F1 heads to Hungary

Teams are now warming up in Budapest.
by Patrick Everett Tadeo | Jul 24, 2009

Hungaroring, the regular venue of the Hungarian Grand Prix since it became part of the Formula 1 calendar in 1986, has been described as "Monaco without the walls."

It initially measured 4.014 kilometers but, in an effort to make the cars run a much faster race, the track was shortened in 1989 to 3.975 kilometers. In 2003, its start-finish straight was stretched to its current measurement of 4.381 kilometers--making it the longest Hungaroring in its 24 years of existence.

The track is located in a valley and almost 80 percent of it is visible from any point in the surrounding area. But that's practically the only thing that makes the Hungaroring the perfect venue for spectators. It is notoriously twisty so overtaking maneuvers are few and far between. Since the cars require a low speed, high downforce set-up, the race often turns into a procession of sorts-boring and sometimes even frustrating both drivers and spectators.

On the other hand, Hungaroring has generous run-off areas where the drivers can push their cars harder and still be safe if they go off the track, unlike in Monaco where a minor mistake could lead a driver to an intimate encounter with the crash barriers.

Brawn GP has a significant aero upgrade for this weekend's race which will bring the team "performance gains in efficiency, downforce and aero balance," principal Ross Brawn said. This is good news for Jenson Button after a lackluster performance in the last two races. This weekend's temperature is expected to be hot, the kind of weather where Brawn GP has excelled this season. With the Hungaroring being the site of his first GP win, Button should be waxing nostalgic if he wins on Sunday.

Red Bull Racing team is also coming up with an upgrade for Sunday, and it's no secret that both Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber are looking forward to closing in Button' lead in the drivers' championship. With just 1.5 points separating Webber and Vettel, the team is pinning its hopes on both drivers equally until one gains a significant advantage over the other.

Ferrari will be treating this Sunday's race as its last hurrah. With the team mired at fourth place and down by 80 points against Brawn GP's 112, it's a given that the Italian outfit would be concentrating on next year's contender if it fails to impress in Hungary. The same goes for the McLaren team, which is even deeper down in the points standing than Ferrari. But with both teams using their kinetic energy recovery system this weekend, they may just jump off the line once the race starts.

The Hungarian GP will see the youngest ever F1 debutante in Jaime Alguersuari who, at 19 years and 125 days old on Sunday, will break the record held by Mike Thackwell since 1980. Alguersuari will be taking over Sebastien Bourdais' seat in Toro Rosso with very little time to get used to driving an F1 car due to the current limit on on-season tests. While Bourdais may have underperformed, in the past one and a half season, he is at least familiar with the Toro Rosso car. If Alguersuari makes a mess of things on his first F1 race, it wouldn't be surprising if Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost has second thoughts about giving Bourdais the boot.

As always, this weekend's race will be a battle that boils down to who has the best strategy. For Alguersuari, all he'd probably want is to finish the race cleanly.

Click "next" to see what select drivers have to say prior to this weekend's race.

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Drivers speak

Jaime Alguersari

"I am aware that I'm facing a very tough challenge, because coming into Formula 1 is never easy, coming into Formula 1 in the middle of a season is even harder and doing so without any testing is really difficult. But already I feel that I am getting great support from the team, who have quite a reputation for looking after rookie drivers."
- Jaime Alguersuari, youngest driver to compete in Formula 1


"Hungary is always one of my favorite races and even more so this year as it should finally be a return to some real summer temperatures! The circuit holds some very special memories for me as the venue of my first Formula One win three years ago and it's fantastic to be going back there with the chance to compete for the win again. The Hungaroring is quite a challenging circuit as it is so twisty and there's no real respite round the lap but it is a lot of fun to drive. The lap has a good rhythm and mix of slow-speed and high-speed turns. The circuit generates an incredible amount of grip as the weekend gets underway which can provide a real challenge in finding the right set-up. I've been at home in Monaco for the past week concentrating on my training but I know that the guys at the factory and at Mercedes-Benz have been working really hard on our latest upgrade package and I just can't wait to get back in the car."
- Jenson Button, point-leader in the drivers' championship


"Obviously, I won in Hungary in 2008 so it will be nice to come back to Budapest again. This race is likely to be won or lost in qualifying: you've got to be at the front and run an aggressive first stint if you are to succeed in the race. The track is also quite hard on tyres so you need to find a balance that will allow you to look after your rubber until the finish - the softer rubber, in particular, tends to suffer at the end of the race so you have to be careful. I'm really looking to running the team's new upgrade package this weekend. I had a strong weekend at the Nurburgring and I didn't let a single car past me in the race--with the improved car I'm really hopeful of getting another strong result at the Hungaroring."
- Heikki Kovalainen, Hungarian GP winner in 2008

Click "next" to watch an overview of the Hungaroring track.

Video from YouTube.

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