spoiler: I don’t concur. At least he won’t be taking up space on the grid next year … And we also remember the cruelly short life of Jules Bianchi, in what will be a week F1 fans and everyone who works in the sport will approach with misty eyes and heavy hearts.