Lewis Hamilton’s future in Formula One is currently the subject of much speculation. His contract at McLaren expires at the end of the season, and he has not yet made any announcement about his plans for 2013. One possibility is a move to Ferrari, which has been generally ignored in the media due to the poor relationship Hamilton had with Fernando Alonso (Ferrari’s leading driver) at McLaren in 2007. But is it really that unlikely?
Hamilton is supremely talented. His raw speed is visible in qualifying, where he is always in with a shout of pole. In the races, his aggressive style of driving frequently translates into overtaking and if he is out in front the rest of the field has their work cut out to catch him. Hamilton is a true racer, and would be an enormous asset to any team.
Ferrari have an available seat for 2013. Felipe Massa’s contract runs out at the end of 2012 and it seems likely that the Brazilian will be replaced for next season. If Ferrari does seek to replace Massa, Hamilton must surely be right at the top of their wishlist. He will certainly bring the team victories, and is as capable as anyone of delivering championships.
Ferrari’s driver line-up is typically announced at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Although McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has expressed confidence that his star driver will re-sign with the Woking-based team for 2013, it seems a little strange that it is taking so long to be finalised. Perhaps Hamilton has signed with Ferrari and is simply keeping the news quiet until Monza.
The only potential problem with a move to Maranello is Fernando Alonso. Hamilton and Alonso were team-mates at McLaren in 2007, and they did not share a good relationship. Hamilton is a little older and a bit more mature now, and Alonso seems much more comfortable at Ferrari than he ever did at McLaren, so the Hamilton-Alonso driver pairing could perhaps work better the second time round. The two drivers have been seen talking at a few of the races so far this season, and the relationship seems relaxed and friendly. Could it be a sign of things to come?
Hamilton in a Ferrari is an attractive proposition for Formula One. He is regarded by many as the quickest driver on the grid, and Ferrari are the ultimate Formula One team. It is a match that should, sooner or later, be made.
Going into the Hungarian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton desperately needed to take points off Fernando Alonso to keep his title hopes alive. He achieved that aim by taking a commanding pole position and then driving a calm and controlled race to take his second victory of the season. Hamilton was under constant pressure, first from Romain Grosjean and then the Kimi Raikkonen, but the McLaren driver held on for an impressive win ahead of the two Lotus cars.
It was another weekend of near-success for Lotus. Grosjean’s second on the grid was the Frenchman’s best qualifying performance yet, but it wasn’t quite enough for pole. In the race, Grosjean looked like challenging Hamilton for a few laps, but ultimately could not find a way past the Englishman. Raikkonen managed to pass his team-mate in the pits and closed up on the leader, but he too could not find a way past and could only take his third second place of the season. The Ice Man has yet to win in 2012, but his day is surely not too far away.
Ferrari had an unusually poor weekend. Alonso and Massa qualified down in sixth and seventh place, and finished fifth and ninth respectively. Alonso had looked bulletproof in the races leading up to Hungary, but Ferrari’s form evaporated at the tight and twisty Hungaroring.
Mercedes had an even more disappointing weekend. Rosberg and Schumacher were 13th and 17th on the grid, which suggested that their race would be difficult. But no-one could have predicted just how difficult it would turn out to be. When the first start was aborted, Schumacher turned his engine off as it was overheating, which resulted in the German having to start from the pitlane. A puncture followed after which Schumacher was handed a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane. Mercedes retired Schumacher’s car with 11 laps to go, claiming a telemetry-related failure. It is more likely that the team wanted the option to change his gearbox for the next race in Belgium, which is allowed if the car retires, but otherwise would have resulted in a grid penalty.
Nico Rosberg could only manage 10th in the race after qualifying 13th. The Mercedes W03 was simply not quick enough, as has clearly been the case in recent races. After Rosberg won in China there was hope of a continued Mercedes resurgence, but it seems that the Brackley-based team is gradually slipping back into the clutches of the midfield.
Bruno Senna had an impressive weekend, featuring at the sharp end of most of the practice sessions before qualifying ninth – the first time he has featured in Q3 this season – and then going on to take seventh in the race ahead of the Red Bull of Mark Webber. Team-mate Maldonado qualified eighth but finished outside the points after incurring a drive-through penalty for driving into the Force India of Paul di Resta.
Hamilton’s victory opens up the championship fight quite a bit, with second to fifth now separated by only eight points. Alonso is still 40 points clear at the front, but a few more results like this will close that gap quite quickly.
The teams now have five weeks until the next race in Belgium. After 11 races in the first part of the season, the break will be useful to recharge and refocus ahead of the last nine races of 2012. McLaren go into the break on a high, with Lotus looking strong. But can anyone do anything about the lead Fernando Alonso has in the championship? Time will tell.
Budapest is the setting for the 11th round of the 2012 Formula One season. The teams have had no time to relax after the German Grand Prix last week, but can look forward to a mid-season break after this weekend.
The Hungaroring was the location for the first Formula One race behind the iron curtain in 1986, and has featured on the calendar every year since. The track is tight, narrow and twisty, with very little in the way of straights, and consequently has the second-lowest average speed on the current F1 calendar – after Monaco.
In recent years, Hungary has seen a surprising amount of drama. Felipe Massa’s near-fatal accident in 2009 happened when a spring from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn hit Massa on the head on the run up to turn 4, one of the fastest points on the track. The start-finish straight saw Michael Schumacher push Barrichello very close to the pit-wall as the German attempted to defend 10th position in the 2010 race.
Records and first-time winners
Fernando Alonso has won 30 Grands Prix, which puts him fifth on the list of most wins by a driver in Formula One history. If he wins in Budapest on Sunday, Alonso will take his 31st win on his 31st birthday to go level with fourth-placed Nigel Mansell on that same list.
Alonso’s very first Formula One victory came at the Hungarian Grand Prix of 2003. Of the current field, Jenson Button (2006) and Heikki Kovalainen (2008) also first stood on top of the podium in Hungary. Retired World Champion Damon Hill took his first victory for Williams in 1993 before winning again in 1995 and very nearly taking a surprise win for Arrows in 1997 before mechanical issues dropped him to second.
As in Germany, Pirelli are providing the teams with medium and soft compound rubber.
Who can bet against Alonso? The F2012 has, after some development, proven to be quick in all conditions, and Hungary should be no exception, particularly in the hands of the in-form Spaniard.
Red Bull should be in contention, as will McLaren. The surprise package of the weekend could be Mercedes, as the W03 has been quick on slower circuits that require good traction. Schumacher took pole in Monaco(before his grid-penalty dropped him to sixth) and Rosberg finished second in the race as Mercedes very nearly dominated proceedings in the principality. Perhaps they will be resurgent this weekend.
But Alonso is so dominant at this stage of the season that it seems very unlikely that he will be beaten to the chequered flag.
Circuit Length: 4.381 km
Race laps: 70
Race length: 306.630 km
Lap Record: 1:19.071 – Michael Schumacher / Ferrari (2004)
Race winner: Jenson Button / Mclaren
Pole position: Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull – 1:19.815
Fastest lap: Felipe Massa / Ferrari – 1:23.415
- Michael Schumacher has had the most success in Hungary, with four wins between 1994 and 2004.
- All of the multiple winners in Hungary have been World Champion in their careers
- McLaren have enjoyed much success in Hungary in recent years, winning five out of the last seven races.
Friday and Saturday are expected to be dry, with a chance of thunderstorms on Sunday. If the race is wet, the teams could suffer from a lack of wet-weather set-up time, but hopefully the rain will hold off and the race will be dry, although a wet race could shake up the order.
Lewis Hamilton is one of the new guys, right? It’s easy to think so, because he looks young, fresh-faced and eager to prove himself. He is young, at just 27 years old, but Hamilton is no longer the new kid on the block. With 100 Grands Prix under his belt, Hamilton is well-established in the top tier of motorsport.
His stats make interesting reading. In 100 races, he has achieved 46 podiums including 18 victories, 21 pole positions, 10 fastest laps, 2 hat-tricks (pole, win and fastest lap) and the 2008 World Championship. When Hamilton won the 2008 title, he was the youngest ever Formula One World Champion, a record that he held until Sebastian Vettel took the title in 2010. Hamilton has never finished lower than fifth in the Drivers’ Championship, and has won at least 2 races in each completed season of his Formula One career.
Lewis Hamilton is arguably the most talented driver on the current grid. He is formidable in qualifying, relishing the challenge of extracting every last little bit of performance from his car. He has an aggressive and entertaining driving style, and is fearless when overtaking.
Since becoming World Champion in 2008, Hamilton has been attempting to repeat the achievement, but with no success. The lack of further championships is the result of a very competitive field and a slight slump in the form of his McLaren team. 2009 was a poor year for the team from Woking, as the car ran in the midfield for the first half of the season before McLaren’s relentless development programme delivered some pace late in the year. 2010 was the beginning of Red Bull’s rise to power, as Sebastian Vettel took the title, and 2011 saw Red Bull dominate the season, as Hamilton could only manage fifth in the final standings.
2012 looked more promising when the McLaren MP4-27 proved quick in testing and Hamilton and Button locked out the front row for the season-opener in Australia. However, the team has not been able to maintain that performance, and Hamilton has now fallen 62 points behind championship leader Fernando Alonso. It is possible that he could recover that deficit, but it would take a superb second half of the season from the Englishman.
Although more titles have seemed elusive for the past three seasons, Hamilton is still young, full of energy, and blindingly quick. In 100 Grands Prix, he has proven that he has what it takes to beat some of the greatest drivers in history. There is plenty of time for more championships, and when the right car comes along, there will be no stopping him.
For the first few races of 2012, there was no dominant driver in Formula One. Lewis Hamilton was strong in qualifying, and Fernando Alonso was pushing beyond the limits of his car in the races, but neither could be said to be dominating the season.
Now, however, Alonso is the clear title favourite, 34 points clear of second-placed Mark Webber, with three wins to his name. And his strong position is mostly down to consistency. Alonso’s last six results are second (Spain), third (Monaco), fifth (Canada), first (Valencia), second (Great Britain) and first (Germany). The Spaniard is the only driver to have finished in the points at every race in 2012.
At the half-way point of the season (10 races out of 20 have been completed), it is mathematically possible for any one of the 24 drivers in the field to take the title. Realistically, however, there are only six drivers in with a chance of being 2012 World Champion: Alonso, Webber, Vettel, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Button. Although Nico Rosberg is ahead of Jenson Button in the championship, the Mercedes car does not seem to have the pace to be a title contender.
Button, seventh in the drivers’ table and 86 points behind Alonso, is the furthest behind of the realistic contenders. To translate 86 points into results, Button is three wins and a fourth place off the lead, which means he would need a very dramatic improvement in results for the second half of the season to mount a challenge. Nonetheless, it is possible, assuming Alonso slips up once or twice.
If Alonso fails to score at the next two races, he will quickly fall into the clutches of the Red Bulls behind him. He hasn’t quite run away with the championship yet. But if he continues to win races, it will not be long before Ferrari start planning the year-end party in Maranello.