Hungarian Grand Prix: Why it would be wise to oppose Lewis Hamilton if he sits on pole at the Hungaroring


There's a good reason why the Hungaroring has been described as 'Monaco without the boats'.

It's not because the track on the outskirts of Budapest has quite the same glamorous appeal as Formula One's most famous race. No, it's all to do with this being the most difficult permanent circuit F1 visits from the point of view of overtaking.

When it was built in 1986 it seemed as if the designer had been given a brief to ensure the cars remained in single file at all times. Improvements have been made here and there in the three decades since, but it remains for the most part narrow, slow and not at all helpful to a driver who's stuck behind another.

So on paper the Hungarian Grand Prix should be a case of whoever takes pole position on Saturday wins the race on Sunday. Expect that isn't the case.

In Formula One's last nine visits to the Hungaroring the pole sitter has only won the race twice. Both times it was Lewis Hamilton, in 2012 and 2013.

The other seven times the driver who started from pole failed to win:

2008: Hamilton had pole but was beaten to turn one

2009: Fernando Alonso had pole but a wheel fell off his car

2010: Sebastian Vettel had pole but got a penalty

2011: Vettel had pole but Button's early switch to slicks won him the race

2014: Nico Rosberg had pole but was caught out by the Safety Car

2015: Hamilton had pole but messed up his first lap

2016: Rosberg had pole but Hamilton beat him to turn one

This year Hamilton is the clear favourite for pole. He's taken pole for six of the ten races this year and is on odds of 1.80 for another. Everyone else is on 4.25 or higher. 

Hamilton's Hungaroring form is strong, so it's hard to make a case for betting against him to take pole position. But that could make the odds on a rival winning all the more interesting.


But who to pick? Hamilton's team mate Valtteri Bottas is an obvious choice, but unless he's the lead Mercedes driver when the first pit stops begin, he's likely to be stuck on a less competitive strategy.

Ferrari hit trouble at Silverstone, suffering punctures on both cars in the final laps. They may have to be more conservative with their tyre strategy this weekend.

Red Bull is an interesting option. Traditionally strong on high-downforce tracks like this, they have a major aerodynamic upgrade coming this weekend. With the disadvantage of their Renault engines partly neutralised, the Hungaroring should be a strong track for Max Verstappen 10.0 to win, 2.25 for a podium) and 2014 race winner Daniel Ricciardo (15.0 for win, 2.75 for podium).

And keep in mind that if Hamilton is on pole on Saturday, those Red Bull victory odds are likely to be even longer then.

Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic