Hungarian Grand Prix Preview: Hungaroring
The P Zero White medium tires and P Zero Yellow soft tires will be in action for the Hungarian Grand Prix: an event steeped in history as it was the first race ever to be held behind the former Iron Curtain, on a distinctive circuit just outside Budapest that was described by one former world champion as like “a supersized go-kart track.”
This gives a clear impression of the track characteristics: it is tight and twisty with one corner leading straight into the next one – and its compact nature makes it very popular with spectators, who are able to see most of the circuit from any one vantage point.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “We go from Silverstone – one of the fastest and most flowing circuits on the F1 calendar – to the Hungaroring, which is among the slower circuits with a seemingly non-stop series of technical corners. It’s a real challenge for the driver, car, and tires as they are always working hard: apart from the pit straight, there is no real point on the circuit where there is any respite. One of the biggest challenges is the weather: it can be extremely hot in Budapest in July, and obviously this has a significant effect on thermal degradation. In order to find the right balance between performance and durability, we’ve selected the medium and soft tires, which is the same nomination as last year. This selection is soft enough to provide the mechanical grip needed to negotiate all the corners, yet hard enough to withstand the punishing weather conditions and track layout of the Hungaroring. This is not always the easiest circuit to overtake on, so tire strategy can make a real difference.”
The biggest challenges for the tires: There is only one significant straight on the Hungaroring, which means that the tires do not get much opportunity to cool down. As a result, the medium tire in particular (a low working range compound) will be constantly working at the upper end of its working range if it is hot. However, rain has been seen at the Hungaroring in the past too: notably last year.
As well as being tough on tires, the Hungaroring is very physically demanding on the drivers. They have often compared it to Singapore (renowned as the most physically demanding track of the year) due to the high number of corners, significant ambient temperatures, and comparatively little airflow though the car.
The Hungaroring is a circuit that is quite well balanced in terms of traction, braking and lateral energy demands. All the forces acting on the car are roughly equal in their extent, meaning that a neutral set-up is needed. The teams tend to run maximum downforce to generate the most aerodynamic grip.
Expected performance gap between the two compounds: 1.2 – 1.5 seconds per lap.
Last year’s strategy and how the race was won: Daniel Ricciardo won the 70-lap race for Red Bull, using three pit stops and a combative strategy to gain an advantage. Wet conditions meant that the drivers started on the intermediate tire, which in turn signified that they were under no obligation to run both compounds. After completing his opening stint on the intermediate, Ricciardo ran the rest of the race on the soft tire, with strategies also affected by two safety car periods. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton used tire strategy to help him finish a remarkable third after starting from the pitlane.