In the final stop before summer break, Formula 1 heads straight from Hockenheim to the Hungaroring for the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest.
The twists and turns just keep on coming in this 2018 season. After problems in qualifying, Lewis Hamilton made the most of mid-race rain showers to take victory in Germany from his lowest grid position ever in 14th.
Meanwhile, after dominating all weekend, main rival Sebastian Vettel threw the win away with just the merest of mistakes in the damp conditions putting him in the barrier. As a result, the Mercedes driver holds a 17-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship, but that could well come down again should the script in Hungary go something like expected.
About the race
The Hungaroring is a very different circuit from the four that have preceded it. To get an understanding, you only have to know its nickname of ‘Monaco without the barriers’.
Today’s F1 cars have changed that slightly, but Budapest remains a race where downforce trumps power thanks to a series of slow and medium-speed chicanes and hairpins. What that means is Ferrari and particularly Red Bull are the teams to beat this weekend, just as they were back in Monaco, while for Mercedes it’s a little more about damage limitation.
Last year saw the Scuderia command this race with Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen taking a one-two, but Red Bull would capitulate with Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo colliding at Turn 2 on the opening lap.
It was a different story in 2014 though as, in wet/dry conditions, Ricciardo would pass Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in the closing lap for his second F1 win. Hamilton did take his first win with Mercedes in Hungary the year before, and again in 2016, so any result is possible at what has become a pretty unpredictable Grand Prix.
That said, there’s still an edge to be had in your fantasy F1 lineups, so here are our picks for this year:
Top driver picks
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari ($28.4m)
Following the disappointment of crashing out of his home race, the Ferrari driver will be desperate to hit straight back this weekend in Budapest. On paper, that is exactly what the German should do.
With his car better suited to high downforce than Mercedes and enough of a power advantage to at least keep Red Bull behind in qualifying, he should be able to hold them off in the race.
Questions over tyre wear and whether the engine advantage will be as big as in recent races do linger, but if the 31-year-old isn’t on the top step on Sunday, it would be a little surprising.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull ($20.5m)
Another factor that could work against Ferrari is the weather, with initial forecasts suggesting rain and thunderstorms both in qualifying and the race. As a result, having Max Verstappen in your team is an absolute must. The Dutchman will already have high hopes of victory in a more competitive Red Bull and should it rain, his performance from Brazil in 2016 is proof very few could stop him.
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault ($11.0m)
While Haas has been leading the midfield in terms of pace since Austria, it was only at the Red Bull Ring where they were able to covert that into a result with a fourth and fifth place finish. The past two races have seen errors cost them and that is why the consistency of Renault – and more recently Nico Hulkenberg – makes him the better, albeit more expensive option than either Kevin Magnussen or Romain Grosjean.
Also, on a more chassis dependent circuit, the American team does struggle. This could lead to a shake-up in the midfield pecking order and benefit the French manufacturer.
Worst driver picks
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes ($24.5m)
The reasoning here is fairly simple: should the competitive order be as expected, Bottas would be the sixth fastest driver.
Also, despite claims to the contrary, the use of team orders late on at Hockenheim does set a standard that Hamilton will now be favoured in race situations. So, if Mercedes are the third best team, don’t be surprised if everything is done to limit any points loss between Lewis and Vettel.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren ($10.6m)
I see you hovering that mouse pointer over the Spaniard thinking McLaren should be more competitive at a high downforce circuit – but don’t.
The MCL33 may not be the worse chassis on the grid, but the other midfield teams are on a similar level if not ahead of the British team. While Alonso may be a few places higher up the grid, don’t expect Hungary to be a big turnaround from recent races.
Top team pick: Ferrari ($30.0m)
Almost all season we’ve suggested that while Red Bull may be a little slower, their driver line-up and price – currently $22.3m – make them the best choice as constructor for points since it allows you to have a healthy driver budget. Around a more competitive track like the Hungaroring that could well be the case again, but Ferrari are now just too strong to choose anyone else.
Yes, they may take up almost a third of the $100m budget at PlayON, but there are enough cheap, good drivers to make the extra spend on a regular race winning team worth it, particularly at one of Mercedes’ weaker races.
These are our picks and preview for the Hungarian Grand Prix, now all you need to do is sign up and play. Good luck!