Hard to look past Hamilton for Hungary win
Lewis Hamilton started from pole position for the 22nd time in his 101-race career in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
It’s his third pole position at a track he has already won on twice before. And the McLaren is clearly the car to beat this weekend.
He dominated the hour of qualifying on Saturday and took pole position by four-tenths of a second from Lotus’s Romain Grosjean.
What’s more, Hamilton was fastest in two of the three practice sessions – and was only pipped in the third session by Mark Webber by less than a tenth of a second.
It all adds up to a race which it is hard to see Hamilton losing. But if you fancy backing him for the win you’ve already missed the boat.
The time to bet on Hamilton was three days ago, when his odds were up at 4.0, as tipped in this column.
So is anyone else worth tipping to win – or finish anywhere else?
Grosjean’s first front row
Hamilton shares the front row of the grid with Romain Grosjean. The Lotus driver, in his first full season of Formula 1, has shown some excellent pace this year.
Lotus have been threatening to win a race all year. The E20 has been especially competitive in hot temperatures and is very kind to its tyres.
Grosjean has already been on the podium twice. The first came in the fierce heat of Bahrain, where he took third behind team mate Kimi Raikkonen.
In Canada Grosjean claimed his best result to date, second behind Hamilton, after a late-race charge thanks again to his car’s ability to preserve its tyres.
He had a scruffy race in Germany last week and didn’t look especially comfortable in practice on Friday. But after reverting to an earlier set-up on Saturday he was back on form again and out-qualified his world champion team mate for the seventh time in 11 races.
In order to threaten Hamilton he will have to get off the start line better than he has been doing. And he will need to wring every last tenth of pace out of the E20 in order to do it.
But we should also remember that McLaren have a bad record of letting wins slip through their fingers this year. Grosjean, priced at 7.0 to win, is perfectly placed to capitalise should it all go wrong again for the silver team.
Rain could help Alonso
The biggest threat to Hamilton might not be a driver but the weather. At the time of writing forecasts indicate a strong chance of rain during the race, something which was predicted before the weekend began.
McLaren admit that while their car is strong in dry conditions at the moment, it is weak in wet weather. “We still have work to do to in order to fully understand the heating characteristics of the Pirelli tyres in wet weather,” conceded Hamilton ahead of the race weekend.
Who stands to benefit most from a wet race? That would most likely be Fernando Alonso, who starts sixth. Whenever it’s rained this year the Ferrari driver has demonstrated his superb skill: winning in Malaysia and taking pole at Silverstone and Hockenheim, all in wet conditions.
The championship leader is priced at 12.0 to win the race. Keep an eye on the weather forecast for the Hungaroring near Budapest – as the likelihood of rain grows, Alonso’s victory prospects will look stronger.
Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula 1 blog F1 Fanatic.