Formula 1

Budapest's Hungaroring offers old-school F1 experience

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The start is the most critical part of the race in Hungary (©GettyImages)
The start is the most critical part of the race in Hungary (©GettyImages).

This weekend Formula 1 returns to one of the most divisive circuits on the calendar as the Hungaroring host the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The venue is certainly one of the more unique circuits on calendar but this is not necessarily in a good way as a F1 car only reaches 300kmh once on the whole circuit.

Only a handful of corners are not either chicanes or hairpins and yet some people regard the Hungaroring as one of the best tracks on the calendar, so why is it such a love or hate circuit?

The Marmite track

I for one cannot stand the Hungaroring I think its too slow for an F1 circuit and I think the corners are as dull as dishwater, yet when I ask my friends they love how the chicanes gain in speed around the lap and the flow of the corners and that really is the 2 basic arguments, it depends what type of F1 track you prefer.

All fans agree that the likes of Spa in Belgium and Monaco are tracks that will forever be remembered as the greatest, Spa for the high speed corners of Eau Rouge and Blanchimont and Monaco for the setting, the barriers and the challenge of the track, most fans will also agree that tracks such as the old Valencia street circuit along with Bahrain and Abu Dhabi are tracks that hardly get the pulse racing.

Of course they all have something unique, Valencia had a swing bridge, Bahrain is now as a night race and the atmosphere and the setting of Yas Marina is incredible yet the action on the track leaves a lot to be desired.

But the Hungaroring doesn't fit into either of those categories. The surroundings aren't brilliant and the facilities are outdated.

Monaco without the barriers

I understand that not all tracks should have one mile straights and have 190mph corners, I understand that the tight, twisty track test the cars in a different way than the low downforce speed parade of Monza or the high speed corners of Spa, but does having 15 corners where the average speed is not much more than Monaco sound exciting? Not really.

The lack of overtaking is another reason to hate the place, and the fact that in its 28 year history it's only ever had two wet race means that even the weather finds it hard to spice up the action.

On the other side of the argument though the fact that it tests a car's mechanical grip rather than it's level of downforce is what makes this track unique. The slow and medium speed chicanes put an emphasis on handling rather than power, that is why Damon Hill was able to nearly take an incredible win at the 1997 race in the vastly underpowered Arrows Yamaha.

Conditions around the track also test the cars more than most others, the summer heat can lead to cockpit temperatures of nearly 60 degrees ad the only place able to rival that is Malaysia.

The track also has very poor grip because of the windy, dusty nature of the surroundings. Usually the tyre supplier would bring its softest compounds because of this but with higher cornering speeds and less durable tyres, Pirelli now opt for the soft and medium rubber.

Detailed lap

The track also has a very strategic layout in terms of race craft, because it only has one real overtaking place at the hairpin of turn one. Drivers have to be sure to stay close to the car ahead through the final two hairpins onto the pit straight and with DRS this weekend the cars should find it much easier to get alongside into that first turn.

A second DRS zone runs to the long left hander at turn two though only a big difference in tyre wear make this is a viable overtaking area.

Turn five at the top of the hill is now the 'signature' corner with the modern F1 cars, this high-speed left is all about staying committed and not running wide, it will be interesting to see how the track limits are policed at this corner this weekend.

From there is a long right at turn six before the sequence of three chicanes each getting slightly quicker than the one prior.

This is where Red Bull will be very strong but with only one line through overtaking here in near enough impossible.

The final sector has been remodelled in recent years, the right hander of turn 13 is tighter than it used to be and offers a sharper approach to the hairpin at turn 14, a short straight leads upto the final corner at turn 15 another long hairpin right where the exit is crucial leading onto the main straight.

It is a circuit that could see the recent pecking order shook up again thanks to the need for downforce, Red Bull have to be favourites to be 'best of the rest' while Mercedes customers Williams and McLaren may see their recent success pegged back heading into the summer break.

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