Formula 1 returns to Hungary for the 11th round of the championship, marking the mid-point of the season, at a place which witnessed one of the most exciting races in each of the past two years. The event used to be the last race before the summer break but with the return of the German Grand Prix this season, there is still a trip to Hockenheim to come.
The hot and humid Hungaroring in one of the shortest circuits on the calendar and is mostly compared with Monaco for its narrow and twisty layout, even if is not a street circuit. Despite being one of the slowest tracks – with less than 45 per cent of a lap being spent at full throttle – the Hungaroring usually produced some great racing over the years.
With temperatures reaching over 30 degrees Celsius during this time of year, the event will be tough on both cars and drivers, with a huge focus on the completely resurfaced track that will be very demanding on the tyres. The aerodynamic package for this weekend is similar to the one used in Monte Carlo, as good mechanical grip is a crucial asset at the venue.
This will be the 31st Hungarian Grand Prix, with races always being held at Hungaroring since the event joined the Formula 1 circus. The track is situated on the outskirts of Budapest and was built on a natural amphitheater, providing some superb views for spectators.
Drivers will face the challenge of an old school track, one very technical to drive, much tighter and with many slow speed corners compared to the previous round at Silverstone. This requires precision and concentration in order to be able to get the most out of every lap as there is no chance to relax and no room for mistakes on a track where the corners are flowing into one another.
“I always enjoy driving there because it’s a small track with a big car so it gives a bit of a go kart feeling, it’s also pretty tough due to all the turns, so you don’t really get a chance to rest and usually end up pretty sweaty in the heat. Sector 2 is my favourite part of the track, it’s all about hitting the apex of one corner right so you are in the right position for the next one. If you get it wrong it’s a big time penalty, so you need to be really focused,” Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
The key to going quickly here is not only to get into a good rhythm but also to attack the corners and for that you need to have good balance and downforce. Teams will be pressured to find the right set-up early on the weekend, albeit always aware of the prospect of the track evolving with each passing session.
“You arrive at Turn 1 at high speed, so you need to brake hard – from 300 to 80kph in about 80 metres. You then get to Turn 2, where you always experience some understeer, which makes it difficult to turn the car into the corner. Turn 3 should be flat in qualifying and Turn 4 is a very high-speed completely blind corner taken in 6th gear. Turns 6 and 7 form a very slow chicane, followed by a medium-speed and then a high-speed one. So this is a section formed by three chicanes that progressively get quicker and our car should be good here. The last three corners of the circuit are difficult, all in third gear. The second sector is the most interesting and enjoyable one to drive," Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr says.
The title battle is now closer than ever as the Mercedes drivers are separated by just one point. Nico Rosberg holds a slender one-point lead over Lewis Hamilton but the Briton has the momentum of winning four of the last five rounds. The situation is much calmer in the Constructors’ fight as Mercedes already has a substantial point-lead, though Ferrari is just six points clear of Red Bull.
The Hungaroring has been a jinx to the driver winning the event for more than a decade since none of the winners went on to grab the title in the same year. The last driver to achieve such a feat was Michael Schumacher in 2004.
With a relatively moderate pit straight and a tight, twisty middle section, the Hungaroring provides few overtaking opportunities and is probably the second most important race in terms of track position after Monaco. Almost half of the races held to date have been won from pole position, though in 2006 Jenson Button won despite starting from a lowly 14th place on the grid.
The entire circuit has been resurfaced and the artificial grass has been removed from Turns 4 and 11, where instead double kerbs have been installed. The new surface will place an extra emphasis on the importance on Friday’s free practice sessions, with previous references and data less useful than usual.
Tyres: Supersoft, Soft, Medium
DRS zonex: One detection point before the final chicane and two activation zones on the main straight and after Turn 1
Driver Steward: Alan Jones
Facts and stats
- Circuit length: 4.381 km
- Turns: 14
- Direction: clockwise
- Race laps: 70
- First Grand Prix: 1986
- Lap record: 1:19.071 (Michael Schumacher, 2004, Ferrari)
- Most wins (Driver): Michael Schumacher (4), Lewis Hamilton (4)
- Most wins (Constructor): McLaren (11)
- 2015 Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
- 2015 Race: 1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), 2. Daniil Kvyat (Red Bull), 3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
Timetable (GMT +2):
Friday 22 July
- Practice One: 10:00 – 11:30
- Practice Two: 14:00 – 15:30
Saturday 23 July
- Practice Three: 11:00 – 12:00
- Qualifying: 14:00 (60 minutes)
Sunday 24 July
- Race: 14:00 (70 laps or two hours)