Pole is key to Hungarian GP success

Michael Schumacher knows that the only sure-fire way to end his three-race pointless streak will be to start his Ferrari from the pole at this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix

Pole is key to Hungarian GP success

Schumacher leads the McLaren duo of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard by just two points, and after crashing out of the last two Grands Prix, he needs to re-establish his title challenge. But the twisty nature of the Hungaroring, plus the slipperiness of the track off the racing line, means it is one of the most difficult circuits on which to overtake on the whole calendar.

"It's a track which can be great fun to drive when you are at the front of the pack," says Schumacher, "but really frustrating when you are trying to overtake another car with similar performance.

"This race is a tricky one. The tricky surface itself does not have a great deal of grip, which means that a well-balanced car for the race is essential. Also, the grip improves dramatically on the racing line as the rubber goes down through the weekend. It's a situation which adds to the problems of overtaking because any manoeuvre off the line means there is very little grip and it is very easy to spin or slide off the road."

Schumacher missed last season's Hungarian Grand Prix after breaking his leg at Silverstone, but has taken pole on three of his visits to the track and won the race twice. With overtaking so difficult, the start is critical - as is staying out of trouble at the first corner.

"My number one priority in Hungary will be to get through the first lap without a problem and finish the race in the points," says Schuey. "I'm confident that we will have a competitive car in Hungary, I just need some better luck to go with it."

Over at McLaren, Hakkinen and Coulthard are confident that the momentum they have built in recent races will continue into the Hungarian GP. But with McLaren steering clear of team orders - unlike Ferrari (see separate story) - both know they must beat their team mate on the track, as well as Schumacher, to move into the championship driving seat. Again, a strong qualifying position and a clean start are essential.

"There are not a lot of overtaking opportunities," says Coulthard. "The best, and some say the only, is at the end of the straight, so it's important to qualify well. With six races to go, there are still a lot of points to go for in the championship and I have never been closer to Schumacher than I am now."

Hakkinen took pole and won the race last year, but Coulthard's best results have been three second places - two from second on the grid.




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