TRACKSIDE PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS: How drivers tackle Hungary's tricky Turns 8 and 9

Special Contributor

Mark Hughes

Mark Hughes analyses how the drivers trade off the exit of Turn 8 to tackle Turn 9 – a tough sequence of corners that will prove a challenge throughout the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend.

The separate numbers carried by Turns 8 and 9 are a little misleading, as the drivers have to treat them very much as one sequence and how much is taken through 8 (a left-hander) has to be paid for by the approach to 9 (to the right). Use up all the track width on the exit of 8 and you inevitably cannot get fully across to the extreme left for the approach to 9. So a compromise has to be found. How grippy and balanced the car is, how sensitive the driver, combined determine the extent of that compromise.

For the first half-hour of Friday's opening FP1 session it’s difficult to determine much of a pattern as teams are desperately trying to fit in their aero simulation runs (there are a lot of new parts this weekend) before the big black cloud in the distance has arrived. The rain begins falling properly about half an hour into the session and everyone slinks back to the pits.

It lasts only a few minutes, but wets the track enough that the tyres are green-striped inters for a few laps before enough of a dry line goes down for slicks. So the session is around an hour old by the time the running gets serious.

Some cars just don’t have the front end to get anywhere near this

First to go through here full attack is Williams' George Russell. On this initial run he’s using up pretty much all of the Turn 8 exit, brushing right-rear against the exit kerb and the car simply doesn’t have enough grip to get to any further than about 30% across to the left, giving him a very acute entry into Turn 9. He refines the approach as he goes on and the track grip increases.

Spotting the full-attack laps amid the tyre prep and cooling laps, an interesting picture emerges. Romain Grosjean initially uses up around 90% of the exit in his Haas (ie almost as much as the Williams), but can comfortably get well past halfway across the track to the left before having to turn in.

Nico Hulkenberg is one of the first to begin experimenting – taking only about 60% of the available exit from 8 so as to get fully over to the left for 9. As he gradually refines this, he ends up at about 80% exit of 8/70% of 9. It seems that this is something close to the feasible ideal, and it almost matches what Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are doing – each of them using about three-quarters of the exit and three-quarters of the entry width.

Track view at Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Preparations, Hungaroring, Hungary, Thursday 21

Positioning the car to the left to enter Turn 9 isn't possible after exiting Turn 8, so drivers have to compromise

Some cars just don’t have the front end to get anywhere near this. The Williams being one, Lance Stroll’s early runs in the medium-tyred Racing Point another. Grosjean’s been working away from that early Turn 8-biased foray and by the end is about equally-balanced between how much track he takes on the 8 exit and how much he can get on the 9 entry – but it’s not as much as either the Mercedes or Red Bull. His balancing point is about 70% of each, suggesting his Haas is well-balanced but without the grip of the other two. The Ferrari, by contrast, is going through faster than the Haas, but without as good a balance, Charles Leclerc rarely being able to get more than about 60% of the way across the track for the entry to 9, despite only having used up about the same exit width as Hamilton and Verstappen.

On this section of track, at least – low-medium speed – on this green, recently-washed, surface, the Mercedes and Red Bull are grippy and well-balanced, the Ferrari grippy, the Haas well-balanced, the Renault reasonably so. The others, at this stage, are struggling here to greater and lesser degrees.

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