Hungarian GP - Budapest, a difficult track to overtake Budapest has changed a great deal since the first time Formula 1 visited here in 1986, when it provided an exotic taste of life behind the Iron Curtain. Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro has won...
Hungarian GP - Budapest, a difficult track to overtake
Budapest has changed a great deal since the first time Formula 1 visited here in 1986, when it provided an exotic taste of life behind the Iron Curtain. Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro has won five times in those twenty two years and two of those victories stand out: in 1989, Nigel Mansell won from twelfth on the grid, which defied the odds on a track known for the difficulty of passing another car and in 1998, Michael Schumacher won with an unusual three stop strategy. The German was the last man to win at the Hungaroring in the Prancing Horse colours, back in 2004. Driving for another team, Kimi Raikkonen won the following year.
Back in the present day, Ferrari comes to Budapest after two less than perfect race weekends, especially the last Grand Prix where the team was not competitive enough to fight for victory. Since Hockenheim, the team has carried out an extensive in-depth investigation, both at home in Maranello and during the four day test at Jerez de la Frontera, into what was behind this lacklustre showing. Data analysis was the main item on the agenda behind the factory walls and there was daily communication between the factory and the Spanish race track, to exchange views. A great deal of effort went into this analysis, as the team carried out comparisons between set-up options, as well as mechanical and aerodynamic parts that have been developed over the past six weeks or so. The fact that ambient and track temperatures at Jerez were very high and the abrasive nature of the track surface certainly did not make this analysis a straightforward task. However, by running the comparison tests in consistent conditions in terms of temperature and wind - especially with Kimi on Thursday - a meaningful analysis was possible. The synthesis of those investigations is that in Hockenheim, it was not the car itself that had something wrong with it, in that the package was not worse than the previous one: the major difference was tyre related and for a variety of reasons, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa were unable to get the best out of the tyres during Sunday's race, even if there had been little sign of this difficulty over the previous two days of practice and qualifying.
"Despite the fact the last two races have been negative for us, the Scuderia is definitely not in crisis," maintains Team Principal of the Gestione Sportiva, Stefano Domenicali. "The team is still leading the Constructors' Championship and theoretically, one of our drivers could again be back at the top of the Drivers' classification on Sunday night. We are on a similar points tally to last year, we have won half the races so far and indeed, taken half the pole positions. Just as we never felt we were unbeatable after our French GP victory, so too, we do not feel all is lost after the British and German events. The entire squad is doing its best to overturn this situation. We have come from behind before and in fact, we have emerged as the top team at the end of the season, having been in much greater difficulty than we are now. If we look at where Ferrari was in 2007 after ten races, today we are in a much better position and this year, there is one more race than last, which gives us even more opportunities to fight back."
As for the characteristics of the Hungaroring, they are well known: it requires, along with Monaco, the highest downforce configuration and Bridgestone will bring the same tyres as they did to the Principality, namely the "Soft" and "Super-Soft." The F2008 was very competitive in this trim, so there is no reason to think that should not be the case this weekend. As usual, a strong qualifying performance is a vital step on the road to victory, with overtaking very difficult at this circuit, but again, looking back to Monaco, the Ferraris were very competitive there on the Super-Soft tyre used for the one lap discipline. Usually, the race is based on a two stop strategy, although last year, some drivers did three, and starting the race on the clean side of the track can be a significant advantage on a track that always stays dirty off the racing line. It takes time to rubber in, which can cause tyre graining on the first day of practice, diminishing as the weekend goes on. As far as engines are concerned, Kimi will have a new one for this race, while Felipe's will be having its second outing.
Tomorrow, Luca Badoer will carry out a shakedown at Fiorano of the cars that will be used in Budapest. For the first time on a race weekend, the F2008 will be fitted with, amongst other new components, the "anvil" engine cover, after Massa felt in Jerez that it brought some benefits. The team will travel to Hungary with its usual determination to aim for the win, with the added incentive that it's always good to go into the "summer break" on the back of a great result.