Mark Webber won last year's Hungarian GP 2010 Hungarian GP Barrichello vs Schumacher

It’s time to head to Hungary already. The season is rapidly ticking by, but time is running out for Sebastian Vettel’s rivals to mount a serious challenge and give him a run for the Drivers’ Championship.

His main rivals took some points away from him last weekend in Germany with his first finish off the podium all season. Can there be a repeat on the tight confines of a circuit often likened to “Monaco in a paddock”? We’ll have to wait and see.

The Richard’s F1 team takes a look at the action ahead of us this weekend, which will be the last Grand Prix for a month. Here’s hoping it’s a cracking race!

 

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The Circuit

FORMULA 1 ENI MAGYAR NAGYDÍJ 2011

Hungaroring Circuit Map

Date: 31 July 2011 No. Laps 70
Lap Length: 4.381km Race Distance: 306.630km
Lap Record: 1:19.071, Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) – 2004
Last Year’s Winner: Mark Webber

Constructed in the rolling countryside some 20 kilometres outside Budapest’s city centre, the Hungaroring is a sadly typical embodiment of the rather soulless autodromes for which Hermann Tilke seems to have replicated around the world in subsequent years.

Its corners are largely slow, and the narrow dusty circuit limits overtaking opportunities, which has led to frustrations for faster drivers and plenty of collisions between combatants.

The first corner – a tight right-hander that drops into the valley on its exit (it was reprofiled and tightened in 2003) – is really the only overtaking spot, but the preceding main straight is generally too short for a faster car to get enough of a tow to blast past. How much of a difference the DRS zone along the main straight will make remains to be seen…

In the opinions of many, the Hungaroring is an opportunity wasted to make motorsport truly take off in eastern Europe, and its narrow, twisty nature provides little than anything but a follow-my-leader procession.

 

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Memorable Moments

Conceived by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone as a way of getting Formula 1 behind the ‘Iron Curtain’, the Hungarian Grand Prix made its debut in the 1986 season and has been a mainstay on the F1 calendar ever since.

Despite not enjoying much of a reputation for racing, the Hungaroring has provided some memorable moments over its 25 years of hosting the Formula 1 Grand Prix circus. Here are our five favourite moments:

  • 1989: Nigel Mansell stormed to victory for Ferrari from a lowly 12th on the grid, taking the lead from Ayrton Senna with a typically brilliant opportunistic pass while the Brazilian was trying to lap Stefan Johansson’s Onyx.
  • 1990: A race that proved to be more about stealth, with Ayrton Senna hunting down Thierry Boutsen’s Williams after the Brazilian had crudely shoved Alessandro Nannini off the circuit. Somehow, the Belgian driver withstood the most enormous pressure for lap after lap from the Brazilian maestro to win by just a car’s length.
  • 1997: With Damon Hill having made his mark at the circuit with straightforward wins in 1993 and 1994, he looked on course for a shock third win when he hauled his unfancied Arrows into the lead with an outstanding passing move on Michael Schumacher into Turn 1, and leading until the final lap when his throttle failed.
  • 1998: This race provided fans with one of the first examples of the Ross Brawn / Michael Schumacher partnership at its best, when the German made an unfancied three-stop strategy work in favour to take a sensational victory in his Ferrari and keep himself in the championship hunt. Many regard it as among the German’s greatest of his 91 race victories.
  • 2006: The first proper wet race to hit the circuit in two decades of Grand Prix racing here, it was one of the most eventful wet-weather races in the sport’s history. In a crazy race, Jenson Button claimed his maiden victory after qualifying in the midfield, having mastered the slippery conditions better than anyone.

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Hungaroring Talking Points

What are the three big talking points of the Hungarian Grand Prix?

  • Are Red Bull getting overtaken by Ferrari and McLaren? Having won only one of the last four races, Red Bull will be looking to reassert their position as the sport’s number-one team this weekend. The Hungaroring’s twisty nature will reward cars with excellent downforce and a great exhaust-blown diffuser: two areas the RB7 has shown outstanding superiority in.
  • A summer reprieve in the midfield? Force India’s improved showing confirms that the midfield race is as interesting as ever. However, Renault and Williams have repeatedly failed to deliver on their pre-season promise. Could this be their weekend to show up some of the other outfits?
  • How will the new rules work on this hard-to-pass circuit? This used to be thought of as one of the dullest races on the calendar (the advent of Valencia put paid to that), and occasionally the Hungaroring is capable of producing some great racing. With DRS and Pirelli helping to spice up the racing, there’s little reason why the track couldn’t deliver some decent on-track action in 2011.

So what do the Richard’s F1 readers and contributors think will happen this weekend?

Matt
Matt, Richard’s F1 IndyCar Correspondent

“It may be a case of ‘too little, too late’ for Ferrari and McLaren, as my gut feeling is that they have allowed Red Bull to get too far ahead in both points’ races to be caught in the remaining races, especially with the consistency of Vettel and Webber.  The Hungaroring is a circuit that rewards good mechanical grip over good aerodynamic grip, which could favour the Ferrari over McLaren and Red Bull at this circuit, so expect Fernando Alonso and hopefully Felipe Massa also to be strong this weekend.

“Overtaking prospects have been vastly improved this season right down the grid, but this circuit has always limited available opportunities to Turn 1 and for the very brave, the medium-speed left-handers at the rear of the circuit. This weekend I am expecting a number of paint-swapping incidents among rivals on race-day, although hopefully we don’t see any errant tyres running down pit-lane having parted company with a car. Expect a very close fight between the three leading teams. It could transform a rather dull circuit into a hotbed of activity.”

Joseph
Joseph, Richard’s F1 Technical Correspondent

“With only a brief week since the last round in Germany, the excitement in the air over the current state of play is certainly still around. McLaren proved that they still have the ability to win races. 

“From a technical perspective, it could be seen that the cooler temperatures in the German mountains meant that the tyre usage from Lewis’s car was not to his detriment, whilst Fernando seemed to struggle at times with his tyre temperatures. Hungary could well be the opposite, with temperatures expected to be higher than at the Nurburgring, the dynamics of the race could be different.

“Red Bull had a poor race by their standards in Germany, with Webber losing out from the word go, and Vettel seemingly not comfortable/confident with his car all weekend. Hungary should prove to be a bit better for the Austrian drinks team. Mark did win this race with a healthy lead over Fernando and Sebastian here last year, and he’d be hoping to capitalise on his record here. The flowing corners in Sectors 2 and 3 should benefit those with good downforce, whilst those with engine power and low drag will be able to make up good time in Sector 1.”

Geoff 
Geoff, Richard’s F1 reader, Australia

“The Hungaroring is a rather funny circuit, and it’s one earmarked by a few teams as being a venue where they felt they would shine. Certainly Renault were keen to trumpet their prospects here in the pre-season, but they did that with Monaco as well and were nowhere!

This is a very important weekend for the black-and-gold cars, which are rapidly losing ground and (if rumours are to be true) running out of budget. I’m sensing a real implosion in the team’s structure at the moment, and it’s sad to see this team falling apart. Let’s not forget that this was a team that won back-to-back World Championships in 1994/5 and 2005/6. They know how to win, but what they really need is a budget, good leadership, and a driver line-up that will inspire the team. One hopes they can perform here and return to some of that podium-getting form we saw in Australia and Malaysia.”

 

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The Form Guide

Did the recent races at Silverstone and the Nurburgring give fans some indication that we’re seeing a turning point in this year’s championship race, or will the Hungaroring prove that those weekends were mere aberrations for Red Bull Racing?

The McLaren and Ferrari squads will certainly be travelling to Budapest on a high. Ferrari have struggled with tyre warm-up issues all year, and yet they were able to compete at the front in very chilly conditions in Germany. The traditionally warmer climate in the former Eastern Bloc should be better suited to the red cars.

For McLaren, they looked dead and buried before qualifying, until Lewis Hamilton’s awesome qualifying effort to claim a front-row starting position, which led to his outstanding win. Does this mean the silver cars are back in business?

This being a back-to-back race with last weekend’s German round, the teams will have had no time to implement any new developments pieces based on their learnings from the last round. This could be bad news for Red Bull Racing given its less-than-stellar run last weekend, but with the Hungaroring being much like Monaco in terms of its downforce requirements, this could also play into their hands.

This is the last race before teams are forced to take a summer recess ahead of the final third of the 2011 championship season, which will mean that teams won’t be able to do too much with whatever occurs here.

So which team will head into the summer break with their confidence sky-high? We’ll have to wait and see…

[Images via Hannah Corbett, LAT, Sutton Images]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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