It’s the last of a triple header to get the 2020 season underway when the F1 circus rolls around to the Hungarian Grand Prix following the opening two races in Austria.
The Hungaroring usually marks the start of a summer break in the F1 calendar but this year it is just the third round as the sport looks to play catch up following the coronavirus outbreak that led to the first nine races of the season being postponed or cancelled.
Already though there have been many talking points following the two events at the Red Bull Ring that were dominated by Mercedes as we look at the eight things you should watch out for at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton cruised to victory at last Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring
With Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas (right) having won the season opener in Austria, Mercedes have dominated the first two rounds of the 2020 world championship
Can Mercedes dominate again?
The main takeaway coming from the double races in Austria were that Mercedes were by far the most dominant team following race wins for Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.
Bottas took victory at the season opening Austrian Grand Prix, but was left trailing by his world champion team-mate in last Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix held at the same circuit. But for errors from Hamilton in the season opener, it could have quite easily been a pair of Mercedes one-two finishes heading into Hungary.
Granted, the nature of the Red Bull Ring with its fast corners suited Mercedes but Hungary offers a different challenge with its tight and twisty nature.
If the Silver Arrows dominate again in front of the likes of Max Verstappen and Red Bull, then the drivers’ title already looks like being a fight between Hamilton and Bottas, while you can hand the constructors’ championship to Mercedes for a seventh year in a row.
Mercedes took a one-two finish at the Styrian GP with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen unable to launch a serious challenge for victory last time out after finishing third
Lando Norris aims to battle through injury
From a British perspective many will be keen to see what rising star Lando Norris will be able to offer following two stunning drives that leave him best of the rest outside the dominant Mercedes duo.
A couple of aggressive last lap charges at the Red Bull Ring have seen his already growing reputation increase further, but it took a physical toll too.
Before heading to Budapest, he returned home to see specialists in regards to a torso injury he had been racing with in Austria. The McLaren star has admitted he feels a lot better but that his injury is still lingering.
Lando Norris (right) goes on a track walk of the Hungaroring with his team on Thursday
Renault go to war with Racing Point
It’s Formula One so there is always some form of politics or a row between teams in the background and right now one of the hot talking points is Renault’s protest over the legality of the Racing Point car.
Eyebrows were raised in pre-season when Racing Point unveiled a car that looked exactly like the 2019 Mercedes that easily claimed both world championships. Nothing wrong with that in theory. The rules state you can copy a car’s design just by looking at a standard photograph of it.
However Renault’s protest is focused on the inside of the brake ducts of the Racing Point, which cannot be seen by a photograph and can only be seen by drawings. They claim it is a direct copy of Mercedes which would be prohibited. Racing Point deny this and claim their cars are legal.
It’s over to the FIA Technical Department now to look into it, but don’t expect a quick answer any time soon. A decision may not be made over its legality until after the second of the Silverstone races in August. This won’t go away quietly especially if the ‘pink Mercedes’ as it has become known continue their impressive start to the season.
Racing Point’s brake ducts (highlighted above) are under protest from Renault
Hamilton targets Schumacher record
No, not THAT record of seven world championships. That one is still on the horizon this year for the Brit despite his dominant start to the season.
But this weekend Hamilton can equal Michael Schumacher’s record of winning the same grand prix eight times by triumphing at the Hungaroring.
Schumacher set the record back in 2006 when he took his eighth victory at the French Grand Prix then held in Magny-Cours.
Hamilton celebrates winning in Hungary for a seventh time in 2019, a joint record at one circuit
Rain is set to hit Hungary
If there is an element that never fails to spice up a Formula One session, it is the sudden soaking of a circuit brought about by the weather.
That was proven as recently as last weekend when in one of the most memorable qualifying sessions in recent memory Lewis Hamilton pulled off one of his greatest pole position laps by going well over a second quicker than any other driver in the atrocious soaking wet conditions at the Red Bull Ring.
Hungary doesn’t normally see rain but it is forecast throughout the weekend and is expected to affect qualifying and the race. It was mixed conditions in 2006 that brought about a classic at the Hungaroring when Jenson Button took his first grand prix win while driving for Honda.
Clouds hover over the Hungaroring and rain is expected at the track throughout the weekend
Jenson Button’s first Formula One victory came in 2006 at a rain-hit Hungarian Grand Prix
How can F1 improve its anti-racism message?
It’s fair to say that Formula One has been getting plenty of attention over their pre-race demonstration against racism – but it has been for all the wrong reasons.
Drivers have already been divided regarding the political elements of ‘taking a knee’ and the Black Lives Matter movement, resulting in a less than united message being broadcast globally showing some drivers kneeling and some standing.
But the organisation in general has also been poorly received. At the Styrian Grand Prix, a minority of drivers were late for the actual event, while TV pictures quickly cut away from the awkward images to focus on a sponsored parachute drop above the circuit.
F1 needs to try and find a solution with its drivers as well as their organisation of the anti-racism message, as it could end up just becoming a regular embarrassment throughout the season – especially with their new diversity campaign titled ‘WeRaceAsOne’.
Although united in their vows to end racism, F1 drivers’ mixed stance towards taking a knee and standing has created awkward images before the two races held in the season so far
Can Ferrari bounce back?
Given the opening two races of the season it is hard to see how Ferrari can get any worse, having shown pace that largely only showed them to be fastest of the mid-field runners at best.
Charles Leclerc’s opportunistic second at the Austrian Grand Prix fooled nobody, not even Ferrari whose updates brought to the Styrian GP missed crucial running time after Leclerc effectively put himself and his team-mate Sebastian Vettel out of the race in the first lap by driving into him three corners in.
Ferrari fear their achilles heel is their straight-line speed, and straights are lacking around Budapest as much as they dominate Austria. If Ferrari are also well off the pace in Hungary then it could be (another) long season at Maranello
Ferrari hit a low in the Styrian Grand Prix last time out when Charles Leclerc (left) collided with team-mate Sebastian Vettel (right) putting them both out of the race after a first lap tangle
Where is Vettel heading?
One of the key drivers in this summer’s driver merry-go round, otherwise known as ‘silly season’ is where Vettel be driving next season.
The four-time world champion will be dumped by Ferrari at the end of the 2020 campaign but he is keen to remain on the grid next term.
He arrived in Budapest looking in high spirits with the German thought to be in talks with Racing Point over joining them next season when they are expected to be rebranded as Aston Martin.
He has vowed he is not interested in running midfield, indicating there are big ambitions for the current Racing Point outfit. The German though also needs to prove he can still perform at his best having taken just one point from the first two races of the season. He needs to show a big improvement in Budapest.
Vettel is hoping to secure a drive for 2021 after being dumped by Ferrari for next season