Budapest: 'If I Could Turn Back Time'

If Dan Ricciardo could take his headphones in his Red Bull cockpit, that’s probably one of the songs he’d be listening to when F1 returns to Hungary for round 10.

The Hungaroring, a fixture on the F1 calendar since 1986, brought Dan his second F1 victory in 2014 – and the first of back-to-back wins in the former Iron Curtain country and Belgium.

“Of the three wins last year, it was the one where I was definitely most excited during the race,” Dan recalls. “Probably it was the best performance of the three, purely because of the people I passed to finish in the lead. Fernando and Lewis don’t let you have the places for free – I had to really work for it!”

It’s a grotesque understatement to say that the 2015 season has been nowhere near as rewarding for Dan, teammate Daniil Kvyat and the whole Red Bull outfit.

The Australian recently claimed Renault’s under-performing engine was dragging down the traditionally outstanding Red Bull chassis, the lack of power meaning downforce levels are also compromised, while team chief Christian Horner is clearly running out of patience too.

One consolation: the tight design of the Hungaroring, with 70 laps of the 4.381km track to be run, might hobble the horses in the Mercedes power units driving the 2015 front-runners: Mercedes themselves and the rapidly improving Williams team.

Some, like veteran Jenson Button, politely liken it to a kart circuit with all its twists and turns; others, like rookie Max Verstappen, dismiss it as ä Mickey Mouse track”. Take your pick…

Meanwhile, Williams driver Felipe Massa has said his teammate Valtteri Bottas is the key to the 2016 driver market, which traditionally starts to hot up around the Spa-Francorchamps race, scheduled for four weeks after Hungary.

Ricciardo would love to be in Bottas’s current position, where the Finn is able to take the fight to Ferrari as the two grandee teams fight for the runner-up spot behind Mercedes – and Bottas is rumoured to have signed with the Scuderia already.

Williams have outscored the red cars in the last three races but remain 60 points adrift, though Sir Frank’s lieutenants are adamant that getting in front of Ferrari is their goal for the remainder of the 2015 season.

The break in track action since Silverstone has seen F1’s law-makers hard at work, with Hungary bridging the gap to some rule changes that will take effect in Belgium.

One concerns ‘driver aids and driver coaching’ and will mean that no adjustments to the cars’ clutches are allowed once they have left the garage following pit lane closure ahead of the race start.

The drivers will have one shot at feeling the ‘bite point’ and then will be on their own until they launch the cars into action. The only messages allowed over the radio will concern weather changes, track conditions and general information of that sort.

McLaren Honda have been at the back of the grid for most of the previous nine rounds, but the Japanese engine manufacturer has just refuted suggestions that it will turn to outside sources for help in increasing the power unit’s reliability and performance.

“I want to lead my programme by myself,” insisted Honda’s Yasuhisa Arai, repeating the company mantra that this is a long-term project. Try telling that to a McLaren team apparently destined for its worst-ever season in a long and distinguished F1 history…

One interesting historical footnote: the Hungaroring was the scene of the first Grand Prix victories of both McLaren’s current drivers, Alonso in 2003, Button in 2006. If they could turn back time…

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