Thursday, 31 July 2008

Hungarian Grand Prix Preview: Hamilton in his element?

After racking up hugely impressive back to back wins in tricky conditions in both Britain and Germany, championship leader Lewis Hamilton heads to the Hungaroring looking to score his third win in a row and his second consecutive victory in Budapest. Ferrari will have been licking their wounds after taking a bit of a pounding in the past couple of races, and will be determined to turn the tide of McLaren victories. It's getting toward the crunch time of the season as they get closer to the final run in, and any more mistakes for Ferrari could be catastrophic.

Last year's Hungarian Grand Prix became notorious for the pit lane incident during qualifying rather than anything that happened during the race. The highly embarrassing pit lane squabble between Hamilton and then team mate Alonso was the first major public indication that there were serious problems within the team; problems that would eventually lead to them throwing away the World Driver's Championship that one of the McLaren drivers should have won.

There should be no such worries for Ron Dennis and McLaren this year as Heikki Kovalainen has just put pen to paper on an extension to his contract, and given that he's so far behind the front runners in the title race he will no doubt be playing the team role and supporting his team mate's title challenge. This could well be McLaren's secret weapon in the title run in. Last year they had two drivers fighting for the championship and they ended up taking points of each other and fighting bitterly between themselves, while Kimi Raikkonen came from nowhere to to take the title. This time Kimi and Massa are extremely closely matched, and whilst they may not be at each other's throats like Alonso and Lewis last year, neither driver will be willing to play the good team mate and take a supporting role. Lewis knows he has a team mate that will be well and truly focussed on helping his title challenge.

Another team looking to impress in Hungary will be BMW. Their constructor's title challenge has gone off the rails somewhat in recent races. Strangely it has been ever since they had that remarkable 1-2 finish in Canada that their fortunes have taken a bit of a dip. However, they have had good form here in recent years and the high downforce, tight and twisty nature of the track seems to suit their car. Also this race is a favourite for both of their drivers. Heidfeld has finished on the podium here two years running, and Robert Kubica made his spectacular debut here in 2006.

Amazingly it seems as though we may get some unpredictable, unsettled weather conditions throughout the course of the weekend yet again, for the third race running. Early forecasts are suggesting that thunderstorms are likely to hit intermittently throughout Saturday and Sunday, potentially causing all sorts of fun and games in qualifying and the race. The rain has already contributed to two fantastic races this season, in Monaco and Britain, could it be about to happen again?

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