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Formula 1 pre-race predictions: Hungarian Grand Prix

Just like that and it\'s already halfway through the season


This weekend\'s venue has been nicknamed the \"Hungaroboring\" for very valid reasons. Its short distance, tight confines and low-speed nature liken it to Monaco--minus the harbor, the yachts, the apartments, the casino, the royalty, the movie starts, the...okay, you get the picture. And just like the Monte Carlo track, it lends itself well to processional races, too.

We\'re a bit unhappy to report that Red Bull looks intent to continue this tradition of Hungarian snoozers by locking out the top two positions in both Friday sessions. Still, points aren\'t scored till Sunday, so there\'s some hope of victory for the other teams. If we can\'t have a gripping race, a Vettel-less podium will at least preserve some excitement in the title battle before the month-long summer break. Now, on to the predictions.

1. Lotus will have the edge over Ferrari in qualifying. That\'s what we think, even though Alonso is pushing for a more qualifying-biased setup. On the Hungaroboring\'s tighter, twistier sections, Lotus\'s FRIC suspension will provide for more balanced handling. The scorching heat means the Enstone-based outfit won\'t have trouble switching on the tires to optimum temperature, too.

2. Jean-Eric Vergne will beat Daniel Ricciardo on Saturday and Sunday. Poor JEV, sitting at home (or at some exotic holiday destination) when his teammate was basically auditioning for a Red Bull seat at the Young Driver Test last week. That would boil up the fight within any competitive sportsman, and we duly expect the Frenchman to exact a bit of revenge on the Aussie.

Besides, JEV and Seb at Red Bull will be better for our sanity. Just imagine the usually smiley Vettel alongside the permanently smiley Ricciardo. Our cheeks will be sore from watching them bare teeth by the Spanish GP next year.

3. Jenson Button and Sergio Perez will finish in the top 10. Spa is where Jenson believes his team\'s updates will bear fruit, but while the nature of the Budapest track doesn\'t complement the McLaren cars\' handling characteristics, both drivers had notably decent practice showings. They should be able to scrap together a handful of points.

4. At least one Force India will score points, and at least one Mercedes won\'t. Adrian Sutil will want a memorable 100th grand prix this weekend, and both he and Force India teammate Paul di Resta will be determined to bounce back after their poor outings at the German GP. As for Mercedes, several times we\'ve watched a Silver Arrow qualify on the sharp end of the grid only to finish buried in the midfield. Lewis Hamilton described the long-run pace as \"shocking,\" and toward the end of his extended stint on the medium tire in Friday\'s first session, he was venturing off the track almost every lap. Come back, Lewis!

5. Red Bull on pole, Lotus on the top step of the podium. It\'s easy to see either Sebastian Vettel or Mark Webber on pole. Remember, Seb was able to challenge Hamilton and Nico \"Remind Me to Drink on the Next Run\" Rosberg for P1 in Monaco, and as we\'ve said, Monaco and Hungary have similar layouts.

Lotus, however, is putting on quite an air of confidence despite being at an apparent disadvantage on Friday. Maybe the black-and-gold cars were heavily fueled during practice. Maybe the strategists believe Sunday\'s hotter temperatures (a spike of at least 4 degrees Celsius is being forecast) will cook the champion squad\'s tires, if not its engine, alternator or KERS. The Mercs, we\'ve established, won\'t figure much in the battle; Lewis will likely do some more soul-searching in the run-off areas, and Britney will be anxiously waiting for his engineer\'s instructions to stay hydrated.

Let\'s see how these guesses go starting with qualifying tonight at 8pm, Philippine time. The five lights go out on Sunday also at 8pm, Philippine time.

Photo from Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

HUN Free Practice One Free Practice Two
Pos Driver (Team) Time, +Gap (Tire) Driver (Team) Time, +Gap (Tire)
1 S. Vettel (Red Bull) 1:22.723 (M) S. Vettel (Red Bull) 1:21.264 (S)
2 M. Webber (Red Bull) 1:22.982, +0.259 (M) M. Webber (Red Bull) 1:21.308, +0.044 (S)
3 K. Raikkonen (Lotus) 1:23.010, +0.287 (M) R. Grosjean (Lotus) 1:21.417, +0.153 (S)
4 F. Alonso (Ferrari) 1:23.099, +0.376 (M) F. Alonso (Ferrari) 1:21.426, +0.162 (S)
5 R. Grosjean (Lotus) 1:23.111, +0.388 (M) F. Massa (Ferrari) 1:21.544, +0.280 (S)
6 J. Button (McLaren) 1:23.370, +0.647 (M) L. Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:21.802, +0.538 (S)
7 A. Sutil (Force India) 1:23.390, +0.667 (M) N. Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:21.991, +0.727 (S)
8 N. Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:23.531, +0.808 (M) K. Raikkonen (Lotus) 1:22.011, +0.747 (S)
9 S. Perez (McLaren) 1:23.591, +0.868 (M) J. Button (McLaren) 1:22.180, +0.916 (S)
10 P. Maldonado (Williams) 1:23.911, +1.188 (M) A. Sutil (Force India) 1:22.304, +1.040 (S)
11 E. Gutierrez (Sauber) 1:24.119, +1.396 (M) P. di Resta (Force India) 1:22.526, +1.262 (S)
12 V. Bottas (Williams) 1:24.150, +1.427 (M) S. Perez (McLaren) 1:22.529, +1.265 (S)
13 L. Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:24.157, +1.434 (M) P. Maldonado (Williams) 1:22.781, +1.517 (S)
14 J. Vergne (Toro Rosso) 1:24.204, +1.481 (M) E. Gutierrez (Sauber) 1:22.837, +1.573 (S)
15 F. Massa (Ferrari) 1:24.299, +1.576 (M) N. Hulkenberg (Sauber) 1:22.841, +1.577 (S)
16 N. Hulkenberg (Sauber) 1:24.314, +1.591 (M) J. Vergne (Toro Rosso) 1:23.369, +2.105 (S)
17 D. Ricciardo (Force India) 1:24.383, +1.660 (M) D. Ricciardo (Force India) 1:23.411, +2.147 (S)
18 P. di Resta (Force India) 1:24.608, +1.885 (M) V. Bottas (Williams) 1:23.646, +2.382 (S)
19 C. Pic (Caterham) 1:25.827, +3.104 (M) C. Pic (Caterham) 1:24.325, +3.061 (S)
20 G. van der Garde (Caterham) 1:26.808, +4.085 (M) G. van der Garde (Caterham) 1:25.065, +3.801 (S)
21 J. Bianchi (Marussia) 1:27.617, +4.894 (M) J. Bianchi (Marussia) 1:25.143, +3.879 (S)
22 R. Gonzalez (Marussia) 1:28.927, +6.204 (M) M. Chilton (Marussia) 1:26.647, +5.383 (S)

Legend: M—medium compound; S—soft compound

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