2012 Hungarian Grand Prix Preview 2012 Hungarian Grand Prix Preview 2012 Hungarian Grand Prix Preview

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…

The Circuit


Hungaroring Circuit Map

Date: 27-29 July 2012
Venue: Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary
Lap Length: 4.381km
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
Qualifying Sat 14:00-15:15
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.
  • Damon Hill almost won the 1997 race for Arrows1997: 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.

In what was his last race for Lotus Renault GP, Nick Heidfeld's car spectacularly caught fireButton took a fine third on the grid and kept his cool in the early stages as the track had been hit by passing showers.

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.

Button and Hamilton scrap for the leadButton and Hamilton were now nose-to-tail and each was desperate to be in the lead, as they would be given first preference for a switch back to wet-weather tyres.

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?

Yassmin Abdel-Magied, RichardsF1.com Journalist

Well, we come to one of the slowest circuits of the season, but definitely an important race! In the light of the engine mapping regulations, it will be interesting to see if anything changes.  However the biggest issue in this race will probably be tyre management, as it is usually an extremely hot and (probably) uncomfortable race.  The second sector is also a very technical little section, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out. 

“If Alonso is to hold on to and solidify his lead, he will have to definitely do well in this race, but if the rest of the pack want to catch up and ensure they are still in the running, it would be a good place for them to step up.  McLaren and Lotus in particular, need to capitalise on every opportunity they can if they are to convert their potential into actual rewards. Onwards, to another weekend of racing!”

Geoff Burke, RichardsF1.com Journalist

“The Hungaroring may have previously held a reputation as a poor place to go racing, but more recent Grands Prix have given us some quite entertaining races. Throw in a bit of rain – as was the case in 2006 and 2011 – and you have an even spicier show. Rain is forecast to hit on Sunday…

“The high degradation of the Pirelli tyres has made the 2012 season fascinating and unpredictable, and if this year’s Grands Prix at traditionally boring venues like Valencia can be made exciting, then I’d expect this weekend’s race to be just as entertaining!”

Joseph Sheu,  
RichardsF1.com Feature Writer

“Hungary this year will be a completely different beast. This is a circuit that requires a high amount of downforce, and with the aero changes this year, teams will have a hard time during practice to get their balance right. 

“With Fernando establishing a mini-breakaway from the rest of the leaders, the focus for all the other teams will be on how to maximise their weapons. Lotus in particular is overdue for a win, and based on past performance, if Hungary proves to be another hot race (as it traditionally is), this may be their best chance this year to score a win. A smooth driving style will be rewarded here with big steering angles on call!”

Jennifer Smith, RichardsF1.com Feature Writer

“Outside the race this weekend, the number one talking point is going to be engine torque maps.  Red Bull introduced this last weekend at Hockenheim which theoretically can be used to produce a greater volume of exhaust fumes that can be channelled to improve aerodynamics and downforce.  It has been a source of controversy ever since with no rules to define if it’s legal or not and the FIA investigating if a new rule is needed to cover these torque maps.  No matter which way it goes, eyes will be on Red Bull to see if they continue to enjoy this advantage over the weekend or if they have to scramble to remove it before racing.”

Ben Waterworth, RichardsF1.com Feature Writer & ‘The Qualifying Lap’ radio show host on Edge 99.3FM

“Oh Hungary. What a race to head into the break with. A general snooze fest that very very very rarely delivers a good race. Mind you weren’t we saying that about Valencia a few weeks back and look what happened? The big question here is the Alonso factor: can the Spaniard continue his charge and surprise us by controlling the championship? He hasn’t won here since his maiden win nearly a decade ago, but every time I think he will fall back and stuff up he surprises me again and wins or is on the podium. So this weekend it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Prancing Horse up there again celebrating a win. I just hope that whoever they choose to do the ‘boy band press conference’ on the podium speaks out about how garbage it is and gets Fernando or the other podium crew to wake the Hungaroring crowd up from snooze fest 2012.”


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.

Is Ferrari the new master of managing tyre degradation?Regardless of what happens this weekend, Fernando Alonso will be the championship leader as the field takes its summer break after Hungary.

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.

Mercedes and Lotus will again be snapping at the heels of the top-three teamsIf 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 had a giant-killing display at Hockenheim - can they repeat the effort in Hungary?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!

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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.