HUNGARIAN GRAND PRIX PREVIEW

By Pat Espresso

Just when you thought the rows and inter-team battling that has marked the 2010 season were dying down, Ferrari manage to trigger a Krakatoa-sized controversy that will be debated furiously to the end of this championship.

Because of the Hockenheim debacle, it won’t just be F1 fans who will be glued to their televisions but sports fans worldwide. Accusations of cheating and fixing races will ensure that interest for this year’s 12th race is sky-high. The question on everyone’s lips: will Ferrari manage to  recover from their PR disaster? The team’s fans are wondering how a fantastic weekend displaying the massive achievement of the engineers in squeezing more performance out of the car ended with Ferrari turning triumph into disaster. Luca di Montezemolo has some critical decisions to make.

Red Bull will be hugely troubled by the performance of the Ferrari and will be hoping the controversy will prevent the team from extracting similar levels of performance around the dusty, 4,381 kilometre Hungaroring. Again, Sebastian Vettel failed miserably to capitalise on his pole position in Germany and the team must be wondering whether they need to give the youngster a few more lessons in successful getaways.

Mark Webber will be wanting to forget his Hockenheim problems and get his championship back on track. Both will be wondering if their early-season advantage has now ended. If it has gone, they will surely rue the points they lost through stupid mistakes in the first half of the championship.

Furrowed brows are also likely at McLaren, who won here in Hungary last year with Hamilton. In Germany, the exhaust blown diffuser failed to provide any significant improvement in performance, relative to their closest rivals, and Hamilton and Button will be bracing themselves to lose their leading positions in the drivers’ championships if their engineers can’t perform miracles in the few days between Hockenheim and Hungary. McLaren remain the only leading team not to have suffered a fall-out between drivers but most informed fans believe it is only a matter of time before the sparks fly. At times during the German GP, Button looked stronger than Hamilton. It  will be interesting if he can ever manage to go past his teammate to see how Hamilton reacts. That million-dollar smile is certain to disappear at least.

Struggling Mercedes now seem resigned to failure this year, although Rosberg is still capable of the podium, even if his exalted teammate is now focusing on 2011. The performance gap on the evidence so far suggests that Schumacher should hang his helmet up. Teams like Renault and Force India, who have both made significant improvements this year, will continue to scrap for points but they too must be looking to next year’s design in the hope that they can join the front runners.

How they stand after the German GP

Our hearts go out to Jarno Trulli for another disappointment in Germany. We will be cheering the philosophical Italian and his teammate Heikki Kovalainen in Hungary, hoping that their hard-work can be translated into some points. It is high time that the Lotus team got some reward for their efforts.

But like so often in the past, all eyes will be on Ferrari and how they approach the race. They will be besieged by the world’s media and the trackside fans’ reaction will be keenly noted. Alonso and Massa, I suspect, will be keeping their helmets on more than usual this weekend.

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