Lewis Hamilton’s win in the Hungarian GP sent McLaren into FIN four-week summer break on a high — and left the battle for the 2012 World Championship finely poised.
Fernando Alonso might still enjoy a handy lead, but his 40-point advantage could disappear within a couple of races. Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton and surprise package Kimi Raikkonen are waiting to pounce — and all of them, along with distant sixth-place man Jenson Button, have experience of the ups and downs of championship battles. Predicting what direction the contest will take, even in the short term, is nigh on impossible. The contrast between the tight, claustrophobic Hungaroring and the wide open spaces of Spa — where the weather can do absolutely anything — could not be greater. Belgium is followed immediately by Monza, a track that rewards good straightline speed and requires a unique wing package. Those two races in two weekends end the season’s European leg and provide the springboard for what promises to be the
most exhausting finish to a season the sport has ever seen. The championship will conclude over an unprecedented run of seven flyaway races in just 10 weekends, three of them back-to-back pairs. It’s a punishing schedule for everyone — drivers, engineers and mechanics — but what will really make the difference is the work done back at base. The destination of the 2012 championship will be decided by who does the best job of keeping up their development momentum until the very end of the season, and also who overcomes the logistical challenge of getting new pieces flown around the world and onto the cars as soon as possible. And they have to do that while devoting an ever-increasing amount of their finite R&D resources to readying their 2013 contenders.
There is also likely to be growing tension between the top teams as engineers continue to explore the grey areas of the rules. Red Bull Racing has been the focus of several controversies already this year, although none has led to a race result being challenged.