PREVIEW: 2019 Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix – Hungaroring

by Sudha Sundararaj

Round twelve of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship will take place this weekend at the Hungaroring, home of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The thirty-fourth edition of this Grand Prix will take place at the seldom-used twisty and dusty circuit outside the town of Mogyoród, near Budapest. This race is followed by the summer break for the season. This gives the drivers and teams a welcome period to cool off and hit the refresh button.

The Hungarian Grand Prix (‘Magyar Nagydíj in the local dialect) joined the Formula 1 calendar in 1986 as the first race to be held behind the then Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe. Nelson Piquet won the inaugural race.

This is the track closest to Finland – a country with a considerable motorsport tradition but no Grand Prix race. As a result, this race attracts a sizeable Finnish crowd every year. The two Finnish drivers on the grid, Kimi Räikkönen and Valtteri Bottas, will receive very vocal support from their countrymen, making it almost like a home race for them.

The first few races at the Hungaroring saw many gripping battles between the likes of Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet. Mansell’s win in 1989 from twelfth on the grid (on a circuit that offers few overtaking opportunities) ranks among the more dramatic races here. The circuit has witnessed the maiden Grand Prix wins of the future world champions’ Damon Hill (1993), Fernando Alonso (2003) and Jenson Button (2006).

What happened at the 2019 German Grand Prix?

Max Verstappen scored a sensational victory at the rain-hit 2019 German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring in Germany. The Dutchman clinched his second win of the season with a composed drive in a shambolic race.

Lewis Hamilton was on pole position with Verstappen joining him on the front row. Bottas and Pierre Gasly were on the second row. Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean were on the third row. Carlos Sainz, Sergio Pérez, Nico Hulkenberg, and Charles Leclerc started at the front of the grid.

Overnight rain and a steady drizzle at the start of the race had left a lot of standing water on the track. The drivers started the race on full wet tyres. After a number of formation laps behind the Safety Car on the rain-soaked track, the cars made a standing start from the grid.

Hamilton made a perfect start to lead Bottas into Turn 1. Verstappen got bogged down at the start and lost two positions. But he made a quick recovery to take third-place behind Bottas.

Leclerc had a good opening lap as he gained four places and was in fourth position by lap 6. The intermittent rain during the race saw the drivers switching between the intermediate and slick tyres.

Hamilton led the race for the first thirty laps before it all went wrong. A switch to the soft compound tyres just as the rain came down saw Hamilton lose control and glance the barriers at Turn 16 and break his front-wing.

The Briton was hit by a five-second penalty for entering the pits on the wrong side of the bollard and another spin later in the race saw him drop to last place. Hamilton recovered to finish in eleventh position.

Leclerc also fell victim to the slick run-off area at the penultimate corner to crash out of the race. Hulkenberg was running in a strong fourth position when his race also ended in disaster at this same corner.

Through all the pit stops during the safety car periods, Verstappen and the Red Bull Racing team made the right calls which put the Dutchman in the lead.

During the final 20 laps of the race, the track dried up and was suitable for the slick tyres. The drivers like Daniil Kvyat and Lance Stroll were on these tyres earlier than the others and benefited with strong finishes.

Verstappen clinched a win at this shambolic race with a measured drive. Vettel charged through the field in the final laps to take second position. Kvyat clinched an unlikely podium finish for the Toro Rosso team.

Stroll secured fourth position for his best finish of the season. Sainz finished in fifth position after surviving a spin at the penultimate corner early in the race. Alexander Albon finished in a creditable sixth position in the mixed conditions.

Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi finished in seventh and eighth positions respectively for Alfa Romeo Racing. But a post-race 30-second penalty for a clutch infringement demoted the two drivers outside the point scoring positions.

This promoted the two Haas F1 drivers Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen to seventh and eighth positions respectively. Hamilton finished in ninth position after the demotions. Robert Kubica scored the most unlikely point of his career as he completed the top 10 positions. Verstappen took the extra point for the fastest lap to add to his points tally.

Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

What happened at the 2018 Hungarian Grand Prix?

Hamilton clinched an impressive win at the 2018 Hungarian Grand Prix and extended his lead to 24 points at the top of the drivers’ championship.

Hamilton started from pole position. Teammate Bottas joined him on the first row. Räikkönen and Vettel were on the second row. Sainz and Gasly lined up on the third row. Verstappen, Brendon Hartley, Magnussen, and Grosjean lined up at the front of the grid. All the drivers had a free choice of tyre compounds as they qualified in wet conditions.

Hamilton and Bottas made a clean getaway and led into turn 1. Vettel overtook Räikkönen on the outside to go third behind the Mercedes drivers. Verstappen immediately overtook Gasly and Sainz and took fifth position.

Leclerc and Pérez collided and Leclerc was out of the race. Daniel Ricciardo started in twelfth position and his collision with Marcus Ericsson dropped him to sixteenth position.

On lap 6, Verstappen’s Renault engine lost power and the frustrated Dutchman vented his anger on team radio as he pulled off the track. In the meantime, Ricciardo with his trademark overtakes was picking off car after car and by lap 16, Ricciardo had made his way upto seventh position.

At the end of the first set of pitstops for the frontrunners the order was Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Räikkönen, Ricciardo, Gasly, Magnussen, Alonso, Vandoorne, and Sainz.

Hamilton extended his lead at the front as he was in free air and was unchallenged. Vettel was stuck behind Bottas lap after lap, unable to overtake the Finn even when he was in DRS range.

Finally, on lap 65 Vettel overtook Bottas, struggling now on worn tyres. The two drivers collided and Bottas suffered front-wing damage. Räikkönen also overtook him and the valiant Finn dropped to fourth place.

Soon Ricciardo was on his gearbox and Bottas had another collision with him. Ricciardo took fourth position and completed a great comeback drive. Bottas was penalized and given a 10-second time penalty and two penalty points on his license for the collision.

Hamilton’s scored a record sixth win at the 2018 Hungarian Grand Prix. Vettel and Räikkönen finished on the podium for Ferrari. Ricciardo with a fine comeback drive finished in fourth position and won the “Driver Of The Day” award. Bottas was put on a difficult one-stop strategy by Mercedes and he lost three places in the closing laps to finish in fifth position.

Gasly held on for a strong sixth position and a good haul of points for Toro Rosso. Haas F1 had a double-points finish, as Magnussen and Grosjean finished in seventh and tenth positions respectively.

Fernando Alonso on his thirty-seventh birthday essayed another gritty drive to finish in eighth position. Sainz who started in a strong fifth position eventually finished in ninth position.

The Circuit

The 4.381 kilometer Hungaroring circuit with 14 corners (slow and medium-speed corners) and one long straight is one of the slowest tracks on the Formula 1 calendar, with an average speed of only 190 km/h. The twisting, bumpy and narrow circuit is front-limited with the predominantly long and slow speed corners demanding a high downforce setup.

The laps are done at full throttle 56% of the time and the fuel consumption is high. The slow nature of the corners in the extremely high heat and dry conditions leads to high brake-wear. As the track is rarely used, it offers very low grip during the practice sessions. The track conditions evolve and change significantly by race day as the rubber is laid down.

Credit: Pirelli Media

Sectors, Corners, and DRS Zones

Sector 1 (Turn 1 to Turn 3) has one of the longest runs to Turn 1 at 610 meters, followed by a tight hairpin and the downhill run to Turn 2. The best overtaking spot on the track is after Turn 1. The sharp left-hander at Turn 2 is followed by a kink leading to Turn 3, which is followed by a short straight.

Sector 2 (Turn 4 to Turn 11) starts with an uphill climb to Turn 4, followed by a sharp right-hand corner at Turn 5. This leads into the bumpiest part of the circuit with a lot of twisty corners and chicanes from Turn 6 to Turn 10. The last corner at Turn 11 is a fairly fast right-hander leading to a short straight.

Sector 3 (Turn 12 to Turn 14) starts with the short straight leading to a sharp right-hander at Turn 12 followed by a hairpin at Turn 13. The final corner at Turn 14 is a fast right-hander leading into the start-finish straight.

There are two DRS zones this year with a single detection point. The DRS detection point will be before Turn 14. The first DRS activation point will be after Turn 14, before the start/finish line. The second DRS activation point will be after Turn 1.

This track was known for its rare overtaking opportunities in the early years and the track layout was changed in 2003 to improve this. The pole sitter has won only four out of the last eleven races surprisingly, but all too frequently the circuit has produced processional races.

Tyre Strategy

The white-striped hard tyres (C2), the yellow-striped medium tyres (C3) and the red-striped soft tyres (C4) nominated for this race is from the middle range of Pirelli tyres. This was the same compounds of tyres nominated for the previous race in Germany.

The drivers have chosen eight or more sets of the soft compound tyres (C4) in the thirteen sets allocated to them.  The Red Bull Racing and Ferrari drivers have chosen nine sets of the soft compound tyres. Mercedes drivers have chosen eight sets of the soft compound tyres.

The top 2 finishers at last year’s race were on a one pit stop strategy. It was a mixture of one and two pit stops for the other drivers last year.

The succession of slow corners and the extreme heat stresses the tyres in this race. Track position is key on this hard to overtake track. The strategy of all the teams will be tailored to ensure this.

Credit: Pirelli Media

What should we look out for this year?

Toto Wollf, Mercedes Team Principal, termed the German Grand Prix performance of the Silver Arrows as a disaster. The team arrived at their home race with a special livery for the W10 and 1950s retro uniforms for the team personnel to mark the 200th Grand Prix for the team and 125 years in motorsport for Mercedes.

The team left the Hockenheimring in disarray after a shambolic performance from the pit wall and the drivers. The two fortuitous points Hamilton secured was the slim returns for the whole weekend.

With back to back races, the team has very little time to get things in order before the Hungarian Grand Prix. The team has bounced back from disastrous races before and all eyes will be on the Silver Arrows at the Hungaroring to see how they cope with adversity.

Ferrari had the fastest car all weekend in Germany, but reliability issues led to Vettel and Leclerc starting the race from twentieth and tenth positions respectively. With Leclerc crashing out, Vettel’s fine recovery drive to second position was the only consolation for the team. Ferrari has shown in recent races that if they can get their act together they can challenge Mercedes.

Red Bull Racing led by Verstappen has been on an upward swing in recent races. Verstappen with two wins in the last three races is providing a stiff challenge to the Mercedes drivers. The Hungaroring is a track that will suit the RB15 and Verstappen is the man to watch.

McLaren led by the consistent Sainz leads the midfield teams and are holding their own. Toro Rosso had a stellar German Grand Prix and is now in fifth position in the constructors’ championship.

A double-points finish has revived the campaign of the slumping Haas F1 team. The Renault F1 team will be looking to recover from their poor German Grand Prix and stay in the midfield fight.

Hamilton (225 points) is now leading team-mate Bottas (184 pts) by forty-one points in the drivers’ championship. Verstappen (162 points) in third position is now just twenty-two points behind Bottas. Vettel (141 points) and Leclerc (120 points) rounds off the top 5 positions in the drivers’ championship.

Mercedes (409 points) lead the constructors’ championship by 148 points over Ferrari (261 points). Red Bull Racing (217 points) hampered by the lack of points from Gasly is in third position. The Milton Keynes-based team is closing the gap to Ferrari.

McLaren (70 points) has consolidated its fourth position. Toro Rosso (42 points) with a good haul of 23 points at the German Grand Prix more than doubled their points tally and have moved into fifth position in the constructors’ championship.

What’s the schedule?

Friday 2 August

09:00 GMT / 11:00 Local Time – Free Practice One
13:00 GMT / 15:00 Local Time – Free Practice Two

Saturday 3 August

10:00 GMT / 12:00 Local Time – Free Practice Three
13:00 GMT / 15:00 Local Time – Qualifying

Sunday 4 August

13:10 GMT / 15:10 Local Time – Race

How can I keep up with the action?

Follow all the action at the Checkered Flag with our extensive coverage, quotes and analysis of every session of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

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