Romain Grosjean: After racing at the ultrafast and flowing Silverstone Circuit for the British Grand Prix, the FIA Formula One World Championship heads to the slowest permanent circuit in Formula One – the Hungaroring for the July 24 Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest.
The practice and qualifying sessions leading into Silverstone went very smoothly for Haas F1 Team, giving everyone confidence of a good performance in the race. But between the downpour just before the beginning of the race affecting strategy and your retirement due to a broken transmission, the race was a letdown. How do you shake off that kind of disappointment and move on to the next race?
“Well, qualifying was good. Before we had to retire, the pace wasn’t great in the race. I was struggling on the intermediate tire. That’s something we need to work on. We lost a lot of ground at the beginning of the race. On slicks, I’m sure things would have been better. Ultimately, that’s racing. It’s all part of the game. We’ve got two more races before the summer break, so we’ve got a chance to come back and do more in the next one.”
We go from Silverstone – one of the fastest and most flowing circuits in Formula One – to the Hungaroring, which is one of the slowest circuits and also very technical. Does it take a few laps to forget about what you felt in the car at Silverstone, or are you able to just jump into the car and immediately get up to speed, despite the Hungaroring’s drastically different layout?
“You do get back in the car and find the pace straight away. I’ve been competing in Formula One for a few seasons and I know all the circuits and all the characteristics of each layout. It’s not a big deal. I jump in the car and find my rhythm. From there, you can start a good weekend.”
In four career Formula One starts at the Hungaroring you’ve finished in the top-10 three times, with a best finish of third in your first race there in 2012. What makes it such a good track for you?
“It’s difficult to explain. I’ve always had a good feeling in Hungary. I’ve always liked the track. They’ve resurfaced it this year, so we’ll see how it goes. It used to be very bumpy. It’s a low-speed circuit. How the car handles is important. I’ve been lucky to have had cars that have performed well there over the years.”
You’re constantly turning the wheel at the Hungaroring, and with the slow speeds, very little air flows into the car. Combined with the normally high temperatures experienced in Budapest, how physically demanding is the Hungarian Grand Prix?
“It can get very hot in Budapest. It’s not an easy race, but on the other hand, there’s not many high-speed corners on the track, so it’s more about keeping your focus and concentration all through the race. Regardless, we’re always keeping fit to prepare ourselves.”
How difficult is it to overtake at the Hungaroring and where are the overtaking opportunities?
“It’s very difficult to overtake at the Hungaroring. To be fair, I made one of the best overtakes of my life there in 2013, outside of turn four, on Felipe Massa. I got a drive-through penalty for that one for having four wheels off the track. That didn’t matter to me as it was one of my most beautiful overtaking moves ever.”
A lot of grip, a lot of braking and a lot of high-energy demands all conspire against tires at the Hungaroring. How do you manage the tires and get the most out of them?
“It’s going to be our number one priority to get the tire to work for us and analyze the degradation, which can be high on some compounds. If we get the grip, we’ll get the lap time. Then we can do more pit stops and have more fun.”
What is your favorite part of the Hungaroring?
“I like sector two, the flowing section of the track, which is quite nice.”
Describe a lap around the Hungaroring.
“Straight line to start before big braking into the first hairpin. Turn two is a very tricky corner – a long left-hand side corner going downhill. It’s important to stay on the left from the exit for the throttle application to turn three. You want to be flat, and then high-speed turn four. Turn five is very bumpy – a long right-hand side corner, then you get to the chicane. After that there are some flowing corners which are really cool. Then you get to the last three corners. You need to brake big into the 90-degree, right-hand side turn, then the last two turns are the key. You finish with a long left corner, and then a very long right turn, where you really want to get going to get the lap done.”