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Hungary preview - new tyres to ignite title race? 25 Jul 2013

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel leads the field through the chicane during the 2012 Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring Pirelli tyres.
Formula One Young Drivers Test, Silverstone, England, Day One, Wednesday, 17 July 2013 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Race Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Sunday, 7 July 2013 Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Practice, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 5 July 2013 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 29 July 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 29 July 2012 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012 ahead of Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 29 July 2012 The start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 29 July 2012 Race winner Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 31 July 2011 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams FW34 Third Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Budapest, Hungary, Friday, 27 July 2012 Fans and atmosphere.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 29 July 2012 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB8 ahead of Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2012.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 29 July 2012 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 28 July 2012

This weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix could just be the real start of the 2013 title fight. It may precede the hiatus of the summer break, but with Pirelli’s revised tyres potentially reshuffling the pack, the race poses some significant questions.

How well will the tyres stand up to extremely high temperatures that are expected? How much of a change will their revised construction make to the established pecking order, if any? How much will Mercedes be affected by their ban from the recent young driver test at Silverstone where everyone else got to test the new rubber? Mercedes, of course, were barred because of their illegal tyre test in Barcelona in May.

Pirelli are bringing their white-marked medium and yellow-marked soft compounds to Budapest. These are the same nominations as last year, but 2013’s compounds are softer. The big change, however, is the revised construction. To obviate the explosive punctures from the British race Pirelli have reverted to their 2012 construction, which includes the Kevlar belts seen at the Nurburgring, allied to the 2013 compounds.

The indications from Silverstone are that the tyre issues which rendered the British Grand Prix there so spectacular have been overcome, and everyone bar Mercedes now has experience running on them. The Brackley team, however, have been supplied with data from the tests by Pirelli.

“Our team are currently in second place in the constructors' championship with two race wins to date,” says Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn. “However, the season has not been without its challenges and we have had some very tough races. This happens over the course of a season and you have to take the highs and lows and find your path to making improvements. Both Nico [Rosberg] and Lewis [Hamilton] have visited the factory in the two weeks since we returned from Germany and everyone has been working very hard to investigate our tyre sensitivities ahead of the elevated temperatures that we will undoubtedly experience this weekend.

“The Hungaroring is a very slow circuit with mainly low and medium-speed corners, which present an interesting technical challenge. Friday will also be our first opportunity to work with the new tyres on our car, so we have a great deal to learn in a short space of time. We want to finish the first half of the season on a high but the challenge facing us is clear.”

“Missing the young driver test certainly doesn’t help,” adds Hamilton, “but that’s the way it is. We just have to keep pushing and pray and hope that when Pirelli bring their new batch of tyres they work on our car.”

The tyres work very hard at the tight and twisty Hungaroring, where the sweltering weather conditions this year promise to give them a real workout, but average speeds here are low and the track requires the same level of downforce as Monaco. Cars actually spend a lower proportion of the lap on full throttle here than they do even in the Principality. Ten of the 14 corners are taken at 155 km/h or less, making the Hungaroring the slowest permanent track on the calendar.

“Hungary marks the first event for our latest specification P Zero tyres,” Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery explains. “These tyres were tried out by the teams at Silverstone during the young driver test, who benefited from the opportunity to adapt the set-up of their cars to best suit them. Now they get to use them in competition for the first time, and with qualifying particularly important at the Hungaroring, the work done in free practice will be very important. Overtaking at this circuit is never an easy task, so the teams will be looking to use strategy to maximise their opportunities to gain track position.

“The selection of medium and soft tyres should provide plenty of chances to help them do that, based on the data that all the teams gain with different fuel loads in free practice. Temperatures in Hungary can be very high, and this is the other factor on which the levels of wear and degradation experienced will depend. Traction and braking are two critical aspects of tyre performance in Hungary, with the teams running a set-up designed to emphasise these key areas. With levels of lateral energy relatively low, tyre performance rather than durability will be the limiting factor and this will form the basis of the strategy selected - with the teams aiming to keep the tyres within the peak window of operating performance for as long as possible. The design of our latest tyres should help them to do this.”

That might be good news for Mercedes, in terms of potential damage limitation, but the fact that the track is always ‘green’ for at least the first free practice session won’t be.

Everyone stands to benefit from a second DRS zone, however, albeit a short one. The first one is on the main straight, as it was last year, and the new one is immediately on the exit of Turn 1 on the short run to Turn 2. The single detection point is prior to the final Turn 14, just before the main straight.

Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus all performed well on the new tyres at Silverstone and can be expected to set the pace straight away. McLaren, for whom the Hungaroring has been something of a happy hunting ground over the years with 11 victories, also did well at the UK test.

“Great circuit, great place,” Jenson Button says of the Budapest track. “I have so many positive memories of racing at the Hungaroring - obviously, I won my first Grand Prix there back in 2006, which was incredibly emotional and also feels such a long time ago now! And I also won my 200th race there back in 2011.

“That was one of those days when everything went right, the car was a dream to drive and I just brought it home. Every victory in Formula One is special, but that’s right up there as one of my favourite days in the car.

“Of course, a win in 2013 is going to be difficult, but I actually think the team is working very well right now: in Germany, our tyre-usage, strategy and management of the race was as good as it’s ever been. It would be good to have a car with a little more pace to enable those calls to have a bit more impact at the front of the pack, but, for the moment, we can be satisfied by doing the best possible job in qualifying and on Sunday afternoon.”

This will also be a crucial weekend for Force India as they seek to regain the performance which, for the first time at the Nurburgring, they were missing. Sauber, too, are hoping to build on the points-scoring form they have shown in the last two races. Both, however, can again expect a strong challenge from Toro Rosso.

The weather forecast for the 10th round of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship appears settled and should be perfect for racing. The ambient temperature high is expected to be 33 degrees Celsius on Friday, with sun and clear conditions, rising to 35 on Saturday and 36 on race day.

The 4.381-kilometre (2.722 mile) Hungaroring is essentially unchanged since 2012. Sunday’s Formula 1 Magyar Nagydij 2013, which begins at 1400 hours local time (1200 GMT), will be run over 70 laps or 306.630 kilometres (190.553 miles).

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