McLaren and Massa worth a look for Hungary Grand Prix


The moment the chequered flag fell in Germany another race began. This one involved packing up 24 racing cars and the cavalcade of team members, trucks and gear that accompanies them, then transporting them 1,000km east to the Hungaroring.

This is the third of six back-to-back race weekends on this year’s schedule, which has 20 races and is the longest ever in the history of F1. So you’d forgive the teams for feeling a little fatigued at this point. Fortunately for them they have four race-free weekends after this before the season resumes in Belgium.

The short period between the German and Hungarian rounds means the teams have less opportunity to produce upgrades for their cars. That means it’s unlikely we’ll see anyone turn up with some drastic new innovation - the competitive order should be much as it was in Germany.

There was little to choose between the ‘big three’ of Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren in Hockenheim. Fernando Alonso produced a superb lap in a wet qualifying session to take pole position, then used it to hold back Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button who were faster at different stages of the race.

McLaren moving forward

The smart money could well be on McLaren this weekend. They made several major changes to their MP4-27 in Germany and the result was a car which was more competitive in dry conditions, as noted in this column ahead of the race.

Their drivers were hampered by a wet qualifying session and Lewis Hamilton’s race was ruined when he picked up a puncture on the second lap. However he was quick enough to cheekily pass Sebastian Vettel at one stage despite being a lap behind the Red Bull driver.

McLaren also have excellent form at the Hungaroring, with victories in five of the last seven races here. Hamilton and Button have two wins apiece on this track, and are at 5.00 and 9.00 respectively to taste victory this weekend.

Hamilton is priced at 4.00 to take pole position. These are decent odds considering he’s been in the top two qualifiers seven times this year. His most recent qualifying positions of eighth and seventh came in qualifying sessions that were wet – conditions which do not seem to suit the current McLaren.

Button has not taken a pole position for McLaren in 48 appearances for them, which is why his odds are considerably longer at 12.00.

Long odds on Massa podium

It’s been hard to think of a reason to back Felipe Massa so far this year. He has languished behind teammate Alonso and is widely tipped to be dropped by Ferrari at the end of the year. In Germany, he limped home 12th as his team mate clambered onto the top step of the podium for the third time this year.

But there have been flashes of form from Massa this year. Just one race earlier he qualified fifth and came home fourth - a result which underlines the fact that the Ferrari, for all its troubles earlier this year, is a much-improved car.

Massa hasn’t been on the podium since finishing third in Korea two years ago. He has gone well in Hungary in the past – he was en route to a comfortable win when his engine died three laps from home in 2008.

He suffered even worse luck in 2009. During qualifying he was struck by a spring that fell from another car and suffered head injuries from which he was fortunate to recover.

It would be fitting if Massa could end his podium drought with a top-three finish here. He’s priced at 15.00 to do it.

Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic.