Hungarian GP: Lewis Hamilton ready to battle Valtteri Bottas, new rivals

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas’ championship battle is set to ignite in Sunday’s Hungarian GP as the closely-matched Mercedes pair line up on the front row, with the threat of rain looming.

The Hungaroring race, which starts at 2.10pm on Sky Sports F1, also sees Mercedes battle some new rivals in Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez, who ousted the world champions’ usual and more fancied competitors – Red Bull and Ferrari – to seal third and fourth in qualifying.

Hamilton admitted he had taken note of the pink cars, stating that “it was great to have a mix-up” and that he will “fight them as hard as we can”, but first and foremost the Mercedes drivers are focused on each other.

  • Hungarian GP TV times: Sky F1 build-up at 12.30pm
  • Vettel opens up in Sky F1 exclusive

Hamilton and Bottas, described as “in a different universe” by Sebastian Vettel with their huge one-lap advantage on Saturday, have won one race apiece to start the season, with the Finn three points ahead, and insisted – after being split by a tenth in Q3 – that they are spurring each other on.

“Whatever the case, it’s intense,” said Hamilton, who is looking for an eighth win at the Budapest circuit. “We are performing at the absolute maximum of our capabilities, we’re really right on the ragged edge.

“Yes we’ve got a fast car but we’re on the ragged edge of that and we’re throwing that thing round. We’d like to believe that anyone else can do it so that’s what we’re going to continue to do. It’s very close between us.”

The forecast predicts on-off showers for the third Grand Prix of F1 2020, and Bottas added: “Of course with the rain it can create opportunities for other teams. And there’s always more risks when it rains.

“But I don’t mind what it is. I just need to find a way to win the race one way or another.”

Rain could make strategic calls a nightmare for teams while also opening up the field, with Vettel, Charles Leclerc and, surprisingly, Max Verstappen behind the Racing Points and in need of overtaking.

Mercedes said they are shocked by the “big, big gap” to Red Bull, who were expected to be pole contenders this weekend but finished well over a second off the pace in qualifying. Verstappen and Alex Albon (starting 13th) have some work to do in a car which has been difficult to handle this weekend.

Other team-mates to certainly keep an eye on are the aforementioned Vettel and Leclerc, who collided on the first lap of last weekend’s race in Austria. Ferrari will be desperate for their drivers to avoid a repeat of that.

Whatever the case, Racing Point have proved they are the team to beat if there is indeed a battle for that final podium slot behind the dueling Mercedes.

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