ONE MORE WIN: Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel is eager to add the 2013 Hungarian GP title to his list of victories this weekend. Image: AFP
BUDAPEST, Hungary - Sebastian Vettel had never won in July until the 2013 German Formula 1 GP. That box ticked, Red Bull's triple World F1 champion now has a Hungarian hoodoo to overcome on Sunday.
If the German can win for the first time in seven visits on what promises to be a sweltering weekend in Budapest then he will go into F1's break well on the way to a fourth successive title.
This year has already seen the 26-year-old break new ground. He's won his home race for the first time, savoured a first victory in North America and shown his ruthless streak in defying team orders.
Hungary is one of only two races remaining on the current calendar that Vettel has not won - the other is Austin, Texas - and a victory in the heat of the Hungaroring would mean he has won half of the 2013 races so far.
"Hungary has some interesting memories for me," Vettel said, casting his mind back to only the second race of his F1 career when he joined Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso in 2007 after a debut as a stand-in with BMW-Sauber. "It was my first race with the Red Bull family. Let's hope I can add to my memories by winning there for the first time before I go on holiday."
Ominously for Vettel's rivals, on previous form he is likely to get even stronger in the second half of the season so every point they can take off him now could be vital. The championship leader has hit his stride already - 157 points from nine races against 100 in 2012 - and won four races after taking just one by this stage in 2012.
He is 34 points clear of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.
And in the last three seasons, Vettel has come back refreshed after the summer break and put his foot down to win at least three more races - four during 2012 and five in his most dominant 2011 campaign.
The introduction of different Pirelli tyres this weekend, after several blowouts during June's British GP, led to emergency changes in Germany, could help him further. Vettel was fastest in a test of the new tyres, which marry the 2012 structure with 2013 compounds to produce less degradation, at Silverstone in July although his main race rivals were absent.
Mercedes, which was not allowed to test at Silverstone as punishment for a test with Pirelli in June, will have to wait and see but its strength in qualifying up to now should stand the team in good stead.
Lewis Hamilton is chasing his third pole in a row for Mercedes and has won three times in Hungary but that was with McLaren, which has won six times in the last eight years but is still a long way from where it wants to be.
Mercedes' motorsport head Toto Wolff: "We have a number of challenges to overcome. We will need to do extra homework on Friday to understand how the new tyres work with our car. Then we will have to get to grips with the high temperatures, a demanding circuit and the soft and medium compound Pirelli tyres.
"During the race at the Nurburgring we were overheating tyres and we want to minimise the chance of suffering a repeat problem in Hungary, where the track temperatures will also be high."
Alonso - who took his first F1 win in Hungary with Renault in 2003 - and Lotus's third-placed Kimi Raikkonen, will be hoping their car's gentle treatment of the tyres can help them put pressure on Vettel.
'WE CAN BE COMPETITIVE'
Ferrari's Felipe Massa added: "People say the characteristics of our car are not best-suited to this circuit and that it will be tough for us to fight for the win here, but I am not sure this is an accurate assessment. There have been other circuits where we expected our car to be very strong but was not - and vice versa. Stay with Wheels24 for the 2013 Hungarian GP weekend.
"You need a car that is very stable, that is kind to its tyre, to avoid degradation. I think we can be competitive."
McLaren's Jenson Button is not expecting much but loves the circuit; his first win was there 2006 and in 2011 with McLaren in his 200th race. Tthe 2009 World champion said: "Of course a win in 2013 is going to be difficult but I actually think the team is working very well right now."