As the 2021 Formula 1 season approaches the halfway mark, the championship could not be more tantalising with Max Verstappen just eight points ahead of Lewis Hamilton as the tension and intensity hits boiling point.
The reaction to the collision between the championship protagonists sent shockwaves throughout the F1 world with opinion split over whether Hamilton was at fault or whether the sport's top two drivers were simply both too aggressive.
Hamilton was fortunate to not retire from the race and things could not have gone better for him as he ended Mercedes' run of five races without a win. The advantages still lies with Red Bull, but this year's championship has taught us that anything can happen and the pendulum will almost certainly take a few more swings in 2021.
A Red Bull track?
In theory Verstappen and Red Bull should be favourites for victory in Hungary due to the emphasis on downforce at the Hungaroring.
Red Bull were the class of the field at Monaco, which is the most dependant track on chassis and mechanical grip, and shone in the final twisty sector in Spain and the high speed corners at Silverstone.
Since 2017, when F1 introduced wider and faster cars, the cornering speeds have increased significantly which has caused many turns at the Budapest circuit to become medium to high speed.
The power unit is not important although whether Verstappen will have to take on his third engine will only be seen on Friday. This would have major implications down the line and is another consequence of his accident at the British GP.
Verstappen is not a driver who will be put off by a crash and he tends to bounce back just as strong as he's ever been, which has been dominant at times in 2021. Red Bull's mechanical grip, coupled with an angry Verstappen could make them an unbeatable force this weekend.
Momentum at Mercedes?
Mercedes know the characteristics of the 4.38km Hungaroring will likely not suit their car. However, their upgrades prior to Silverstone paid off which could make Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas a real threat.
Qualifying might be tough for Mercedes but they could be a match for Red Bull on Sunday when the points are given out. Hamilton and Verstappen had a phenomenal race-long duel in 2019 in Hungary which went down to the remaining three laps.
Hungary will be the real test to see if Mercedes' upgrades have had a big effect on the W12. If that is the case, their could be another momentum shift towards the team based in Brackley.
Hamilton has won the Hungarian GP eight times so it's a track he adores and the events of Silverstone will give him a confidence boost to land another punch on Verstappen.
Are Ferrari in the fight?
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz think Ferrari will not be able to challenge Mercedes and Red Bull. They are F1 drivers though, so it's their job to play things down.
On paper, the Hungaroring will suit the Ferrari and Leclerc and Sainz have been driving beautifully so don't be surprised to see one of them at least on the second row of the grid and in a podium position in the race.
Ferrari being up there could cause a problem for Verstappen or Hamilton if they have a slip up. This year's title could be decided by single figures so a loss of more than 10 points at one event will be a major loss.
McLaren will likely appear to be in trouble during practice, but Lando Norris has been able to bring his A-game to every round in 2021 and it would be a small shock if he is not ahead of Daniel Ricciardo this weekend.
The rest of the field
AlphaTauri could be the dark horses for a big haul of points after a disappointing British GP. Pierre Gasly has been fed up in recent races and will be eager to use that frustration this weekend. Yuki Tsunoda does not have a great record in Budapest and will be looking for another clean weekend.
Alpine had a great outing in Silverstone whilst Aston Martin should still be in the fight too. The Hungarian GP should give a clear indication as to which car has a great chassis in the big midfield battle.
It will be more difficult for George Russell to push his Williams into Q3, although wet weather may offer an opportunity for something special from the British driver.
Everything is set up perfectly for one last exciting round to close out the first half of the 2021 Formula 1 season before the four-week summer break. Game on.
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