2012 Hungarian Grand Prix preview
Whatever happens at the Hungaroring this weekend, we already know one thing for certain: Fernando Alonso will be leading the drivers’ championship as the teams head into the five-week break before the next race at Spa-Francorchamps.
The Hungarian Grand Prix brings to a close the second phase of the season which began after the test at Mugello. Since then Ferrari’s upgrades have allowed Alonso to challenge for victory at every race.
In that space of time the top teams have been very close on performance but Alonso has outstripped his rivals, scoring 111 points to next-best Mark Webber’s 72.
Sebastian Vettel may lament the 32-point swing to Alonso which came with his retirement while dominating in Valencia, but even without that Alonso would still be 12 points ahead.
But there’s still half the season to go and 250 points to be won. Alonso’s rivals need to keep as many of them out of the Ferrari driver’s hands in this last race before the summer break.
Hungaroring circuit information
|Lap length||4.381km (2.722 miles)|
|Distance||70 laps (306.6km/190.5 miles)|
|Lap record*||1’19.071 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)|
|Fastest lap||1’18.436 (Rubens Barrichello, 2004)|
|Tyres||Medium and Soft|
*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix
The Hungaroring is holding its 27th round of the world championship and its tenth on this particular track configuration.
The extension of the start/finish straight and tightening of the first corner has gone some way towards make overtaking easier, but this remains a tough track to make up places on. That makes Saturday’s qualifying session one of the most important of the year.
The circuit does not get much use during the rest of the year, so the track surface is usually dusty at the start of the weekend and tends to develop little grip. This year Pirelli are pairing their soft compound with the medium rubber, unlike last year when the chose their two softest tyres.
Temperatures are usually high this time of year but the early weather forecasts paint a slightly volatile picture with the chance of some storms over the weekend. We’ll take a more detailed look at the likely conditions tomorrow before the action starts on Friday.
Their rival teams are unsure how much of a setback this will be for them. But as the maps were designed to help send gasses from the exhaust into the diffuser to increase its performance, it will penalise them at a circuit like this where sheer downforce counts above all else.
But don’t expect it to seriously compromise their competitiveness. Vettel has been on pole position here for the last two years in a row and will surely be in contention once again.
The extensive changes made to the MP4-27 at Hockenheim came not a moment too soon, as they seemed to be on the verge of losing touch with Red Bull and Ferrari. Jenson Button’s battling drive to second showed both he and the team are back on form.
The team have an excellent record in Hungary, winning four of the last five races here. Two of those wins were taken by Lewis Hamilton, who will be eager to bounce back from his misfortune last weekend.
While Alonso continues to impress, fresh attention has fallen on Felipe Massa’s meagre contribution to Ferrari’s championship effort so far. He scored less than 15% of Alonso’s tally in the first half of the season.
If ever a track owed a driver a favour, it is surely the Hungaroring to Massa. Not only was he badly injured here in 2009, he was robbed of a likely win the year before when his engine died three laps from home while leading.
That came after a brilliant move on the first lap when he took the lead off Hamilton at the outside of turn one. Will we ever see that Massa again?
The last two races featured Michael Schumacher qualifying well but dropping back in the race, while his team mate qualified less well.
Nico Rosberg reckons the track should suit their car but he said the same thing about the Hockenheimring where they finished as sixth-best team.
Kimi Raikkonen’s season is developing into one of dependable points-scoring which could yet come very good for him if Lotus can find the qualifying pace to match their race performance, particularly in hot conditions.
The team are expected to continue testing their innovative new DRS set-up but are unlikely to race it.
Hockenheim highlighted Force India’s midfield struggle: despite starting with both cars ahead of the Saubers they fell behind them by the end of the race.
However Nico Hulkenberg’s ninth place moved them closer to passing Williams for seventh in the constructors’ championship.
Sergio Perez has not started higher than 15th in the last five Grands Prix. He made it into the points at three of those, but a better qualifying effort at this tight track is essential.
Daniel Ricciardo has comfortably had the upper hand in qualifying over Jean-Eric Vergne thus far. Vergne has tended to come back at him in the races, but it will be harder to pull that trick off at the Hungaroring.
Germany was Williams’ fourth point-less weekend of the year as both drivers suffered from damage during the race.
The FW34 was weak in slower corners at the beginning of the season but Pastor Maldonado’s pace in Valencia indicated they’ve addressed that shortcoming, and the team should be in the hunt for points again.
Caterham still believe there’s more performance to come from their Silverstone upgrade.
But although Heikki Kovalainen “nailed every apex and had a clean lap” in qualifying at Hockenheim, he was 0.9s slower than Jean-Eric Vergne, which suggests their latest developments have not brought them on terms with the established teams just yet.
Dani Clos will have another outing for HRT during practice. For Narain Karthikeyan this will mark his first appearance at the track since 2005, as he’d been replaced by Daniel Ricciardo by this time last year.
Timo Glock scored his first podium at the Hungaroring in 2008, and retains an affection for the track which he describes as “like a second home race”.
“For some reason I always seem to come to terms with the track very quickly and I’ve always enjoyed good races because of that,” he added.
2012 driver form
|Q avg||R avg||R best||R worst||Classified||Form guide|
|Sebastian Vettel||4.7||4.56||1||11||9/10||Form guide|
|Mark Webber||6.3||4.8||1||11||10/10||Form guide|
|Jenson Button||7.6||9.6||1||18||10/10||Form guide|
|Lewis Hamilton||5.7||6.44||1||19||9/10||Form guide|
|Fernando Alonso||6.1||3.6||1||9||10/10||Form guide|
|Felipe Massa||11.4||11.11||4||16||9/10||Form guide|
|Michael Schumacher||7.2||7.4||3||10||5/10||Form guide|
|Nico Rosberg||7.1||7.7||1||15||10/10||Form guide|
|Kimi Raikkonen||8.7||5.8||2||14||10/10||Form guide|
|Romain Grosjean||7.2||6.5||2||18||6/10||Form guide|
|Paul di Resta||11.7||9.44||6||14||9/10||Form guide|
|Nico Hulkenberg||11.6||10.22||5||15||9/10||Form guide|
|Kamui Kobayashi||11.2||8.29||4||13||7/10||Form guide|
|Sergio Perez||13.7||7.63||2||11||8/10||Form guide|
|Daniel Ricciardo||13.2||13||9||17||9/10||Form guide|
|Jean-Eric Vergne||16.9||12.89||8||16||9/10||Form guide|
|Pastor Maldonado||11.5||12.13||1||19||8/10||Form guide|
|Bruno Senna||14.3||12.67||6||22||9/10||Form guide|
|Heikki Kovalainen||18.1||17.22||13||23||9/10||Form guide|
|Vitaly Petrov||18.6||16.43||13||19||7/10||Form guide|
|Pedro de la Rosa||21.33||19.86||17||21||7/9||Form guide|
|Narain Karthikeyan||23.11||20.29||15||23||7/9||Form guide|
|Timo Glock||20.78||17.63||14||22||8/9||Form guide|
|Charles Pic||21.4||18.43||15||20||7/10||Form guide|
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Images © Red Bull/Getty images, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Sauber F1 Team, HRT