July 22, 2015 / 10:45 AM / 2 years ago

The head says Hamilton but watch out for the Finns

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates his win on the podium. Reuters / Phil Noble

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - The head says Lewis Hamilton but those willing to take a more adventurous punt might fancy the chances of Valtteri Bottas or Kimi Raikkonen as Formula One regroups in Hungary with a heavy heart this weekend.

Hamilton, winner at the Hungaroring four times in eight years and twice in the past three, is the clear favorite as the double world champion seeks to stretch his 17-point overall lead into the August break.

The Briton and his rivals will also be racing with Jules Bianchi in their thoughts after attending the French driver’s funeral in Nice on Tuesday.

“Saying goodbye to Jules was incredibly hard for everyone,” said Hamilton of a promising talent who died on Friday, nine months after a Japanese Grand Prix crash left him in a coma.

”I wished I had known him better.

“Hungary is a beautiful place, one of my favorites. I will be carrying Jules with me in my prayers and thoughts, not only this race but for the rest of my driving days. I know he’d want us to race hard as he did, and so I will.”

The form book points to another battle between Hamilton and Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, with the pair chasing their seventh one-two in 10 races, but history offers some hope of a different outcome.

The race, now in its 30th edition, threw up a surprise last season when Australian Daniel Ricciardo won for Red Bull, and has done so before.

It may be just a statistical curiosity but the fact remains that only English, Australian or Finnish drivers have won in Hungary for a decade.

FINNISH SUCCESS

Raikkonen, who could be replaced by Bottas at Ferrari next season if speculation is correct, won with McLaren in 2005 while compatriot Heikki Kovalainen triumphed in 2008.

“I always have a lot of support -- it’s almost a Finnish Grand Prix,” said Williams’s Bottas, who has yet to win in Formula One but was third in Canada.

“We should be looking to have a strong weekend and to build on the good momentum we have built.”

Raikkonen was second in Bahrain, his first top three finish since he won with Lotus in 2013, and apart from last season, the 2007 world champion has been on the podium in Hungary every year he has raced there since 2006.

Ricciardo is the only Australian on the grid, and Red Bull have lost hope of winning until Renault provide a more competitive engine, and may have to grin and bear it.

Jenson Button took his first F1 win in Hungary with Honda in 2006 from 14th on the grid, which remains the lowest winning start for the race, but even starting that low will be a challenge this time with Honda-powered McLaren.

Bianchi’s death, the first since 1994 of a driver resulting from a race incident, has put everything into perspective.

“Last weekend’s sad news... means that the grand prix circus heads to Budapest with heavy hearts,” McLaren boss Eric Boullier said.“We’ll all remember his life in our own personal way, but Formula One will come together on Sunday to silently and respectfully mark his passing.”

Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John O'Brien

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