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A look at the strategy considerations for the Hungarian Grand Prix
Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Jul 2011   |  7:03 pm GMT  |  100 comments

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.

Track characteristics

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.

Weather Forecast

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.

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

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.

Recent start performance

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:

+11 Liuzzi
+8 Heidfeld ******
+7 Glock
+6 Trulli
+5, Massa, Alguersuari, Schumacher *, Kovalainen, Buemi
+4 Sutil
+3 Kobayashi**,
+2 Petrov,****
+1 Alonso***, Ricciardo

Lost places
-1 Hamilton, Rosberg*****, D’Ambrosio
-2 Vettel, Chandhok
-5 Di Resta
-8 Button
-11 Perez, Barrichello
-13 Webber,
– 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.

Form Guide

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

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Great stuff James. Will this start to become a regular for each race weekend?

Andrew Woodruff

Ditto - nice piece. However, the number of caveats to the places gained/lost at the start analysis suggests that we may be reading more into that than is really there. I'm no statistician, but half a season probably isn't a big enough sample of races to draw conclusions on most drivers and teams.

With the exception of Williams, and Vettel who rarely has the opportunity to gain places anyway, the starts remain an absolute lottery!


Agree on Vettel/polesitter, but you can lose places from there and everything else is very relevant. Because you are racing the same cars each week whatever your level and giving away or gaining places at the start is crucial.


Any explanation for Webber's poor starts?


Is this the track where RedBull destroyed everyone last year ?


I can't remember seeing anyone so dominant as Vettel was in the first stint at Hungary last year - it was crazy. Hopefully we won't get a repeat this year.


Yep. Ferrari had just been fast in Silverstone and was nowhere at Hungaroring (IIRC 1 sec back in quali)


it was Germany.


Amazing! This is why I read your site mate.

Grayzee (Australia)

ditto! hope you can do this pre race analysis more often.

A question for you: it is often said that a track is "dirty" at the start of a weekend. It is my understanding that all tracks are "cleaned" with a road sweeper before each weekends event. I have seen this happen at the Gold Coast and Melbourne.

So, what does it mean when it is said to be "dirty"?


Still a lot of dirt and dust on it. Not aware that they clean the track most places. Melbourne being a street track may be slightly different.


Nice article! Really informative.


A masterpiece!



Have a look at the UBS website as all of this info has been provided by JA for each race so far this season - it's really good.

Carlos E. Del Valle

I find a little awkward to consider that Heidfeld and Di Resta lost 12 places. They touched and spun in the third or fourth corner, doesn't that impair the precision of the whole thing? In my hunble point of view, it should count only until turn 2 max...


Somehow I doubt we will be choosing someone other than Hamilton, Alonso, or Vettel for the race victory... so, this article seems like overkill...


Why are both Williams so terrible off the start? Is it a Cosworth thing (although Glock has managed some overtakes), a KERS or just a driver thing?


no because HRT run cosworth


James go on give us a prediction before cars hit the track. See how good you really are ;). I'm going alonso vettel webber.



Button really has a point to prove after 2 DNFs in a row. & Alonso always seems good round here, wheel nuts took him out of winning positions here twice



BUT 7th

I've got a sneaking suspicion that Ferrari has a huge advantage in race conditions at the moment. If the temperatures are there and Alonso gets enough free air he will win dominantly. On the other hand i think McLaren will suffer badly if temps are high.


I'm with them, James, lets hear your prediction for the top 3! Love the article but I do recall you used to give us your predictions (at least in posts) before some of the races 🙂

For me, as much as I'd love to see a fair fight, I think Red Bull will be dominant. It'll be Vettel - Alonso - Webber - Hamilton - Massa - Button.


JB win, and Seb/Lewis on podium.


1st : Alonso

2nd : The Hamster 🙂

3rd : Button

DNF : Vettel , The Shumi , And Webster

Hopfully !!!




OK - I am going with

Hamilton - Vettel - Webber



Vettel starts to get worried as he has his first DNF of the season.

Prediction or dream...? 😀


Ham-Alo-But with Vettel having a shunt with Webber at the start.



i'm taking HAM - ALO - WEB!


Changing that to Ham-Alo-Web and it would be a very nice dream to come true. I hope that said DNF comes here, and continues for 1 or 2 more races just to bring the WDC excitment back.


I have HAM - ALO - BUT.

I had HAM - ALO - WEB last weekend (mostly wishful thinking, but it turned out great, right?)


I hope vettel doesn't finish either. Its not that I don't like vettel it's just I want a better title fight but I think he will be even more determined that normal this weekend and back to his mighty best. Hope you prove to be right but.


Nice, hot temperature + super soft. Ferrari/Alonso should be extremely fast. With McLaren back at the front, we can expect some firework!


I think the two stop strategy will be the way to go on this track seeing as the soft tyre can last 35+ laps.

Just like Barcelona, drivers will be able to keep a faster car behind despite the long pit straight so track position will be everything & hence the race will be won on Saturday.

Looking back at past performance, Mclaren own this track for they have won it in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 and more importantly Lewis has this in the bag for he likes Monaco kind of tracks.

Yes ever since 2007, whenever Lewis failed to win the other Monaco - the one with barriers - he turned around and won this other Monaco track - the one without barriers.

And interestingly when Lewis won the Monaco GP in 2008, he failed to win in Hungary - Coincidence, No?

So expect Hammy on pole, fastest lap & race win.

As for Ferrari they haven't won here since 2004 and that was during the good old days under the Kaiser.

Red Bull in particular Vettel are in self destruction mode from here on out & no Nurburgring wasn't a one-off but rather the start of things to come for not only does Sebastian have Webber in his head right now but he has Lewis in his nightmares too so I see it all going down - crashes, punctures, mistakes, you name it. Vettel is done!

Meanwhile, already worried about the summer break, meh.


he didn't win either of the Monacos in 2010. lol


Vettel had the monkey on his back in Germany. It's off now. He's had the poor race. I’m sorry Goferret but your delusions won’t come to fruition.

Expect to see Vettel fastest: P1; P2; P3. Pole by +.5sec. Win: +20 Secs

Rounding out the podium will be Webber, Alonso.

Hamilton will DNF when he crashes into Massa, Jenson’s will have some sort of technical DNF.

Vettel will wrap this championship up by Singapore


Is that wishful thinking or do you have some inside contacts within team RBR?

I think the pendulum will swing between the top 3 depending on many factors, track, weather, driver's comfort etc. So, I expect Vettel and Webber will be near the lead every single weekend.


You're funny! 🙂

I'm with you though. Hamilton for the win. And I think "The Finger" is about to see his season unravel. Fingers crossed. 🙂


Best pre-race analysis I have ever read. If you can do this for every race, that would be tops. Well done James.




When are they going to ditch the Hungar-boring? It's possibly the most snore-worthy anti-overtaking circuit in Europe.

Can't we just race at Spa twice?


That would be great 😉


The second race going the other way round? ...


Actually, I rather like that idea!


That tag is won by Valencia hands down


I like that!

Once in reverse?


Going through Radillon & Eau Rouge backwards? That's b very scray!


I'd rather see Valencia go...


Finally all the important information for race weekend right there in on spot. Once again great work, many thanks.


The Mclaren is strong in the slow speed corners with very good traction, something we haven't seen as strong in this years Red Bull.

Its Buttons 200th GP this weekend and the scene of his first victory in F1.

Come on Jenson!!!!


Yep, I think he'll win too. So that makes two of us on the site 😉


really? jenson!! he has been a disappointment this year.

he is a good driver but no alonso or hamilton



You obviously missed the Canadian GP


Well said!


Great Article James! I'm curious about the DRS Zone this year in Hungary. I hope that we will see some more passes than we had seen in the past at this track. It's also interesting to see whether the RB's gonna be that dominant as we saw it in the last year.


Excellent analysis, James. Would you not expect Ferrari to be very, very strong here ? Their performance in Germany, also given that their set-ups were rather wet-weather-biased, suggests that Alonso should have more than a decent shot at victory in Budapest. In fact, where it not for the really low temperature on race day, Alonso should have been able to warm up the hard tire enough to be able to fend off Lewis's attack after the final pitstop. That race had everything going against Ferrari (temperature, tires, setup), yet Alonso almost won it. In Budapest, with soft and super-soft tires and temperatures well into the 20s, I would think the reds will be right up there.


The BBC forecast is for a max of 22°C on Sunday, so that factor may not play into Ferrari's hands quite so much.


Yeah but the supersoft and soft tyres do...


One bit of info missing is how many times it has been won from pole. I recall it's significant.

Also missing, viewer strategy. 🙂

You better record this race to give you an F1 fix because it's about to get very quiet for a very long time. Other options, pick up a year in review DVD from one of the seasons past to watch on August 14th - when you're beginning to get cravings.


Yes, it is significant but that is due to the near-impossibility of overtaking at this track. A car can be several seconds faster but still not get past a slower car. We wait to see whether DRS can change that - possibly not as it is a slow corner onto the main straight, so might limit overtaking to those cars that ARE several seconds a lap faster.

Paul Williamson

This is brilliant James. The best site. THANK YOU!


Nice work James

This article here has been taken off the UBS website that you had been posting on earlier this year, but I saw that had stopped maybe after montreal? So it's great to see that it now logically appears on your own website for all your fans/readers to now ogle over.

I for one am fizzing at the bung for this next race! DRS, KERS and Pirelli should make the Hungaroring a really exciting prospect.


Abosolutely suoerb! - Hope this becomes a regular feature.

James, why not be brave and throw in a few race result predictions as well?

So, we can expect to see the pendulum swing back and McLaren become less competitive relative to Redbull/Ferrari. Maybe even a decent result from Massa.


Worth bearing in mind that it's difficult to make up many places at the start when you're on the front row -- and likewise it's difficult to lose places when you're right at the back. It's the good drivers who tend to qualify badly that show up well in those statistics.


Well observed. But. It's in the relative comparisons that the golden nuggets can be found.


Great race weekend pre-view. I'm hoping for an exciting race with 3 hopefully readonsbly paced cars and the ensuing fight between top drivers.

I'd also like to see Di Resta get a result. He's made a few 1st year mistakes (but less than most) but I think he's been in-lucky not too bad more points. And to be honest I like the fella and his honest analysis of situations.

I'd also like to see nick the quick get a result. I think he's had a lot of in-fair criticism after being thrown into a car late on. And the saubers, I like the team ethos and the two 'new' (ish) young drivers. Both great for the future.


Thank you James. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Extremely enjoyable article.

I am craving some insight into Webber's tribulations at lights out. James. Mr. Allen. Please?


I am, and will be grateful. A great number of variables come together to allow 2011 to be fascinating season despite RB and the brat dominating first half.

Better car, doing it all from P1 on grid? Sure, but then how to explain the thunder from down under back with the rest of the deserving challengers? The one massive factor is his 'granny out for groceries' starts. Not sometimes. Count on it. Why?? Indeed why?


Looking forward to it


Brilliant, comprehensive, unbiased analysis of what is ahead. Read this three times. Exciting every time.


Awesome, this is why I come to JAonF1 every day.

Ferrari performed well on the combination of soft/supersoft combo both in Canada and Monaco eventhough Canada is not too much of a representative as it was a wet race. In Monaco as James said, because one cannot pass, a two stopper was probably the ideal one but Vettel pulled something extra out of the bag to win an improbable race with just one stop. Since the pitstop loss time is very less compared to that of other races, teams will be inclined to make three stops if they are confident about the DRS feature here.

Redbull will be on pole as there are medium and fast corners in which they could make use of their superior DRS wing for quali. Ferrari is likely to qualify better than McLaren this time because of the hotter conditions as compared to that of Germany. I expect Alonso to mount a challenge on Vettel. Mark can play spoilsport to the Ferraris and Mclarens here but it's yet to see whether he can really have a clean start this season. Lewis will struggle because of tyre wear as happened in the 08 race. Hope these predictions are not wild. 😀


Please more of this! Nailed what i wanted to know. Cheers


Just to make the second half of the season more interesting

1 F Massa

2 J Button

3 F Alonso

4 L Hamilton

5 M Webber

6 S Vettel


did u just reverse the current top 6?


Yes, it looks like it, doesn't it.

But first of all I wish Massa the luck of a win, remember his latest Hungarian GP's,2008 when engine gave up and 2009 when hot got the spring on his helmet. His starts have been great lately, so I just wish him a bit luck. But I couldn't put Alonso behind him for known reason, could I?

Seán Craddock

I'm expecting Ferrari 2 do well this weekend aswell, I think Alonso has a good chance of winning here also. 2009, wheel came off in the lead, 2007 had a chance at pole if he didn't do the thing in the pits, 2006 without the penalty he got in quali who knows, 2003 he got his first win

But I'd love Massa 2 win!


I think Red Bull will get a comfortable 1-2 this weekend. I don't want it to happen but their car and the Hungaroring are almost a perfect combination.

Nurburgring had some longer straights and also some quite extreme uphill sections where their lack of engine performance (compared to Mercedes) was shown up badly. There's none of that in Hungary, just lots of medium speed constant radius corners where their downforce will come into it's own.

Get ready for the procession.


Very good analysis! So glad to read it. Either way, the Hungarian Grand Prix has always been spectacular, so do not expect anything else.


Very informative James, a really good feature.

I'd echo the calls for this before every GP.

It really is an excellent site, thank you.


Thanks for your feedback.


Great analysis - feel much better informed going into this weekend.

As other people have said I also hope this will become a regular feature

Great website - keep up the good work 🙂


Yes it will. Every race from now on, thanks to our partners at UBS


And my predictions for top three





Hungary is a little like Monaco, no ?

And in Monaco, Mclaren were the Fastest, so a presume that if the temperatures are not to high that Mclaren will be in the chase for the victory rather Hamilton than Button. Hamilton won's here every two years, 2007, 2009, and 2011 ? That will be fantastic.









Vettel DNF


Nice analysis James! Always enjoy reading them!

May I suggest instead of using multiple ******, you can instead use *, #, ^, etc... so it'd be easier for us readers rather seeing a load of censored swear words LOL!!! =)


My thanks in addition to all the others. Brilliant readers all to appreciate this. Superb.


Would be sort of nice to see they have genuinely caught Red Bull, rather than simply circuit biase. Ferrari/ McLaren are definately closer, but somehow I suspect Red Bull will have their nose in front. A couple of DNFs from Vettel would be great to reduce the slope of the playing field make the second half of the season worth watching, and give the other drivers an incentive!


I do have a good feeling for Massa this weekend, for some reason.


Do teams ever send out their two drivers on Friday practice and see if one can overtake the other in the DRS zone to see if its easy/hard/impossible and then plan their strategy.

I guess the total places gained/lost score from the starts (judging by the caveats) can be a bit misleading, perhaps just counting the races a position was gained/lost might be more informative.


The picture of Vettel in the mirror is a masterpiece.


This info would be great for every GP!


Interesting comment re the circuit being hard on front tyres due to "forward weight balance".

I understand the fore and aft weight distribution is tightly controled this season, so how can the teams move weight/balast around to fine tune the handling? Actually, I find the rule tightly governing the weight distribution a bit strange, I would have assumed it would be better for that regulation to be more relaxed to allow teams to better ballance the handling and tyre life.



Superb piece, James. Very informative.


Just goes to show you James. You put this information on the UBS site each race I've been reading your strategy reports all year 🙂 I get a bit dirty when you haven't updated by thursday.
BTW, Webber to score his first win of the season. Alonso 2nd, then Vettel.
Hey, I can dream can't I?
I have one more prediction, Jenson will complain of 'no rear grip'....


for the 200th time 😉


I have a feeling that the Pirelli tyres will be a big factor as they haven't always performed as expected on green tracks. If McLaren are on form it could actually prove to be a good track for Button assuming he can put together a good qualifying session. Otherwise I'd say Alonso is looking good now that Ferrari seem to have got the car working better.

There will be good opportunities for midfield runners to get some points this weekend though I suspect.

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