By Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
- Red Bull relaxed ahead of Hungary
- The final push before the summer break
- Several celebrations at the Hungaroring
With hardly any time to rest Formula teams have arrived at the Hungaroring near Budapest, Hungary for round 11 of the 2011 FIA (Federation Internationale de L’Automobile) Formula One World Championship. The Hungaroring with its 14 turns and a length of 4.381 km has often been described as the Mickey Mouse circuit of all Grand Prix circuits, and with a straight of only 790 meters also a circuit where overtaking is notoriously difficult. It is one of the lowest grip circuits on the calendar, and finding enough traction will be a key issue.
The circuit has in the past delivered surprise winners, and a number of drivers have claimed their maiden victory on the tight and twisty track, Damon Hill (1993), Fernando Alonso (2003), Jenson Button (2006) and Heikki Kovalainen (2008). Two drivers will have something to celebrate this weekend, Nico Rosberg will celebrate his 100th Grand Prix start, while Button will celebrate his 200th Grand Prix. Only one Hungarian driver has ever participated in the Hungarian Grand Prix: Zsolt Baumgartner, who raced for Minardi and Jordan in 2003 and 2004.
Red Bull relaxed ahead of Hungarian Grand Prix
Red Bull Racing and their two star drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were beaten during the last two races, but are nevertheless relaxed and confident ahead of the last race before the summer break. Vettel is leading the 2011 title chase 77 points ahead of Webber, and 82 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton who is third.
Many things have been said about the domination of Red Bull this year, but Red Bull still maintains the championship is not already in the bag. Team principal Christian Horner admitted the German Grand Prix was a ‘wake-up’ call for the Austrian team, but at the same time is still confident the by Adrian Newey designed RB07 will perform well at the Hungaroring. “We have managed to be competitive at many, many different types of track. We have had pole position at every single Grand Prix this year; we have won six out of 10 [races] and been on the podium at every single race,” Horner commented. “You are always learning, always looking to move forward, but the one thing Red Bull has consistently done is be able to run at the front this year,” he confidently said.
Australian Webber, who won the race last year, has a similar opinion, and is not worried Red Bull will lose more ground this weekend, “The Hungaroring should suit our car well, we were very strong there last year and more of the same this year would be good. It’s another opportunity for us to get some good points -- and it’s always nice to finish before the break with a strong result -- so lets see how we go.”
Vettel is less optimistic and expects a tough race. “The Hungarian Grand Prix is one of the hardest for the drivers. It can get very hot in the cockpit due to the high-temperatures, which means we lose a lot of body fluid during the race,” the 2010 champion said. “There are a lot of bumps on the track, which means you can get shaken up a bit and, because the track has hardly any straights, you have almost no chance to rest. That's what makes the Hungarian Grand Prix so exhausting,” he explained.
Last push before the summer break
Both McLaren and Ferrari are aiming to put even more pressure on the Red Bull team, but it will be difficult to decrease the gap to Red Bull. Team principal Martin Whitmarsh reckons is quite a challenge for the British team, “The Hungaroring is the slowest permanent circuit on the Formula One calendar and it’s a great technical challenge. The cars run with maximum downforce and they have to be able to absorb the bumps and high kerbs that abound at the track.” Despite the challenges Whitmarsh is optimistic his team will perform well, “McLaren has won at the circuit nine times, which is more than any other team, and we’ll be looking to add to that tally on Sunday.”
Winner of the German Grand Prix Hamilton agrees the circuit is very demanding, “It’s going to be a completely different challenge. The weather conditions will be much hotter than they were at the ’Ring and the nature of the circuit will be very different too. The Hungaroring is a tight and twisty racetrack, not dissimilar to Monaco in terms of downforce levels, and it offers no let up for the drivers. We’re always working behind the wheel, so it’s very physical.”
A special occasion for Button this weekend, as he has something to celebrate. “This is the track at which I won my first Grand Prix, in 2006, and I’ll be celebrating another milestone on Sunday because this is my 200th Grand Prix. I can’t believe I’ve already knocked up a double-ton of Formula One starts because I don’t feel a day older than when I made my debut back in 2000!,” Button said with a smile. He also thinks the circuit is physically very demanding for drivers, “The hot weather conditions make this one of the most grueling races of the year for the drivers. Cockpit temperatures regularly exceed 50 degrees and we’re always pulling G-force in the car because there are so many corners.”
Like McLaren, Ferrari is also looking forward to continue the chase for the championship, their recent revival has given them some hope. But Alonso remains cautious about this weekend’s prospects, “It seems that one weekend is good for us in terms of Silverstone, [due to] the characteristics of the corners.” And added, “Last weekend seemed good for McLaren, for whatever reason, but Red Bull are always there. It seems that all conditions on most circuits are good for them, so that’s the only difference and I think we need to make another step if we want to be at the same level.” The Spaniard is especially worried about Ferrari’s qualifying performance, and on a very tight and narrow circuit it is even more important to qualify as high as possible.
”We still lack something, especially in qualifying: it's true that in the race we can make up for this, but it's not always possible to move up two places compared to our grid position, as happened in Monaco, Valencia, Silverstone and Nurburgring,” he stated. Unlike McLaren, Ferrari and Alonso are hoping for hot weather, “At the Hungaroring it should be more in keeping with summer, which is no bad thing as I've had enough of the cold and damp weather we experienced in England and Germany,” Alonso said. “That goes not just for me, but also for our car: it would definitely work better in temperatures higher than the 13 degrees we had last Sunday.”
Lotus Renault worried about current performance
Lotus Renault was fast at the start of the season, both drivers Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov scored a third place on the podium, but recently the team seems to have lost all speed. Mercedes were able to overtake Lotus Renault in the Constructors’ Championship, while Sauber and Force India after their excellent performance last weekend, are slowly gaining on the French/Luxembourg team. Without a doubt, the absence of Robert Kubica has hurt the team as well, but team principal Eric Boullier wants to see improvements.
They experimented with a Red Bull-style exhaust configuration at the Nurburgring, but decided to use the forwards pointing exhaust system as the new configuration showed little or no improvement. “It wasn’t the result we were looking for. We came to the Nürburgring with some developments to the car, which gave us higher hopes going into the weekend,” Boullier admitted. “It was another point gained for us, but really we were well below par, and it was not the weekend we expected it to be.” Although he wants a better performance, the prospects for the Hungarian Grand Prix are not good, as the team will have no significant car updates.
Boullier has criticized Heidfeld for his lack of leadership, and his future at the team is very uncertain, as Boullier has also mentioned Roman Grosjean could succeed him next season if Kubica still hasn’t recovered from his injuries. The German is therefore under pressure, but is still confident. “I’ve had two Formula One podiums at the Hungaroring before, so I’ve got good memories from the place,” he said. What does he expect this weekend? ” What’s most important is that we see ourselves moving in the right direction. We want to have a good result, especially before the August break because it would do a lot for our morale to go into the second half of the season on a high,” he answered.
Mercedes also celebrates Hungarian Grand Prix
Mercedes scored seventh and eighth position in Germany, which sounds good, but was in fact not a good result, as both Rosberg and Schumacher finished one lap behind the leaders, which means they are still off the pace. On top of that, Schumacher again made a silly error which cost him a good position. But Schumacher has put all this behind him and remains optimistic, “I am hopeful as we have seen some progress lately with our car. I am impressed with the effort the team and the guys back in England are constantly putting into it and it is good to see developments.”
Despite his optimism, team principal Ross Brawn has warned ‘the potential of the car has been exhausted’, but he hasn’t given up yet. “Our recent performances in Silverstone and Germany have been encouraging, although the pace is still not there to compete with the front-running teams, and we will keep working hard to continue to find improvements,” he said.
We need to work on our race set-up to see what improvements we can make
Nico Rosberg will celebrate is 100th Grand Prix, but is more looking forward to the race then to celebrate his personal record. “It's a nice number but statistics aren't that important to me. I'm looking forward to the weekend in Budapest as I like the Hungaroring very much, and I'm hoping for a better time than in 2010 when unfortunately I didn't finish the race, “ the young German said. He reckons there is a lot of work yet to be done, “We need to work on our race set-up to see what improvements we can make as the car that I had in qualifying in Germany was better than the one that I had in the race. I'm sure we can do it and take another small step forward.”
Mercedes Benz also has something to celebrate, as it will be the 100th race for the Mercedes Benz 2.4 liter V8 engine since 2006, and during the last 99 Grands Prix the V8 has taken 32 wins, unfortunately non of them were scored by the Mercedes team…
Hungaroring - Hungary
|Circuit length||4.381 km|
|Corners||14 turns: 8 right, 6 left|
|Longest straight||790 meters|
|Elevation difference||36 meters|
|Total number of race laps||70|
|Total race distance||306.630 km|
|Top speed||300 km/h|
|Average speed||195 km/h|
|Tyre compounds||Soft [Prime] Yellow and Supersoft Option] Red|
|Downforce level||Medium to high|
|Lap record||M. Schumacher - Ferrari - 1:19.071 (2004)|
|2010 Pole Position||Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull Racing - 1m18.773|
|2010 Race Winner||Mark Webber - Red Bull Racing - 1h41m05.571|
|Speed limits in the pit lane||60 km/h during practice sessions, 100 km/h during qualifying and the race|
|FIA Stewards||Alan McNish (GB), Gert Ennser (GER), Radovan Noval (CZ)|
|Speed limits in the pit lane||60 km/h during practice sessions; 100 km/h during qualifying and race|
Hungaroring, Hungary - three-day weather forecast
|Day||Forecast||Min Temperature||Max Temperature|
|Friday||Sunny intervals, but rain in the afternoon, warm weather||14C||24C|
|Saturday||Mostly cloudy, but no rain, warm weather||15C||24C|
|Sunday||Sunny intervals, no rain expected, warm weather||14C||22C|
Pirelli tyre report
Pirelli brings the Soft (Prime) and Supersoft (Option) tyres to the Hungaroring, and tyre management will one of the keys to success this weekend. It can be very hot at the Hungaroring, and with its tight corners and chicanes is a very demanding circuit for the tyres. As overtaking opportunities are very limited, a good tyre strategy and well-executed pit stops will be important. The circuit requires a high down force setup, and accelerating out of corners will increase to load on the rear tyres, and drivers will have to be careful not to damage the tyres during the first few laps.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s Motorsport Director, about the circuit, “The big challenge for the teams and drivers is going to be keeping tyre wear under control in the warm conditions, but we have used the P Zero Yellow soft tyre in warm weather before and it has shown good performance. The supersoft tyre is almost certain to result in some quick qualifying laps but obviously it doesn’t have the same resistance to wear. How the teams juggle the parameters of speed and durability will once again form the key to their different strategies. There has been plenty of drama at the Hungaroring in the past and with so many new elements to the racing this year, I hope we’re in for another exciting Grand Prix.”
The FIA has again opted for a traditional one-zone setup, the detection zone, where a driver has to be within one second of the car he wants to overtake, starts at the entrance of the last corner, Turn 14, and the activation zone, where the drivers is allowed to deploy the DRS wing, starts 70 meters after the exit of Turn 14 and ends at the end of the start/finish straight just ahead of Turn 1.
More team Notes and Quotes
Peter Sauber confirmed the driver line-up for 2012, Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez will stay with the Swiss team, and both drivers are looking forward to the Hungarian Grand Prix. Kobayashi remembers his race here last year, “I have good memories of Budapest from last year. I started from 23rd on the grid and was able to overtake quite a few competitors and end up ninth. It was really a brilliant race.”
His team colleague Mexican Perez however, has mixed feelings, “I believe it should be a good track for us, and I definitely want to score points there before the summer break. Last year I was fighting for the GP2 championship at the Hungaroring, and I must admit it wasn't such a good weekend. I finished third in the first race, but crashed in the second.”
Force India did very well last weekend, and although qualifying isn’t the strongest point of the team, Adrian Sutil finished in sixth place at the Nurburgring. Sutil about the Hungarian track, “The track is not used that much so it’s usually quite dusty when we arrive. It cleans up as we start running, but Friday practice is always quite hard work. By the start of qualifying it has usually improved and the grip just builds up and up. When the track is like that it’s really nice to drive.”
Paul di Resta only has driven on the track during the 2010 Friday morning practice, but is still hoping for a good result, “It’s not easy to learn much from a handful of laps but I know the layout and main challenges of the track. Because of the tight nature of the lap, it’s never been a track where there has been much overtaking, so it will be another good test of the DRS.”
Williams driver Rubens Barrichello, the most experienced driver of the grid, knows the circuit and has won here before, and is looking forward to the race. “Just like Monaco, it is a slow speed track which can throw up a few surprises, so I hope we can get a better result. I stay in my motor home so I’m about 20 km away from the city but I know the place quite well and my kids will be coming so I’m looking forward to them also getting to know Hungary,” the Brazilian said.
Team Lotus driver Jarno Trulli is especially looking forward to the race, as he will have his long-awaited power steering, the absence of which was according to the Italian the reason he couldn’t keep up with Heikki Kovalainen, who also has won this race before. The Finn is hoping for a good performance, ”This year I think the Hungarian race will be similar to most other places for us but as it's less dependent on aero efficiency I think we are in with a shout of pushing the guys ahead a bit more than somewhere like Silverstone.”
Timo Glock is another driver who signed a contract for next year, but his Marussia Virgin team has been struggling to find enough down force this season. The German driver scored his first ever Formula One podium here in 2008, and certainly knows the circuit better than his Belgium colleague Jerome d’Ambrosio. But d’Ambrosio knows he still has a lot to learn, “I still have to work on improving my qualifying performance to make sure I have better chances during the race. If I can do this I think I can have a strong race because the pace of the car in Germany was good.”
Vitantonio Liuzzi is the most experienced driver in the HRT team, and after his retirement last weekend, is looking forward to this time finish the race. “The Hungaroring is normally very tough -- hot and a very long race, it’s a real physical challenge. But I’m feeling good, and we keep progressing, so I’m looking forward to the weekend,” the Italian said.
F1 is in for a ‘hot’ race at the Hungaroring
Although Red Bull has labeled the McLaren victory as a wake-up call, their main competitors McLaren and Ferrari are still convinced Red Bull will once a gain dominate the race … unless it rains. Although rain was reported last weekend in Budapest and wet weather seems to dominate the summer in Europe, statistically speaking, it has only rained once during the race in the 25-year history of the Hungarian Grand Prix, in 2006, and that race was won by Button for the Honda works team.
Ferrari is hoping for warm weather, as their car performs better under warm circumstances, they have been struggling getting the Pirellis up to temperature during colder events like Canada, Great Britain and Germany. And Ferrari is not just looking to beat Red Bull, to keep their hopes up for the championship, they also have to deal with McLaren who are also still ahead of them.
Although Red Bull had to admit defeat during the last two races, they are still miles ahead of their rivals, and can therefore take it relatively easy, like Alonso already said this week, Red Bull can also win the championship by scoring third or fourth places for the rest of the season. So, even if it rains, Formula One will still be in for a ‘hot’ race at the Hungaroring.