As the 2007 title fight increasingly hots up - with the smallest gap at the top of the drivers' standings since Monaco back in May - the Formula 1 circus gets set to return this weekend to the scene of what was undoubtedly last year's most exciting and unpredictable race - the Hungaroring.

A regular fixture on the grand prix calendar since 1986, the Budapest-situated circuit was the location of the first grand prix to be held behind the Iron Curtain and was constructed in just eight months. Its tight, twisty and dusty nature does not naturally favour overtaking, but the track has nevertheless witnessed some thrilling grands prix in its 21-year history.

Duels such as those between Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell's victory charge from twelfth on the grid in 1989, Damon Hill's near-miss with Arrows eight years later and Jenson Button's maiden triumph last year in a race rendered chaotic by an extremely uncharacteristic and unseasonable downpour have all gone down in F1 folklore.

Although there are no Hungarian drivers on the F1 grid, the fans are nevertheless among the most enthusiastic in the world, and the weekend often sees a good number of Finns too make the pilgrimage to Budapest, as the nearest grand prix venue to their home country. Kimi Raikkonen is a past winner there, while the circuit also holds fond memories for Fernando Alonso being where he claimed his debut F1 success back in 2003. Lewis Hamilton will no doubt also be feeling confident, having overcome a troubled qualifying that left him plum last on the grid in GP2 last year to soar through the pack to second place in race two. Felipe Massa, meanwhile - the final one of the four championship contenders - has never finished higher than seventh in Hungary, a record he will doubtless be keen to change this time around.

FIA F1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP NEWS

Despite the FIA World Motor Sport Council electing not to punish McLaren over the spy row drama that has engulfed the sport in recent weeks and threatened to overshadow the championship fight, the crisis has continued to rumble on. The Woking-based squad was found guilty of being in possession of confidential Ferrari documents, in breach of article 151c of the International Sporting Code, but escaped any penalty as the FIA deemed there was 'insufficient evidence that it had been used in such a way as to interfere improperly with the FIA Formula 1 World Championship'.

Unhappy with this verdict, Ferrari wrote to FIA President Max Mosley claiming the judgment set a 'dangerous precedent' for future 'dishonest behaviour' within the sport and asking for the matter to be referred to the FIA's International Court of Appeal. Mosley agreed to this request, and the case will likely be heard towards the end of August where it will be debated as to whether McLaren's cars gained any 'illegitimate advantage' from the information in their possession. Ferrari's sacked former head of performance development Nigel Stepney, meanwhile, claims he was the victim of a set-up within Maranello. The plot thickens.

Indeed, Stepney is not the only one to have found himself summarily dismissed during Formula 1's summer of discontent, as Scott Speed discovered to his cost less than a week before the Hungarian Grand Prix. The Californian, who had a very public verbal and physical bust-up with team principal Franz Tost in the aftermath of his premature retirement from the European Grand Prix, claiming that both the Austrian and Scuderia Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger were doing everything possible to undermine him and team-mate Tonio Liuzzi and that no amount of money in the world would convince him to race for Tost and Berger again. Just days later, it was announced he would be replaced by BMW test-driver Sebastian Vettel - who already made his grand prix debut in place of the recovering Robert Kubica in Indianapolis back in June, impressively finishing the race inside the points - with immediate effect.

Also shown the door last month was Spyker's Christijan Albers, and while Markus Winkelhock made a stunning impression by leading on his maiden appearance last time out at the N?rburgring in the Dutchman's place, the German DTM star was only ever a stop-gap measure as the team searched for someone with more available budget to complete the season. Despite the names of such as Christian Klien, Narain Karthikeyan and Adrian Valles being bandied about, the drive eventually went the way of former Super Aguri pilot Sakon Yamamoto. The Japanese began eleven races for Super Aguri last year, but has failed to shine in GP2 with BCN Competicion in 2007, and it will be interesting to see how he fares on his return alongside the talented Adrian Sutil.

NEWS FROM THE TEAMS:
McLaren - Fernando Alonso (#1), Lewis Hamilton (#2):

McLaren travels to Hungary in confident mood, following Fernando Alonso's imperious last-gasp triumph over Ferrari's Felipe Massa at the N?rburgring that stole Maranello's thunder on a weekend when the scarlet cars had looked nigh-on unbeatable.

Not only did the Spaniard's victory drive him right back into the hunt for end-of-season honours, just two points adrift of championship-leading team-mate Lewis Hamilton, it also extended McLaren's advantage over Ferrari to some 27 points in the constructors' standings with just seven races remaining. He is looking forward to returning to the scene of his maiden F1 victory, and one that made him the youngest driver ever to stand on the top step of the podium in the top flight less than a month after his 22nd birthday four years ago.

"It was great to take the win in Germany," the reigning double world champion enthused, "and I hope to achieve the same result in Hungary. I have some good memories from this track, as I took my first F1 victory in Hungary; however last year was not so good! It was a challenging race, with the time penalty that meant I started in 15th, making it up to take the lead and then dropping out. Despite this the track will always be special to me.

"I usually enjoy the race so am looking forward to racing there this year with McLaren. It is a very slow track but also tough physically because of the conditions, which are usually very hot. Also, because of all the corners, it is constant fighting with the steering wheel and you have to have great traction for the exit phase of the corners, which is where we can find the speed. A stable front end is also very important so the car feels completely under control in the slow, long corners and you can really push the car despite the slower speeds. The MP4-22 has performed well at this type of track so far this season, so I am feeling positive for the race."

Hamilton, for his part, endured a nightmare at the N?rburgring - an errant wheel in qualifying and spin and mistaken tyre choice in the race all conspiring to make it the first grand prix of his debut season in which the young Briton not only failed to finish on the rostrum, but indeed failed to finish inside the points at all. He is determined to make amends this coming weekend.

"We had a productive test in Jerez," the 22-year-old stated. "I was there for a day and spent the time focusing on set-up and development work for Hungary, in the hot and dusty conditions. Following a mistake on my out lap in qualifying, I started at the back of the grid in GP2 here last year. It was not a great start to the weekend, but I managed to work my way back up through the field, which was a good learning experience of the track, how to drive it and where it is possible to pass, which is notoriously difficult.

"I quite like the circuit; it is quite quick considering how tight it is. It is a real classic as well. You have gradient changes, some high and low-speed corners and a good chicane up the back. There is one bump right at the back, which is so easy to catch you out; that's what happened to me in qualifying last year. We have as good a chance as anyone in the race. We have a great car and it is important that I go with a clear mind and the same approach as normal, but there is no reason why we can't go there and win."

McLaren has tasted victory champagne at the Hungaroring on no fewer than six occasions - almost a one in three success rate - courtesy of Raikkonen, Mika Hakkinen and Ayrton Senna, and Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug is confident of adding to those laurels in the race's 22nd edition.

"The Budapest circuit's characteristics are totally different from those at the recent grand prix at the N?rburgring," the German remarked. "With an average speed per lap of almost 200km/h the track is the second slowest after Monaco. Traction and precise positioning at the entrances of the corners represent the crucial key; there are no extremely fast corners.

"Also because of the high amount of abrasion, there is only one possible line in the race what makes a top result in qualifying even more important. In the rain, however, the circuit can generate surprises; the race last August was a highlight of the season. Our target for Hungary is clear - if possible, we want to extend our leads in both world championships."

Renault - Giancarlo Fisichella (#3), Heikki Kovalainen (#4):

Following a series of disappointing outings at Magny-Cours, Silverstone and the N?rburgring - with just seven points to show for all its efforts in contrast to key rival BMW-Sauber's 22 - the French outfit is now bidding to fight back with a vengeance in Hungary, and confident its lacklustre recent showings have merely been a 'blip'.

"We go there feeling optimistic," confirmed the r?gie's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds. "The car was quick in high-downforce trim in Monaco and, since then, we have added performance to it. We experienced problems getting the tyres working properly in the cooler conditions at the N?rburgring, but this is unlikely to be a problem in the high temperatures we usually encounter in Hungary.

"While the timesheets placed us eleventh and twelfth in terms of fastest laps in Germany, I think our pace was actually much better than that suggested; the fact our strategy was somewhat out of synch with our competitors may have masked some of our pace. We made mistakes early in the race, and they cost us a very strong double points finish. It was made all the more frustrating because it was the type of race in which we normally excel. We are good at thinking on our feet and making the right decisions under pressure, but our mistakes seemed to compound themselves in Germany.

"Since then, we have conducted our usual analysis in even greater detail than normal to ensure we learn everything we can from the experience - and to make sure our mistakes remain one-offs. Everybody is very focused for the weekend ahead, and determined to demonstrate that although frustrating, the last race was nothing more than an extremely annoying blip in performance."

If the squad's fortunes have dipped somewhat of late, though, Heikki Kovalainen's have gone from strength-to-strength during his maiden campaign in the highest echelon. A shaky start has given way to a string of mature performances, and the young Finn has now registered points-scoring finishes in six out of the opening ten races this year.

"The Hungaroring is a fun track to drive" the 25-year-old enthused. "I found out in GP2 how difficult it is to overtake here, and it means like in Monaco it is absolutely essential to qualify well. If we can do that we will be in a position to run an aggressive race and try to score more points.

"It is a very demanding track physically for the drivers, because it can be very hot and there are no straights on which you can recover. The corners follow quickly one after the other, the track surface is quite bumpy and you have to maintain concentration over 70 laps. We all enjoy tackling challenges like that, feeling the car on the limit and trying to push a little bit more to go even faster. I think it's a circuit where the drivers can make a real difference, and that probably explains why we all enjoy it!

"We did three days' running in Jerez last week to prepare for the hot conditions we expect in Hungary and Turkey, and everybody is determined to have a strong race this weekend. There are some more new parts on the car for this race too, so I am looking forward to starting our work on Friday."

Team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella does not boast a strong record in terms of results in Hungary, and last year crashed out of contention while looking good for a podium finish, and is keen to make amends this time around.

"I have always enjoyed this race," the Italian asserted. "I like the track and I have been competitive here in the past. It's always a fun race with a relaxed atmosphere and lots of spectators in the stands. I crashed out of the race last year after making a mistake, but the conditions were very difficult indeed. We are expecting much hotter temperatures this year, which will be a very different challenge.

"Hungary is quite a selective circuit, and the very high temperatures often make things a bit more complicated, especially for the drivers and also the powertrain. To be quick here, you need an effective high downforce set-up, good grip and good traction out of the slow corners. Since the N?rburgring a lot of work has been done to understand where we went wrong, and to avoid repeating our mistakes. It is in the past now and we are fully-focused on the race ahead. We need to carry on moving forward."

Ferrari - Felipe Massa (#5), Kimi Raikkonen (#6):

Following its bitter defeat at the hands of arch-rivals McLaren in the European Grand Prix, Ferrari will be determined to redress the balance this weekend, and in the closest thing he has to a 'home' race, Kimi Raikkonen in particular is keen to make a strong impression.

"It is always a great pleasure to come to Hungary," enthused the 27-year-old, whose N?rburgring jinx struck again almost two weeks ago as a likely victory slipped through his hands for the third time in five years. "Very often the race here in Hungary has been nicknamed the 'Finnish Grand Prix'. Many of my fellow Finns fill the grandstands here at the Hungaroring, and it is really nice to see so many white flags with the blue cross in the wind. This time we will see them together with the red flags of Ferrari. Maybe the track is not one of the most fascinating ones, but it is really challenging and it's good to know that after this race we'll have a short holiday break.

"I have already won this race once. It's very hot here and the race is physically demanding. I archived the European Grand Prix already. What is for sure is that I will not come to Hungary as someone defeated.

"Everybody says McLaren has to be stronger than us here, but I don't think that will be the case. We have taken a big step forward since Monaco and it will be really interesting to see how competitive we are over the weekend. The Hungaroring is very slow and winding, so the two most important things are the right angle entry into the corners and the traction.

"Obviously it is very important to stay ahead in qualifying and if possible also stay clear of the dirty side of the track. Looking at the races this season you can see that starting on the clean side of the track is very important at the start."

The Finn is well aware that - now some 18 points adrift in the drivers' standings following his N?rburgring retirement - there is only one way in which he can claw his way back into the championship hunt over the remaining seven grands prix.

"Finishing ahead of the other three drivers competing for the title is the only way for me to make up ground," he acknowledged. "It's clear that I can't allow myself another race without points. I still believe that it's possible for me to win the title - just look at the last race and you can see anything can happen. A bad race for my competitors would be enough to immediately reduce the gap."

Honda - Jenson Button (#7), Rubens Barrichello (#8):

Honda may currently have but a single point on the scoreboard following a desultory start to the 2007 campaign, but the Japanese manufacturer also heads to Hungary as the defending race-winner, following Jenson Button's breakthrough F1 success there last year - Honda's first victory since 1992.

The Briton held his nerve and displayed his wet weather skills to perfection to triumph over both the competition and the elements twelve months ago, and while he knows a similar result is all-but out of the question this time around, he is nevertheless hopeful of creeping into the points should the squad be able to continue its recent forward momentum.

"The Hungaroring was never really one of my favourite races before," the 27-year-old admitted, "but for obvious reasons that all changed last year. It will always be a special place as the scene of my first win. Obviously it will be quite a different race for us this year but hopefully we can keep up the steady progress we have been making and take another step forward.

"It's a track with good rhythm and a good mix of slow-speed and high-speed turns, and a lap of the Hungaroring is quite tiring because there is no respite and no opportunity to relax your hands, so you are gripping the steering wheel hard the whole time. Although last year's race proved a rather wet exception, the Hungarian Grand Prix is typically a hot one and the relatively low average speed means the airflow over the driver is reduced, so you never really get the chance to cool down. It's quite a physical challenge to be honest."

Team-mate Rubens Barrichello has also enjoyed the taste of victory at the circuit, with three rostrum finishes and a fourth place there in 2006, the best result of his first season with Honda.

"This weekend is going to be a hot one," the Brazilian confirmed, "possibly one of the hottest Hungarian Grands Prix. Our test in Jerez this week was a good opportunity to acclimatise to those conditions, both personally and for the car.

"We have some new developments - aero and mechanical - which worked well at the test and we seem to have found a little more performance, so we will see how they translate to the Hungaroring. I have had some good races there, winning in 2002 and then a couple more podium finishes as well. I'm looking forward to it as it's a track I quite enjoy. I hope we can fight for a good result."

BMW Sauber - Nick Heidfeld (#9), Robert Kubica (#10):

BMW is also returning to a happy hunting ground, with Hungary having witnessed not only the squad's maiden podium finish as a constructor in its own right, but also Robert Kubica's stirring debut in the top flight.

In a topsy-turvy race last year Nick Heidfeld came home third, following a gutsy late-race move on Michael Schumacher's fading Ferrari, and the German is hoping for more of the same this time around at a circuit that has shone on him in years gone-by.

"My third place in Budapest was the first podium for our team," the 30-year-old said. "It was a chaotic race. Normally Budapest in August means very hot weather, but last year it was raining. The circuit was wet at the start of the race and it remained cool throughout the weekend.

"I have a lot of fond memories of the Hungaroring. It was there that I also secured an early title win in Formula 3000 back in 1999 - and celebrated in style. The city is beautiful. I love the old buildings, the bridges across the Danube and the whole atmosphere. In summer there's always a lot going on; it's a great place for going out at night.

"The circuit itself is short, twisty and usually very dirty at the start of the weekend. The races there are often pretty exhausting as there are no long straights where you can catch your breath, but I enjoy driving there and hope we will be as strong again as in 2006."

Kubica, for his part, is also aiming to emulate his performance from last year that saw him join an elite group of drivers by finishing inside the points on his F1 debut, though this time he hopes to be able to keep the result.

"It is good to be back in Hungary because I made my F1 debut there last year," the Pole enthused. "I feel my first full season will be completed. I am really looking forward to it, especially because it is close to my home country, so probably a lot of people will come. Last year I finished in the points, but we were disqualified.

"I like the track. It is special because nearly all the time you have some steering angle, so you never have a break and the straights are very short. I think it is a difficult track, but we performed very well in Monaco so I hope our performance in Hungary will be at least as good or even better. Last year we were testing for very hot conditions and it was under 20 degrees and raining, so anything can happen."

Toyota - Ralf Schumacher (#11), Jarno Trulli (#12):

Toyota duo Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher are determined to get back amongst the points finishers in Hungary, having endured a barren run of four races without troubling the scorers.

Trulli was among a number of drivers who failed to capitalise on the changeable conditions at the N?rburgring last time out, eventually coming home 13th and last. The Italian is adamant the Hungaroring owes him a change of luck after frequently running well there but with only a fourth place in 2005 to show for his efforts.

"I have always performed very well in Hungary," the Italian underlined, "but I don't think I've got the results I deserved there so I am really looking forward to a strong race this weekend.

"Clearly, the result at the N?rburgring was very disappointing, especially because we had a good chance to score points after we looked competitive earlier in the weekend. We will work hard to achieve a better result in the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday."

Although Schumacher has notched up but two points all season to his team-mate's seven, the last couple of meetings have hinted at an upturn in fortunes for the German, with successive top ten qualifying performances and more encouraging showings come the races.

"The nature of the Hungaroring makes overtaking really difficult," he insisted, "so it is more important than normal that we continue our strong recent form in qualifying. Unfortunately we have not translated that into race results, though, and that is our challenge this weekend. I believe we are capable of scoring points so we will just try to do a good job all weekend.

"The Hungarian Grand Prix weekend is always enjoyable because there are so many enthusiastic fans at the Hungaroring and the city of Budapest itself is beautiful. Visiting Budapest in August means we are almost certain to face some very hot temperatures, even if last year was unusually cool. The heat can make it difficult to concentrate, but I have done my personal training and am well-prepared so it will be no problem."

"After our very disappointing European Grand Prix, we are hoping for a much better result in Budapest," added the Japanese squad's senior general chassis manager Pascal Vasselon. "In qualifying at the N?rburgring we clearly showed a competitive pace, as in the last couple of events. We were expecting to score points but in the race we made too many mistakes. I believe we have the speed to score points but we must prove that this weekend."

Red Bull Racing - David Coulthard (#14), Mark Webber (#15):

Red Bull Racing enters this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix on the back of the best result of its history in the top flight at the N?rburgring, courtesy of Mark Webber coming home third and David Coulthard not far behind in fifth.

Having consequently overtaken Toyota and gained ground on Williams in the constructors' standings, RBR is finally beginning to bring home the results to match its undoubted pace.

"The N?rburgring was a fantastic result for the team," confirmed Renault's principal trackside engine support engineer Fabrice Lom. "At Magny-Cours and Silverstone we endured two difficult races, but we knew the potential was in the car. Everybody worked very hard and, at the last race, we got the first rewards for that - not just a podium, but both cars in the points at the chequered flag. We scored ten points, the same number as McLaren and more than Ferrari or BMW. More importantly, though, we scored ten more than Toyota and five more than Williams. In terms of the championship, that made it a very successful weekend.

"The Hungaroring is a demanding circuit or the car, with lots of bumps, high kerbs and a lot of gear changes. From the engine's point-of-view, though, the time spent at full throttle is below average, and there are no particularly severe challenges. The only thing we will have to pay special attention to is the cooling, as we are expecting extremely hot temperatures. We worked on a range of different cooling options and bodywork configurations during our test in Jerez last week. While we are confident about the car's cooling, we will nevertheless pay particularly special attention to this area.

"I think we should have a competitive package in Hungary. It is a twisty circuit, but one with few very slow corners; it is more about a series of medium-speed corners and our car seems pretty strong in this area, both in terms of braking and downforce levels at these speeds. If everything goes smoothly we should be capable of a competitive showing, but as always we need to wait for the opening sessions on Friday to get a better idea. We will certainly be working hard to secure a strong result."

Williams - Nico Rosberg (#16), Alex Wurz (#17):

Williams are confident than a stronger showing than of late as the Formula 1 circus rolls into Budapest this weekend, with a healthy record at the tight and twisty circuit including seven wins, six pole positions and nine fastest laps.

A top five qualifying performance for Mark Webber last year gives the Grove-based squad further cause for optimism, while Nico Rosberg went well there en route to the GP2 crown back in 2005, scorching through the field after he was demoted to the back of the grid to finish in fifth place on a track where it is deemed all-but impossible to overtake.

"I'm looking forward to the race in Hungary," the German enthused. "I quite like the track; it suits my driving style well. Although we use a similar set-up to Monaco there, the two tracks feel completely different; the Hungaroring is more physical because of the higher speeds and temperatures. It's also one of the better tracks for our car, so we have a good chance of doing well there. Hungary holds good memories for me. I was pretty strong there last year and I was on pole when I raced there in GP2. I really hope it will be a good weekend."

Team-mate Alex Wurz has only raced in Hungary three times and has yet to finish in the points, something he is keen to put to rights this weekend in front of a large number of partisan supporters.

"The Hungarian Grand Prix is almost a home race for me," the 33-year-old explained, "because lots of Austrian fans travel to the Hungaroring every year. I'm looking forward to Budapest for various reasons. The circuit is very nice and I enjoy the flow, but it's also a difficult track, not only in terms of finding a good set-up but also because it's very physically demanding for the drivers. It's a long race with very hot temperatures, and there are no straights to relax on so we're constantly under pressure. I expect the layout to suit our car and I hope we will pick up a few points. I will certainly be pushing like crazy!"

"Budapest is a technical circuit where the drivers have to get into a good rhythm as the corners blend almost continuously from one to the next," added Williams' technical director Sam Michael. "This tests the drivers' concentration to the limit and also means a mistake early on in the lap can be costly.

"The Hungaroring is a maximum downforce track, with only Monaco having a lower minimum aerodynamic efficiency requirement. In simple terms, that means we can accept downforce with a lot of drag at Budapest and still go faster. Bridgestone will bring the soft and super soft Potenza tyres for this race. The sustained lateral loading on the car around Budapest will also bring its own challenges.

"Pit-stop strategy can go from one extreme to the other, depending on your qualifying position. It is important to get a good start here because overtaking is not easy, but that is often difficult due to the dust which usually covers the pit straight. We are pushing hard with development on the FW29, but the competition for points is fierce and this weekend will be no different."

Scuderia Toro Rosso - Vitantonio Liuzzi (#18), Sebastian Vettel (#19):

Following Scott Speed's sudden departure from the fray, Scuderia Toro Rosso enter this weekend with Sebastien Vettel alongside regular driver Vitantonio Liuzzi. With the young German determined to make the most of the opportunity to stake his claim to a successful future in the sport.

The World Series by Renault front-runner already made his grand prix bow at Indianapolis earlier this year, standing in for the injured Robert Kubica following the Pole's high-speed Montreal smash. BMW-Sauber agreed to release their young prot?g? to allow him to take up the offer from STR for the remainder of the season, with a view to remaining with the squad into 2008.

"As our test and reserve driver Sebastian has carried out sterling work for us, said BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen. "When he stood in for Robert Kubica in the US Grand Prix he made history by becoming the youngest debutant to earn a world championship point.

"However, the current testing rules mean he barely gets a chance to drive for us. Now he has been offered the opportunity to get inside a Toro Rosso cockpit. We have sponsored and coached Sebastian over a number of years. To place obstacles in his career path now would go against our concept of talent promotion.

"BMW and Red Bull have a longstanding partnership in supporting Sebastian. Toro Rosso is the sister team of Red Bull Racing, and in that context it makes sense for us to release him. In a sponsoring partnership the main thing is to use the best opportunities that present themselves to a young driver at any given time."

Spyker F1 - Sakon Yamamoto (#20), Adrian Sutil (#21):

Spyker will also be fielding a new driver in the Hungarian Grand Prix, in the shape of former Super Aguri ace Sakon Yamamtoto. The young Japanese already has seven races under his belt in the top flight from the second half of 2006, but has not distinguished himself after stepping back down to GP2 with BCN Competicion this year.

"It was a surprise to get the call from Spyker," the 25-year-old admitted, having not been mooted on the list of potential long-term replacements for Christijan Albers at the Dutch outfit. "At the same time, though, I was, and still am, really glad to come back to Formula 1. Obviously I haven't had a normal testing programme this year, but I drove an F1 car in February and I do not think this will be a problem. I am excited to be back in a race seat.

"I tested for the team (as Jordan) back in 2005 and drove a Friday practice session in the Japanese Grand Prix. It's an advantage as I know some of the engineers and mechanics, so it's easy to get back into the team. I know all the circuits quite well except Spa-Francorchamps where we didn't go last year, but last year I was in the situation where I had to learn the circuits and the car very quickly so I am quite relaxed going to this part of the season.

"I would like to be really quick, score points and finish as many races as possible. The target has to be to help Spyker score their first points."

Team principal Colin Kolles was equally enthusiastic about the signing, and confident his new young charge would be capable of working well together with Adrian Sutil as the team bids to drive its way up the F1 pecking order.

"Sakon is a very good all-round package," Kolles stressed. "We were very clear that the driver we chose needed to bring a certain financial benefit, but needed to have good, relevant experience too. Sakon has both covered and has a permanent place in the team from now until the end of the season. As a team we are permitted four driver changes over the course of a season, and now we have run four drivers.

"Adrian has experience of the car and is very well-integrated in the team, while Sakon has experience of the circuits we go to now. On a personal level, they are also both eager to do well and demonstrate they can race at the highest level of motorsport. This kind of hunger and enthusiasm can only be good for us as this is when a driver gets the most out of the car."

Speaking about the stunning grand prix debut made by Yamamoto's predecessor Markus Winkelhock at the N?rburgring, Kolles admitted the sight of seeing a Spyker leading a race for the first time had been beyond even his wildest dreams.

"Anyone who came to the N?rburgring saw the impact Markus had," he asserted. "We had more TV and press coverage than we have ever had and we led a race for the first time ever. Of course it was a good feeling. We might have been lucky with the weather, but we got the strategy exactly right, which was not down to luck, and Markus had a very controlled drive. It shows that when all things are difficult, we can be on top of it. When we get the new car, who knows what will happen if the same situation happens again?

"Markus did an excellent job in the European Grand Prix, but we were very clear that he was not, unfortunately, in a position to be able to fill the seat until the end of the season. He will continue in the role of reserve driver and attend races. Obviously we know that if he does need to step up to race, he will do a good job for us. I think with Sakon it will be the same, although we are not expecting to lead again - those were very exceptional circumstances."

Super Aguri F1 - Takuma Sato (#22), Anthony Davidson (#23):

Super Aguri are looking to put a troubled run of races behind them in the Hungarian Grand Prix, by regaining some of their early-season form as the Japanese squad looks to build towards an even stronger 2008.

Takuma Sato's sixth place in Montreal is the Leafield-based squad's undoubted highlight of the season so far, but the former Honda star also finished inside the points in Spain, and despite using a year-old chassis Super Aguri has nevertheless routinely outperformed and outscored the works Honda outfit throughout the campaign.

"As one can imagine the first point for Super Aguri claimed by Takuma in Barcelona was very special," said head of research and development Gerry Hughes. "I was unfortunately not present at the chaotic Canadian Grand Prix to see him claim another three. Having points on the board makes you hungry for more, and when you come away from a race weekend with nothing to show for your efforts that can become disheartening.

"This season has seen fierce competition throughout the grid, so I suppose we should be reasonably happy about our performance in 2007, in just our second season. With regard to future developments, we are working on a number of projects in different areas of the car; some of these ideas are more innovative than others.

"Certainly I am looking forward to the 2008 season and beyond. Super Aguri is still in its infancy and we have limited resources, but I think the way the team has equipped itself over the past one-and-a-half seasons is proof that we have the ability to perform alongside teams much bigger than ourselves."

TYRES:

Hungary will mark a return to Bridgestone's super soft compound Potenza rubber, with the softest tyre in the Japanese company's 2007 range being paired with the soft compound for the tight, twisty and slippery 4.38km circuit.

The track provides a very particular challenge for teams and drivers. Its tight and twisty characteristics preclude sustained high-speed running, while at the same time possessing something of a reputation as a car-breaker.

The track is very smooth, meaning the softest compounds are used, but the hot weather and graining-inducing nature of the track mean that tyre management will be critical over the weekend and particularly in the race.

The weather is always an important factor in any grand prix, with the importance of correct tyre choice for the conditions illustrated perfectly at the N?rburgring. With part of Europe under flood conditions and the other part experiencing a heatwave, Hungary could witness an interesting race indeed.

"The smooth surface and the fact the circuit is not used that often means it's a low-grip circuit," explained Kees van de Grint, Bridgestone Motorsport's Head of Track Engineering Operations, "so we will bring the softest compounds in our range to provide the required grip. The circuit characteristics are very inviting for graining to be suffered on the tyres, mainly on the front.

"Normally the temperatures in Budapest are quite high, which means a real challenge for the softer compounds. Qualifying position is crucial. Overtaking is very difficult, so warm-up and initial lap times are very important for the drivers. If you don't start on the front row the chance of winning is slim, unless you come up with a very clever strategy. Qualifying performance and, thereafter, tyre management are the key factors here."

THE TRACK:
Race Distance: 70 laps - Circuit Length: 2.722 miles (4.381 kms)

The Hungaroring has been a regular fixture on the calendar since 1986 when it became the first Formula One event to take place in Eastern Europe. The circuit layout had remained the same since 1989 when an unplanned kink around an underground spring was removed, shortening the track. For 2003, modifications were made to the first corner and the chicane at the back of the circuit in an attempt to improve overtaking opportunities at a track previously regarded as almost impossible to pass on.

Track conditions are always very dusty as the circuit sees very little action during the rest of the year. This leaves the track surface short of grip, particularly offline, but also combines with the August heat to increase tyre wear. The twisty layout makes this the slowest circuit on the F1 calendar after Monaco, and three corners - turns two and thirteen hairpins, plus turns six and seven chicane are all 90 km/h turns. The fastest corner is the relatively modest 170km/h left-hand kink at turn four.

THE WINNER?

With McLaren and Ferrari seemingly enjoying a near lock-out of the podium positions this season - freak climactic conditions aside - it would seem a fairly safe bet to pick a winner from within their ranks. Choosing which of the four is the most likely to do so, however, is the tricky part.

Although Fernando Alonso was imperious on his way to victory at the N?rburgring, that is to mask the fact that Ferrari held the upper hand for the majority of the weekend, and it was more Alonso than his McLaren-Mercedes car that won the race. Team-mate Lewis Hamilton took a knock back with his hefty 'off' in qualifying and first failure to score of the campaign, and will need to get his challenge back on-track in Hungary if he is to stave off his resurgent Spanish team-mate.

Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, will be desperate to enjoy some good luck following his agonising retirement last time out, while team-mate Felipe Massa will be similarly keen to avenge his European Grand Prix defeat. One thing is for sure - none of the four will be willing to concede without a fight.

LAST SEASON:

Jenson Button stole victory from under the noses of the grandee teams last year, as he mastered the tricky conditions while all around him lost their heads - seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher included.

The weekend had begun on a controversial note following two-second penalties for title protagonists Schumacher and Alonso for dangerous driving, leaving both substantially further down the grid than they would normally have been.

Pole-sitter Kimi Raikkonen's race came to a premature conclusion when the Finn careered into the back of Tonio Liuzzi's STR when coming up to lap the Italian, while Alonso worked his way all the way up the field from 15th place into the lead only to see all his efforts come undone when the right rear wheel nut on his Renault came loose and caused him to crash. That promoted Button up into the lead from 14th on the grid, but the drama was far from over yet as Schumacher - still out on intermediate tyres while most of his rivals had pitted to switch over to slicks - robustly defended his second place.

Pedro de la Rosa forced his way through in the race's closing laps, before it all ended in tears for the German when countryman Nick Heidfeld also went past and in a hasty effort to protect his position Schumacher clattered into the BMW-Sauber and the damage forced him out of the race. Heidfeld held on for third - BMW's maiden podium in their own right - while in a final twist of irony a disqualification from seventh place for new BMW team-mate Robert Kubica moved the Ferrari ace back up into the points once more in the final reckoning, despite ending the race in his pit garage.

1. Jenson Button Britain Honda-Honda 70 laps 01:52:20.941
2. Pedro de la Rosa Spain McLaren-Mercedes +30.8
3. Nick Heidfeld Germany BMW-Sauber +43.8
4. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Honda-Honda +45.2
5. David Coulthard Britain Red Bull-Ferrari +1 lap
6. Ralf Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari +1 lap
7. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari +1 lap
8. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari +1 lap

 

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