A rejuvenated Lewis Hamilton heads to Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix just one point behind his championship rival Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton, victorious in front of his home crowd at Silverstone last time out, will be hoping to keep the title momentum going in the final round before the summer break.
Here, Press Association Sport dissects the key talking points ahead of Sunday's race.
MOMENTUM WITH HAMILTON
The Hungaroring is a track which has been kind to Hamilton in the past, and you would be a brave man to back against him this weekend. Hamilton has won the race a record five times, and will arrive for the 11th and final round of the championship before the sport's four-week summer break with the best car, and as the favourite to take control of the title race. Hamilton's Mercedes team, particularly in qualifying, now hold the edge over Vettel and his Ferrari outfit, while Hamilton himself was in blistering form at Silverstone. Indeed since Vettel led home Kimi Raikkonen in a Ferrari one-two at May's Monaco Grand Prix, the Italian team have scored only 79 points. Mercedes have collated 151 during the same period. That said, the twisty nature of the Hungaroring and warm temperatures should suit Ferrari - and, if that proves to be the case, Vettel must make it count.
HELLO TO THE HALO
Another major taking point this week will be the FIA's move to enforce the introduction of the halo for 2018. The decision to make the controversial cockpit protection device, which is designed to block flying debris, mandatory has not gone down well in some quarters. Such was the backlash, the FIA took the unusual step of releasing a statement to defend its decision. There can be no hiding from the fact that the halo is ugly, and it sanitises a sport in which risk is one of the biggest appeals. However, as Vettel rightly stated last year, no argument "justifies death".
CRUNCH TIME FOR ALONSO
Fernando Alonso has said he will determine his future during the summer break, and it is still uncertain whether the two-time champion will stick or twist. The Spaniard, out of contract with McLaren at the end of the year, has finished just two races this season and has scored only two points. The British team cannot offer him a package to fight for the top 10, let alone the third championship he so desperately craves. The Hungaroring is a circuit not so reliant on power, and that could play into McLaren's hands - but will a decent finish in Hungary sway Alonso's future thinking? It is unlikely. For now, the driver market hinges on Vettel and his movements next year. Only when the German, whose deal at Ferrari also expires at the end of the season, makes up his mind will the remaining pieces of the jigsaw - and that includes Alonso - fall into place.
KUBICA CLOSING IN ON HOLLYWOOD RETURN?
Another driver who could be in the frame for a seat in 2018 is Robert Kubica - and what a remarkable story it will be if the 32-year-old returns to the grid. Kubica partially severed his right arm in a rallying accident more than five years ago, but, following two run-outs in a 2012 Renault, the Pole will be handed his first taste of this year's car in the second of a two-day test at the Hungaroring next week. Kubica was regarded among the finest drivers of his generation before his crash, and a prominent display next week will only whet the appetite for his sensational return.
MERCEDES SET SIGHTS ON FORMULA E
Mercedes announced earlier this week that they will end their long-term association with German Touring Car series, DTM, and move into Formula E. This is great news, not just for Formula E, the FIA-backed electric series, but potentially for Formula One, too. Indeed it should pave the way for Formula E to be the programme which promotes green, innovative technology replicated in our everyday road cars and enable F1 to re-position itself as the pinnacle of motor racing with the return of noisy, thirst-guzzling V8 engines, and not the tepid, V6 hybrids we have today.
15 March 2018
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