Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso could celebrate his 31st birthday by winning his 31st Grand Prix on Sunday at the Hungaroring circuit where he chalked up his Formula One victory nine years ago.
McLaren will hope to get the most out of their upgraded car after Lewis Hamilton’s bad luck in Germany and champions Red Bull will want to put a troubled weekend in Hockenheim behind them. Although Alonso’s Ferrari is not the fastest car on the circuit, the Spaniard has amassed 154 points, shooting 34 clear of Red Bull’s Mark Webber.
After two wins and a second place in his last three outings, a fourth win of the season would put Alonso well on course for a third Formula One title to add to the ones he won as a youngster with Renault in 2005 and 2006.
“I don’t want anyone to come to Hungary better prepared than me or more motivated than me,” said Alonso. “I always try and win this competition that runs alongside the one on the track.
“I expect to go well in Budapest and there is no reason to be pessimistic. However, I am not forgetting that Red Bull and McLaren were quicker [at Hockenheim].”
Team principal Stefano Domenicali described it as a key race.
“We know we still have a lot of work to do, because we are still not the fastest. We must keep concentrating to the maximum, especially on the reliability front.”
Meanwhile, McLaren have won five of the last seven races in Budapest, two of them with Lewis Hamilton and one with Button who was victorious last year and also won with Honda in 2006 — his first triumph after years of waiting.
“We know we’ve got a good car and a good recent track record there - we won in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011,” team principal Martin Whitmarsh said.
“Winning just before the shutdown is always positive because it provides you with great momentum across the summer break.”
McLaren’s performance upgrades have thrust them back into contention with Button finishing second at Hockenheim, although Hamilton suffered the frustration of an early puncture and eventual retirement.
Webber won in 2010 and a repeat would be timely for the Australian after he bafflingly lacked pace at Hockenheim.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2012.