When Formula One came to Hungary in 1986, it was considered a major coup as it became the first race to be held behind the Iron Curtain. The twisty Hungaroring circuit has been a fixture on the calendar ever since and drew an estimated crowd of 200,000 to the first event, won by Nelson Piquet in a Williams-Honda after an epic battle with Lotus-Renault driver Ayrton Senna.
Typically held in blazing sunshine – 2011 and 2006 being the only occasions since the race began that wet weather has been a factor – racing at the Hungaroring has evolved from a long, slow, processional affair to a quick, challenging circuit with high mid-corner speed thanks to the advancement in aerodynamics.
There have been times when racing here has been a touch tawdry owing to the difficulty of overtaking, but mid-race strategy adaptation can give a chance of victory where seemingly none existed – witness Michael Schumacher’s epic win in 1998, switching from two to three stops and reeling off 20 consecutive qualifying laps to edge ahead of McLaren’s David Coulthard into the final stint.
Tyre wear: 8/10
Will be at the top end of the scale owing to its high-load layout, low grip track surface and temperatures predicted to be anywhere between 27C to 38C. Most will plan to do three stops, although as has become the norm this season, expect the Sauber duo to attempt only two.
High settings all round, although as mentioned elsewhere the track maintains some quicker areas, notably the entry to Turn Four which is where Felipe Massa ended his 2009 season after being struck by a loose spring from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn. Turns Seven to Ten are also fast and flowing, exposing any tyres which are past their best.
Average speed: 3/10
Described as ‘a big go-kart track’, the Hungaroring is a quick circuit but still ranks towards the slower end on the Formula One scale. Six of the circuit’s 14 turns are taken in third gear or less, with only two taken flat-out.
Track difficulty: 7/10
Comparisons to Monaco are valid owing to the need to get into a rhythm with one corner flowing into another, though there is more run-off area to make use of should it be needed. Pirelli are bringing the red Super Soft and yellow Soft tyres to this race, which will allow for some creativity on the approach to the race.
This was the track which used to make racing fans groan, for its layout made – and to extent still makes – overtaking very challenging. Turns One and Two are the only real opportunities, while DRS on the main straight into the first corner will help create opportunities for those drivers within a second of the man in front.
This rating rather depends which sort of Hungarian Grand Prix you get – processional affairs can be a hard watch, while the fans who appreciate a strategic battle are often well-catered for here. Expect a good turnout for the Finnish drivers here especially in support of the returning Iceman, Kimi Raikkonen.
A combination of high speed corners, long full power distances and slower corners demanding good traction mean that variations in setup can produce very similar laptimes. Medium-range stresses on the engine, gearbox and brakes mean that drivers can go aggressive with the setup in order to maximise their chances of overtaking during the race. The track surface is generally quite smooth although some bumps exist in Turns 2, 6 and 17 and require slightly softer settings in order to minimise their impact. This race also has the highest starting fuel load of the season, which will create a greater shift in car balance as fuel burns off during the race. Having not been used for F1 for two years, the track will see a significant amount of evolution throughout, with laptimes at the business end of qualifying likely to be in the region of five to six seconds faster than the first laps in Friday free practice.
Jenson Button won his 200th Grand Prix in style with a fine performance, heading runaway championship leader Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso on the podium. Mixed weather conditions meant the track was wet but drying at the start of the race, with the field starting on intermediate tyres. Vettel led from Lewis Hamilton into the first corner, with Button trying to find a way past the sister McLaren. Vettel and Hamilton circulated in close proximity for the next five laps until a mistake by the Red Bull driver allowed Hamilton through into the lead. Button pitted for slick tyres on lap 11 and jumped Vettel, but came under pressure from the German before pulling away and closing on Hamilton. A short rain shower caused Hamilton to spin, Button closed and the two McLarens swapped places on the track several times before Hamilton elected to stop for intermediate tyres, gambling that the rain would intensify. It failed to increase significantly and Lewis was forced to stop again to put slick tyres back on, and then take a drive through penalty after his earlier spin caused Paul di Resta to drive off the circuit to avoid the recovering McLaren. Button kept it all together to win his second race of the season, having earlier taken victory in the rain-hit Canadian Grand Prix.
Venue: Hungaroring, Budapest
Lap record: 1m 16.207s – Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (2002)
2011 Winner: Jenson Button, McLaren
* only races held as part of the Formula One World Championship are included
In-depth stats (courtesy of Mercedes)