Preview: Hungarian GP

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The Hungarian Grand Prix marks the final stop for the Formula One teams before the summer break. The twisty track usually provides the perfect atmosphere to make it a suitable end of the first part of the championship.

Hungarian motorsport has its roots in the 1930s when the first Grand Prix took place in the Eastern European country. The Second World War however brought about several changes in Europe's political scene, resulting in putting aside any short term plans on motorsport.

It was not until the 1980s that the political tenses eased down and Formula One promoters could start working on hosting a GP behind the Iron Curtain. At first they wished Moscow to host an event. Attention however turned to Hungary. First plans indicated that the marvelous center of Budapest could give place to the GP.

Finally the desicion was taken that a brand new track would be built at Mogyoród, a small town 19 km away from the capital. In 1985 work began on the construction site and in a year the track was already completed and opened its doors to the spectators, hosting a Formula One Grand Prix in the same year.

The weather usually plays its parts in Hungary in mid-summer. Temperatures reaching the 30 Celsius isn’t unusual at this time of the year. This summer weather has swung from two exteremes: it presented itself in autumn fashion with storms and low 20 degrees and in its usual torrid form with 34 degrees. For the weekend the latter is predicted and the rainy conditions which has dominated the last days could make their appearance on Sunday.

With the track being located in a valley, spectators usually have a broad choice of places to watch the on-track action, even if they have general admission tickets. Early birds can always find a cool place alongside the circuit. Those not sitting on a grandstand should also make sure to visit the chicane which presents one of the best view. Turn 11, also known as Alesi-curve by the Hungarian people provides one of the most spectacular views as you can literally stand face to face to the cars as they scream from turn 11 towards you until they suddenly turn into curve 12.

Finnish drivers Mika Hakkinen and later Kimi Raikkonen have lured their countrymen to Budapest for long years. Between 2006 and 2010 a huge crowd of Polish fans turned up on the race weekends which marked the era of the brilliant Robert Kubica. With the Polish ace sidelined after his nasty accident in 2011 and the presence of world champion Kimi Raikkonen after his sabbatical years Finland’s blue-white flags are omnipresent again.

Track layout

Going around the track, it's obvious the twisty nature, a single straight and lots of slow turns require maximum downforce, a car which is very stable under braking, good mechanical grip and good traction as naughty rear wheels can kill your lap. Engine wise, driveability will be key, contrary to outright power which was important in Hockenheim and Silverstone.

Coming into the first turn, late braking is key, mandating a good front end. Drivers usually choose between two lines: staying very close to the geometrical apex, they gain with covering shorter line, but it compromises the exit as it delays the possibility of going on the throttle again. Opting for the outer line at the entry will equal a longer route, but also more aggressiveness on the throttle from mid-corner.

Next up is a dropping stretch towards the second curve. This is one of the slowest part of the track. Good traction out of it is important as cars are accelerating until the Mansell-turn. It is a high-speed left hand corner, lifting the throttle and touching the brakes for a split second before heading towards turn 5 where the emphasis is more on aerodynamic balance.

The next challange is the chicane where drivers usually attack the first one a bit harder while keeping away from the kerbs in the left hander. Hitting those makes the rear unstable and can easily creat an encounter with the barriers, located only a few meters from the track.

Next is the 'infield' with turns 8 and 9 requiring a grippy front end, because cars tend to massively understeer there. Turns 10 and 11 require good rear stability as the speed increases. At the last three corners, emphasis is again on the front end. The never-ending last corner is especially tough on the front as you can never completely avoid understeer.

Car setup

Front wing Frontal grip is vital at the Hungaroring, especially from the chicane to the end of the lap where a series of flowing corners mean good change of direction is important. Understeer is the arch enemy through this section and also the quick and blind Turn 4, so a strong and stable front end is needed.

Rear wing Rear wing configuration will run to maximum downforce levels thanks to the relatively low speed aspect of the circuit. The tight nature of the Hungaroring ensures high downforce levels are a priority, so a similar configuration to Monaco, with developments, will be run.

Suspension The kerbs are an important part of extracting a good lap time in Hungary. The exit of Turn 4 sees the cars riding the kerb and good suspension travel will give added stability here. The chicane and the exit of Turn 11 also promote nicely tuned-in vehicle dynamics, contributing to the overall lap time.

Brakes Turn 1 is the biggest stop on the track and the only clear overtaking opportunity. The rest of the lap is not demanding on the brakes and the 2014 brake-by-wire systems should have a relatively easy time over the 70 laps.

Power unit The average speed is expected to be a touch over 180km/h, with each corner taken from second to fourth gear. It’s therefore not particularly power sensitive and the ICE will have a relatively easy time at this race. For these reasons the focus is on delivering the most driveable Power Unit rather than looking at top end speed. In the V8 era it was standard practice to use a unit on its third race and the same principle will be applied by Renault this year, using V6 ICEs on one of the last races of their lives, if possible.

The turbo, MGU-H and MGU-K will be highly solicited, however, as driveability is crucial to minimising lap time due to the high volume of slow speed turns. The heavy braking zones will provide the K with the opportunity to recover energy. Sector two, the twistiest part of the track, is the main chance to do so since the cars negotiate mainly third gear corners, with a top speed of no more than 245km/h at any one time. The small bursts of power between the corners will likewise give the H the chance to recover the heat energy from the exhaust. These intense periods will however be extremely unforgiving on the internals, possibly requiring parts in the earlier stage of their life to give improved performance and reliability.

Tyres With this race often held in hot conditions, Pirelli will bring the medium and soft tyres to the track. A good window for differing strategies should be available with this tyre/track combination. The Hungaroring is also notorious for its often dusty surface at the start of the weekend.

Quick facts

Number of corners: 14 (7 left, 7 right)
Distance from pole to Turn 1 apex: 610 m
Braking events 11 (5 heavy)
Pit lane length under speed limit control: 341 m
Pit lane time at 60 km/h: 20,5 s
Tyre energy: average
Brake energy: low
Tyre compounds: Pirelli Soft and Medium