Hungarian Grand Prix Preview

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Bringing the first triple-header of the delayed 2020 F1 season to an end, the Hungaroring is ready to welcome the Formula 1 field this weekend. The Hungarian Grand Prix will be the third round of the delayed and curtailed 2020 championship.

Just a few weeks after the inaugural Styrian Grand Prix, the action continues in Formula One with drivers and teams ready to test their cars on the narrow and twisty Hungaroring. Although Mercedes dominated the first two race weekends of the curtailed 2020 F1 season, Red Bull is ready to bounce back on a track that usually highlights the strengths of its cars.

A fixture on the F1 calendar

Hungary only joined the Grand Prix calendar in 1986, but the history of racing traces further back. The inaugural Hungarian Grand Prix was held on 21 June 1936 over a 5.0km-long track laid out in Népliget, a huge park in Budapest. The Alfa-Romeo equipped Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union all sent racing cars to the race which was won by Alfa Romeo’s Tazio Nuvolari. Politics and the world war meant the end for racing in the country for a few decades.

Since joining Formula One, the Hungarian Grand Prix has been held continuously. The Hungaroring was built in eight months, less time than any other Formula One circuit. The construction work started in October 1985 and on 24 March 1986, the first race was held in memory of János Drapál, the first Hungarian who won motorcycle Grand Prix races.

With the inaugural race, the Hungaroring also became the location of the first Formula One Grand Prix behind the Iron Curtain. Bernie Ecclestone originally wanted a race in the USSR, but a friend recommended Budapest. The first plans were to build a street race in the Népliget which hosted the first Hungarian Grand Prix in 1936, but the government decided to build a new purpose-built track outside the city.

The first two Hungarian Grands Prix were won by Williams-Honda’s Nelson Piquet while the third edition of the race saw Ayrton Senna clinching the victory for McLaren-Honda. Ferrari first became victorious in Hungary in 1989 thanks to Nigel Mansell. Later on, Finnish drivers were successful, giving many fans flocking from Finnland plenty to cheer about. Mika Häkkinen won twice for McLaren while in 2005 it was Kimi Räikkönen who emerged victorious with the Woking-based outfit. Three years later, Heikki Kovalainen scored his first F1 victory. 2015 was an important year for Ferrari as the fabled Italian squad could break its 11-year-long winless streak thanks to classy victory of Sebastian Vettel.

Demanding layout

When Formula One travels to the Hungaroring that is just a few miles away from Hungarian capital, Budapest, the weather is usually nice with high temperatures testing the reliability and physical conditions of the drivers.

The 4.381km-long Hungaroring is one of the shortest on the current calendar. Drivers will need to complete 70 laps on Sunday to cover the entire race distance of 306.630km, giving fans sitting in the grandstands plenty of opportunities to witness the fastest racing cars in action.
Good mechanical grip and aerodynamic balance are accented around the twisty layout of the track. There is hardly any long straights on the Hungaroring, the flowing sequences of slow and medium-speed corners provide a real test of car balance and driver’s mental strength. Due to the high-number of corners, teams use the highest levels of downforce seen all year.

Qualifying is vital at the purpose-built Hungarian track as overtaking is nearly impossible. FIA mandated two DRS zones, one placed on the main straight, the second one on the short full-throttle rundown to Turn 2.

After the start-finish straight, drivers arrive to the first heavy braking zone. The slightly cambered first corner leads onto a relatively short full-throttle section. Turn 2 is a medium-speed long corner where patience is required. A good exit is then vital to carry good speed through Turn 3 onto the uphill section.

Starting the second sector, drivers direct their cars almost blind into the fast Turn 4. The next bend is a never-ending one, leading into the solo chicane of the circuit. Kerbs are relatively high there and a too ambitious throttle-application at the exit out of the chicane can cost drivers valuable time. The next sequences of corners are taking at low to medium-speed where a reliable and stable rear end is crucial. Turn 11 is probably the most exciting bend of the whole circuit. It is fast, enables a wide exit line thanks to the wide kerbs and leads onto the second-long straight of the track.

After this bend, drivers arrive to the last sector of the Hungaroring. Turn 12 is a 90-degree slow section which leads towards the medium-speed second-to last bend. Drivers climb up a slight hill to reach Turn 14, the last corner of the Hungaroring. It is always a struggle to find the best line around that never-ending corner as cars usually produce high degree of understeer from its mid-point.