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Hungarian Grand Prix
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Can Michael win the Drivers' Championship in Hungary ?
After a 3 week break from racing and testing, Formula 1 moves from the high speed Hockenheim circuit to the slow Hungaroring circuit. While Williams had a definite advantage at the German Grand Prix, it is unlikely that they will be competitive in Hungary. It is more likely to be a battle between Ferrari and McLaren.
Michael Schumacher can win the title here if he wins the race regardless were his closest competitors finish. He could even win the title if he finishes second provided that Ralf Schumacher doesn't win and David Coulthard finishes 4th of lower (click here for all the possible scenarios). His main rival here will be David Coulthard who has to win to keep his very slim chances in the Title fight alive. There is also Mika Hakkinen who has won here for the last 2 years and enjoys racing at this circuit.
The news that Alesi moved from Prost to Jordan and Frentzen found his way to Prost added some excitement during the 3 week break however it is Frentzen who has finished in the points at Hungary every time since '98 but the Prost is unlikely to help him while Alesi failed to finish twice in the last 3 years and finished outside the points once so even if the Jordan will help him, the odds are against him.
The race last year was a procession with very few overtaking due to the tight and twisty track. The top 6 in qualifying finished in the top 6 with a slight change in the order and reliability was very good with 16 cars finishing the race. Mika Hakkinen won starting from 3rd after having a brilliant start leading at the first corner and winning by a comfortable margin.
Ferrari: Have a massive 58 point advantage over their nearest
rivals and all they need is to keep scoring a few points per driver and
the Constructors Championship is won for the third year in a row. They
will be very strong here.
Reliability 9.0/10 - Speed 9.5/10
Drivers: Michael Schumacher maintained his lead over David Coulthard in the Drivers' Championship despite retiring as Coulthard also retired. He needs to win if he wants to secure the title here. He has won twice here in the past (94 & 98) and finished second last year. A win is likely.
Rubens Barrichello has lost 3rd place to Ralf Schumacher again. Expect those tow to fight it out for the rest of the season possibly dragging David Coulthard with them and making it a 3 way fight for second. Last year Barrichello finished 4th here after overtaking Ralf Schumacher through the pits. He does not seem to enjoy this kind of circuit and last year he qualified over 0.8 seconds behind his team-mate. A top 6 finish is likely.
McLaren: They had 2 retirements in Germany so Ferrari
doesn't need to worry too much despite their own reliability issues!. They
had 10 failures from 24 starts, that is over 37% failure rate. In fact
McLaren have only managed to finish both of their cars in 4 races so far
this season. No wonder they are 58 points behind Ferrari.
Reliability 6.5/10 - Speed 9.0/10
Drivers: David Coulthard can be considered unlucky as when he seemed to get the break he needed with Michael's retirement at Hockenheim, his car fails him. Even though his chances are very slim for the Championship he will continue trying. Coulthard has never won here but has finished on the podium in the last 3 years. A win is possible.
Mika Hakkinen would love to make it 3 in a row here and if he is leading and unable to help David Coulthard, Hakkinen will be the strongest competition to Michael. He could well make it 3 in a row.
Williams: Have only finished both of their cars once this season so the chances of both cars finishing here is pretty slim. Add to that the fact that they have had 15 retirements from 24 starts (that over 62% failure rate) and you'll understand why their chances are slim. The Williams chassis is not suited for slow speed circuits and at Monaco - which compares to Hungary - they did not do very well even in qualifying (Ralf was 5th and Montoya was 7th). They will probably concentrate on the 4 remaining races after this one as all of them are faster tracks.
Reliability 6.0/10 - Speed 9.5/10
Drivers: Ralf Schumacher won his 3rd race this season in Germany but will unlikely repeat that here. He'll try to maximise his points in his fight for 3rd in the championship. A top 6 finish is possible but will be difficult given the competition.
Juan Pablo Montoya did well in Germany putting his Williams on Pole and leading the race until his pit stop. Hungary is a slower circuit and he is unlikely to adapt to it quickly. Expect him to be out-qualified and out-raced by his team-mate. A top 6 finish is possible if his car lasts.
Sauber: Both of their cars retired at Hockenheim after qualifying an impressive 7th and 8th. Despite their good form in Germany, don't expect them to do well here. It appears that their cars don't suit this kind of track. Even finishing inside the top 10 will be a challenge.
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 8.0/10
Drivers: Nick Heidfeld will probably perform better than his team-mate here as Raikkonen will not enjoy this kind of track. The car will not be competitive and scoring points will prove difficult. A top 10 finish is possible but will be very competitive.
Kimi Raikkonen will enjoy the presence of the many Finnish fans that will come here to cheer for him but with the car not suited to this track, it is unlikely that he'll be able to please his fans. A top 10 finish is possible but will be very competitive.
BAR: They have taken 5th place for Jordan which is a big surprise given that BAR appeared to be going backward compared to Jordan. They finished on the podium for the second time this season. In Germany though it was a real surprise as their car is not really suited to low-downforce circuits. They could do well here but another podium finish will be be a real surprise!
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 8.0/10
Drivers: Jacques Villeneuve will have a big boost after finishing on the podium at Hockenheim. He has won here twice in '96 and '97. A top 6 finish is possible if a few of the front runners drop out.
Olivier Panis did well in Germany finishing 7th on a 2 stop strategy. He hasn't done well here in the past so this race could be difficult for him. A top 10 finish is possible.
Jordan: They changes of drivers in their team doesn't not help and add to that their reliability problems and Jordan seem to be the ones who are going backwards compared to BAR. The addition of Alesi to the team might add some flare but won't improve their results at least here in Hungary.
Reliability 5.0/10 - Speed 8.0/10
Drivers: Jarno Trulli has had 2 retirements in a row, 3 failures from the last 4 races, 4 failures from the last 6 races. He is not a happy man and even though Jordan appear strong than Renault (Benetton), expect Trulli to be driving for Renault next year out of pure frustration. A top 10 finish is possible if his car lasts.
Jean Alesi (story) is certainly excited about the prospect of driving a faster car again after spending 2 seasons with the struggling Prost outfit. He will be under pressure to perform straight away as he needs to prove that he is worth keeping for next season. This is not one of Alesi's favourite tracks and don't expect him to do miracles. Talk about podium finishes. It will be interesting to see how he shapes against Trulli but expect Trulli to beat him regularly. A top 10 finish is possible if his car lasts.
Benetton: They have moved to 7th in the Championship, who would have though that they would have 2 cars in the points in Germany ?. They did it mainly due to reliability. They should do well here given that this track doesn't advantage the more powerful engines so much.
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 5.0/10
Drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella could once again finish in the points if a few cars in front fail. A top 10 finish though is more likely. It will heavily depend on how good the Michelins are compared to the Bridgestones.
Jenson Button continues to be in the shadows of Fisichella although he has closed up a little. Whether that is a sign of Fisichella's frustration or Button's improvement remains to be seen. Finishing in the top 10 will be tough.
Jaguar: Another team that had 2 failures in Germany yet they had a very good qualifying result with de la Rosa in 9th and Irvine in 11th. Jaguar appear to be the most improving team during the season and they are closing the gap to the 2 Honda runners and Sauber quickly. They could be a surprise here.
Reliability 7.0/10 - Speed 7.5/10
Drivers: Eddie Irvine finished on the podium at Monaco, a circuit that is similar to Hungaroring. A points finish is possible if Michelin get it right.
Pedro de la Rosa made a mistake at Hockenheim that cost him and Nick Heidfeld the race. He has not done very well since returning to racing with Jaguar (4 retirements from 8 starts). He better improve even if he already has a contract for next year. A top 10 finish is possible.
Prost: They appear to be struggling financially and that doesn't reflect well on the team. Prost managed to off-load Alesi to Jordan and he is trying to re-negotiate his engine deal with Ferrari due to his financial problems. Bringing Frentzen into the team this late in the season will not help much. In fact it is unlikely to help Frentzen either.
Reliability 8.0/10 - Speed 6.5/10
Drivers: Heinz Harald Frentzen (story) will drive for Prost after missing the German GP following the termination of his contract by Jordan. Frentzen does well here but in the Prost he will be disappointed. A top 10 finish will be difficult.
Luciano Burti was in the same boat as Frentzen a few races ago when Jaguar swapped him for Pedro de la Rosa. Jaguar were obviously not too happy with Burti and he hasn't impressed at Prost. He could finish the race a lap or two down.
Arrows: They have only scored one point this season and that is probably all they will score. With the Ford deal now signed, Arrows are certainly looking forward to a new start. There is even talk that Fisichella might move to Arrows replacing Bernoldi next year!!
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 5.5/10
Drivers: Jos Verstappen finished 9th in Germany thanks to the many retirements ahead of him after starting 20th on the grid (his worst ever qualifying). He won't do much better here as their car is not suited to slow tracks.
Enrique Bernoldi knows that his chances of staying with the team are slim and he needs to do his best to grab the attention of other teams to take him on. That is also unlikely as his results have not been impressive. 8 failures out of 12 races is not good. He'll probably be a test driver as he seems to know how to break cars!. He did out-qualify and out-race his team-mate in Germany though!
Minardi: Paul Stoddart is desperately trying to secure Ferrari engines for next year and is hoping that Prost won't reach a deal with Ferrari. If that happens we could see Minardi score some points for a change.
Reliability 5.5/10 - Speed 4.0/10
Drivers: Fernando Alonso did well finishing in 10th at Hockenheim after the formation lap drama that the team suffered with both their cars out of action on the grid!. His aim would be to finish the race.
Tarso Marques will race for the last time in Formula 1 in Hungary. Expect Alex Yoong to take his place in Belgium.