Mark Webber’s smile on the Nurburgring podium was as apparent as Rubens Barrachello’s dismay in the garage as Brawn GP once again seemed to go backwards in race trim. Their upgrades will arrive in time for Budapest – not a moment too soon for the boys from Brackley.
If Webber had not won in Germany, he could have been forgiven for wagering that The Hungaroring would finally deliver him on to the top step of the podium – after all, it did exactly that for Damon Hill, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, and Heikki Kovaleinen.
The Hungaroring has been an ever present since 1986, and will remain so until at least 2016. It is ironic that this 2.7 mile Budapest dust bowl, often disparagingly described as ‘Monaco without the glamour’ should be the only circuit other then the Principality that seems to enjoy unquestioned participation each year.
The circuit’s lack of obvious overtaking opportunities forces teams to strive even harder to grind out an advantage. It certainly brought the best out of Michael Schumacher in 1998 when the German’s unbelievably consistent and quick lap times allowed him to convert Ross Brawn’s audacious three stop strategy in to victory.
In the days before wall to wall timing screens and number crunching strategists, Nigel Mansell defied all the odds by winning here despite starting 12th – ‘Ill Leone’s’ Ferrari seemingly finding additional tarmac as it scythed its way through the field in a typically committed drive from the Englishman.
The Hungaroring will add another feather to its cap this weekend, as it sees the youngest ever driver to start a GP in the form of 19-year-old Jaime Alguersuari, who replaces Sebastian Bourdais at Torro Rosso. Albeit unlucky on a couple of occasions, the Frenchman will doubtless be cast in to the ‘American Champ to F1 Chump’ category, along with Michael Andretti and Alex Zanardi to name but two.
The current youngest ever race winner, Sebastian Vettel, finds himself favourite for the win at 3.35. The German is on a roll, and having been out-driven by teammate Webber (5.6 for the win) in Germany, expect him to raise his game in Hungary.
All of a sudden things have got a bit stressful for Brawn GP. It was easy a few weeks ago, but now they know they have a serious battle on their hands. Under fire both internally and externally, they must respond positively to the pressure. Button is still the Championship leader by 21 points, hence the Frome man still commanding a victory price of 3.85.
In the sister Brawn, Barrachello is quickly acquiring the title of the grumpy man of F1. The most experienced driver in the sport’s history is concerned not only with the team’s drop off in performance, but also their perceived favouritism towards Button. The Brazilian has been around long enough to know that only victory will alleviate these concerns, and at 13.5, he has a chance.
Fast looming in to view in Brawn’s wing mirrors are Ferrari and Mclaren – the sleeping giants finally waking from their slumber. It may still be too early for victories, but anything could happen, and if it does, Lewis Hamilton (13.0) and Felipe Massa (40.0) could provide a sting in the tail.
With Webber and Vettel fighting for team bragging rights, Button in unchartered territory out front, and a cranky Barrachello fired up by self-conceived conspiracy theories, this year’s championship battle is really heating up. Throw in the gradual re-emergence of the red cars from Italy and the silver cars from Woking, and you see why 2009 has the potential to go right down to the wire.
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. Ã‚Â© The Sporting Exchange Limited
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