We’ve had four different winners in the past four Grand Prix as we enter the second half of the 2011 F1 season. Jenson Button in Canada, Sebastian Vettel in Valencia, Fernando Alonso in Britain, and Lewis Hamilton in Germany just last week.
Who looks strong heading into Hungary? At this point in the season it really is tough to determine which of the top three teams has the strongest car at the moment. One thing is for sure, Ferrari and McLaren have made much more progress during the mid-season than Red Bull have. Ferrari and McLaren have improved their competitiveness from the beginning of the season by incredible amounts. Of course, there have been stellar drives from Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, and Lewis Hamilton, but Felipe Massa is looking very strong. Although he hasn’t won a race, he has been able to match the pace of the other front runners. This shows he is comfortable and confident in the performance of his Ferrari, evidence of the Italian team’s recent improvements.
Mark Webber has also shown recent strength in his own performance. He has secured pole position in the last two races, and has been looking more competitive relative to his team mate Vettel in the past races. He finished a race in front of Vettel for the first time last week, which must give him a confidence boost. If he wants any chance of securing the title, he must convert pole positions into victories. One can secure as many poles as one would like, but the only order that matters is at the end of the race.
The increase in performance from numerous different parties in the sport makes it hard to guess who will be strong in Hungary. I have to guess it will be one of the Red Bulls or Fernando Alonso. Hamilton had good pace in Germany, but the colder temperatures suit the McLaren. We can look back on Valencia and see how much the heat troubles the silver cars. Stefano Domenicali claimed that the weather in Germany provided the “worst possible” conditions for Ferrari. The increase in heat may provide a slight advantage to the Maranello squad.
Within Red Bull, it is hard to decide. Webber has decisively out qualified Vettel in the past two races, and it will be interesting to see if he can do the same this weekend. In terms of race pace, they seem to be tight. It seems there is not much between the two Red Bull racers.
If I had to guess the podium for Sunday’s race, I would have to say Vettel, Alonso, Webber. Hopefully the practice sessions tomorrow and qualifying on Saturday will give us more information as to who is running well in Hungary.