Watershed race at Hungaroring
F1 SEASON TO HEAT UP: While Ferrari's Fernando Alonso can rest easy knowing he will remain on top of the standings after Hungary, rivals will be doing everything they can to improve and chase the Ferrari ace.
BUDAPEST, Hungary - Fernando Alonso will be seeking back-to-back victories as Formula 1 revs up in Hungary and into the second half of the season with the championship race still wide open.
Alonso's victory at the 2012 German Grand Prix has given the Ferrari driver the advantage in the title race but the feeling among teams is that the season is just about to start.
The race at the Hungaroring could be a watershed for teams. Not only does it mark the start of the season's second half but is also the last GP before F1 takes a break until the Belgian GP on September 2. Alonso is 34 points ahead of Red Bull's Mark Webber in the standings and 44 up on Webber's team mate Sebastian Vettel after his victory in Hockenheim, the third of the season for the Spaniard.
However Alonso and the Ferrari team remain wary, saying that despite his wins in Malaysia, Valencia and Hockenheim rival teams are faster.
Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo said: "We have to be very careful. After our difficult start to the season, maybe our rivals did not expect to see Ferrari capable of fighting back this strongly, but now they will redouble their efforts to beat us."
Vettel and Red Bull are still stinging from a 20-second penalty for the double World champion in Hockenheim, which demoted the 25-year-old German from second to fifth. The International Automobile Federation has now introduced a rule change to outlaw controversial engine settings on the Red Bull cars which, F1 bosses believe, infringe rules and improved cornering performance.
The new ruling, which limits how much teams can change specific settings, will apply immediately.
However Red Bull still look the strongest threat to Ferrari, with Vettel, who was second in Hungary in 2011 behind McLaren's Jenson Button, looking forward to the Hungaroring circuit.
Vettel said: "The track itself is one of the slowest on the calendar, but as a driver you shouldn't underestimate it, as there are a lot of opportunities to make mistakes."
CHANGE OF LUCK
McLaren, meanwhile, remains optimistic after the Hockenheim race saw Button finish second and Hamilton show speed after a puncture ruined his chances and he eventually had to retire with a gearbox problem. Button, who won his first GP in Hungary 2006, said: "The result in Germany puts us right back in the hunt. In that situation, there's nothing better than a back-to-back weekender: you return to the cockpit almost before you've unpacked your bags from the previous race, so it's great to carry forward that momentum.
"Our pace at Hockenheim gives us cause for encouragement - it's just that, as always, we'll need to run flawlessly through qualifying and the race if we're to be in the hunt at the end," he said.
Hamilton, fifth in the championship and 62 points off the lead, hopes McLaren's recent upgrades will turn his luck around in Hungary. "I rolled the dice in Germany and got two ones. That's life, but at least I get the chance to give them another roll this weekend - and I'll be hoping for two sixes.
"I think there's good reason to feel confident, too. Our Hockenheim upgrade package seems to have delivered the pace we anticipated and a good result just before the summer break would be the perfect way to end the first half of the season," he said.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said he believed the second half of the season would see the team hit back.
Whitmarsh said: "I firmly believe that we have the drivers, car and team to win both (drivers' and constructors') titles - and I think the difficulties we encountered during the first 10 races of 2012 have strengthened our resilience and hardened our resolve to fight back to the front.".
Stay with Wheels24 for the 2012 Hungarian F1 weekend.