Hungarian Grand Prix: McLaren preview Hungaroring

Jul.25 (McLaren Press Release) Incredibly, only seven of the 20 racetracks on this year’s Formula 1 calendar are older than the Hungaroring. It was built in just eight months ahead of staging its first grand prix in August 1986. And it’s been a regular fixture on the calendar ever since.

The 2.722-mile/4.381km track is the slowest permanent circuit of the season. It’s narrow and bumpy, and its five 180-degree hairpins place a great deal of emphasis on low-speed mechanical grip. Braking and traction are also crucial in order to set a competitive lap time.

The track isn’t used much during the year, so the asphalt is normally very dusty and slippery at the start of the race weekend. It takes most of FP1 on Friday for the cars to create a clean line, after which set-up work can begin in earnest. As was the case in Germany, the teams will be working with Pirelli’s medium and soft compounds.

More often than not, the race has been run in hot conditions over the last 25 years, with ambient temperatures in excess of 30 degrees. This places huge stress on the drivers, who have to cope with cockpit temperatures in excess of 50 degrees and very little respite behind the wheel, due to the tortuous nature of the circuit.

However, the weather forecast for this weekend looks mixed – as it was last year, when Jenson won the race for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. Jenson and Lewis have each won twice at the Hungaroring and they’re looking to add to that tally on Sunday.

McLaren at the Hungarian Grand Prix
Wins – 10 (1988, 1991, 1992, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011)
Poles – 7 (1988, 1991, 1998, 1999, 2006, 2007, 2008)
Fastest Laps – 5 (1988, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005)

Car 3: Jenson Button
The result in Germany puts us right back in the hunt. In that situation, there’s nothing better than a back-to-back weekender: you return to the cockpit almost before you’ve unpacked your bags from the previous race, so it’s great to carry forward that momentum. Of course, Hungary’s a very special place for me: I won my first grand prix there back in 2006, I celebrated my 200th grand prix there on the Saturday evening with some of my oldest friends and colleagues in the paddock and I went on to win the grand prix on Sunday. It was the perfect weekend. And there’s every reason to believe we can get another good result this year. Our pace at Hockenheim gives us cause for encouragement – it’s just that, as always, we’ll need to run flawlessly through qualifying and the race if we’re to be in the hunt at the end. That high level of performance shows just how close things currently are at the top in Formula 1. I’m satisfied that we’re pushing hard enough to be up at the sharp end, so it would be fantastic to take home a winning result to reward all our recent hard work.”

Car 4: Lewis Hamilton
“I rolled the dice in Germany and got two ones. That’s life, sometimes, but at least I get the chance to give them another roll this weekend – and I’ll be hoping for two sixes! I think there’s good reason to feel confident, too; our Hockenheim upgrade package seems to have delivered the pace we anticipated and a good result just before the summer break would be the perfect way to end the first half of the season. Things haven’t always gone our way in the first half, but I certainly feel like we’re experiencing something of a turning point for the whole team. We’ve really stepped up and delivered the pace we needed, our strategy has been spot-on and our pitstops, despite a troubled start at the beginning of the year, are now consistently the fastest in the pitlane. Of course, we still have work to do to in order to fully understand the heating characteristics of the Pirelli tyres in wet weather. The current forecast is for mixed weather in Budapest, but we’re gathering more and more data on the tyres, and those conditions may give us further opportunity to overcome the issues we’ve recently encountered. I’m really looking forward to the whole weekend.”

Martin Whitmarsh, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
“With the halfway point in the 2012 FIA Formula 1 World Championship now behind us, it’s important that we head into the second half of the season with a concerted view to picking up as many points as possible in a bid to return us to the top. I firmly believe that we have the drivers, car and team to win both titles – and I think the difficulties we encountered during the first 10 races of 2012 have strengthened our resilience and hardened our resolve to fight back to the front. At Hockenheim last weekend, we had a car capable of taking on and beating our main rivals – the aim now is to ensure both Jenson and Lewis both score points in every race and to take as many points away from our rivals as possible. On paper, it may look a difficult task, but we are singularly determined to close down the gaps between ourselves and the championship leaders. Our record at the Hungaroring is considerable: we have won there 10 times, more than any other team, and we go there with the clear aim to add an 11th victory to our tally. It certainly won’t be straightforward, but every single individual within Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is relishing that challenge.”

McLaren has the best record of any Formula 1 constructor at the Hungaroring. Here’s how the team defined 10 days in the history of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

1. August 7 1988
Ayrton Senna enjoys a lights-to-flag victory, but he has it far from easy. His McLaren team-mate Alain Prost battles through from seventh on the grid and passes the Brazilian for the lead late in the race, only to run wide and slot back into second place. Prost crosses the line 0.6s behind Senna.

2. August 11 1991
A momentous lap by Ayrton sees him qualify 1.2s faster than anyone else. He’s never headed in the race, but has to see off a determined challenge from the Williams cars of Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese. Ayrton’s McLaren team-mate Gerhard Berger finishes fourth in the second MP4/6.

3. August 16 1992
Williams lock out the front row of the grid, but their squabbling on the dash to Turn One allows Ayrton to pass Mansell for second place. Race leader Patrese makes a mistake at half distance, handing the lead to Ayrton, who’s never headed. Mansell finishes second to win the world championship, with Gerhard third for McLaren.

4. August 15 1999
Mika Hakkinen dominates the entire weekend, taking pole position and winning the race. David Coulthard makes it a McLaren-Mercedes one-two, but the Scotsman has to earn his place on the second step of the podium. He drops to fifth on the opening lap and battles through the order to pass Eddie Irvine for second place in the closing laps.

5. August 13 2000
Mika leapfrogs from third to first at the start of the race. One of the cars he passes is team-mate David, who ends lap one in third place. Mika goes on to win his second consecutive Hungarian GP, while David has the pace to jump ahead of Michael Schumacher at the pitstops, but loses time behind the Minardis and finishes just 0.5s behind the Ferrari in third.

6. July 31 2005
A brilliant performance by Kimi Raikkonen. He starts fourth, but is up to second midway through the opening lap, and sets off after Michael Schumacher in the lead. He drops to fifth after pitting on lap 11, but a brilliant second stint allows him to jump ahead of Schumacher at the second pitstops and he disappears into the distance, pulling out a lead of 25s in just 11 laps.

7. August 5 2007
Lewis Hamilton wins from pole position, but it’s far from an easy victory. After opening an early lead, he’s hunted down by Raikkonen and the pair spend the second half of the race running nose-to-tail. For 20 laps they’re rarely separated by more than one second, but Lewis is inch-perfect and crosses the line 0.7s ahead. Fernando Alonso is fourth in the other MP4-22.

8. August 3 2008
Heikki Kovalainen wins his first grand prix and, in so doing, becomes the 100th different winner in Formula 1 history. He takes the lead two laps from the chequered flag, when Felipe Massa’s engine blows up. But a win’s a win. “I know I was a bit lucky,” says Heikki, “but it still feels great to win a race.” Lewis runs second early on, but a slow puncture drops him to fifth.

9. July 26 2009
Early-season problems with the MP4-24 are overcome by a series of updates at the Hungaroring. Lewis qualifies fourth and jumps to third on lap one when he picks off Sebastian Vettel. He then passes Mark Webber on lap four with a brilliant move around the outside of Turn 2 and then takes the lead when Fernando Alonso pits. It’s the first victory in Formula 1 for a KERS-Hybrid car.

10. July 31 2011
Jenson Button takes an emphatic win in his 200th grand prix. A pre-race shower forces everyone to start on intermediate tyres, but slicks are the order of the day once the track dries. Another shower at half distance splits the field: race leader Lewis opts for intermediates, while Jenson stays out on slicks. It stops raining and Jenson wins, with Lewis coming home fourth.