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Hungaroring - View from Sky

The season passes the half-way point in Hungary this weekend at the circuit near Budapest. It rarely rains here during the race, but this weekend there will be the heavy cloud of the recent passing of Jules Bianchi hanging over proceedings. Expect many tributes to the superbly talented Frenchman over the course of the event.

Lewis Hamilton leads Nico Rosberg by 17 points, with Sebastian Vettel a further 42 points behind. The last race at Silverstone was a resurgence for exciting races in Formula One, the Hungaroring has to try to keep that momentum going to keep spirits high.


Last year saw the second win of the season for Daniel Ricciardo in a very exciting finish to the race as he overtook Hamilton and Alonso to take the victory only two laps from the end. Lewis had started from the pitlane (after a qualifying engine fire) and on cold tyres spun off on the first lap all by himself, but still managed to beat his team-mate Rosberg to the podium. Halfway through the race he was ordered to concede track position to Rosberg (who had just pitted and emerged behind the Briton) to allow their different strategies to play out. Hamilton refused saying “I’m not slowing down for Nico. If he gets close enough to overtake, he can overtake me.” This may well have set the tone for what was to come at Spa…


1936 hungarian grand prixThe first ever Grand Prix event in Hungary was held in 1936 infront of a massive crowd (some figures report that 200,000 people attended) in a park in Budapest and was won by Tazio Nuvolari in his Alfa Romeo. He made up three positions and beat the pole sitting Auto Union car of Bernd Rosemeyer to the flag. The unrest and world war started shortly afterwards and meant that top flight racing did not return to Hungary for many years.

1936 hungarian grand prix 2 wiki#

The Hungaroring has hosted every single official Formula One championship race in Hungary since returning to the country in 1986, when Bernie Ecclestone’s campaign to hold a race behind the Iron Curtain came to fruition. Initially the same circuit around the Nepliget park in Budapest that held the 1936 race was touted as host, but the Hungarian government wisely decided to build a brand new dedicated facility to host the county’s biggest sporting event instead.

The race is regarded as a home event for many of the surrounding countries that don’t have their own race, especially by the Finnish fans who flock in their droves to see Kimi Raikkonen, so expect to see many flags flying for the Iceman along with some Germans who saw their event cancelled this year.


The Hungaroring circuit is a tight twisty circuit set in the potato fields around the capital Budapest that brings out mixed reactions from the drivers and pundits. Originally the first and last corners were a mirror image of each other, but turn one was tightened to encourage overtaking. The two DRS zones are located on the start-finish straight, followed immediately by the second out of turn one on the short drag to turn two. These are the two main overtaking spots on the track on an otherwise tricky circuit to pass. Some audacious moves have been tried around the very quick left hander at turn four, with varying degrees of success.

Image Credit: Lotus F1 Media

Image Credit: Lotus F1 Media

The track surface is usually dusty and low grip as it is not used as many times as others during the season. Combine this with the sharp corners and short straights, it is the second slowest on the calendar behind Monaco. Drivers will spend 56% of their time at full throttle to blast between the corners and as a result fuel load has a bigger effect here than average, with 10kg of fuel costing about 0.37 seconds per lap (season average 0.34s)

The race is held at the height of the European summer and most races are run at high temperatures in the dry. In fact the first wet race was held in 2006, twenty years after the inaugural event. Jenson Button capitalised on the tricky conditions to take his first race victory.



“A winding circuit, it is characterised by the high aerodynamic load and most of it is quite driven, but with a rather demanding braking section right after the main straight stretch. This track can be numbered among the most demanding for braking systems, even if friction material temperature management on this track is in any case the key to managing the race and ensuring consistent performance and wear kept under control.”

brembo turn 1

Turn One is considered to be the most demanding on brakes as it proceeds the fastest straight on the track. The rest of the corners, though tight, are in quick succession and do not generate high loads. That being said, they come so soon after eachother that the brakes do not have time to cool down between corners.


The P Zero White medium tyres and P Zero Yellow soft tyres 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.

Pirelli P Zero Medium (White) © Pirelli

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 tyres 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 tyres, 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 tyre strategy can make a real difference.”

The biggest challenges for the tyres: There is only one significant straight on the Hungaroring, which means that the tyres do not get much opportunity to cool down. As a result, the medium tyre 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.

©Pirelli P Zero Soft

As well as being tough on tyres, 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 setup is needed. The teams tend to run maximum downforce to generate the most aerodynamic grip.

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 tyre, 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 tyre, with strategies also affected by two safety car periods. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton used tyre strategy to help him finish a remarkable third after starting from the pitlane.

Expected performance gap between the two compounds: 1.2 – 1.5 seconds per lap.


1989 – Nigel Mansell came from 12th on the grid to take victory, due to good strategy and good driving, with the winning overtake occurring as Ayrton Senna and Mansell attempted to lap Stefan Johansson. Senna’s subsequent lift off the throttle in turn three allowed the Brit to take his fifteenth career victory.

boutsen hungary

1990 – The flaws of the circuit are exposed as Thierry Boutsen took advantage of the inability of Senna to overtake, completing an immaculate drive in order to claim victory ahead of faster cars behind. This would be his third and last career victory.

hill 1997 hungary

1997 – Damon Hill had a barren year at Arrows in 1997, after dominating the field in the Williams the previous year. His break came at Hungary, where in a completely inferior car that struggled to qualify for most races he sensationally took third on the grid. He then caught and passed Jacques Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher early on in the race. He was cruising for the victory when his car once again failed him and was passed on the final lap by Villeneuve.

1998 – Mika Hakkinen started from pole position and led alongside his teammate David Coulthard, but Michael Schumacher ended up taking victory due to a tactical change from Ross Brawn, seeing the German driver use a three stop strategy to his advantage, and keeping him in the championship hunt.

button hungary 2006 honda-techcom

2006 – The first ever wet Hungarian Grand Prix saw Raikkonen lead from pole, but changing conditions and good overtaking from Jenson Button – with the help of not pitting under a safety car to reach second place, and the leader Alonso crashing out – saw the British driver win a Formula One race for the first time, while Pedro de la Rosa took his only podium finish in second, and Nick Heidfeld completed the podium with BMW Sauber’s first podium finish. Who could forget Jensons look of sheer joy?!


On the back of a very successful weekend for Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone, with the triple of pole position, fastest lap and the race victory, he will be looking to extend his lead at the head of the championship. History is on his side, as he has won four times at Hungary, the most of any active driver and tied with Michael Schumacher.

The tight and twisty nature of the track means that those cars with good aerodynamic packages should be able to shine. Expect Red Bull and Toro Rosso to provide more of a headache to the Williams team this weekend, perhaps with an outside chance of the podium if they play their cards right.

Ferrari have a good package this year and they came so close to winning this race with Fernando in a lacklustre 2014 season, so I think they have the tools to challenge the Mercedes at the front. Kimi Raikkonen is having a hard time at the moment and with talk of Bianchi having been lined up to replace him before his tragic accident, all eyes will be on his form. He won here back in 2005 and despite the years of Red Bull dominance, Sebastian Vettel has never triumphed in Hungary.


Stoffel Vandoorne’s run of GP2 feature race victory streak was brought to an end by Sergei Sirotkin, who you may remember was one of the drivers who supposedly had bought a drive for Sauber this year. He was outdragged at the start but retook the lead after a daring move at a safety car restart. He showed class and pace beyond his experience and took a well-deserved victory. Jordan King was desperately trying to hold onto fifth position under intense pressure when at the last corner he was spun around by Arthur Pic. King stalled and dropped from fifth to twenty second place, despite being in sight of the line.

Rio Haryanto took the sprint race in a lights to flag victory. There was a fantastic battle between Yelloly and Sirotkin through Woodcote and Brooklands. Vandoorne had a frustrating day and finished out of the points for the first time in 2015, conceding ground in the championship chase. It’s not all gloom for the Belgian, At the half way point of the season he still leads by 65 points over Alexander Rossi.

The Saturday race in the GP3 series was a thriller, with Emil Bernstorff and Marvin Kirchhofer fighting throughout, with a final tussle on the penultimate lap. Marvin was able to hold off his attacker despite being side by side into Woodcote and down the old pit straight for an emotional win. Kevin Ceccon won the race on Sunday morning, his first major victory since his 2011 title winning season in Auto GP.

The Porsche Mobil1 Supercup was once again dominated by Philip Eng, who took pole position and won the race in his Team Project 1 car. The guest cars from the Carerra Cup GB provided a lot of action, with Dan Cammish being rammed by Josh Webster, then taking to the run off to overtake Tom Sharp.


Year Driver Constructor
2014 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault
2013 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2012 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
2011 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
2010 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
2009 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
2008 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes
2007 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
2006 Jenson Button Honda
2005 Kimi Räikkönen McLaren-Mercedes
2004 Michael Schumacher Ferrari


  1. If somehow incredibly hot temperatures throw a curveball without forcing a drive-like-your-grandmother-to-save-tyres kind of race, I’d take it. That or dry-wet-dry conditions. things hae been quite dull for a while.

    I actually like Hungaroring. It arrived at a time in which fast circuits were well represented in the calendar and suddenly there was a second Monaco, but with less walls around. Nearly every race there was great or at least not straightforward in the beginning and delivered masterclasses in both overtaking and defensive driving:

    – Senna vs Piquet in 86;
    – Senna vs Prost in 88;
    – Mansell carving through in 89;
    – Boutsen holding everyone while Senna charged in 90;
    – Senna holding both faster Williams in 91;
    – Mansell WDC 1992;
    – Hill’s first win in 1993.

    It was only after refueling and the advance of aerodynamics/turbulence that it became an overtaking deadzone.

    So all in all I like it and I can name at least half a dozen circuits I’d rather never see before anyone even mentions dropping Hungaroring.

  2. Here’s an onboard preview from F12015, a feature that will make it’s full debut from Spa.

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