The Hungarian Grand Prix weekend is the end of the beginning. With 10 races in the books and half of the season gone, the world championship run-in officially starts here. And the teams and drivers involved know it, much as they will do their best to downplay the situation.
It took a while for the season to take shape, what with seven winners in the first seven races and seemingly no rhyme or reason in the race results from one weekend to the next. But now, things are starting to become far less amorphous. Fernando Alonso, much to the surprise of pretty much everyone including those within the team, leads the drivers' championship by a formidable 34 points.
Carrying that kind of margin, certainly anything more than the 25 points available for a win, into the August break will be worth a point or two in the so-called psychological battle (if, indeed, such a battle really exists).
In public, now is the time where everybody attempts to downplay the significance of world championship positions. Granted, Alonso's 34-point lead pales in comparison to the theoretical 250 points available to anyone who wins the final 10 races, but you'd be hard pushed to find many who would bet against him even this far out.
Alonso himself is, as is the standard procedure up until pretty much the last race of the season, downplaying everything. His words exemplify the prevailing public opinion in Budapest today, that there is still everything to play for.
Hamilton says he can't afford more dents © XPB
"We are in a good position in terms of the points that we achieved in the first half of the season," said Alonso. "But we are only halfway. The distance between the top five or six is not a gap that is impossible to recover. You just need one good race or two good races and you are up there.
"We need to keep the concentration, try to keep maximising what we have. In terms of the championship, it is obviously way too early to think."
Needless to say, that goes completely against Alonso's deserved reputation as the arch-calculator. It's fanciful to take at face value drivers' claims that they aren't even vaguely thinking of the world championship even at this stage of the season. When you've worked for something for your whole career, how can you not?
Alonso's opponents all said things along similar lines. Lewis Hamilton, who has pocketed only four points in the last three races compared to Alonso's haul of 68, was also being realistic although he sounded a little like an automotive bodyshop employee when talking about his situation.
"It was as big a dent as you could probably take," he said of Hockenheim. "Just as Valencia was. Through a season, I don't think there could be a bigger dent.
"There are only a certain amount of dents that you can take through the year, especially when the guy who is leading has finished every race in the points."
Those are the kinds of dents that Alonso will be looking to inflict further examples of on his opposition. But the bottom line is that should he have a bad weekend, his strong lead could be slashed to a flimsy-looking nine come Sunday night.
Needless to say, the impending August break is gratefully received not only by the title challengers, but by everyone working for the teams. Most working in the paddock are all-too-aware of the imminent couple of weeks off that the mandatory factory shutdowns forces.
The demob happiness, combined with the fact that Hungary ends a run of three races in four weekends, means that everyone will be very relieved to get packed up ready for home on Sunday night. There is very much that 'last week at work before holiday' feeling.
The paddock will soon be empty as F1 goes on a break © XPB
Talk about the intensity of Formula 1 for the teams is not overstated. Since pre-season testing started, personnel have been almost constantly occupied with either running the cars, developing the cars, building the cars or travelling around the world several times to get to wherever it is that they need to be to do that. After five months of that, no wonder they are relieved to get to the break.
Which drivers and teams will be happiest heading into the break remains to be seen. But while Alonso has made a break for it, there are several drivers who need to break free from the pack and close up on him.
There has been plenty of talk about the Red Bull-Renault engine mapping controversy today, so the big question of the weekend is just how much performance will Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber have lost because of it. If it's significant, it could be a very happy August for Alonso.
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