The Hungarian Grand Prix from a tire point of view

July 29, 2011

The track has been lightly modified from last year, with the gravel traps on turns three, eight and nine replaced by run-off asphalt, in the interests of safety.

The Hungaroring remains an extremely demanding grand prix that has only been won twice by a non World Champion: Mark Webber last year and Thierry Boutsen back in 1990. There has only ever been one wet race before in Hungary, in 2006, but that could well change this weekend. We take a look at some of the most demanding corners of the Hungaroring, from a tire’s perspective.

A lap of the Hungaroring is 4381 meters long with slippery and dusty asphalt, usually characterised by high temperatures that can exceed 50 degrees in the cockpit. Pirelli has brought the P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red super soft to Hungary, in order to combat the lack of grip from a particularly slippery surface. One of the most challenging corners is turn two. This is taken in second gear at just over 100kph. The circuit drops off towards the outside and so accentuates the understeer that gets increasingly worse towards the end of the corner. The front-right wheel has to do the most work to keep the whole of the car properly set up and in line throughout the entire corner, in spite of the bumps.

In the mid-part of the lap, there is a sequence of corners that are taken one after another at high speed, including the chicane at turns six and seven. The drivers use the kerbing as part of the racing line. The resulting impact generates a force on the stressed tyre of more than 800 kilograms, causing significant vibrations that are partially absorbed by the tire: an integral part of any Formula One car’s suspension.

The final part of the circuit is extremely demanding. There is a sharp turn to the left (turn 13), which is the penultimate corner, where the low speed and limited downforce means that the tires have to generate all the mechanical grip. It’s down to the tire compound to work as hard as possible in order to first pull the car through the corner and then guarantee good traction out of it, allowing the driver to use all the power from the engine.

Lucas di Grassi: “The Hungaroring is a very technical track that will be well-suited to the super soft and soft tires, and the key part is the second sector of the lap, which relies heavily on having proper downforce and a good rhythm. You have five or six corners in sequence, and getting every single one of them right is the key to a quick lap, so you need precision from the tires. There’s only one real overtaking point, which is on the main straight, as the Hungaroring is the second most difficult place of the year to overtake after Monaco, but this time it might be different as Pirelli has done a really good job when it comes to making tires that encourage overtaking. The track tends to evolve with more rubber being laid down over the weekend, but if it rains that obviously minimises the effect. Just like Monaco, you can see random results here sometimes: especially in wet weather…”

In a sport such as Formula One, which is characterised by on-going development and frequent regulation changes, Pirelli is called upon to come up with cutting-edge technology that can adapt itself best to new demands and innovations.

Recently, the way that the exhausts exit the car has focused the attention of engineers and technical scrutineers. There are various different ways that the exhausts can provide an aerodynamic advantage, but at the same time they also affect the rear tires by suddenly subjecting them to a huge amount of localized heat.

Using forward-blowing exhausts, which exit in front of the sidepods, is the most efficient solution. The 1000-degree exhaust gases run along the whole length of the car to help improve the downforce, but when these gases reach the rear tires, they can cause a heat spike of up to 150 degrees on the shoulders and sidewalls of the tire.

Despite this huge yet variable thermal load, the working characteristics and reliability of the complete tire structure and its components is not affected. This illustrates Pirelli’s highest possible standards of safety, performance and durability – even under the most extreme usage conditions.