Hungarian Grand Prix preview – a tough act to follow in Budapest

Following hot on the heels of one of the most dramatic of grands prix seen in recent memory, it is virtually an impossible task for the Hungarian Grand Prix to emulate.

Yet, if any circuit can follow up the drama of the German Grand Prix, it is almost certainly the tight twisty Hungaroring, that has seen theatre aplenty over the years, such as Nigel Mansell’s race winning overtake on Ayrton Senna in 1989 or Damon Hill’s final lap heartbreak when leading for most of the race in his underpowered Arrows.

Unlike at Hockenheim, however, the Hungaroring puts a high emphasis on downforce, with 14 corners and lots of short straights making an average speed of just 123mh – slow for a Formula One car. As such, tyre strategy is bound to play a huge part, the many corners and hot August temperatures meaning degradation could be high.

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel endured very differing fortunes in Germany and, interestingly, the arch-rivals have split the last four wins at the Hungaroring. But to predict a similar outcome in 2019 would be to discount in-form German Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, whose first victory is surely just around the corner.

“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,” said Vettel in his team’s pre-race preview.

“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 god run on the exit of 14, but there are no guarantees”.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was a picture of despair on Sunday after Valtteri Bottas slid into retirement on the penultimate lap of the race on Sunday. But he has his much more to celebrate than most this season, as in recent seasons, and is determined to get back to winning ways this weekend.

“On Sunday, we were united in our pain; on Monday, we were united in our determination to turn our weaknesses into strengths,” said Wolff. “We had a number of very open discussions about what went wrong and what steps we need to take to improve.

“I believe that one of the core strengths of our team is the way we handle defeat. We accept responsibility for mistakes so that we can learn and improve – and we will come back stronger from this. The positive is that the next race is only a few days away and that we have the chance to redeem ourselves in Budapest this weekend.”

“In recent years, the Hungaroring has been a challenging circuit for us – but we managed to win there last year and there are a number of reasons to believe our car could be more competitive there this year than in recent seasons.

“Looking at our competition, Ferrari have been very strong on short circuits this year and we expect them to be competitive again in Budapest; Red Bull, too, have won two of the past three races with Max. But we haven’t lost sight of the fact that we have come out on top in nine of the 11 races so far this year. And we are determined to fight tooth and nail this weekend to achieve another strong result.”

For Acronis partner team SportPesa Racing Point, there was also plenty to cheer about last Sunday after a superb drive from Lance Stroll saw the Canadian just miss out on the podium when overtaken by Vettel on the final lap. Still, is was a phenomenal drive, and one that gives the team plenty of confidence going forward.

“Racing in Budapest in the summer is quite tough. It’s a physical circuit and the weather is usually hot and humid at this time of year,” said Stroll in his team’s race preview. “To be competitive you need lots of downforce and a set-up that is not too demanding on the tyres. There are lots of traction zones that put big energy through the tyres and the high track temperatures also make life difficult.

“The lap is tight and twisty, and there’s no real chance to catch your breath, so you really have to keep your concentration. It’s good fun, though, and very satisfying behind the wheel through the quicker corners, such as four and eleven. When the car is hooked up, you can really enjoy the flow of the circuit and find a nice rhythm.

“I think we made some progress with the car last week. The new parts have helped and we need to build on all that work this week.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.