After a three-week break marked by driver changes and management shakeups, F1 gets back to racing this weekend. Can Fernando Alonso exploit Michelin’s feint advantage over Bridgestone at the Hungaroring and repeat his 2003 win?

After a three-week break marked by driver changes and management shakeups, F1 gets back to racing this weekend. Can Fernando Alonso exploit Michelin’s feint advantage over Bridgestone at the Hungaroring and repeat his 2003 win?


By now it is common knowledge that Jaguar Racing’s Mark Webber will join Williams-BMW next year. Jenson Button wants to do the same, but BAR Honda does not want to let him go. Giancarlo Fisichella has been recruited by Flavio Briatore to join Renault and Toyota has given CART star Cristiano da Matta the boot in favour of third driver Ricardo Zonta for the remainder of the season.


Toyota further announced that Norbert Kryer (general manager of race and test engineering) and Ange Pasquali (team manager) had been shown the door.


CARtoday.com reported on Thursday that Williams-BMW had abandoned the “walrus” nose and reverted to a standard front wing configuration, which should work better with other aerodynamic improvements, the team claims. Ralf Schumacher remains absent from the cockpit for Hungary and Belgium, and for this weekend is again replaced by Antonio Pizzonia.


Renault will introduce another evolution of the B-spec RS24 engine that was first raced at Hockenheim. Alonso won his first F1 race in Hungary last year, and became the youngest ever driver to win a Grand Prix. The Spaniard made the podium in Germany and would like to do the same again this weekend.


"It is going to be a special race for me I think," said Alonso. "This was always one of my favourite circuits anyway, and it is a nice feeling to look back and remember last year. I am feeling confident: we were fast in Hungary in 2003, we have been fast with maximum downforce already this season in Monaco, so I hope we can have a good race, and maybe be in with a chance to win."


McLaren-Mercedes has been hard at work in the wind tunnel and using computer simulations for development of the new car over the break. "During the three-week gap in racing, preparation for Hungary and the continued development of MP4-19B has been unrelenting at Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart," said team chief executive Martin Whitmarsh. "Hungaroring provides an interesting technical challenge and its characteristics demand a balanced car."


Sauber has a further improved aerodynamic package for Budapest, which Felipe Massa hopes will help him gain a few more points. The Brazilian youngster hasn't raced at the Hungaroring for two years. "I'm looking forward to the race," he said this week.


The Hungaroring is very difficult to overtake on and was slightly modified last year to include a longer pit straight and a wider turn 12. The tight, twisty layout has lots of slow to medium speed corners that require high downforce and the track surface is often dusty, so tyre wear is a factor.


Budapest is usually very hot so a good cooling system is essential. "It is common for this circuit to require the most cooling we can muster," said Sauber technical director Willy Rampf. "This is partly because of the very high ambient and track temperatures, and partly because of the nature of the circuit."


It's believed that Ferrari will face its hardest challenge yet in Hungary. The circuit has previously suited the Michelin runners well and teams with a nifty chassis, such as Renault and BAR Honda, should work well on the tight layout.


But Ferrari faces its second chance this season to win the constructors' championship and the Scuderia will be determined to settle matters on Sunday. "I am convinced that this title cannot be taken away from us and sooner or later it will be officially ours," said Michael Schumacher. "We will certainly try to win it in Hungary but if we don't manage to do it, then it will happen later on."