Hungaroring: What You Need to Know

Fact File: Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary

Laps 70
Lap Length 4.381 km (2.72 miles)
Race Length 306.630 km ( miles)
First Race 1986
Fastest Lap M Schumacher 1:19.071 (Ferrari, 2004)
2010 Winner Mark Webber (Red Bull)

Layout:

The drivers have to put in a tremendous amount of work to get the track up to speed before race day, due to the lack of use it gets throughout the year the Hungaroring is then very dusty when F1 arrives. Held in the middle of the Hungarian summer the circuit usually experiences hot and dry conditions, meaning the track gets progressively quicker over the weekend. Even within sessions the times can tumble, look out for teams waiting until the last possible moment to set their top ten qualifying times. Not only does it provide a challenge from the moment they arrive, the track itself is designed in such a way that the drivers are unable to find respite on race day. The often stifling heat is matched by the unforgiving layout, twisty and bumpy makes overtaking very difficult, it also prevents the drivers from taking a mental rest during a lap. Usually there are a couple of straights that allow drivers to relax and prepare themselves for the next sector, but with a single short straight the Hungaroring doesn’t let up. One corners leads into the next which ups the need for commitment and concentration for the entire trip around the track, one mistake can effect several turns.

The Lap:

The driver heads towards the first corner, they drop down into a 180º right hander and hit the power as they exit. Past the right handed kink they head into a slow left 180º back on themselves, then sweeping through turn 3 they will get on the power to head up a short straight towards turn 4 and a combination of tricky corners. The Nigel Mansell corner is taken with a light touch on the brakes, but is a fast left hander that shoots the drivers towards the furthest point of the track. Climbing uphill towards turn 5, they launch into the long, bumpy right hander, pushing on through another short straight they arrive at the turn 6/7 right-left chicane. Next up is the medium speed turn 8 which leads into the right of turn 9, and the drivers should stay on the gas for the left kink of turn 10. Gentle on the brakes for turn 11 (Jean Alesi) opens up the track onto the second longest straight before they hit the 90º right turn of 12. Turn 13 is slow left hairpin which takes to the drivers into the final turn of 14, a right handed 180º, and then they are back onto the start/finish straight.

Overtaking and Strategy:

This is not a track you usually expect to see a lot of overtaking, and with the general layout taken into consideration it’s not hard to understand the comparisons with the legendary Monaco circuit. The reasons behind this are the twisty nature of the track, slow to medium speed corners and short braking distances. The latter meaning that there are less opportunities to out-brake the car in front, therefore the teams ramp up the downforce to levels akin to those used in Monaco. They do this to maximise the possibility of gaining position, cornering speeds are increased and so is traction.

Track temperature is a key factor here as it can have an effect on the set-up, and engineers expect the annual trip to Budapest to be worth packing a pair of flip flops for. So when the track has a rare cool moment cars tend to understeer, and when it’s hot oversteer is the issue. And judging by the current weather report it’s flip flops all around, qualifying looks to be the hottest day but with rain incoming on Monday we could see cooler temperatures on race day.

Tyres:

Prime compound: Soft (yellow)

Option compound: Super soft (red)

DRS:

The FIA have decided to continue with the single DRS zone for Hungary, although there isn’t an option for a second one. The start/finish straight is the activation zone, the drivers are able to use their magic paddle or boost button 70 metres after the final turn. However to do this they must be within one second of the driver in front just before turn 14.

Why the Hungaroring Rocks:

This a great circuit for the fans, built in a valley in a staggeringly short eight months around 70% of the circuit is visible. It may be considered a processional race, but this has not stopped the world’s best drivers rewarding the audience with electrifying results. Jenson Button (2006), Fernando Alonso (2003) and Damon Hill (1993) each took their first career win at this track, and Heikki Kovalainen secured his sole win in 2008. So happy memories all around for three of this years drivers as they return. Since 1986 we have seen battles between Nelson Piquet and Aryton Senna and Nigel Mansell’s bolt from 12th to 1st after that pass on Senna in 1989. A low point, and something that can not be forgotten, was Felipe Massa’s accident in 2009. A spring left Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn GP car in qualifying and struck Massa just above his left eye rendering him unconscious and a passenger into a tyre barrier. But on a lighter note, this year he’s returning to the hospital that treated him to meet those who helped with his recovery.

5 Key Points:

  • Site of Jenson Button’s first win in 2006, and this year his 200th Grand Prix
  • Few overtaking opportunities
  • Tough physical and mental challenge
  • Weather is a big factor
  • Track evolution
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