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The technicalities of the Hungaroring 27 Jul 2005

Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota TF104B.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary, 14 August 2004 (L to R): Dieter Gass (GER) Toyota Chief Race Engineer talks with Richard Cregan (IRE) Toyota Team Manager.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, British Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Silverstone, England, 9 July 2005 Ricardo Zonta (BRA) Toyota TF104B.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary, 14 August 2004 Jacques Villeneuve (CDN) Sauber and Willy Rampf, Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, 6 May 2005 Felipe Massa (BRA) Sauber Petronas C23.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary, 13 August 2004

Budapest’s Hungaroring track is often described as ‘Monaco without the barriers’. Like the Monte Carlo street circuit, there is only one racing line and overtaking is close to impossible. And similarly it is very slow - indeed only Monaco is slower - with average speeds of under 200 kph and less than 60 percent of the lap run at full throttle. So what are the implications for car set-up?

"The Hungaroring is a maximum downforce circuit, making it important to have a solid aerodynamic package,” explains Toyota chief race engineer, Dieter Gass. “It's quite similar to Monaco, both in terms of average speed and average brake temperatures. Because there are no long straights, the brakes do not have time to cool down.”

Indeed, cooling generally is a big issue at the Hungaroring, where ambient and track temperatures tend to be much higher than those seen in Monaco. The lack of passing opportunities compound the problem and the teams will open up every aperture on the cars to prevent overheating. This increases drag, but with the low speeds in Hungary, this is not a problem.

“It is so hard to overtake that we must also consider the effects of running continuously in another driver's slipstream,” says Gass. “All the temperatures inside the car rise dramatically in these conditions - engine, brakes, gearbox - so we have to monitor the system temperatures carefully.”

The other big factor teams must consider in Hungary is tyre performance. The Hungaroring is a harsh environment for rubber. Not only are the track temperatures high, the surface is abrasive and the lack of long straights means the tyres are constantly working - cornering, braking or accelerating. Not surprisingly, harder compounds are the norm.

The Hungaroring is also famous for being notoriously dusty. Although a permanent racetrack, the circuit is used far less often than many other Grand Prix venues and can therefore be very slippery, particularly at the start of the weekend when no rubber has been laid down by the cars. All of these factors mean correct tyre choice is vital for success here.

“Our strategy will largely be dictated by tyre performance, which will govern starting position, so the key is to find the right balance and tyre choice,” explains Sauber technical director Willy Rampf. “If we start well up the grid we can consider a three-stop strategy, but that doesn't always pay out if you then get trapped in traffic. That can make a two-stop option more attractive. It all depends on how far up the order you can qualify and whether you can run with the leading bunch."

Of course, while overtaking is difficult at the Hungaroring, it is not impossible. The example usually cited to prove this is the 1989 race when Nigel Mansell came from 12th on the grid to take victory for Ferrari.