The European season of Formula One’s longest year ever continues as the paddock moves on to the mountains of Hungary and the Hungaroring’s tight layout.
Let’s be honest here, Hungary is no one’s favour track. It is a very poor circuit for overtaking in a modern Formula One car thanks to a narrow track, mid-speed winding corners that have only 1 optimal line and a track surface that is highly abrasive, making tyre preservation king.
The main place to put a move on someone is at turn one – it’s a relatively heavy braking zone with a downhill entry after the DNS zone down the start/finish straight, and even an unsuccessful move can set up an opportunity at turn two. However the chances after that are very rare. A brave soul can try to throw a move up the inside of the turn six/seven chicane but it is a very narrow section and while there are escape options should the move go wrong it is not advised. There is only one line through the snaking section from turn eight to 11 making it a bad place to find a back marker or a slower car holding position.
There is a second short burst of DRS going down to turn 12 at the start of the third sector. The 90 degree right-hander at the end can be an opportunity but it’s a fairly simple corner to defend and doesn’t compromise the exit too heavily as it is only a short blast to turn 13 and the end of the lap.
With so few overtaking chances the pit stop strategy becomes key. Those drivers who are easier on their tyres will tend to have an advantage, but it is difficult to stretch a two-stopper into a one stop without giving up too much ground on-track.
Every team bar Force India and Esteban Gutierrez’s Haas have taken the minimum of the medium tyres. Last year the virtual safety car affected tyre strategies but the faster constructors were able to run 20 or so laps on a new set of soft tyres while Jenson Button was able to extract 37 laps out of his mediums.
This year with Pirelli supplying three tyre choices and the super soft compound at the Hungaroring it is likely that the super softs will get burnt through in practice and qualifying and the soft tyre will still be the race tyre of choice for the majority of teams. The super soft is unlikely to be durable enough to run more than 14 or so laps at a decent pace. As such Ferrari’s roll of the dice to limit themselves to just 3 sets of the soft tyre may backfire come sunday’s race. If they finish behind Red Bull again and slide to 3rd in the constructors championship it could be a long summer break for them.