This weekend the F1 circus moves to the Hungaroring in Budapest, usually one of the most difficult tracks on which to pass.
But the adjustable DRS wing this year should make things easier and strategists will have to factor that in to their plans.
Sunday’s German Grand Prix showed how close the competition is and how decisive the right strategy moves are. Here – with input from from two F1 team strategists is a look at the considerations which go into planning the race strategy.
Hungaroring – 4.381km kilometres. Race distance – 70 laps = 306.630 kilometres. 14 corners in total. Average speed of 196km/h is the lowest of any permanent track on F1 calendar.
Aerodynamic setup – High downforce. Top speed 301km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 291km/h without.
Full throttle – 55% of the lap (low). Total fuel needed for race distance – 150.5 kilos (average/high). Fuel consumption – 2.15kg per lap (average)
KERS value: Worth 0.3s per lap
Time spent braking: 14% of lap. Number of brake zones – 11. Brake wear- High.
Loss time for a Pit stop = 14 seconds (average/low)
Total time needed for pit stop: 18 seconds
Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.35 seconds (high)
The Hungaroring circuit is rarely used and so the track is usually dirty at the start of the F1 race weekend and the grip improves as the weekend goes on. This means that it’s very easy to be misled by the tyre performance on Friday and the only really meaningful work that can be done on car set up and planning race strategy is in the one hour session on Saturday morning.
The track is tight and twisty with generally a low grip surface and it is also quite bumpy.
The track is all about slow corners and is quite technical. It is also physically challenging for the drivers as they are always turning or braking with very little time for a rest, apart from the short main straight. Although the braking is not particularly hard, the brakes don’t get much chance to cool down so wear is high.
The start is always crucial at Hungaroring, as the slow second and third corners tend to open the field out. The run down to Turn 1 is quite long; from pole position to the braking point before Turn 1 is 400m. KERS will be important at the start, but in the race it will be less effective; there is not a lot of high energy braking time so it’s hard to get the KERS fully charged during a lap of the race.
The forecast for this weekend is for some rain on Thursday and Friday, with hot conditions on Saturday and Sunday, temperatures around 27-28 degrees.
Pirelli tyre choice for Budapest: Soft (yellow markings) and super soft (red markings). This combination was seen at Monaco and Montreal.
The difference in performance between the soft and supersoft tyre was not very large in Monaco while Montreal told us little as it was wet. This will be the first time that the super soft tyre is used in very hot conditions, so it is a bit of an unknown.
The soft Pirelli tyre, which has been the main race tyre of choice so far this season, copes well with the hot conditions (unlike the medium and hard tyres).
The Hungaroring is notoriously hard on the front tyres, partly due to all the long corners and partly due to the balance of the car being much more forward. Generally, the teams have been rear tyre deficient this year and this race should be easier for the rears.
Usually, overtaking is extremely difficult at the Hungaroring, but the DRS adjustable rear wing zone will be situated on the pit straight and should help create overtaking opportunities. Teams will have to factor that into their race strategy this year.
Number and likely timing of pit stops
The time needed for a stop at Hungaroring is quite short, but the tyre wear rates should not be too bad, despite the high temperatures so it’s likely that we will see a combination of two and three stop strategies.
The soft tyre lasted for 30 laps at the Nurburgring so it should be able to do at least 35 laps on the Hungaroring and this will lead many to try two stops. However in Monaco we saw drivers starting on the supersofts they used in qualifying and taking another set at the first stop in a three stop plan.
The difference for strategists between Hungary and Monaco is that with DRS it will be easier to pass this weekend and that means a two stopper will be vulnerable on a worn out set of tyres to a three stopping car on a newer set of tyres.
Chance of a safety car
Safety cars are rare at the Hungaroring.
The chances of a safety car are only 20% and there have been only two in the last six years.
Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start.
Starts are a real problem for Mark Webber this year; he has had pole three times and lost the lead at the start each time, while overall he has lost 13 places off the grid on aggregate.
The most consistent start performer of the year is HRT’s Tonio Liuzzi, who has the slowest car in the field and yet manages to gain places off the start line almost every time, sometimes several places. In Germany for example, he gained four places at the start. Likewise Timo Glock in the Virgin has been picking up places as has Team Lotus’ Heikki Kovalainen.
The McLaren drivers have been inconsistent, particularly Button who lost four places in Germany.
The worst starters are still Williams with a staggering 32 places lost in ten races, although Germany saw what they hope will be the start of a reverse trend with Barrichello gaining a place and Maldonado holding position.
As far as 2011 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season on aggregate as follows:
+8 Heidfeld ******
+5, Massa, Alguersuari, Schumacher *, Kovalainen, Buemi
+1 Alonso***, Ricciardo
-1 Hamilton, Rosberg*****, D’Ambrosio
-2 Vettel, Chandhok
-5 Di Resta
-11 Perez, Barrichello
– 20 Maldonado
* Schumacher had one bad start in Australia, losing 8 places but since then has gained 16 places in five races. But he lost four places in Monaco
** Kobayashi lost 10 places in Spain, prior to that he had gained 8 in 4 starts. In Germany he gained four places.
*** After losing places in the first three races, Alonso has reversed that trend.
**** Petrov had a good record until he lost 4 places at the start in Valencia
***** Rosberg lost four places at the start in Silverstone.
****** Heidfeld had gained 20 places but lost 12 at the start in Germany
******* Di Resta had consistent start form and gained 7 places in the first nine races, but lost 12 at the start in Germany.
The Hungarian Grand Prix is the eleventh round of the 2011 FIA F1 World Championship and thus marks the start of the second half the season.
Teams are still coming to terms with the three changes in engine mapping rules in as many races and with trading off the amount of fuel that they need to carry in qualifying and the race, with no adjustment of engine maps allowed in between.
In Britain and Germany Red Bull had the edge in qualifying, but the margin was smaller than early in the season, while their car was slower on race day than the McLaren and Ferrari. This could be partly due to developments on those cars, but also to the fact that Red Bull has had more to lose from not being able to change maps.
Red Bull remain unbeaten in qualifying this season with seven pole positions for Sebastian Vettel and three for Mark Webber. Red Bull dominated the Hungarian GP last season.
Ferrari performed well on the soft and supersoft Pirelli tyres and is expected to do so again this weekend.
As far as drivers’ form is concerned; Mark Webber won the race last year and it has been a happy hunting ground for Lewis Hamilton who has won the race twice and Fernando Alonso who won in 2003. Jenson Button, Heikki Kovalainen and Rubens Barrichello have also won there. Michael Schumacher has four Hungary wins.
This F1 Strategy insight is produced by JA with input from F1 team strategists and is brought to you by UBS – Click here for more Strategy Insights