Sebastian Vettel had never won in July before this year’s German Grand Prix. That box ticked, Red Bull’s triple Formula One champion now has a Hungary hoodoo to overcome on Sunday. If the German can triumph for the first time in seven visits on what promises to be a sweltering weekend in Budapest then he will go into Formula One’s summer break well on the way to a fourth successive title.
This year has already seen the 26-year-old break new ground. He has 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 being Austin, Texas – and a victory in the heat of the Hungaroring would mean he has won half of the season’s races so far.
“Hungary has some interesting memories for me,” he said this week, 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, scoring 157 points from nine races compared to 100 last year, 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 last year and five in his most dominant 2011 campaign.
THE introduction of new Pirelli tyres this weekend, after a spate of blowouts at last month’s British Grand Prix 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 last week although his main race rivals were absent.
Mercedes, who were not allowed to test