Bridgestone on the challenges of the Hungaroring 31 Jul 2008
The eleventh round of the 2008 FIA Formula One season takes place at the Hungaroring, a circuit located near to the Hungarian city of Budapest, and Bridgestone relishes the challenge of a circuit which presents a unique set of challenges.
The Hungaroring is certainly a difficult circuit to master from a tyre perspective, and for a number of reasons, says Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone Motorsport director of motorsport tyre development. Because it is not an easy track, it is very rewarding to have a tyre that works well.
Hungary is the slowest permanent race circuit that Formula One visits during the course of the season. Last season the pole position lap around the 4.38-kilometre circuit, after Fernando Alonso was handed a five place grid penalty, was a 1m 19.781s, set by Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren.
The highest speed achieved on a lap is set on the main start/finish straight where cars achieve around 290 km/h. This straight heads straight into the circuits slowest corner, Turn One, where cars have to slow to around 90 km/h to make it round the corner.
The layout of the Hungaroring is tight and twisty, explains Hamashima, and the track surface is very smooth, meaning that we need to bring the softest two tyre compounds from our range.
With the circuit surface in optimum condition grip is at a premium, but because the track is not used as much as most circuits that Formula One visits, the start of a race weekend is usually more difficult for competitors.
Often we find the Hungaroring to be quite dirty and dusty for the practice sessions and this means that graining is far more likely to occur, says Hamashima.
Tyre graining happens when the side-forces on the tyre cause the surface rubber to roll up and present a non-uniform contact patch with the road, which affects the grip level.
Graining occurs on the front left tyre in particular at the Hungaroring, and it is more likely to happen when the track is dirty because understeer occurs as the tyres slide across the track surface.
As the weekend progresses there should be less graining as a cleaner track with more rubber laid down makes for better grip. Track conditions are certainly a variable at most tracks we visit, but in Hungary it is more pronounced than we see at most other circuits, says Hamashima.
Despite the difficulties, this track has good memories for Bridgestone as it was at this venue, in 1997, that a Bridgestone shod car first led a race.
In 1997 Damon Hill finished in second place in the Hungarian Grand Prix, in what was our first season in the sport, and only our eleventh Grand Prix. A Bridgestone driver had finished second before but to lead the race was very thrilling for us. It was an interesting event. Hills Arrows car suited this circuit and he had qualified in third place so we knew we were well placed and it was very nearly a race win.
Hills pace was not just in qualifying. Even though his previous best qualifying position that season had been ninth place, and his best finish eighth, in Hungary he had the measure of his opposition and overtook rivals Jacques Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher to take the race lead.
In our first season our tyres were performing better than expected, says Hamashima. "However, our tyre performance was somewhat flattered in Hungary as the track requires a soft tyre, but our rival had perhaps gone too soft and they were suffering from blistering in the heat of the race. This was a valuable lesson for us and even though we were so close to having our tyres on the winning car of a Grand Prix it was still satisfying to lead for a while and finish in second place.