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2018 F1

2018 Hungarian Grand Prix: Hungaroring preview

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Coming to the final race of the double header, after the German GP, the Hungarian GP weekend, is the final race, before the circus breaks for its much-awaited summer recess. The 12th race of the season this year, unfortunately will be followed by a Pirelli tyre test on Tuesday and Wednesday. Between the two races, a news that shook the F1 world was the passing away of Ferrari boss, Sergio Marchionne. A lot of the weekend for Ferrari will be particularly clouded with mourning his loss, and the ramifications of it in post his absence.

The clock wise circuit spans over a length of 4.318km, and unlike Hockenheim it has unique characteristics, where it is less dominant, and the air and track temperatures can be soaring high. it can give false hope to power dominant teams and be a good opportunity for teams further down the order. This circuit has very few opportunities for overtaking and features one long straight from Turn 14 to Turn which is the start-finish straight and has one DRS zone, and this year the FIA has added in a second consecutive DRS zone on the short straight between Turn 1 and Turn 2, which they have termed as the 1A zone. There have been instances in the past where cars overtake on the inside, but it happens due to the superfluous characteristic of the corners, where one corner flows into another.

The straights are only a tiny part of the circuit and the rest of the layout comprises of relentless tight and tricky corners, which flow continuously into each other. Over a course of 70 laps, the tight corners can mean high downforce levels at high speeds. Engineers and mechanics use a cliche terming it as ‘Monaco without the walls’. However, at the principality on the riviera, the track is high downforce but has the lowest speeds of the year.

The setup around this circuit can be key, when it comes to generating mechanical and aerodynamic grip,and the the right high-speed balance. Managing the high-speed balance of the car refers to how the car behaves at high speeds under extreme limits of cornering. If either the front or rear end of the car of the give up grip before each other, it can cause understeer or oversteer characteristics.

If the front end gives up before the rear, the car slides across the race track and if the rear gives up before the front, it can swing the back of the car. Conditions like these often occur around the Hungaroring and have to be instantly corrected with the aggressive steering to bring the car back on track.

The perfect balance agh high-speed is when the drivers push the absolute limits of traction through the corners, and all four wheels generate grip simultaneously, executing a smooth four wheel drift around the corners, and allowing the car to change direction quickly. A driver often needs to have the confidence in his car of being able to change direction quickly from one sequence of corners to another, and the perfect balance and grip help executing that perfectly.

Since it is a high downforce circuit with some tight and twisty sections, it is maximum downforce levels for all and cars can feature some big rear wings. Teams will bring different and unique aerodynamic updates to this circuit, to suit the high downforce configuration. McLaren is suppose to be running some tests across both their cars, according to the both Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso.

Braking levels are medium and not too strenuous, and not too stressful. A minor issue teams will look into is the brake temperatures, since the ambient temperature or air temperatures at this circuit can be very high.

The overall challenge is temperatures per se, where the air temperatures can be well into late 30 degrees which translates into the track temperatures being worse, maybe in the late 40s or sometimes in the 50s. From the driver perspective it can be extremely hot, to be confined in a cockpit in the fireproof racing gear in these temperatures. A bit of winds on the straight can be a relief, but overall it can be exhausting over 70 laps of the race, and it is critical to be hydrated at all times.

Teams often modify the bodywork of the car by cutting open a few areas around the engine cover, or opening up the air intakes around brake ducts, electronic controls, radiators and side pods to keep those systems cooled from time to time and keep them working. It is extremely critical to keep the areas around the power unit cooled in these extreme temperatures or it can lead to engine overheating.

An area temperature affects the most is the tyres, whether its cold temperatures or warm. As far is this circuit is concerned, the allocated tyre compounds by Pirelli are the same as Hockenheim which is the Ultrasoft (purple), Soft (Yellow) and the Mediums (White. However the tyres will behave differently here, since this circuit is harsher on thermal degradation. With the track resurfaced with the new dark asphalt, the tarmac is almost black, which makes it absorb more heat in comparison to the usual grey asphalt. Although the asphalt if smooth, tyre ware is less, but increasing track temperatures can damage the surface of the tyres.

If the track temperatures are in the late 40 or 50 degrees bracket, it can have a huge impact on how the car and tyre performance. With track positioning being prime priority at this circuit, it is critical to nurse the tyres and extract maximum performance without overheating them. In Q3 when the front runners will push the cars to the limit on the ultrasoft compound, it is important to know how much performance to put through the first half of the lap with the straights and the second half of the lap which has the twisty sections. If the tyres are pushed to the maximum on the first half of the lap, it is easy to lose performance rapidly towards the end of the lap, costing a lot of time in qualifying session. Therefore, balancing tyre management and maintaining balance will play an important part.

In general, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing team should look good here. Last year it was Sebastian Vettel who claimed the win here and remains a two-time winner at this circuit, while his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen has won once here and is usually a good podium contender at this circuit. Ideally it should be Red Bull Racing who will be in a close fight for pole position, since their chassis has both mechanical and aerodynamical grip, which make them look strong here, since power dominance is minimal. Lewis Hamilton is the most successful driver around this circuit with a total of five wins, but tyre management could be an issue for both the Silver Arrow cars. Michael Schumacher’s quickest lap around the Hungaroring of 1 minute 19.071 seconds remains the track record, but this year that record is likely to be broken.

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