Formula 1 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix Preview: Tyres, DRS, Weather and Times
The Hungarian Grand Prix comes on the back of a three-week break between races. In the middle of that break was the Young Driver Test, which this year doubled up as an opportunity to test some new construction tyres.
The race has been a fixture on the calendar every year since 1986, when it became the first-ever Formula One race behind the Iron Curtain. This was seen as a huge coup in broadening the sport's horizons.
Back then, Hungary was a quasi-communist member of the Eastern Bloc and signatory of the Warsaw Pact. Today, it's a multi-party market economy and member of the European Union and NATO.
But while the country has changed so much, the venue has not. The race is still held at the Hungaroring, close to the capital Budapest.
Michael Schumacher has the most wins here with four, while Lewis Hamilton leads the current crop with three.
As It Stands
The problem for Vettel's rivals as they attempt to close the gap is that while their cars might be good at certain tracks, the Red Bull will be good everywhere.
Without some kind of major development, the title race is effectively over.
|01||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||157|
|05||Mark Webber||Red Bull||93|
|09||Paul di Resta||Force India||36|
Red Bull have a 67-point lead over Mercedes in the constructors' championship. Poor point-scoring from Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean has allowed Mercedes into second.
McLaren remain down in sixth, with Force India's impressive season continuing. The teams currently with at least one point are:
Williams, Marussia and Caterham remain pointless.
As F1 moves forward, some circuits get left behind. This is perhaps one of them.
The circuit is a bit like a giant go-kart track. Slow, narrow and twisty with only one straight of note, it rarely produces much action for the fans at home. Overtaking is extremely difficult and processional races are common.
Kind of like Monaco without the history, charm and walls.
But the drivers consider it challenging because they rarely get a break from cornering, and at least it adds a bit of variety to a calendar populated by Hermann Tilke designs.
The Hungaroring is also situated across a shallow valley, meaning there are some pleasant elevation changes to make things more interesting.
A lap begins on the pit straight, with a quite lengthy run towards the only "real" overtaking spot on the circuit, Turn 1. This corner was pushed back and tightened in 2003 to make passing slightly easier, and it's now a reasonably slow right-hand hairpin.
It opens on the exit through a kink to the right before a short straight.
Turns 2 and 3
The left-hander of Turn 2 is one of the best corners on the circuit, primarily due to the elevation change. It's a bit like a rollercoaster—the track drops downhill as the cars enter, and the slope remains all the way through the corner.
The elevation drop continues through Turn 3, a flat-out right-hander, and onto the straight which follows. Around halfway down the straight, the circuit bottoms out and begins to rise.
Turns 4 and 5
The track drifts ever-so-slightly right before the quick left of Turn 4, one of the circuit's better corners. The entry is blind and it looks very easy to get the exit wrong, but errors here happen less often than one might expect.
Turn 5 is a long, near-180-degree medium-speed right which follows almost immediately.
Turns 6 and 7
A short straight comes next, but we're well into the corner-filled section of the track now with little in the way of a rest until the end of the lap.
Turns 6 and 7 make up the circuit's only chicane. The first part is significantly tighter than the second, which allows the cars to get the power down quickly at the exit.
There are two sets of kerbs here—the outer ones which the driver will aim to ride over, and the inner ones which are there to stop them cutting the corner too much. The inner kerbs are rather nasty-looking, so care must be taken to avoid them.
Turns 8 and 9
Turn 8 is a medium-speed left which comes not long after the exit of the chicane, and Turn 9 is a very similar, though slightly slower right.
Turns 10 and 11
Another pair follows straight away, a little quicker this time. Turn 10 is the left, taken flat-out but not massively quickly, as the car hasn't had enough time to build up speed.
Turn 11 is the slightly-tighter right, a bit slower but still medium speed.
A short straight follows, giving the drivers a few seconds of rest before preparing for the tight left-hander of Turn 12. It's around 90-degrees, and has a downhill braking zone.
Turns 13 and 14
The end of the lap is in sight, and Turn 13 is a long, medium-speed left not unlike Turn 2. It seems to last forever, and the slippery nature of the circuit means a few tenths can easily be lost in here.
Turn 14 is the final corner. Again it's long and medium-speed, lasting a long time before spitting the cars out onto the pit straight. A good exit is crucial, as it leads onto the longest full-throttle section of the circuit.
The pit lane entry is on the inside of Turn 14, with the exit on the pit straight just before Turn 1.
Tyres and DRS
The Hungaroring is slow and dusty, meaning good mechanical grip—provided by the tyres—is hugely important.
The high track temperatures typically found at this race adversely affect tyre life, and the relentless string of corners doesn't give them much of a break. They're constantly under strain.
But the slow nature of the circuit means the loads being put through the rubber are relatively light. So the choice of compound is quite tricky.
Pirelli were originally bringing the medium and hard tyres, but they've switched to the yellow-marked softs and white-marked mediums.
This will please teams like Lotus and Ferrari, but Mercedes (though they'll almost certainly take pole) are probably in for a miserable race.
Worth noting is that this is the first outing for the "new" tyres—2013 compounds with 2012 construction.
Despite only having one straight of note, the powers that be have somehow managed to shoehorn in two very welcome DRS zones. They'll work from a single detection point just before the entry to the final corner.
The first and longest zone runs the length of the pit straight, ending with braking for Turn 1. Even with DRS, overtaking here may still be close to impossible unless the car in front is significantly slower.
The second zone is perhaps the shortest bit of DRS we've ever seen. It runs from the exit of Turn 1 to the braking zone of Turn 2—a total of around five seconds.
But this could be the zone that makes the difference. After getting close into Turn 1, cars will often attempt to slingshot past with a better exit—but rarely make it, as Turn 2 comes up too quickly.
DRS might just tip the balance in the attacking car's favour.
Central Europe is a warm place this time of year, and Sunday in particular looks like being oppressively hot.
Dry weather is forecast throughout, with barely a cloud in the sky all weekend. Friday and Saturday will both see temperatures of around 32-degrees Celsius (almost 90-degrees Fahrenheit).
But Sunday will be even hotter. A high of 38C (100F) is possible for the time of the race.
And the track temperature will be even higher. Don't be surprised if you spot a group of mechanics frying an egg on the pit lane floor.
On a serious note, an F1 car's cockpit is hot at the best of times, and temperatures like these on a circuit like this—few straights and low-speed—will put a heavy strain on the drivers.
They're all exceptionally conditioned athletes, but expect to see a lot of exhausted faces at the end of the race.
BBC Weather and Accuweather will have the latest. The Hungarian Weather Service will have all the latest severe weather warnings.
As always, the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend will consist of three free practice sessions, qualifying and the race.
The session times are as follows:
All times are given in local time (CEST). Formula1.com has a handy one-click tool (on the right of the homepage) to convert them to your own timezone.
Enjoy the weekend!