The Hungarian Grand Prix takes place this weekend before the Formula One season’s three-week summer break. After a chaotic, rainy German Grand Prix, the forecast for the Hungaroring is considerably better, which will please much of the grid.
Max Verstappen took all 26 points available at the Hockenheimring last weekend. Starting from second, Verstappen rode his luck as his rivals made errors and guided the Red Bull to a second victory in three races. Despite his recent surge, the 21-year-old Dutchman is still a mammoth 63 points behind Championship leader Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas had a nightmare at Mercedes’ home Grand Prix. Mercedes’ anniversary celebrations were dampened as Bottas crashed out and Hamilton slid into the gravel. Although Hamilton ended up at the back of the pack with the Williams after six pit stops, he ended up with a ninth-place finish thanks to penalties handed out to Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen.
Hamilton, as seems to be the case at most Grand Prix, has a dominant record in Hungary. His 2018 victory was his sixth, two more than anyone else. Sebastian Vettel, who went from 20th to second in Germany last weekend, won in the Ferrari in 2015 and 2017.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner spoke highly of the Mercedes in the lead up to the weekend, “Mercedes' slow corner performance is pretty mighty, and I think they're going to be tough opponents.”
While tight, slow-speed circuits like the Hungaroring have favoured the Red Bull in recent years, and Mercedes have struggled, the Silver Arrows have addressed their greatest weakness since the first few races of last season. Horner will be confident about Red Bull’s improvement in recent weeks, though, with Verstappen getting everything out of the car. Verstappen is +200 to win on Sunday with BetStars.
Of the big three teams, Ferrari’s car seems least suited to the Hungaroring. While they enjoyed great pace in Germany – and were unfortunate in qualifying – their power unit advantage will not be as notable through the narrow track this weekend.
Charles Leclerc is still hunting for his first race win after another gutting weekend. The youngster was in a great position, but put his car in the wall at the slippery turn 15. Leclerc is +800 to stand atop the podium this Sunday with BetStars.
Pirelli, as they did for the Hockenheimring, selected the C2, C3 and C4 compounds for this weekend. Renault have again been aggressive, bringing 10 sets of the soft tyres. Only Toro Rosso – fresh off a fantastic race in Germany – and Alfa Romeo have joined Renault with 10 sets of softs. If it is particularly warm on Sunday, tyre degradation can be quite high. Two-stop strategies are definitely in play.
Having excelled in the rain last weekend, Alexander Albon and Daniil Kvyat are both priced at -175 to finish in the points. The Toro Rosso should be quick through the slow corners – Albon and Kvyat will both be eyeing up Pierre Gasly’s seat at Red Bull with the Frenchman continuing to struggle. Gasly has just 55 points this season, 65 fewer than Leclerc, who is fifth-placed in the Drivers’ Championship.
With Hamilton recovered from the illness that troubled him last weekend, many will be expecting the five-time world champion to bounce back. Each time he’s failed to win a race this season – Australia, Azerbaijan, Austria – he’s responded with a race victory next time out. Hamilton is +105 to win his eighth race of the season.
Carlos Sainz has seven points finishes in the last eight races. After a difficult start to the year, the Spaniard has been superb in the ever-improving McLaren. With the top six making plenty of mistakes – and Gasly under severe pressure – Sainz at +300 to get a fourth top six finish in five races is good value.
By Sam Cox