(Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton can become the first Formula One driver to win 100 races but Red Bull’s world championship leader Max Verstappen intends to be the one celebrating in Hungary on Sunday.
Hamiiton has won eight times at the Hungaroring, a record he shares with fellow seven times world champion Michael Schumacher for most wins at the same grand prix.
The Mercedes driver’s 99th victory, at his home British Grand Prix 10 days ago after a high-speed first lap collision with Verstappen, turned up the heat on the title battle and added acrimony.
Both teams must now attend a virtual meeting with stewards after Red Bull sought a review of the decision to hand Hamilton only a 10 second penalty for causing the accident at Silverstone.
Verstappen, whose lead was slashed from 33 points to eight after 10 rounds, will be particularly fired up to rebuild his advantage before the August break.
If Hamilton were to triumph with the fastest lap at the Hungaroring, and Verstappen finish second, the pair would sign off for the summer level on points and wins.
There are sure to be plenty more clashes ahead but Verstappen, 13 years younger than Hamilton at 23, would rather do his talking on the track.
“I don’t have much to say on all the media hype and to be honest I am not interested in getting involved in any of that,” he said.
“I know what happened at Silverstone as I was in the car and obviously I feel a certain way about how my race ended but now I’m just focusing on making sure we are the best we can be on track so we can stay ahead in the championship.
“The team can take care of the official side of things and anything that needs looking into after the crash but my job is the same as always — to be the best I can and try to win on Sunday.”
Verstappen also has good memories of Hungary, taking his first pole there in 2019 and finishing second the last two years.
“I enjoy Hungary as a track and let’s hope there is a little less action on the way to the grid as the mechanics worked some sort of miracle to get my car out for the race last year,” he said.
The Dutch driver crashed before the start last year, leaving his mechanics racing to repair the suspension and replace a front wing.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff saw Red Bull coming back strongly.
“It is a track that will likely suit our competitors more, but we’ll give it all we’ve got,” he said.
Hungary also holds happy memories for Alpine’s double world champion Fernando Alonso, who took the first win of his F1 career at the circuit with Renault in 2003 and who turns 40 this week.
“It feels like a big go-kart circuit. We all love driving there because I think the driver has a quite a bit more input than some circuits,” said the Spaniard.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)