F1 Power Rankings: Hungarian Grand Prix

This weekend marks the second of six back-to-back race weekends. Yes, of the nine races remaining this year after Hungary, eight will be contested in four back-to-back weekend sets. The Hungarian Grand Prix is historically a cure for insomnia but this season has been one of the best in recent memory so there’s hope for this season. So before the midseason break, we look at the hottest drivers on the grid right now in our heavily biased Power Rankings.

#1 Fernando Alonso (Last Race #1)
Fernando and Clifford (his big red dog of a race car) are putting in as spectacular a season as we’ve seen since the days of Schumacher domination. Alonso is head and shoulders above the rest of the drivers in the paddock. If he had been driving an RB8, which was competitive from the start of the year, instead of the F2012, the season might be over now. Rather than re-use last week’s stats about how well he’s performed this season, I’ll use these instead: Alonso hasn’t missed the points since Button wrecked him in the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix which makes for a streak of 22 straight races in the points. The last time that Alonso finished a race and missed the points was the 2010 British Grand Prix which was 39 races (and two years) ago.

#2 Mark Webber (LR #2)
@AussieGrit’s favourite memory of Hungary has to be the time in 2010 when Seb held up the field under the safety car so he could gap the field and pull off the win with a very risky strategy call: “The Hungaroring is a good little venue and we’ve had some good races there in the past. Obviously overtaking has not been easy on that circuit, but it will be interesting to see how the cars perform there as it’s a hot race. The middle sector is very, very busy and you need to have a good balance over the top of the hill.”

#3 Sebastian Vettel (LR #3)
The good news for Seb is that passing is generally non-existent at the Hungaroring so he isn’t likely to get a penalty for off-roading it this time out. He has to wait for someone else to go off the track to make a pass: “The track itself is one of the slowest on the calendar, but as a driver you shouldn’t underestimate it, as there are a lot of opportunities to make mistakes. It can be very hot and that means the track can be very demanding physically. In addition, the surface has many bumps which shake you around a lot.”

#4 Kimi Raikkonen (LR #4)
The Iceman knows that it’s important to find some single-lap pace in his car this weekend: “This is one of those circuits where it’s very difficult to overtake. Obviously, you need to get to the front in qualifying and you also ideally want to avoid the dirty side of the track on the grid. We haven’t been the best in qualifying so far, but we have been good in the race in hot conditions and able to make different strategies work. It won’t be the end of the world if we don’t qualify at the front, but it won’t make things easy for us either.”

#5 Michael Schumacher (LR #8)
I’m glad that old Seven-Time realizes that the points standings don’t reflect how well he’s driven this season: “The race in Hungary is the last before the summer break and also marks the beginning of the second half of the season – which means it is time for a half-time analysis. As so often in life, this is, in my opinion, a question of perspective: if we only look at the points standings, it doesn’t seem so good; but if you look a bit deeper, and at certain results, then the overall picture is much better. We have taken a clear step forward and already achieved a few highlights.”

#6 Nico Rosberg (LR #7)
Keke’s kid should note that tyres might just be the thing to determine who wins every race: “The Hungaroring is a very challenging track and it’s definitely one that I enjoy. It’s like a street circuit but on a normal track because of the many tight and twisty turns and not so many straights. The layout should suit our car but you just can’t make predictions this year and you never know how it will work out over the weekend. Tyre wear will again be critical for the race so we will work hard to manage that properly.”

#7 Romain Grosjean (LR #5)
Grosjean reflects of his the first half of his first proper season in F1: “It’s not been easy so far. We’ve had some very good results and some very bad races. The last race was maybe one of the worst – so let’s work, analyse and try to understand so I don’t make mistakes any more. Stay out of trouble and qualify better, this is the key. And from that we can go forwards.”

#8 Jenson Button (LR #9)
I’m pretty sure I ran this same Jenson quote in last year’s Hungarian GP power rankings. Neither Jenson nor the whole of Britain will let us forget that he finally overcame years of underwhelming performances with his first win at the 2006 Hungarian GP: “Of course, Hungary’s a very special place for me: I won my first grand prix there back in 2006, I celebrated my 200th grand prix there on the Saturday evening with some of my oldest friends and colleagues in the paddock and I went on to win the grand prix on Sunday. It was the perfect weekend.”

#9 Lewis Hamilton (LR #6)
If you quit on Lap 1 of a race (and he wanted to quit), you get busted down the rankings. We want racers in F1: “Things haven’t always gone our way in the first half, but I certainly feel like we’re experiencing something of a turning point for the whole team. We’ve really stepped up and delivered the pace we needed, our strategy has been spot-on and our pitstops, despite a troubled start at the beginning of the year, are now consistently the fastest in the pitlane.”

#10 Sergio Perez (LR #11)
Checo is looking to build on last week’s big race for the team which resulted in a 4th (for Kamui) and 6th: “The Hungaroring is a very special track. It is a bit like the Monaco street circuit with many changes of direction, and the middle sector is especially tricky. I quite like the circuit and also the city of Budapest. We still have to improve our qualifying performance to get better grid positions as, for one reason or another, it went wrong at the recent races. I am sure our car can be as good at the circuit in Budapest as it was in Hockenheim.”

#11 Felipe Massa (LR #10)
Phil knows he has to step up to support Alonso in his title chase: “Fernando needs me. In a championship like this, it is very important to have both cars scoring points. This year it is so competitive between many drivers, many teams, so you know how important every result is. It is a championship that maybe one point can be enough to win or lose.”

#12 Nico Hulkenberg (LR #13)
Nico says that slow means fast for the Force India. That’s a change from prior years when low downforce was their friend: “I think we should be able to fight for points because we recently looked quite strong on circuits that don’t have so many fast corners, such as Valencia. Although it’s quite a slow circuit, it’s very difficult to get a good lap time because you need to hook up all the corners perfectly, so it’s quite challenging.”

#13 Bruno Senna (LR #12)
Bruno’s first rule of Hungaroring is cardio: “The Hungaroring is one of the most challenging tracks we visit all year. Technically it’s a real test and it’s quite a slow lap so reminds me in some respects of Monaco. It’s also demanding physically because the temperature is often high and you have to do a lot of work behind the steering wheel so can get tired quickly.”

#14 Kamui Kobayashi (LR #15)
Nobody tell Kobayashi Maru that it was raining in Budapest earlier this week: “The Sauber C31 has proven to be quick on such twisty tracks as well, so I believe we can be strong there. Recently we were struggling a bit in the rain, but in Hungary the weather has been excellent for the majority of the Grand Prix weekends. I’m looking forward to what I hope will be a dry and hot race.”

#15 Paul di Resta (LR #14)
If the Force India is better on slow than fast corners, can they continue Dario’s cousin’s assertion that the team gets better as the season goes on with tracks like Spa, Monza and Suzuka coming up: “As a team we have to be pleased with the start we’ve had to the year. We’ve had some strong races and scored more points compared to the same time last year. We seem to have one of the more consistent cars in terms of performance and I think traditionally we’ve been a team that gets stronger as the year progresses.”

#16 Pastor Maldonado (LR #16)
Somebody help me out here. Did Pastor not crash in the last race? It happens so often that I just assume it happens every week: “The track in Hungary is really slow speed and so we will need to adapt our set-up for this sort of circuit but we have shown so far this season that our car has good pace at different sorts of tracks. I have won here before so the track has good memories for me and the fans create a good atmosphere so I am looking forward to the weekend.”

#17 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #17)

#18 Jean-Eric Vergne (LR #18)

#19 Heikki Kovalainen (LR #19)
It turns out that the Hungarian GP is the closest thing that Finland has to a home race: “I had my first Formula One win in 2008 in Hungary so it’s always good to come back to the Hungaroring. It’s fair to say I have some pretty good memories from here and I always have great support from the Finnish fans in Hungary. There’s always a lot of Finns in the crowd as I think it’s a bit easier for them to get to Hungary, and whenever there’s Finnish fans around there’s always a great atmosphere!”

#20 Vitaly Petrov (LR #20)
Despite what other drivers have said, Vitaly says that the Hungaroring is like being out for a Sunday drive: “It’s a challenging circuit for a few reasons. First, it’s pretty physical as it’s usually very hot, and second it’s a very technical track with tight sections so you need the right setup for each session on track. Physically, despite the heat, it isn’t too bad although you need some serious concentration behind the wheel for all 70 laps of the race!”

#21 Timo Glock (LR #21)

#22 Charles Pic (LR #22)

#23 Pedro de la Rosa (LR #23)
Pedro says that Hungary reminds him of Monaco. I’m guessing it’s because of the similar lack of passing: “The Hungaroring is the permanent Monaco and a circuit where I have very good memories since I achieved a podium there in 2006. I’m really looking forward to going this year because it’s a circuit where our car should adapt pretty well, as there are many slow corners. It’s similar to Monaco, and we were pretty competitive there, so I’m full of hope. The asphalt evolves a lot throughout the weekend and the track gets quicker so it’s very important to interpret this.”

#24 Narain Karthikeyan (LR #24)
That’s right. Narain’s last visit to Hungary was in his only full F1 season in 2005 with Jordan. Karthikeyan was such a good driver that Eddie Jordan gave up on F1 and sold the team: “I’ve only raced once in Hungary, in 2005, and I remember it being quite a technical and challenging track. Seven years have passed since then so I’m going to have to work hard and make the most of the practice sessions to get used to the track. The car should adapt well and we’re also arriving with a good feeling after the German Grand Prix, so the ideal thing would be to finish off that good work with another positive result in Hungary so that we can go on holiday feeling good about ourselves.”


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