And so, we’re down to the last couple of races before the summer break, but there’s no time to relax for drivers with records to break, fierce battles to win, and a big name returning with a point to prove. These are some of the main talking points ahead of this weekend’s trip to the Hungaroring.
The return of Daniel Ricciardo
I’m sure you haven’t missed it, but if for some reason you were tuned out to the latest happenings in the paddock after Silverstone, then the big news of last week is Red Bull’s decision to replace Nyck de Vries with Daniel. ricciardo. in AlphaTauri.
The decision appears to be as much about wanting to assess Ricciardo as De Vries’ performances in the first ten races this season, with AlphaTauri proving difficult to get results as the team has slipped to the bottom of the constructors. championship.
Ricciardo impressed with his lap times in the Pirelli tire test at Silverstone last week and Red Bull moved quickly to put him alongside Yuki Tsunoda for the rest of the season, starting with this weekend’s race in Budapest.
The Australian’s comeback is a popular move, but he has quite the task on his hands to try and get the best out of Tsunoda, let alone score points in a difficult car. And it all comes after his difficult time at McLaren that led Ricciardo to want a break from racing. Refreshed and motivated to return to an F1 seat, Red Bull will be hoping he quickly delivers…
Daniel Ricciardo returns to F1 with AlphaTauri
Red Bull chasing history
And speaking of the Red Bull delivery, the team is on the verge of breaking a Formula 1 record that has stood for some 35 years.
Max Verstappen’s win at the British Grand Prix took Red Bull to 11 consecutive wins, equaling McLaren’s tally from the 1988 season. So I’m sure everyone has figured out that means Red Bull can set a new record if they win at the Hungaroring, pulling away from the rest with 12 consecutive wins.
It’s a run that dates back to Abu Dhabi last year, and the only interruption since Carlos Sainz won at Silverstone more than a year ago has been George Russell’s maiden win at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Between Verstappen and Sergio Perez, Red Bull has won 20 of the last 21 races, and is hoping to have a chance of completing the first part of the season over the next two weekends.
Red Bull has won all 10 races so far this season and could make it 12 straight wins with a win in Hungary.
Where will McLaren be located?
When it comes to teams that could prevent Red Bull from making history, a new threat has emerged in recent weeks. And that threat comes from McLaren.
A major upgrade introduced in Austria helped propel Lando Norris to fourth place and a much-improved car performance, but McLaren cautioned that the track and conditions suited them. So it was on to Silverstone where Oscar Piastri also earned the advances and qualified third behind Norris, finishing fourth as Norris clung on to an impressive second place.
Again, McLaren says that was partly down to the characteristics of the circuit and the weather, with cloud cover keeping track temperatures low, so expectations are that Budapest will provide a very different sample to measure progress. from McLaren. Mainly the medium and low speed corners, plus the regular high temperatures, it’s a big difference from the previous two places.
The final step in this round of updates will also be featured, all making McLaren a team to watch that could well be hot on Red Bull’s heels once again.
McLaren is bringing a few more improvements to its car after a podium finish last time out at Silverstone.
The general fight for the second
And if McLaren manages to remain as competitive as they were at Silverstone, that will be an additional headache for the rest of the chasing pack.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the 2023 season so far has been the battle to be the best of the rest behind Red Bull, with Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari taking turns to be the closest challenger at different circuits.
Just a glance at the last four places shows that four different teams offer the biggest threat, with McLaren’s performance at Silverstone after Ferrari pushed in Austria, Aston Martin leading the charge in Canada and Mercedes looking particularly quick in Barcelona.
Small factors can make a big difference, but looking at similar track layouts, Aston Martin was extremely competitive in Monaco, but there have been so many developments since then that it’s impossible to predict the pecking order with certainty.
McLaren might be a new team to watch out for in contention every weekend, but they are way behind in terms of the constructors’ championship, so it’s Ferrari, who sit fourth overall, who could do with reducing the deficit. of 46 points with respect to the second classified, Mercedes. in the ranking.
Oh, and all that without considering the possibility of Alpine entering the fray after Esteban Ocon’s podium finish in Monaco.
Talks over Lewis Hamilton’s contract with Mercedes will be a key topic at this week’s race in Budapest.
Lewis Hamilton contract talks
Off the track, one of the biggest storylines remains unresolved as we head into the summer break with Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes yet to finalize a new contract for the seven-time world champion.
Comments from both sides of the deal have suggested a deal has been close for several weeks, with much finer details, rather than money or contract length, being worked out. But we’re now just over four months away from what would be the final race on Hamilton’s current deal, and talks have been going on for some time.
Nothing has yet been said from either Hamilton or Mercedes to suggest there is any doubt that the contract will eventually be agreed and signed. but watchers will only become more and more interested as more time goes by without an announcement.
Three podium finishes in the last four races show that Hamilton is still performing at the top of his game, and at Silverstone he said sky sports that he feels he has another five years to go, but as it stands, he doesn’t have an ideal for 2024.