After a two weeks break, F1 returns this Friday. Following the high-speeds of Silverstone, this time F1 faces a different challenge; we fly to Hungary, to the Hungaroring, near Budapest. Described as "Monaco without the walls" by the Aussie who won last year, Th Hungaroring doesn't favour a high engine power, meaning the field should be bunched. It will be the last stop before the summer holidays, followed by the Belgian GP.
A little bit of history
Although the first edition of the race was held in 1936, for political reasons there was no race there until 50 years later. So, the first official GP at the Hungaroring was in 1986. It's one of the few circuits that have not been modified in a big scale over time, so it still retains the magic of the old circuits. This circumstance makes the circuit being narrow, winding and hard to let us see action on the track and, therefore, the secret to a winning performance is pit strategy.
The track isn't used much throughout the year so the asphalt is dusty and bumped, compromising the grip of the cars. High temperatures are recorded year after year which make the Hungarian GP endless for pilots, being a very tough race physically as it is usually almost at the limit of two hours. It was the only current Grand Prix venue that had never seen a wet race up until 2006.
Last year, we had one of the best GPs here in Hungary. Even though Rosberg holded the pole position, the two early Safety Cars ruined his race. His teammate was second at the start and finished third, after Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso, who started 21st.
Hungaroring is one of the favorite tracks for many drivers since they performed their first win there. The two drivers with most wins in Hungary are Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton, with 4 each. Ayrton Senna won 3 times in the Hungaroring, and Nelson Piquet, Damon Hill, Mika Häkkinen, Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button have two Hungarian trophies. The two most successful teams in Hungarian soil are McLaren with 9 golds and Williams with 7. The lap record is held by the Kaiser since 2004 with a 1.19:071m.
Kimi Räikkönen is optimistic about Ferrari’s performance in the Hungaroring. As he says, "We've seen at other circuits it depends a lot on the layout of the circuit and what tyres we run.I expect it to be a different story here. Silverstone was not ideal for us - the layout, conditions and tyres - but we have to improve and we have to try to get better whatever circuit it is. Hungary, I'm sure, will be better.”
The Hungaroring layout has 4'38km length and 14 curves. Drivers will race a total of 70 laps, which will make them go 306'6km. The main straight is 900m long and drivers reach 320 km/h. The first braking before taking the corner number one is a good overtaking point. The corner is a right-hander, the first of 8, very tight in the beginning and with a high kerb and more open at the exit, which brings drivers to another small straight. DRS can be used there, as the second activation point is located at the exit of the Turn 1. The second corner, to the left, is a rounded turn which drivers need to take from the interior and hold on there until they are out of the curve, being careful with the bumped surface. The exit from that corner is very important, they need to maintain the line in order to have a good grip for the next section of the track. Drivers find corner number 3 here, taken at full throttle and followed by a straight where they have to take the kerbs. The track here goes uphill.
Sector 2 starts with a quite blind turn number 4, where it is difficult to see the apex. The exit of it is also blind and drivers need to be careful not to oversteer at the same time they move to the left to take the next corner, the number 5. This is a right-hander taken at 140 km/h. The track continues uphill and very bumped just before the right-left medium speed chicane. Right after there is a short straight and a little braking before the corner number 8 to the left. A small mistake here can compromise the lap time; the rhythm in this section of the track is very important for the overall lap time. Now, a long section of linked curves follows. Turn 9 to the right, quite open and taken at 140 km/h gives start to the downhill part of the circuit. A good exit from that corner is very important because a fast section comes with corner number 10, almost inexistent, and number 11 to the right, which need to be attacked from the interior.
Sector three starts with a straight ending in the turn 12, where the DRS detection point is located. The corner, a tight 90º one to the right, asks drivers to take little kerb. Then, a heavy braking before taking the turn 13 to the left, passed through at 100 km/h. It is the second slowest corner of the circuit and it brings drivers to the last curve, the number 14; a right-hander taken at 120 km/h and followed by the main straight, where the first DRS activation point is located.
Tires and technical requirements
We have the sector 1 as the fastest one, and sectors 2 and 3 very twisty. The race is the second slowest GP of the season, just behind Monaco, so the demand of downforce is high. The suspensions of the cars are smoothed for greater traction out of corners. Since it’s a track that offers very low grip, the teams have to work on the set up of the car, emphasizing mechanical grip. The brake wear is also high.
Pirelli is bringing softs and medium compounds to this GP because, since it is a circuit with many curves, although the tire wear is medium, tires hardly have time to cool from one lap to another. Paul Hembery said: "We go from Silverstone - one of the fastest and fluid circuits in the calendar of the F1- to Hungaroring, which is one of the seemingly slower, with a series of technical linked corners which are a real challenge for the pilot, the car and tires, as they are always working hard: besides the pit straight, there is no part in the circuit where drivers can relax. One of the biggest challenges is climate. Budapest can be extremely hot in July, and obviously this has a significant effect on thermal degradation. In order to find the right balance between performance and durability, we have selected the medium and the soft tire, the same as last year. This selection is soft enough to provide the mechanical grip needed to manage all curves but at the same time, tough enough to withstand the weather conditions and the demands of the layout of the Hungaroring. It is not always the easiest circuit for overtaking, so tire strategy can make a real difference.”
Will Ferrari beat Mercedes this weekend, since the engine is not so important here? Will the two Mercedes drivers have a good battle between them? The answers, at the usual time.
As a tribute to the recent passed away Jules Bianchi, there is a prevision of a 1 minute silence 15 minutes before the start of the GP.
Local race times
FP 1: Friday 24 10:00 a.m.
FP 2: Friday 24 2:00 p.m.
FP 3: Saturday 25 11:00 a.m.
Classification: Saturday 25 2:00 p.m.
Race: Sunday 26 2:00 p.m.
by Cristina DeLarge