Eurosport - Tue, 27 Jul 11:22:00 2010
A top Formula One team assesses the Hungaroring circuit ahead of this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix.
The Hungaroring presents plenty of challenges for drivers and engineers alike. The circuit features no high-speed corners, leading the team to run the highest possible downforce levels, while the primary concern for the engine team is ensuring good cooling in the usually hot conditions. The high summer temperatures also make life difficult for the drivers, who need to be in peak physical condition to cope with a race that gives them very little respite over its 70-lap distance.
The twisting, 14-corner layout of the Hungaroring features just one legitimate overtaking opportunity per lap, into turn one. Apart from this straight of just over 700m, the circuit is filled with sequences of low-to-medium-speed corners, with short braking distances which make overtaking nearly impossible. The result is that the teams all run with maximum downforce levels, similar if not identical to those used in Monaco, in order to optimise not just cornering speeds, but also braking and traction. Maximum speeds achieved on the main straight rarely exceed 300km/h with the V8 engines.
Mechanical grip is an important factor at a low-speed circuit such as this, and teams will generally try to run the car with softer settings all round to improve mechanical grip. The drivers want a responsive car in the low-speed sections, with good traction on corner exit, which will usually lead the teams to a forward mechanical bias (stiffer front/softer rear) in terms of set-up. However, rear tyre wear must be monitored very carefully, particularly to avoid overloading the softer compound available this weekend.
The low-grip circuit conditions, coupled with the absence of high-speed corners, make these choices possible. As has become customary, the tyre management challenge for the weekend will be to control graining on the softest compound, and this should improve as the circuit rubbers-in throughout the weekend. Cooler temperatures, or overnight rain washing the circuit clean of rubber, could further complicate matters.
With the longest period spent at full throttle barely exceeding 10 seconds, and with only 56 per cent of the lap spent at full throttle (significantly lower than the average), this is not a demanding circuit for the engine. Of the 14 corners, five are taken in second gear at around 100km/h.
Unlike Monaco, where the cars reach abnormally slow speeds in the hairpins, the minimum speed at the Hungaroring is approximately 90km/h. This means the engine spends the majority of its time in a relatively narrow operating window between 100km/h and 250km/h, and the closely-spaced gear ratios we use are selected to ensure optimum performance in this range.
As always on a circuit featuring a large number of slow corners, good torque is important to help launch the cars out of the turns.