2020 Hungarian GP Tips and Preview by James Punt

by | Jul 16, 2020

2020 Hungarian GP Tips and Preview by James Punt

The Formula 1 season is looking like it might be another cakewalk for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. He won the Styrian Grand Prix at a canter last time and his opponents will be hoping that Hungary doesn’t go quite so well for him. James Punt has written a comprehensive preview, check out his 2020 Hungarian GP tips below…

2020 Hungarian Grand Prix Preview

Two races into the season and the game’s up. Give Lewis Hamilton the Drivers’ Championship, Mercedes the Constructors title and go home. That is the lesson learned for the opening two races. Both races were held on the one circuit, so we may see some variance in performance on different tracks. However, overall, nobody is going to beat Mercedes. Also, Hamilton is too good for Bottas to dream of the title.

Mercedes have re-established a power advantage over the field. At the end of last season, Mercedes and Honda were pretty evenly matched. Renault were a little behind and Ferrari ahead. Ferrari were cheating and have been found out, resulting in their power unit falling well behind their rivals. Honda have improved their power unit incrementally, but Mercedes seem to have taken quite a big step forward.

The Red Bull Ring circuit was a power sensitive track, so Mercedes power advantage was a big help in the opening two races. This weekend’s race comes from the Hungaroring, outside Budapest. This is a very different track, featuring many more corners and plenty of slow ones. It is not a power sensitive circuit so Mercedes advantage may not be so great.

Red Bull Cornering Issues

In terms of cornering pace, Red Bull are closer to Mercedes. But, the Red Bull did look a bit sensitive in the slower corners with a tendency to over steer. New parts were in use for the second race in Austria which did seem to have helped in that respect, with no spins (in the dry at least) in corners.

The Red Bull of Max Verstappen was falling to bits in the later part of Sunday’s race. A front wing end plate was damaged on one of the kerbs, fell off. It became lodged in a bargeboard, causing a loss of downforce and all the associated problems that brought. Some parts on the rear wing also fell off. Everything allowed Bottas to close down Verstappen and get past to make it a 1-2 for Mercedes.

The Red Bull was basically too slow to really compete with Mercedes. Verstappen was able to stay ahead of Bottas while his car was intact. That suggests that even a Mercedes has its peak performance dulled by being in dirty air. Out in front, Hamilton was able to cruise and collect. He was never really asked a question in Sunday’s race.

Mercedes were also helped by the fact that the weather on Sunday was relatively cool and once again, Mercedes have a car that looks to be heat sensitive.

Weather Watch

The oven like temperatures that we usually get in Hungary should level the playing field somewhat. Sadly though, the weather gods haven’t read the script. We look set for a relatively cool weekend and there is even the chance of some rain. However, not the deluge that we saw for qualifying last weekend. Friday is the most likely day for any rain. There is a 58% chance of rain for both practice sessions and generally cloudy and cool. Saturday is a bit more uncertain in terms of the amount of cloud, but it will be warmer. Any showers will be very light. Race day looks mostly cloudy, temperatures in the mid 20’s with a chance of a light shower.

Any hope that the weather could cause Mercedes problems remains unclear.

The Hungaroring circuit is a largely twisty, low speed track which features one longish straight, three slow hairpin corners and most of the other corners are on the medium to slow side. It tends to reward cars with good downforce and traction rather than out and out power, but more power is rarely a disadvantage. Overtaking is difficult but the pole position driver has only won two of the six races since 2014. It is not a car breaker with an average of 3 DNF’s per race.

This is the circuit which was the venue for Damon Hills debut win, Fernando Alonso’s first win and Jenson Buttons first F1 win. All went on to be World Champions so a debut win for Albon, Norris, Sainz or Perez would be a good omen. The chances of that happening however, are small, but the bookies are taking no chances with all four priced at 51.00 or less. Not something we have seen for years.

Mercedes Have Excellent Recent Record

In the turbo Hybrid era Mercedes have won three times, Ferrari twice and Red Bull once. Of the midfield teams it has been a reasonably good circuit for McLaren with at least one car in the points every year and three double points finish. Toro Rosso/Alpha Tauri have also scored in every year but never had a double points finish.

Haas had a double points finish in 2018 but no other points finish. Teams that have struggled here are Force India/Racing Point with a double points finish in 2017 but just one other top 10. Renault have had just two points finishes as have Sauber/Alfa Romeo. It has not been a great venue for the underdogs in the modern era.

Lewis Hamilton has had three wins, all in the last four years, and two pole positions. His career record here even better with seven wins. Bottas has struggled here with just one podium finish. Max Verstappen qualified on pole position last year but lost out to Lewis Hamilton and ended up in second place.

Daniel Ricciardo has enjoyed this circuit, winning in 2014 and with two other podium finishes. Carlos Sainz has been in the points for the last four years. Pierre Gasly has been 6th in his two races here. The second best driver record since 2014 belongs to Sebastian Vettel, with two wins and two more podiums and a pole position.

2020 Hungarian GP Tips: Hamilton Hard To Beat

Past form suggests that Mercedes and Hamilton will win again. Current form suggests Mercedes and Hamilton will win again and the weather looks uncertain but possibly, Mercedes friendly. Hamilton is the 1.70 favourite which if anything, looks a bit generous. With the demise of Ferrari, Hamilton looks to only have one serious rival, Max Verstappen. So far, the Mercedes has been the stronger package. The Red Bull has potential and on a track where Mercedes power advantage will be limited, Verstappen is not without a chance.

Bottas still leads the driver’s championship but his record here isn’t good and he will be aware of the fact that after a distracted performance in the first race of the season, Hamilton has woken up and he was so much better than Bottas last week.

Alex Albon in the second Red Bull was poor last week. He finished 4th but he was never in the hunt for a podium. He isn’t in the same league as Verstappen and he will need some luck to beat a Mercedes. Maybe if Bottas struggles here again, he can get his first, overdue podium. Albon needs to start showing something as Red Bull are not known for their patience with underperforming drivers.

2020 Hungarian GP Tips: McLaren Best Of The Rest So Far

Best of the rest so far has been McLaren who remain in second place in the constructor’s championship. They have performed well here in the recent past, a recent past which saw the team in decline. Now that they have a good package and good drivers, they can aim for another big helping of points.

Carlos Sainz has been very solid here and while little has gone right for him on race day so far, he is in good form. He very nearly landed the place part of our 151.0 pole position bet last week, ending up 3rd on the grid ahead of a Mercedes and a Red Bull. Our bet on him to finish in the top 6 should have been a winner, but for a very slow pit stop which saw him lose a lot of places and then struggle in the traffic.

Lando Norris is leading the charge at McLaren with a fifth-place last week to go with his podium in the season opener. His confidence levels are very high. This is just his second season in F1 and already he is prepared to take risks and be ambitious. There is definitely something about him. He isn’t quite ‘normal’ but he is very well wired for Formula 1 racing.

His last lap charge on Sunday was very refreshing. It was great to see a youngster just go for it, treat it like a computer game and see what happens. That attitude, combined with the ability to do it and in a decent car, will earn him a lot of points. He was ninth here last year in his debut season and he was second and fourth in Formula 2 on this track. I expect another good weekend for McLaren and their two drivers.

2020 Hungarian GP Tips: Racing Point Haven’t Delivered

Racing Point over promised and under delivered in the opening two races. They have built a copy of last year’s Mercedes but are yet to really work out how to make it work. They may have the car, but somebody has lost the user manual. Two sixth places for Perez sounds like a great result for the team but with the pace that the car has shown in practice, they should have been looking at podiums.

The ’Pink Mercedes’ does seem to have a bit of a weakness in qualifying, maybe not getting the tyres into the right window for a flying lap. They were terrible in the wet qualifying session last weekend, but Perez was the fastest man on the circuit for a while last weekend and came from the back to find himself racing Alex Albon for fourth place. He buggered up his overtaking attempt, broke his front wing and was within a couple of metres of being relegated to eighth place.

Lance Stroll in the second Racing Point is a weak link. In a car that should be competing for podiums he was farting around, stuck behind the slower Renault of Ricciardo, unwilling or unable overtake and when he finally tried, he messed up and gave Norris a chance to overtake both him and the Renault, which he did in some style. That’s the difference between a gifted young racing driver, and the boss’s son being indulged.

Unpopular car

The Racing Point car is not popular with the other midfield teams. They have gone to great expense to design rather than build their own cars and they are not liking a Mercedes look-a-like turning up and beating them. Yes, everyone does a bit of copying and its fair game to look at another cars front wing for example and copy that. But when they are finding things under the skin of the car that are identical to last year’s Mercedes, then that suggests that there is some cheating going on.

Renault have protested the Racing Point brakes to the FIA and they are investigating the matter. The have impounded the Racing Point brake drums and requested Mercedes to provide them with the drums they used last year form comparison.

Certainly, judging from the photo’s doing the rounds, there is a case to answer. The brakes are a listed part, one that teams have to design and manufacture themselves. That Racing Point have come up with something that looks identical to last year’s Mercedes brakes, suggests that they have been able to copy them, which is illegal.

There is no news at this time as to what is going to happen, but there is speculation that Racing Point will be told to change the brakes and doing that at the last minute isn’t going to help them, but at least they have had time to prepare.

Renault Below Par

Renault are underperforming again. The car does seem to have some reasonable pace, but it also has a cooling problem, losing a car to the same problem in the opening two races. They also made a tactical error in not telling Ocon to let Ricciardo past when he was faster, on a different strategy. That cost Ricciardo a couple of places in the end. Coming to a track where they have struggled, with a car that is overheating, doesn’t sound like they will be joining McLaren and Racing Point in the battle to be best of the rest, unless Racing Point are nobbled by a brake change.

Ferrari are going from bad to worse. The opening race saw a very lucky second place for Leclerc and a terrible drive by Vettel. Last weekend, it was Leclerc who was the guilty party, crashing into his teammate on the opening lap and ending both their races.

They were not heading for a great day in any case, but they had brought a new front wing and floor, hoping to at least get some good data on the new parts, but that chance was lost in an instant and the team are in crisis. They have built a poor car; their power unit has been castrated by the FIA and the drivers are making rookie mistakes. The pressure on them will now be huge. Expect more chaos.

A measure of how far down the competitive order Ferrari have dropped is that both drivers can be backed at 81.00 to win this weekend, on a track where Vettel has form figures of 1/2/3 for the last three years and where they finished third and fourth last year.

2020 Hungarian GP Tips: Mixed Fortunes For Alpha Tauri

Alpha Tauri had a mixed weekend last time out. We had backed Gasly to finish in the points. He had a great qualifying, ended up seventh on the grid, but was hit by Ricciardo in the first corner which damaged his car and he was going backwards after that. Our double points finish bet was also doomed, frustrating given that Kvyat drove a good race to finish tenth.

Alpha Tauri are team on the cusp of the top 10 and on a circuit where they have always picked up points, we should expect one of the two to be in the hunt on Sunday. Which one? Most likely Gasly who has finished sixth in his two F1 races here. Kvyat was second back in 2015, but that was in a Red Bull. The team are optimistic that the track will suit their car better than Austria. They already brought new parts to improve performance at the last race and will continue to develop the car.

Encouragement For Haas

Haas at least got both cars to the end of the race on Sunday. Theirs is not a great ambition, just to finish, but it is a start of sorts. Like all the Ferrari under-powered cars, they are struggling on the straights and in qualifying where they no longer have a party mode. On a track which has not been kind to them, it is hard to see them in the points unless we have a lot of retirements.

The reliability of the all the teams was poor in the opening race but was much improved last week. Haas are unlikely to be gifted points just for finishing but they are hopeful that they will be more competitive on a circuit that is less power sensitive.

Alfa Romeo have been hamstrung by the Ferrari power unit and they are in the battle for last place with Haas and Williams.

False Dawn For Williams?

‘Williams are back’ cried a few deluded loons last week. George Russell qualified 12th. Great, but that was due to his talent in the wet. The reality is that they were last in the opening race with their one car that was still running at the end of the race. Last week, their grid position was due to extreme weather. In the race Russell made an error, lost his track position and fell back to last place. He recovered to finish second last, having passed his teammate. Two races, two last places. Yes, Williams are back indeed.

They have a chance not to be last. Russell is a good driver and there are some pretty rubbish cars out there. Beating a Haas or Alfa Romeo shouldn’t be heralded as a return to form however, just that somebody is doing a worse job than Williams. Nicolas Latifi has had a win and a second place here in F2 but he professes that he doesn’t really like the circuit, so it will be interesting to see how he gets on this weekend.

Outright Selections

It is hard to oppose Mercedes and Hamilton. The team and driver have a good track record, his teammate no so good. Their main opponent, Max Verstappen says his car is just too slow to beat Mercedes but that it can and will improve.

For their part, Mercedes are saying that, on this track, with its many slower corners, then Red Bull will be more competitive. Or, Mercedes will be less competitive due to its relative weakness in the slow corners. On the straights and fast corners, they are faster. However, this track has not got so much in the way of straights and plenty of slower corners.

There is certainly something in that. Mercedes have traditionally had cars, with their long wheelbase, low rake design, which are stronger on the high speed circuits but weaker on slow twisty tracks. That said, they have won here in three of the last four years, so there is weak, and there is Mercedes weak.

Red Bull can be closer than in Austria, but Red Bull have had a better record in Austria than in Hungary and everything keeps on coming back to a Hamilton win.

If the nature of the track does bring Verstappen into the frame for the race win, then the weather could be the deal breaker. Mercedes do lose some performance in hot conditions and say that this year is no different. Toto Wolff says the weather forecast is for 30 degree air temperatures on Sunday.

2020 Hungarian GP Tips: Will The Heavens Open?

However, all the forecasts I have seen are saying it will be cooler than usual. With a low pressure system moving in, the weather will be unsettled. Rain is looking probable on Friday. It remains rather cloudy on Saturday and Sunday with a 40%- 60% chance of showers. Temperatures on Saturday and Sunday should be around 24 – 25 degrees. So, not the usual fierce heat we usually get here. It must be said that that there remains a high degree of uncertainty about the weather this weekend, which isn’t much help.

The best of the rest market is a little less competitive this year, with Racing Point and McLaren starting to be in a mini league of their own, between the big two and the real midfield. This weekend there is a BIG question mark over the Racing Point car and its legality. They may be derailed by a ruling that they must change the design of their brakes.

There is also the matter of their car being a Mercedes copy and Mercedes not being that their strongest on slower, twisty circuits. Yes, they have won three of the last four here, but Mercedes knew their car inside out, Racing Point are trying to make someone else’s design work. They may not be able to able to extract the best performance from their car, even if they do not have to change the brakes.

Vettel On Way To Racing Point?

Racing Point are also under the spotlight for another reason. There are plenty of rumours doing the rounds that one of their current drivers will be moved aside to make way for Sebastian Vettel next season. Some say its Perez who is on his way and that his management have been knocking on doors, looking for an alternative drive in 2021.

Others, that it will be Stroll who has to go. That makes more sense. Perez is the better driver, has been with the team a long time which is good for continuity. He also brings plenty of sponsors to the team. With the help of daddy’s cheque book, Stroll would be able to get a seat at Williams, Haas or Alfa Romeo.

Whatever the case, the two Racing Point drivers are going to be quizzed over and over, about their future in the team, which is an unwelcome distraction.

McLaren have no such worries and they have the tails up right now. The car is performing very well and the drivers are in good form. There is no reason why they cannot perform well on what has been a good track for them in recent years.

Lando Norris is writing his own headlines but Sainz has been unlucky so far and we haven’t seen his true level yet. He had a handling problem in the first race but that was sorted, and he started from third place last weekend. A problem getting one of his wheels on at his pit stop ruined his race. However, he can’t be unlucky all the time.

Ante-Post bets

With the weather for Sunday still uncertain it’s hard to choose between Verstappen (5.00) and Hamilton (1.70). It may be better to wait and see which way the weather is heading before considering a race win bet.

I am going with McLaren to continue as best of the rest. Racing Point are regarded as having a package that can contend for a podium. However, there is a question mark over their legality, which will come to a head shortly. This is not a track where they have traditionally gone well. They are also still learning about how the get the most out of the car. They have what is effectively a 2019 Mercedes clone and Mercedes have never been at their strongest on slow, twisty circuits.

McLaren have already proved that they can finish on the podium. They set the fastest lap in both the opening races and they are second in the constructors table. They have two great drivers who are in good form and they look a bit underrated in comparison to Perez and Stroll. McLaren have performed well in the past here, with a much worse car. So they clearly know how to set the car up at the Hungaroring.

Alpha Tauri have got a car in the points in the two races so far. They have always had a car in the points here in the turbo hybrid era. Gasly likes the track and has been sixth for both Red Bull and Toro Rosso. They can’t mix it with McLaren or Racing Point, but they remain in the midfield battle. Should Renault, who have a very poor record here, struggle with cooling again then Alpha Tauri are well placed to score points.

2020 Hungarian GP Tips: 2 points McLaren to be the winning car without the Big 6 @ 2.37 with Ladbrokes
Hungarian GP Tips: 2 points double top 6 finish for McLaren @ 2.87 with Ladbrokes
2020 Hungarian GP Tips: 1 point winner without the Big 6 Carlos Sainz @ 3.75 with Ladbrokes
2020 Hungarian GP Tips: 2 points Pierre Gasly to finish in the points @ 2.40 with Sportingbet

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