It’s perhaps ironic that the second half of an enthralling 2012 Formula 1 season gets underway only a week after the German Grand Prix, and we’re then left with a five-week break until the next race.
To many, the Hungaroring has typified many of Formula 1’s faults in recent years, particularly the lack of overtaking. But with this year throwing up thrilling races at even the dullest of venues (hello, Valencia!), we could be on for another great race this weekend.
Let’s take a look at the RichardsF1.com Hungarian Grand Prix Preview…
FORMULA 1 ENI MAGYAR NAGYDÍJ 2012
|Date:||27-29 July 2012|
|Venue:||Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary|
|Race Lap Record:||1:19.071, Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004) – 2004|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:00-11:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 14:00-15:30|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 11:00-12:00|
|Race (70 laps, 306.630km)||Sun 14:00-16:00|
|Past Winners:||Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes MP4-26)||2011|
|Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing Renault RB6)||2010|
|Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes MP4-24)||2009|
|Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren Mercedes MP4-23)||2008|
|Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes MP4-22)||2007|
|Jenson Button (Honda RA106)||2006|
|Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren Mercedes MP4-20)||2005|
|Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004)||2004|
|Fernando Alonso (Renault R23)||2003|
|Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari F2002)||2002|
Constructed in the rolling countryside some 20 kilometres outside Budapest’s city centre, the Hungaroring is a predecessor of the rather soulless autodromes 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.
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.
By contrast, it has proven to be a well-attended and highly-praised venue on the rare occasion that it hosts touring car events, with tin-tops seeming to suffer little of the overtaking issues experienced by open-wheel racers, largely on account of the greatly increased braking distances needed for the much heavier saloons.
Take a look at our Hungaroring Circuit Guide:
The History Bit
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 Hungarian Grands Prix:
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 led until the final lap when his throttle failed. Jacques Villeneuve snuck through to claim a lucky win.
1998: This race provided fans with one of the finest examples of the Ross Brawn / Michael Schumacher partnership, 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.
Rewind to 2011
The race weekend was a celebration of sorts for two drivers, with Jenson Button passing the magic milestone of 200 Grands Prix, while Nico Rosberg clocked up 100 race starts at the same event.
While team-mate Lewis Hamilton was able to wrest the lead from Sebastian Vettel early on, Button timed a switch from intermediate tyres to dry-weather tyres very well and moved into second ahead of Vettel.
He steadily began to close in on his leading team-mate, who made his second pit stop and switched to the super soft tyres, in what would turn out to be an ill-advised strategic call as Button remained on the more durable soft rubber.
Hamilton would have to pit before the end of the race, and his misery was further compounded when another short shower hit the track. Unable to cope on the slippery surface, he squandered his lead with a spin at Turn 8, forcing Paul di Resta off the circuit as he attempted a quick spin-turn to rejoin the action.
The pair swapped positions repeatedly, and ultimately it was Hamilton who made the tyre change, while Button stayed out and hoped conditions would improve..
True to form, the shower stopped almost immediately after Hamilton’s tyre change, and he had to pit again to switch back to dry tyres – along with serving a drive-through penalty for forcing di Resta off-road – and that left Button to claim a comfortable win from Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton managed to scramble back into fourth place with a late passing move on Webber, while the top-ten positions were completed by Felipe Massa, Sébastien Buemi (who started from the back row of the grid after a post-qualifying penalty), Nico Rosberg and Jaime Alguersuari.
Hungaroring Talking Points
So what do the RichardsF1.com readers and contributors think will happen this weekend?
The Form Guide
Having claimed victory in five of the last ten races held here, the Hungaroring is very much a McLaren circuit, and with the Woking team seemingly back on the pace – as evidenced by Button’s strong return to form last weekend in Germany – it’s hard to see why the silver cars won’t be frontrunners here.
The raft of updates brought to Hockenheim – including new sidepods and a new rear wing – yielded improved pace, and the team is bringing more updates along this weekend to keep pace in the development race.
That’s a simply staggering turnaround in performance over ten races when one considers that the red cars were well off the pace when the season opened at Melbourne back in March.
Ferrari hasn’t tasted victory here since 2004, and with Fernando Alonso in red-hot form, he will again – barring disaster – be up at the front, scrapping with the McLarens and Red Bulls.
After a now-customary poor showing at Hockenheim, Mark Webber will be keen to arrest this little slip and be back in the hunt again at the circuit where he won in 2010. He continues to maintain a narrow points lead over team-mate Vettel, but both will need to claim finish ahead of Alonso if they want to make inroads into his points lead.
The big talking point for the Red Bull team will be how the redefined engine mapping regulations affect the team’s competitiveness this weekend, and that will be a talking point that is likely to rumble on into the summer holiday break.
If Hungary delivers hot conditions, then Lotus will again be in with a shout to claim its first win. Should the forecasted wet weather rear its head in the race, then the likes of Mercedes will be a contender as well. The Silver Arrows’ pace has slipped a bit since Nico Rosberg’s win at China, and on current form, a double-finish in the middle region of the points-paying places is about the best that Rosberg and Michael Schumacher can hope for if it stays dry.
Sauber will be buoyant after the team’s massive points haul last weekend at Germany, and with the team now comfortably clear of rivals Force India and Willliams in the battle for sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship standings, the team has now set its sights on snatching fifth place from Mercedes. Few would have predicted that at the start of the 2012 season.
Don’t forget to enter your F1 Predictions!
The eleventh round round of the 2012 RichardsF1.com F1 Predictions Competition is now open, and you can enter your predictions for the race right here to be in the running for some great prizes throughout the season and at the end of the year!
The cut-off to submit your predictions is no later than five minutes before qualifying starts, so make sure you’re in it to win it!
You can view the latest Predictions Competition ranking right here.
There were more changes in the points table following the German Grand Prix round, and the overall winner’s title remains open to many people to claim. Again, we’ll be awarding a prize to this weekend’s highest points-scorer (before ‘double up). Will it be you?
To enter your predictions, click here.
As always, RichardsF1.com will be bringing you the best of the on- and off-track action this weekend, so make sure we’re your first port of call for your Hungarian Grand Prix fix!