BUDAPEST, July 28, 2011 (AFP) - Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso may be the men leading the chase after Sebastian Vettel, but it is their respective McLaren and Ferrari team-mates who have special reasons to relish a return to Hungary this weekend.
Just a week after Hamilton's sensational triumph in the German Grand Prix, the Formula One circus has moved east for the Hungarian Grand Prix where Jenson Button and Felipe Massa will experience emotions for vastly differing reasons.
Button, 30, the 2009 world champion, will take part in his 200th Grand Prix back at the track where he secured his first victory, with the Honda team, on a rain-swept weekend at the Hungaroring in 2006, in his 113th race. Five years later, he can claim 10 wins and a world title to his name - a record that Brazilian Massa must eye with an ironic smile.
Massa, 30, a veteran of 143 races, has won 11 times, but has no championship yet to his name, having lost out in the 2008 title race by one point to Hamilton. But that will be of scant consequence to Massa this weekend as he goes back to the track where he almost lost his life in 2009.
Then, in an extraordinary incident, a spring, that broke loose from his friend and compatriot Rubens Barrichello's Brawn car, bounced up and hit him during the race. He suffered critical head injuries, a damaged skull and deep concussion. The work of the medical staff at the circuit and then at the hospital in Budapest not only saved his life, it also saved his career.
Few drivers return after such accidents. Even fewer drivers return to race for Ferrari. "Clearly, after what happened two years ago, Budapest and the Hungarian people are an important part of my personal history," Massa said this week.
"Once again I plan to meet the people who helped me through that difficult time, both at the track and at the hospital.
"I spent some time in Budapest and made a full recovery, which was like a victory for me and the people here felt part of that victory."
Massa told the Ferrari website that he expects a good Grand Prix this weekend for the Hungarian fans, adding that he believed the much warmer conditions would suit Ferrari far better than those at the cold Nurburgring. "On current form, we can be optimistic of having another positive weekend," he declared.
"We will again have the Pirelli soft and supersoft tyres, which we know suits our car best, and in Hungary the hot temperatures will also be on our side. "The Hungaroring race has sometimes been a bit processional, but this year for sure there will be more overtaking. We continue to fight on a race by race basis, with the aim of winning as many as possible between now and the finale in Brazil -- so I think the crowd can expect a good show."
After his win last week, Hamilton is fired up as he seeks his 17th career win on a track where seven of the current grid have won before - Button, Hamilton, Barrichello, Alonso, seven-times champio Michael Schumacher, Heikki Kovalainen and Mark Webber.
Button was forced to retire in Germany due to hydraulics problems, but like all the rest will be determined to succeed again and stop runaway leader and defending champion Vettel of Red Bull from winning.
Last weekend, Vettel failed to finish on the podium for the first time in 12 races as Hamilton led home Alonso and Webber, but he still holds a 77-point advantage on his Australian team-mate Webber and remains 82 points clear of Hamilton and 86 of Alonso.
Following the low temperatures and wet conditions in Germany, the Hungarian race will be a contrast that offers hot weather and, normally, dry conditions. The Hungaroring, often compared to Monaco without the buildings or the sea, is a low-grip circuit that creates different challenges - low tyre wear, high down-force set up for the tight and twisting layout and soft rear suspension to aid traction.