HUNGARIAN GRAND PRIX PREVIEW SURPRISES POSSIBLE After back-to-back races in Austria and Germany, Formula One teams have been able to enjoy the relative luxury of a two-week break prior to the Hungarian Grand Prix. Staged at the...
HUNGARIAN GRAND PRIX PREVIEW
SURPRISES POSSIBLE After back-to-back races in Austria and Germany, Formula One teams have been able to enjoy the relative luxury of a two-week break prior to the Hungarian Grand Prix. Staged at the Hungaroring, close to the beautiful city of Budapest, the circuit poses a very different set of challenges for the Tyrell engineers compared with the long straights and high-speed chicanes of Germany's Hockenheimring.
The 3.97-km/2.47-mile Hungarian track is a relatively tight, twisty circuit with few obvious overtaking opportunities where cars hit a maximum speed of approximately 275km/h at the end of the pit straight before braking for a sweeping right-hand corner. Last year, completely against the "run of play", reigning World Drivers' Champion, Damon Hill, sensationally powered his Arrows into the lead of the race and stayed there until a mechanical problem slowed him in the closing laps of the race. Former Williams team mate, Jacques Villeneuve, caught and passed Hill to take the win, but it was undoubtedly the Englishman who was the moral victor in what turned out to be one of the most dramatic Grand Prix of the 1997 season.
This year, however, it's a new game with Formula One cars now featuring narrow-track suspensions, reduced levels of downforce and grooved slicks. To find out how Tyrrell is preparing for the Hungarian Grand Prix, we spoke with Alex Varnava, race engineer on car No 20, driven by Ricardo Rosset.
"First and foremost, Hungary is very much a high-downforce circuit," he says. "In that respect, in terms of settings for the cars, we're talking about levels of downforce that exceed those for Monaco, in other words, very high. The driver needs a car with good front-end grip that changes direction quickly, consistently and without understeer if he is to have a chance of setting quick lap times.
"Another problem is that the circuit is very bumpy and there are usually lots of comments from the drivers about poor ride quality. Like Hockenheim, where we have just been, the bumps upset the handling. The front of the car bounces in the corners, which create oversteer from the mid-corner point to the exit as the driver gets on the power. As it's quite a slow track, brake cooling is at a minimum and pad and disc wear is therefore not an issue.
"The Hungaroring is not a circuit that gets a lot of use, so the likelihood is that it will be quite dirty at the start of the weekend and will take some time before it cleans up and gets 'rubbered in'. The surface isn't too bad from an abrasion point of view, but the dirtiness of the track could cause tyre problems. The weather in Hungary at this time of year can also be very hot with the result that you have to deal with both high ambient and track surface temperatures.
"Overtaking is always a problem in Hungary. There are only two relatively short straights, one past the pits that turns into a right-hand corner, and a following one that leads into a left-hander, and the best overtaking opportunities are under braking at the ends of those straights. Unfortunately, this sort of circuit lay-out can make for processional racing. It is therefore very important to secure the best position you can in qualifying."
Such are the issues which the engineers and drivers must grapple at the Hungaroring, but how does Alex rate Tyrrell's chances in this, the 12th round of the 1998 FIA Formula One World Championship?
"Realistically, they could be better than at some of the circuits we have visited recently. Evidently, quite a bit of work has been carried out on the circuit since last year, including resurfacing and a realignment of the main straight, which has resulted in a wider pit lane and the overall length of the track increasing by 4 metres. We will therefore need to have a good look around when we arrive at the track on Thursday.
"It's a circuit where you're not as dependent on outright power as, say, Hockenheim or Monza, and I think if we can get the cars to behave over the bumps, then we will have a chance of doing well. It's a circuit where you really need downforce, and unfortunately, when the FIA banned the sidepod-mounted wings earlier in the year, it hit Tyrrell harder than teams that hadn't based their designs around the wings.
"We've done some wind tunnel testing recently with a revised aerodynamic package intended to win back some of the downforce we lost. The modifications produced positive results in the tunnel and this also appeared to be the case when we tried them on the car during a Silverstone test session earlier this week. We could be in a good position, but, as ever, we won't know for sure what real gains we have made until we get to the circuit and can start to compare our performance with that of our rivals. It could be an interesting weekend."
The 77-lap Hungarian Grand Prix gets underway at 14:00 hrs local time on Sunday, August 16. Last year's race was won by Jacques Villeneuve with Damon Hill and Sauber's Johnny Herbert taking the other two podium positions. The fastest time in qualifying was set by Michael Schumacher (1:14.672), while the quickest race lap fell to Villeneuve's teammate, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, with a time of 1 min 18.372 secs. TYRRELL CHASSIS DETAILS 1998 Hungarian Grand Prix Ricardo Rosset (No 20) 026/04 Toranosuke Takagi (No 21) 026/05 Spare car 026/03