Hungarian Grand Prix Preview - Brawn out to shake Red Bull dominance 23 Jul 2009
The big question is, just how hot will it be in Hungary? If it is relatively cool, that could favour Red Bull the way that the recent races in Britain and Germany did. If it is markedly warmer than either of these, where the average ambient temperatures were 18.25 and 16.25 degrees Celsius respectively, Brawn GP will be hoping to get back into the title fight after two unhappy outings. The current forecast suggests an average ambient temperature in Hungary of 30.5.
Red Bull must be considered the favourite, after two wins so far this season for Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webbers recent breakthrough success in Germany. The Australian is determined to keep winning, and is only 1.5 points behind his team mate.
However, Ross Brawn is adamant that his team can fight back and, for the first time in two races, extend their championship leads.
"The last two races at Silverstone and the Nurburgring have been frustrating for the team as we have not been able to achieve the full potential of our car at the same time as our competitors have taken a good step forward, he said. However we are confident that the inherent performance of the BGP 001 which was demonstrated during the first half of the season has not disappeared and the problems that we faced were unique to the circumstances of those races.
"Our focus now is to maximise the performance that we know is in the car whilst continuing to develop improvements which will maintain our championship challenge. We have a significant aerodynamic upgrade for this race which will bring performance gains in efficiency, downforce and aero balance but we face a fierce battle and we must continue to improve for the rest of the season. The team has faced many challenges to arrive where we are today and I am confident that we have the people and resources, plus two excellent drivers, to respond and fight to maintain our position of leading the constructors' and drivers' championships."
Championship leader Jenson Button is also determined to get his seventh victory of the season to safeguard his points advantage.
"Hungary is always one of my favourite races and even more so this year as it should finally be a return to some real summer temperatures! The circuit holds some very special memories for me as the venue of my first Formula One win three years ago and it's fantastic to be going back there with the chance to compete for the win again.
The Hungaroring is quite a challenging circuit as it is so twisty and there's no real respite round the lap but it is a lot of fun to drive. The lap has a good rhythm and mix of slow-speed and high-speed turns. The circuit generates an incredible amount of grip as the weekend gets underway which can provide a real challenge in finding the right set-up.
Ive been at home in Monaco for the past week concentrating on my training but I know that the guys at the factory and at Mercedes-Benz have been working really hard on our latest upgrade package and I just can't wait to get back in the car."
Ferrari won here last year courtesy of Felipe Massa, and they are confident of a stronger showing than of late in the improving F60, while at McLaren Lewis Hamilton and last years winner, Heikki Kovalainen, look forward to running the new aerodynamic package that briefly showed promise on the world champions car in Germany.
The Hungaroring is one of the most demanding circuits for drivers because youre busy throughout the entire lap, Hamilton said. Its a bit like a kart circuit - there are lots of twists and turns and the only place to relax is along the start/finish straight, which is quite short. Its also quite low-grip which makes overtaking particularly tricky.
But I really enjoy the place - I won here in 2007 and was on pole last year. Its a circuit that really rewards consistent, precise driving - push too hard and you tend to lose rather than gain time. Given the potential we showed in Germany last weekend, Im hopeful of getting a result that demonstrates the improvement weve made over the past few weeks.
Williams, Renault and Toyota are also optimistic for strong showings, while Force India boss Vijay Mallya has expressed the opinion that the revised aerodynamic package first seen in Germany will enable his team to get in among their faster rivals for the second race in a row.
Big things are also expected at Toro Rosso, where the STR4s will benefit from a significant aerodynamic update which includes the double diffuser that has been so effective on the Red Bull RB5 of late.
Sebastien Buemi will also have a new team mate as Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari, who replaces Sebastien Bourdais, is set to become the youngest man ever to race in F1 at the age of 19 years and 125 days.
At present the record is the subject of dispute. In 1980 New Zealander Mike Thackwell started the Canadian Grand Prix aged 19 years and 182 days, but the race was stopped after an accident on the first lap. Thackwell was unable to start the new race because he had to hand his undamaged Tyrrell over to team mate to Jean-Pierre Jarier.
Since Thackwell did not thus officially start the part of the race that was recognised as the real Canadian Grand Prix that year, his record was annulled. Thus the mark is currently held by Mexican star Ricardo Rodriguez who started the 1961 Italian Grand Prix aged 19 years and 208 days. Besides Thackwell and Rodriguez, other 19 year-olds to race in Formula One were Chris Amon, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Esteban Tuero.
Hungary marks a change in Bridgestones recent philosophy of leaving a gap between their dry tyre compounds. As in Monaco, they will bring their soft and super soft wares.
Hirohide Hamashima, director of motorsport tyre development, said: We have made the change to the tyre allocation concept based on the data we have collected from races so far this year combined with our knowledge of the tracks we visit for these races. The cars of 2009 are very different to those used last year so we have learnt a lot so far this year, and they do use their tyres differently from before. Hungary is a circuit where the characteristics demand our softest tyres. This is also true for street courses, and we used the softest allocation earlier in the year at Monaco, and will again in Valencia.