The Hungarian Grand Prix is the last of the back-to-back races before the three week summer break, following hot on the heels of Germany. The temperatures at Hockenheim were cooler than expected but Hungary can often be one of the hottest races of...
The Hungarian Grand Prix is the last of the back-to-back races before the three week summer break, following hot on the heels of Germany. The temperatures at Hockenheim were cooler than expected but Hungary can often be one of the hottest races of the season -- at least as far as the conditions are concerned.
The Hungaroring is notoriously difficult to overtake on and the race can be less than exciting for the spectators. The 4 km circuit, just outside Budapest, is a fairly slow track with a twisting layout that requires high downforce. The track is often dusty and dirty, which creates understeer, and along with the heat it means tyres are very important.
"Normally the circuit is very sandy, which tends to create understeer because of the low level of grip," said Sauber technical director Willy Rampf. "Our strategy will largely be dictated by tyre performance, which will govern starting position, so the key is to find the right balance and tyre choice."
The heat makes it hard on the drivers too. "This is a tough race for the driver," said Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella. "It is a long race, and with the high temperatures, that makes it very demanding mentally but also physically -- there are so many corners that we don't really have time to recover from one lap to the next, so we need good levels of endurance."
Fernando Alonso made the most of his opportunities at Hockenheim when Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren failed him, leaving the Spaniard to take the win. Alonso became the youngest ever driver to claim victory when he won his first Grand Prix in Hungary in 2003. "Actually, it is a circuit I like a lot," he remarked.
"It is quite slow, but there is a good flow to it for the drivers, and you need a good level of physical preparation to cope with the race in very hot conditions. After taking my first win there, I think the Hungaroring is a little bit more special for me, and I just really enjoy this weekend -- the city, the paddock and the atmosphere as well."
Due to his retirement in the last race Raikkonen will run early in qualifying this weekend, which is a hindrance. "As there are no real chances to overtake, qualifying is very important, and unfortunately I will be going out first so will be affected by the dusty track, but the car is quick and I will push hard," said the Finn.
The never ending saga of Jenson Button, BAR and Williams has been keeping the rumour mill turning of late, much as it did this time last year. Button himself is staying quiet and focusing on the track action, and scored a podium at Hockenheim with third. While many drivers like the Hungaroring, it's not a favoured track for the Englishman.
"Our podium finish in the German Grand Prix has given everyone at the team a boost, so we head to Hungary in high spirits," Button commented. "The Hungaroring is a very twisty circuit and it's also pretty bumpy. It's not one of my favourites when it comes to the actual racing because it is so hard to overtake."
In 2004 Ferrari took its sixth successive constructors' championship in Hungary but the team is a long way from those glory days this time around. On paper it doesn't look too bad, with Ferrari and Michael Schumacher both currently third in the standings, but the reality is that the Scuderia is still struggling on track.
"Taking into account the results of the last few weeks, it will probably not be an easy race," Michael said of Hungary. "There are only a few days separating Hockenheim and Budapest and so it is unrealistic to expect big strides to have been made. Naturally, we will go on trying to improve the current state of affairs."
One thing that seems to be causing some confusion for this coming weekend is that the EU law banning tobacco advertising comes into force on July 31st -- race day. British legislation means British-based teams could face prosecution if they use tobacco sponsorship in a race, even if the event is outside the EU. Five teams currently use tobacco sponsorship.
Reportedly the teams that could be affected are waiting for clarification of the law from the British government. Meanwhile, McLaren's long-term association with West, owned by Imperial Tobacco, will come to an end this weekend. It seems the cars will run with the West livery for the last time on Friday, after an eight year partnership.
Presumably some teams will have extra luggage in Hungary in case they need a quick change of sponsor-branded clothes, but on-track we can expect the familiar battle between Renault and McLaren. Can Raikkonen ever get through a race weekend without his car letting him down? The Finn has had some awful luck and it's about time it changed.
Bad luck for one is a good luck for another and Alonso has obviously benefited from Raikkonen's misfortunes. However, it's not all luck -- the Spaniard still has to get his own car to the line no matter what anyone else is doing, and that's something he's proved he's consistently capable of. His reliability is outweighing Kimi's speed at the moment.
Behind them, Juan Pablo Montoya is moving up the ranks: the Colombian is now closer in points to teammate Raikkonen than Kimi is to Alonso. BAR's competitiveness is improving every race but the rest seem fairly static in terms of improvement, although there's always potential for a surprise or two. For Hungary, it'll be a nice surprise if Raikkonen gets through the weekend without any problems.