Cape Town - Formula 1’s balance of power has shifted, with Lewis Hamilton’s emphatic victory at Silverstone paving the way for a possible new championship leader as the paddock heads into the summer break.
Although Ferrari entered this year’s campaign in the best form witnessed from the Scuderia in recent times, with Sebastian Vettel initially matching Mercedes win for win, it is the Brackley squad who have slowly edged ahead, culminating in Hamilton’s British Grand Prix “grand slam” of pole position, fastest lap and race win.
While Mercedes have recovered from the banning of their trick suspension system, which they were forced to alter ahead of the season opening in Australia, Ferrari have yet to rebound after oil burning was banned ahead of the Azerbaijan GP.
As such, while Mercedes are finding form, Vettel – and Ferrari – have not won a grand prix since May’s Monaco 1-2, and risk losing the lead in the Drivers’ Championship to Hamilton in Hungary.
The Brit will arrive on the grid chasing a record sixth Hungarian GP win, while Vettel is going for just his second as the German’s total podium count – four – is less than Hamilton’s number of wins.
Should the Mercedes driver add that sixth win to his tally, he will take the lead in the Drivers’ standings for the first time this season, with last year’s Hungarian win also handing him the lead in the standings.
But while Hamilton’s summer break lead came to naught last year, with Vettel having to deny that Ferrari are in a crisis, there is a feeling that, should he hit the front this year, momentum will be firmly in his favour.
The attention may be on the title protagonists, but perhaps it is behind them that the best battles – at least on the track – are expected to erupt today.
Having stood on the Hungaroring’s podium for three years running, 2014 winner Daniel Ricciardo has every confidence that he can add a fourth to the list, but he could find himself having to battle Max Verstappen for that.
The Dutchman’s awful luck finally turned at Silverstone, where he finished in fourth position – one place ahead of Ricciardo.
Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull may have locked out the top three in Hungary for the past three years in a row, but prior to that it was Lotus, formerly Renault, and Renault again after the name change, who stepped on to the podium.
Nico Hulkenberg shone for the team last time in Britain.
He finished fifth on the grid and sixth at the flag, leading Renault to predict that they could be in for yet another strong showing this weekend – and maybe even a double points finish if Jolyon Palmer, who once again is rumoured to be in his final F1 race, can get it together.
However, given the nature of the Hungaroring – “the short, twisty circuit means we are less reliant on outright power, and the drivers have to really depend on the capabilities of the chassis to get the best out of the lap”, says Fernando Alonso – McLaren also believe this could be the stage for their best result of the campaign.
But, then again, so too do Force India, Williams, Toro Rosso, Haas and Sauber. – TEAMtalk Media