The Hungaroring which hosts the thirteenth round of the World Championship this weekend is unusual in that, although it is challenging to drive, it can be frustrating to race on because of the very limited overtaking opportunities. Therefore, a...
The Hungaroring which hosts the thirteenth round of the World Championship this weekend is unusual in that, although it is challenging to drive, it can be frustrating to race on because of the very limited overtaking opportunities.
Therefore, a Formula 1 car's set-up here has to be a compromise between ideal performance and the need to maintain or gain track position. Helping Rubens Barrichello make the right choices from the start of practice on Friday is his Vehicle Engineer, Rodi Basso, who hails from Naples.
Basso is qualified as an aeronautical engineer, having worked in the United States for NASA near Washington. "I used to fly high and now I keep my feet on the ground," he jokes about the contrast between his past and present work.
"I have been with Ferrari for five years, starting as a Vehicle Engineer on the test team which is how I started my "education" as to the work involved at the race track, how all the various roles operate and how to run an F1 car during test sessions. Actually, the work with NASA and Ferrari has similarities, in that involves detailed study of data, in one case on satellites and in the other in terms of vehicle dynamics."
After two years with the test team, Basso moved to the race team, starting to work with Barrichello at the Italian Grand Prix in 2002. "My role is to make the car perform to its maximum while ensuring reliability," summarises Basso. "The main part of the job is divided into two: one looks at car set-up and aerodynamics to provide the race engineer with key data to help him understand what to do to the car to improve its performance."
"So for this, you need to have a good understanding with the race engineer, as well as the driver. Then there is a closer relationship with the driver as part of the performance is linked to the strategy of how the car functions corner by corner which we can alter using different electronic strategies."
"It is important to find a good set-up for the entire track and we have strategies that allow us to analyse the track corner by corner to eliminate problems and find solutions. This is achieved mainly through work on the differential, traction control and engine braking."
Apart from improving the package, the role of the Vehicle Engineer also extends to helping the driver to get the most out of it. "With Rubens, we look at the driveability of the package, by studying the telemetric data, again corner by corner," explains Basso.
"We also study video analysis of the lap with the performance engineer to try and find the best lines through the corner. We can then compare this data to what the other driver in the team is doing which in our case means Michael, who is a great reference point.
"Rubens is a pleasure to work with in this respect as he is very good at analysing everything. He is particularly good at understanding the telemetry and above all, after each session, he can describe corner by corner in such detail that I feel as though I am in the car."
"He can split up the various parts of each corner so that we can see where the problems are. From there, we try and solve them, working on the aerodynamic and mechanical set-up, to improve the driveability of the car."
The Hungarian circuit is a challenge for the engineering team, partly because it is a low grip track. "So it is essential to get a good compromise in terms of grip from the tyres, which means that ideally you would want to use a soft compound tyre," says Basso. "However, one of the peculiarities of this track is that there are a lot of changes of direction."
"Therefore you need a car that has good stability to accelerate and deal with the slow corners, while at the same time it has to flow well through the turns. Turns 6, 8 and 9 for example are quite quick and require rapid changes of direction. So you don't want a lazy car."
"You need to find the right compromise between a car that is soft enough in terms of set up to provide good grip while also providing this rapid change of direction. For example, in the third sector of the track, mechanical grip and downforce are the key requirements, while the second sector requires the car to be more fluid and quicker in the corners."
As at all grands prix this year, the teams have had to adapt to only being allowed to use one set of tyres for the entire race. "This means you need a less aggressive approach in terms of the tyres," explains Basso. "You try and set the brakes to avoid them locking up which can have a negative effect on the tyres, especially the life of the rear ones."
"In Hungary it is especially important to deal with the high track temperatures, which makes life hard on the tyres and additionally, every braking point on this track is bumpy, so you need very stable braking to then allow you to accelerate out of the slow speed corners."
Despite Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's good record at the Magyar circuit -- three wins in the last four years, the team's current form means this will be tough weekend for the world champions.
"Because of the difficulty in overtaking, you want to be as high up the grid as possible, so we have to admit this could make it a tough race for us, as we have seen this year," agrees Basso. "It has been a trend this season that sometimes the perfect race strategy has to be compromised to achieve a better grid position and that will most probably be the case here."