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F1 rivals renew hostilities
Alan Baldwin | August 02, 2007 10:17 IST
After a week dominated by talk of spying and subterfuge, a saga that shows no signs of abating, the immediate focus switches back to the track and a title fight that remains too close to call.
McLaren's double world champion Fernando Alonso [Images] senses the momentum is with him after winning the previous race in Germany [Images] to move just two points behind 22-year-old rookie team mate Lewis Hamilton [Images] with seven rounds left.
The Spaniard, who turned 26 on Sunday, can now seize the outright lead for the first time since April at the circuit where he took his first grand prix victory as a 22-year-old with Renault in 2003.
"It was great to take the win in Germany and I hope to achieve the same result in Hungary," he said in a team preview that made no mention of the off-track controversy that still hangs over his team's title prospects.
"The track will always be special to me. I usually enjoy the race."
With overtaking difficult at the best of times at one of the slowest of circuits, Alonso will have to make sure that he outqualifies both Hamilton and the Ferraris.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa [Images], swept aside by Alonso in a wheel-banging finale at the Nuerburgring, will be out for revenge.
The Brazilian is nine points behind Alonso.
Ferrari are 27 adrift of McLaren, who emerged unscathed from a hearing of the governing body last Thursday that found them to have been in unauthorised possession of Ferrari technical information. The affair will now go to appeal.
Hamilton, the Briton whose nine race run of podium finishes came to an end with ninth place at the Nuerburgring, will be doing all he can to keep the lead through the summer break.
"We have as good a chance as anyone at the race," he said.
"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."
Throw Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen [Images], winner here with McLaren in 2005 and runner-up in 2003, into the Hungaroring and Sunday promises to be another full-on four-way battle.
Raikkonen, a three-times winner, needs another victory to haul himself back into the reckoning after a retirement at the Nuerburgring left him 18 points off the lead.
Briton Jenson Button [Images], who took an emotional first win for Honda on a wet afternoon in Hungary last year, can expect to finish way down the order this time.
He and Honda have only a point since the end of last season and even eighth place would be something to celebrate.
"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," said Button.
The starting grid will see two new faces from the last race, with 20-year-old German Sebastian Vettel replacing American Scott Speed at Toro Rosso and Japan's [Images] Sakon Yamamoto at tail-enders Spyker.
Formula One: The Complete Coverage