2020 Hungarian Grand Prix preview: Red Bull fightback or Mercedes walkover?


Mercedes look to round off this season's first triple-header with a clean sweep of victories at the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix. But Red Bull is looking to rein in the champions

Start of the 2019 Hungarian GP

Will we get another Hamilton versus Verstappen show in Hungary?

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Red Bull is confident of taking the fight to Mercedes at the Hungaroring this weekend, as the team looks to halt Mercedes’ momentum, following two ‘home’ defeats at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.

The final instalment of this season’s first triple header sees Valtteri Bottas heading up the championship by six points from team-mate Lewis Hamilton with one victory apiece. No team could touch the W11 on race day at the Red Bull Ring but will that change with the location?

The tight course should play to Red Bull’s strengths in the slow speed corners, and provide some hope for Max Verstappen, who cut a frustrated figure after the Styrian Grand Prix, having to settle for third on the day.

For now, there’s no judgement on Renault’s protest over the legality of  Racing Point’s brake ducts. Can the pink team maximise its performance after a strong, but far-from perfect race in Austria, and will McLaren once again shine on race day?

We’ll also see whether anyone else has taken a step forward in the short turnaround or whether the second location of the season will provide another thrilling race — with rain once again a possibility.

Here is a team-by-team guide ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.



Lewis Hamilton, 2020 Styrian GP

Back to winning ways for Lewis Hamilton

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For a team that has taken 80 of the maximum possible 88 points so far this season, Mercedes heads to Hungary on another planet from the rest of the field.

With the W11 somehow another step forward for the team, Red Bull appears to be its only real threat, yet was unable to get close during last weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix.

Add in the fact that no other Formula 1 driver has won more times at the Hungaroring than Lewis Hamilton, and you already have an idea of just what awaits challengers this weekend.

Off the back of another supreme qualifying effort in torrential conditions, and with the prospect of more rain on the way on Saturday in Hungary, the scene looks set for another Mercedes show.

Even if that’s the case, the title race remains open. Bottas heads into round three with a six-point advantage, and the Finn will be desperate to maintain his positive start to the season and not fall victim to misfortune as he did last season.



Red Bull

Max Verstappen, 2020 Styrian GP

Max Verstappen looks on after conceding second place late-on

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It was a disappointing result last Sunday for Red Bull and Max Verstappen. The team knew it would face a deficit to Mercedes but Hamilton’s victory came at a canter and Max Verstappen couldn’t hold Bottas back for second either.

Team-mate Alexander Albon was nowhere seemingly all weekend long, struggling with the slow speed instability in his car, resulting in numerous spins through practice and qualifying.

Verstappen is in desperate need of points after his DNF in round one, but arrives at a circuit at which he scored pole position last season.

Team principal Christian Horner is optimistic heading into the third race of the season, pointing to the layout of the Hungaroring as favouring the RB16 more than the Red Bull Ring.

“I’m looking forward to Hungary. It is a different and slightly more technical circuit to the Red Bull Ring and offers us another great opportunity,” he said.

“Mercedes have shown some great form there in recent years but last year, Max scored our first pole at the track using Honda power, so it will be another interesting weekend and we are fully focused on the task in hand.”



Ferrari, Styrian GP 2020

The aftermath of Ferrari’s self-inflicted double DNF

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Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for Ferrari, Charles Leclerc put an optimistic nose down the inside of his team-mate at Turn Three and brought its Austrian nightmare to an early end.

Leclerc apologised for his mistake and subsequent demolition of his team-mate’s rear wing. Sebastian Vettel was blunt with his assessment of the collision, without attempting a diplomatic response.

An awful couple of weekends for Ferrari is now followed by a race at a track where it finished over a minute behind the leader last season, and that was with its competitive SF90.

Team principal Mattia Binotto did not want to use the crash as an excuse on what was already a poor weekend for the Scuderia.

“It’s the worst possible end to a weekend that was already very disappointing. It’s true we took no real part in the race, but we can’t hide behind the collision that eliminated both cars.

“However, now is not the time for accusations. Instead, we must just get on with our work. Difficult moments can bring out the best in people and I’m sure that will be the case now.”



Lando Norris, Styrian GP 2020

Lando Norris has starred so far in 2020

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Arguably the star of the season so far, Lando Norris‘ heroics in both Austrian races means he sits third in the drivers’ championship heading into the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Impressive overtakes in closing stages of both races and greater understanding of his car and team has resulted in brilliant performances as he continually improves on his already solid rookie year.

Carlos Sainz was unlucky to not score more points himself with a pitstop problem that cost him great result. Other than that slow stop, the team has been maximising its performances with the current package it has.

While it is not quite the fastest midfield car of all, it is a competitive one and both drivers are showing maturity in their drives so far in 2020, rewarding the team with great results.

“The past two races in Austria have been amazing for us and I can’t wait to go racing again in Hungary,” Norris said ahead of Hungary.

“After two weeks at the same circuit we need to reset and work hard to continue building on these solid results.

“This track has more slower speed corners and is much tighter than in Austria. It should give us a new benchmark on the performance of the car.

“We know we can’t get ahead of ourselves only two races into the season. It’s been a great start but now we need to try and maintain our momentum and fight for the best possible points.”


Racing Point

Lance Stroll, Sergio Perez, 2020 Styrian GP

Racing Point looks like the best midfield package but failed to maximise its speed


In contrast to McLaren, Racing Point is not maximising its results despite a clearly competitive package this year.

Sergio Perez‘s difficult qualifying in the wet was a distant memory by the halfway mark of the Styrian Grand Prix, but contact in the closing stages with Albon undid all of his good work.

He lost out to Norris for fifth place on the final corner, having been forced to cruise home with front wing damage. A lap earlier, he had been challenging Albon for fourth.

Renault‘s protest over the team’s brake ducts serves as another distraction off track for the team that needs to keep its focus on it, and both drivers are looking for a more consistent weekend in Budapest.

Perez will be hoping for a better performance in qualifying, on a circuit that the Mexican is a fan of.

“We call it a technical track because it’s not easy to hook up a clean lap,” he said. “It’s always dirty off-line and any mistakes in the low and medium speed corners are costly. Keeping your momentum is everything – more than at most other tracks.

“It’s tight, twisty and usually makes for an interesting race, with the first sector giving us some overtaking opportunities. To throw it up the inside into Turn One, you need to be really confident on the brakes. With a big run-off area, drivers are willing to take more risks there.”



Esteban Ocon, Daniel Ricciardo, Styrian GP 2020

Renault cost itself more points in Austria as Ricciardo and Ocon scrapped early on

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Fears over cooling issues on R.S.20 materialised again during the Styrian Grand Prix for Renault, this time taking out Esteban Ocon following Daniel Ricciardo‘s race one retirement.

A lack of decisiveness on the pitwall kept a faster Ricciardo behind Ocon — who was on a different strategy — and cost the Australian dearly at the end of what was a difficult opening to the 2020 season.

There may be more cooling worries on the way for the French team, with the Hungarian Grand Prix being one of the hotter races on the calendar.

“We’re encouraged from what we have seen from the car so far this year,” Renault’s chief race engineer Ciaron Pilbeam said ahead of the weekend.

“It has been consistently better in Barcelona and Austria, the two circuits we’ve been at this season. I don’t think these improvements are circuit specific, and we would expect this progression to carry over to other circuits.

“It can be hot in central Europe at this time of year, especially in Budapest, so we may need to run more cooling on the car, although the weather forecast at the moment is for a mainly cool weekend with the possibility of some rain.”



Pierre Gasly, Styrian GP 2020

Back-to-back points finishes was a decent start for AlphaTauri

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AlphaTauri opened its account for 2020 over the opening weekends in Austria, but its pace was not eye-catching in comparison to other midfield rivals.

Pierre Gasly had been running inside the top 10 during the first phase of the Styrian Grand Prix but ended up well outside the points by the finish while team-mate Daniil Kvyat salvaged a solitary score in tenth place.

“Overall, I got a positive feeling after these two opening races, however, we still have a lot of work to do if we want to finish in the top ten on a regular basis,” Gasly said.

“It wasn’t a bad start to the season and we already saw some signs of progress from the first to the second race. We had a new front wing for the Styrian GP and I think that helped a lot in terms of performance. Now we must continue to work hard and move in the right direction.

“The team’s development programme should produce something positive in the next few weeks to help us fight our competitors in the midfield.”


Alfa Romeo

Antonio Giovinazzi, 2020 Styrian GP

Antonio Giovinazzi has scored Alfa’s only points so far

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Alfa Romeo has a single point on the board in 2020 thanks to Antonio Giovinazzi’s effort in race one at the Red Bull Ring, but missed out on adding to it last weekend.

Kimi Räikkönen was involved in an intense scrap with Kevin Magnussen‘s Haas outside the top 10 but Alfa is hampered when it comes to fighting with other teams because the low-drag C39 can’t make up for the Ferrari power deficit.

It’s disappointing to leave empty handed, but we definitely have a lot of positives to take with us,” team principal Fred Vasseur said after the race.

“Our pace was an improvement and we could fight on track with cars that used to be ahead of us.

“Starting from the back after yesterday’s qualifying put us on the back foot and so did the time Kimi lost having to avoid the Ferrari crash, but that we could recover to nearly claim another top ten was a sign of things going in the right direction.

“We will need to carry this momentum to Hungary.”



Kevin Magnussen, 2020 Styrian GP

Haas left Austria with questions still in need of answering

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Haas was still having issues with brakes on the second weekend of the season following a double retirement a week prior. The VF-20 has not been the significant step forward that the American team was hoping for.

Paired with the lack of power from the Ferrari power unit it is running, Austria was not kind to either Romain Grosjean or Magnussen.

The opportunity to run on the same track twice in a row in similar conditions did not appear to help on race day but may have provided answers moving forward.

The team is optimistic that a change of scenery might alleviate some of the headaches it experienced at the Red Bull Ring.

“Now we roughly know where we are. Obviously, we’re not on the top of the midfield, we’re in the second part, we just need to get better as we go along and get more out of the car,” team principal Guenther Steiner said.

“Hopefully some of the tracks coming, they’ll help us as they’re a little less power sensitive.”



George Russel, 2020 Styrian GP

A great qualifying performance by George Russell was a highlight for Williams

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George Russell starred in Austria but was left lamenting what might have been last weekend with a mistake in the opening laps that undid all his hard work.

He also says Williams needs to work on its lack of race pace, to build on its strong qualifying performance.

“I am really looking forward to Hungary. I think the circuit characteristics will suit our car better than Austria did,” he said ahead of the weekend.

“We have got a bit of work to do off the back of the race in Austria, as our race pace wasn’t as strong as our qualifying pace, so we need to understand why.

“Nevertheless, Hungary is a great track, it is one of my favourites and it will be fun to drive around that circuit again.”