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‘The Permanent Monaco': Twists and turns expected in Hungary



31 MAR - 03 APR 2016

ROUND 11 - Hungary 27-29 July 2012

Venue: Budapest

Circuit Length: 4.381 Km

Laps: 70

Lap Record: 1:19.071 = 199.461 km/h - M. Schumacher (Ferrari) 2004

2011 Results

Pole Position: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Renault); 1:19.815 = 197.601 km/h

1st: Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes) 1:46.42.337

2nd: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Renault)

3rd: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)

Fastest Lap: Felipe Massa (Ferrari); 1:23.415 = 189.073 km/h on Lap 61


No, you’re not mistaken: that’s not the Hungaroring above, it’s a salutary reminder to 23 Grand Prix drivers that this is the man they all have to catch when they head for Budapest this weekend. It’s Fernando Alonso winning in Germany for the third time this season in a Ferrari that has improved beyond recognition since the start of the season. They make a formidable pairing – and just as a reminder, Hungary was the scene of the man from Oviedo’s first Grand Prix win back in 2003 with Renault.

“I don’t want anyone to come to Hungary better prepared than me, physically or mentally or more motivated than me and I always try and win this competition that runs alongside the one on the track,” says Alonso ominously. “I expect to go well in Budapest and there is no reason to be pessimistic. However, I am not forgetting that Red Bull and McLaren were quicker. I said that the month of July would be crucial, with 75 points up for grabs in four weeks and so far we have brought home 43, so we will try and finish the job in Hungary.”

Alongside the Prancing Horse, the other form horse may well be a man who also recorded his first Grand Prix win in Hungary. That’s McLaren Mercedes driver Jenson Button, winner for Honda at the Hungaroring in 2006. JB ended a miserable run last Sunday with second place. This is one of McLaren’s signature tracks: 10 wins in the 26 races there to date, with four of those coming in the last five years.

The other winners in the last five years, Red Bull, go to Hungary playing catch-up for once, and also under a little bit of a rule-book cloud following questions over their engine mapping in Germany last weekend. The FIA has moved this week to close a regulatory loophole and protect the ‘linear relationship’ between throttle and torque, something which Red Bull is understood to have manipulated in its Renault engines in Germany last weekend. Engine mapping will now be more closely scrutinised.

Talking of maps, Lotus Technical Director James Allison explains what’s needed in Hungary: “We’re looking for non-peaky power delivery here to facilitate traction out of the low-speed corners and provide good all round driveability. The engine needs to be mapped in such a way as to deliver sharp bursts of power rather than sustained application of throttle. Ambient temperatures are particularly high in Budapest, so the engine must perform efficiently through the lower rev range while offering efficient cooling solutions.”

Red Bull’s winner in 2010 was, of course, Mark Webber, and the Aussie is fired up for a big effort after his Hockenheim disappointment: “I like the Hungaroring,” says Mark. “It’s an old-school track and it provides the drivers and engineers with a unique challenge. It’s slow and twisty, and the ambient is usually very high, which means we’ll get a good workout in the cockpit. We’ll look long and hard into what happened at Hockenheim to ensure we’re back to our usual levels of competitiveness. What Germany proved above all else is how important it is to start at the front. If you’re back in the pack, you get caught up in slower cars and that results in you dropping even further back. But I’m confident that we can be strong again.”

It’s seven years since Kimi Raikkonen won at the Hungaroring, also for McLaren in those days: could this be the place for the Iceman’s second coming? It’s a track where traditionally the blue-and-white flags of Finland abound, which will only help Raikkonen: “If you had told me in January that we would be fourth halfway through the season, I think I would have been pretty pleased. It’s not a bad place to be, but I think we have a car good enough to have scored more points. I want to win and the whole team is pushing hard to make it happen, so let’s see what we can do in the second half of the season…”

Though short (only Monaco, Montreal and Brazil are shorter) this ‘old-school’ track squeezes a lot of variety into its 4.381km. Of its 15 turns, nine go right, six left, with the most familiar features being the quick dive into the downhill first corner and the climb back up through the long right-hander on to the pit straight where the DRS zone is set. It’s slow, with an average lap speed hovering around the 190 km/h mark, which makes it the slowest of all the permanent tracks. It’s also a tricky place to pass on – but aren’t they all these days?

For some of the drivers down the back of the grid a podium is like a race win to the leading lights. Take Pedro de la Rosa: unlike his all-conquering compatriot Alonso, the 41-year-old Spaniard has only ever finished in the top three once, was back in 2006 when he was in a McLaren for eight races – and it was in Hungary. “The Hungaroring is the permanent Monaco,” says Pedro in a nice turn of phrase echoed by Mexican Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez: “It is a bit like the Monaco street circuit with many changes of direction, and the middle sector is especially tricky.”

Pirelli will bring the same tyre choice – P Zero White (medium) and Yellow (soft) as for Hockenheim but they expect a different challenge. Buoyed by his fine qualifying effort in Germany, Force India’s Nico Hülkenberg is looking forward to it: “Although it’s quite a slow circuit, it’s very difficult to get a good lap time because it’s a track where each corner flows into the next, so it’s quite challenging and you need to find the rhythm. In terms of tyres it asks a lot because you are nearly always in a corner and there are no long straights where the tyres get a chance to cool down,” says the 24-year-old German.

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