Hungary preview - teams target winning break in Budapest 26 Jul 2012
The three leading teams in the world championship are expecting to slug it out again in Hungary this weekend, after the super-close fight between Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren in Germany last Sunday.
Its going to be tight again, points leader - and Ferrari driver - Fernando Alonso says. Its a very short circuit, and as we saw this year, in two- or three-tenths there are eight, nine cars. In Hungary we need to make a perfect preparation again, a perfect qualifying, because you can be starting in 12th or 13th if you make a little mistake, so we need to approach the race in the same way we did the last couple, try to maximise what we have in Hungary and hopefully bring in some new parts that can help us.
I think at the moment our car seems okay in all areas, there are not weak points, as maybe we had at the beginning of the season when we were suffering a little bit on traction and top speed. Now I think that we are okay on that. In Hungary I think with these slow-speed corners, I dont see any problem with the car. We should be competitive there.
Even though Red Bull have been required to change their engine mapping, after the FIA issued a rule clarification following the controversy in Germany, drivers Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel are optimistic about their chances.
"The Hungaroring is a good little venue and weve had some good races there in the past, Webber says. Obviously overtaking hasnt been easy, and itll be interesting to see how the cars perform there as its a hot race. The middle sector is very, very busy and you need to have a good balance over the top of the hill. In general, its a track that I enjoy.
The track is one of the slowest on the calendar, but as a driver you shouldnt underestimate it, as there are a lot of opportunities to make mistakes, Vettel says. It can be very hot and that means the track can be very demanding physically. In addition, the surface has many bumps which shake you around a lot.
McLaren will have a further updated MP4-27, and managing director Jonathan Neale believes they will be right in the fight.
Based on the data I saw from Germany, I think the three top teams have very competitive cars. We have been focusing a lot on our race pace because our qualifying pace has been slightly stronger and we believe that both drivers have a good chance of being very competitive. Hopefully one of them can win this weekend.
"We were very pleased with the upgrade package in Germany. I think both drivers were able to contest the race, and I was delighted for Jenson that he managed to achieve second place - and for the whole team that the car made a significant step forward.
"Whilst its undeniable that Fernando has driven really well this season, if you look at the point conversion rate of Red Bull they are also very strong, and we have to get in amongst that mix. There is still a lot to go though; I don't think its static."
Lotus have targeted McLarens third place as their immediate goal, and a win would be timely ahead of the summer break. The E20 will have some further updates and a hot race could play to its strengths. Both Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean are overdue a good qualifying result, and that could prove crucial to securing their first victory of 2012.
Mercedes, meanwhile, have been losing ground of late and could come under threat from Sauber, who have declared their intention of snatching away fifth place from the German team after pulling away from Williams and Force India. The Grove team will have a further updated FW34, while Force India are concerned that this circuit may suit them least of all and say they are expecting a tough race.
Jules Bianchi will stand in for Nico Hulkenberg during Fridays opening practice for the Silverstone-based team, Dani Clos will be in action for HRT, taking over Narain Karthikeyans cockpit for the first session and Valtteri Bottas will be in for action for Bruno Senna at Williams.
Unlike 2011 when drivers were offered their soft and super-soft rubber, Pirelli are bringing the same choice as they had in Germany: their medium and soft compounds. This is designed to provide the best compromise between the grip required and the durability needed to combat ambient temperatures expected to be close to 30 degrees Celsius.
The maximum-downforce track also demands high traction and braking efficiency, and with the high number of tight corners and significant steering inputs, the external edges of the tyres are particularly prone to temperature spikes and wear, emphasising the need for a smooth driving style.
Hungary will provide a very stark contrast to the circuits that we have just come from, being the slowest permanent track on the calendar, says Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery. This does not make it any less demanding on the tyres though: in fact a twisty and slippery circuit will often put more heat through the tyre than a fast and flowing layout as the tyre is moving around more - particularly when the ambient temperatures are high. Having said that, in Hungary last year we saw some wet weather, so its important not to make any assumptions. Consequently, we are still lacking some information about the performance of our slick tyres under race conditions at the Hungaroring.
Balancing the demands of speed and durability will be key to getting the most out of the tyres, in order to keep degradation under control. Overtaking is traditionally difficult, so the drivers have an opportunity to use strategy in order to gain track position. Because of this, the work done in free practice will be vital when it comes to preparing the race strategy: an opportunity that has been denied to the teams recently because of bad weather in the build-up to the last two Grands Prix.
Once again theres a chance that the weather might affect the weekend, with thunderstorms in the region on Thursday and Friday when the ambient temperature high is expected to be around 30 degrees Celsius. But it will brighten up on Saturday and Sunday when it should be sunny, with temperatures of 31 degrees each day.
The 4.381-kilometre (2.722 mile) Hungaroring is unchanged apart from resurfacing in Turn 14. The single DRS zone is on the start-finish straight, with the detection point at the entrance to the final Turn 14 and the activation point on its exit.
The race, which begins at 1400 hours local time (two hours ahead of GMT) will be run over 70 laps or 306.630 kms (190.553 miles).
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