Hungarian Grand Prix – Red Bull favourites as Ricciardo returns

Red Bull will once again pitch up to the Hungaroring as favourites to emerge victorious and continue a perfect start to 2023.

The Milton Keynes team will be bringing a raft of upgrades including changes to the cooling slot and reprofiled sidepods (Watch out copycats) but arguably its biggest story this week is with its junior team.

Max Verstappen has long since vanquished any hope of a championship fight and now holds a near 100 point lead in the standings over teammate Sergio Perez.

Verstappen has only failed to win twice this season and has eight victories.

The Hungarian Grand Prix traditionally marks the halfway point of the Formula One season, and as Round 11 this season is no different.

At Alpha Tauri, Nyck De Vries will not see even half the season out as the 2021 Formula E champion was unceremoniously dumped out of Red Bull’s B Team in favour of a return of a familiar face.

Daniel Ricciardo returns to the place where it all began, save for a half season in 2011 at HRT, by rejoining the team first knwon as Toro Rosso.

Ricciardo, 34, had previously said that he would not return unless  it was in a competitive seat.

Alpha Tauri are on average ninth quickest in 2023 and are bottom of the Constructors’ this season with two points courtesy of Yuki Tsunoda.

Clearly that is not what the affable Australian meant, but he has identified it as a chance to shown Red Bull that the Honey Badger is still in there – Ricciardo did win eight Grands Prix with Red Bull and McLaren and was renowned for his wheel to wheel racing with Red Bull.

With Perez faltering at Red Bull – he’s failed to get into the final part of qualifying since Miami in May, there is talk that should Ricciardo impress again that he could make a sensational return to the team he quit in 2018.

How realistic that is remains to be seen.

Away from Red Bull’s latest driver swap, the battle for best of the rest looks set to once more see-saw between Aston Martin, McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari.

Ferrari’s race management was dismal at Silverstone last time out and the Scuderia could only manage ninth and tenth with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz after a poor tyre choice and strategy saw them slip backwards after a late Safety Car.

Mercedes managed to return to the podium with Lewis Hamilton, who benefitted at the expense of McLaren driver Oscar Piastri to move up to third during that safety car period, but were surprised by McLaren’s sudden gain in pace.

Lando Norris was second for the Papaya outfit, and left Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff to suggest that their rivals’ progress is a positive, and that McLaren’s jump shows that huge progress is possible.

McLaren for their part do not expect to hit the heights of second and fourth this weekend, with the twisty Budapest track exposing their slow corner weakness much more than Silverstone, but the base package is still expected to score points this weekend.

That leaves Aston Martin as Mercedes’ likely best of the rest challengers.

The Silverstone team have been low key of late, failing to reach the podium at either Austria or the British Grand Prix, two layouts which favour high speed performance and low drag.

They’ve shown a preference for slower speed tracks and were arguably the closest team to toppling Red Bull this season, when a strategic error arguably cost them the win at a wet Monaco Grand Prix.

This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of Fernando Alonso’s first win, then for Renault, at the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Red Bull are expected to make further history this weekend, where victory would be their 12th in a row and see them out on their own after previously tying with McLaren’s 11 in the late 1980s.

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