Hungary GP: Preview - Ferrari


This Sunday sees the 34th edition of the Hungarian Grand Prix, traditionally the last race before the Formula 1 mandated summer shutdown, which comes as a welcome break to all the teams. It has only ever been held at one venue, the Hungaroring, on the outskirts of Budapest, although the track has undergone several modifications, albeit minor ones. Scuderia Ferrari has won here seven times.

The race first appeared on the calendar in 1986, when the fact that Formula 1 was going behind the iron curtain caused quite a stir, especially as the fallout from the boycotting of the 1980 and '84 Olympics in Moscow and Los Angeles respectively was still fresh in the memory. But the decision proved to be the right one and, to this day, it still draws one of the biggest crowds, even though the track is narrow, short, slow, usually dusty and does not exactly feature much overtaking. Nevertheless, it has produced some dramatic moments over the years.

One of those moments came courtesy of Nigel Mansell and Scuderia Ferrari. The Englishman had a terrible time of it in qualifying and could do no better than twelfth on the grid. In the race, Nigel got away well and immediately made up four places. Leading the field was Riccardo Patrese with Ayrton Senna right behind. Mansell continued to carve his way through the field, occasionally lapping a second quicker than anyone else. When Patrese went out, the race was fought out between Senna and Mansell, but the idea that the Ferrari man could pull off a passing move seemed far fetched. But he did it with a truly masterful move. He and Senna came up behind the backmarker Stefan Johansson in the Onyx and, when the Brazilian hesitated for the briefest of moments, Nigel seized the day and the opportunity, going on to win by 25 seconds. It had been an incredible drive.

The next time a Ferrari triumphed in Hungary was in 1998, courtesy of Michael Schumacher. And once again, the German produced a master-class. Michael was quicker than the two McLarens ahead of him and so, in conjunction with Ross Brawn, the team's technical director, the decision was taken to switch from a two stop strategy to a three stopper. For this to work, it would require Schumacher to run at qualifying pace. Michael did just that, thus getting the better of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard. In 2001, winning in Hungary was extra special for the ace from Kerpen and for Ferrari, as the victory, ahead of team-mate Rubens Barrichello, saw him take the world title with four races still remaining. The following year, the same pairing crossed the line together with the Brazilian just edging it for the win. Schumacher won again in 2004, equalling Hakkinen's record of nine fastest race laps in a season and Alberto Ascari's of seven consecutive wins.

The Hungararoring has also been the scene of a very frightening moment for Scuderia Ferrari. In qualifying in 2009, Felipe Massa was hit on the helmet by a damper that came loose on Barrichello's Brawn GP car. The Brazilian lost consciousness and crashed into the barrier. He was seriously injured and spent some time in a Budapest hospital and then sat out the rest of the year, returning for the start of the 2010 season.

The last two wins at the Magyar circuit for Scuderia Ferrari are down to Sebastian Vettel. In 2015, the German and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen started from the second row, but they both got the jump on the two Mercedes ahead of them, in a crazy race, which saw several appearances from the Safety Car and plenty of drama. Vettel won, followed home by the Red Bull duo of Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo. In 2017, it was a Ferrari one-two, as Sebastian won, despite problems with his steering and he was followed home by Kimi Raikkonen.

Sebastian Vettel: "Hungaroring is a pretty physical track in a current Formula 1 car, because there aren`t any long straights and it's a very stop-start circuit, which means you are always working away at the wheel. And given the time of year, it's usually boiling hot, which definitely doesn't help.

"Also if it is dry, the circuit gets very dusty, particularly at the start of the weekend and it's not a given that it will improve over the weekend, as wind and off track excursions brings back the sand that the cars running clear off the track. That means it will punish you hard if you get offline, or if you make a mistake, because you lose time and other drivers will be waiting to take advantage.

"The key corners are 1 and 14. Turn 1 you can think about a passing move but it's a bit risky, as the straight before is too short really. There`s also potential, if you`ve had a good run on the exit of 14, but there are no guarantees."

Charles Leclerc: "The Hungaroring is definitely one of the most technical circuits of the season and there are aspects of it which remind me of a karting track. The corners follow on from each other in quick succession and as a driver, you don't even have much time to think. There is no part of it where you can catch your breath, because it is so frenetic.

"I personally like it, because it's never easy to be competitive here. It is especially difficult to put together the perfect qualifying lap, because you have to push hard, while remembering to look after your tyres so that they last through the final sector."

Mattia Binotto Team Principal: "Budapest is a track where cooling is usually an important factor and where cars run in maximum downforce configuration. The tyres come under a lot of stress, because of the type of corners and that even applies over a single lap in qualifying.

"It will be important to see if this race provides further confirmation that our car has improved on various types of track. We will be able to count on the various elements we introduced recently, as well as some aerodynamic updates.

"Of course, we are focusing on resolving our recent reliability problems to ensure they do not occur again."

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Published: 30/07/2019
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