2003 Hungarian GP Preview

By Craig Scarborough, England
Atlas F1 Technical Writer

Formula One comes away from a dramatic race in Germany and a short summer break for the teams and drivers. But, if you thought all the excitement in F1 was spent in Germany you'd be wrong - the Championship contenders are lining up for one of the toughest and most closely contended races of the year, at this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix at Budapest.

The idiosyncratic Hungaroring circuit always brings some random elements to the weekend, but we also have to consider the close battle for the Championships, the tyre war, and the result of the FIA Paris hearing on the German start-line incident.

Hungary always provides a hot race on a tight and twisty track with hardly any overtaking opportunities, so precise driving, team strategy, modified cars and luck are all required to get to the podium. As the two tyre manufacturers strive to out do each other's development over the course of the season, they need to cope with finding the right compound and construction for the smooth surface on this one-off track. Michelin have clearly provided better tyres to their team this season - Bridgestone seem to suffer more performance drop-off regardless of the weather - but the French manufacturer excelled this season especially in heat conditions. For this weekend, the fruits of the Japanese development are expected to close the gap, but will it be enough?

After a supposed summer break the teams should be refreshed - although in reality it's only the drivers who get a real break. The track-based staff get some respite, but they still have a job to do back at the factory in preparation for this race. The engineers at the factory get no rest; it is at this point of the season the pressure is greatest on the design team, as they are still working out developments to the current car, while diverting as much resource as possible to next year's cars, already conceptualised on their CAD screens.

Silverstone and the Hockenheimring saw many developments to the cars, and the results of these will have been analysed and further developments will have been simulated off-track either in the wind tunnel, on computer software or on mechanical rigs. The closeness of the Constructors' Championship demands both cars finish and finish well, plus the extra break following this race as a result of the loss of the Belgium GP will only add to the pressure at the factory.

If the drivers did get a holiday between races, they will have needed it this weekend. Media attention on the Championship contenders is growing; three drivers - Michael Schumacher, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen - are in close contention at the top of the ladder, while Ralf Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello have dropped away slightly. So with four rounds to go, no one can afford to drop a place or retire from a race.

Ralf Schumacher was given a questionable ten grid drop penalty for causing the start line incident in Germany. While many see the incident as a normal racing accident, the decision by the Court of Appeal to remove the penalty and change it for a fine will be hotly debated and the other drivers involved will feel slighted.

The layout of the already tight sinuous Hungaroring circuit has been revised this year, in an effort to promote some overtaking opportunities. The last few corners have replaced the chicane-like sequence for a faster entry to a lengthened straight which also leads on to a tighter first corner. The theory is that the cars will be able slipstream each other to pull level on the straight before braking downhill into the slower Turn 1. This does require the pre-requisite of grip off-line, but the dusty nature of the soil surrounding the track suggests the required grip will not be available. The intermediate section of the track is pretty much unchanged - a short straight leading to a sequence of nine corners only reaching up to fourth gear once.

With all the slow corners, downforce will be the critical factor, maybe more so than at Monaco. For the race, tyre preservation is just as critical -the bump-free but abrasive track surface degrades tyres rapidly, leading to blisters and graining, yet counter-intuitively to the track's surface are the soft compound tyres required to provide the mechanical grip needed in the slow corners. Two stops were favoured last year, but this year three stops may be adopted for midfield teams or a front team on a risky split strategy.

Then we need to factor in the heat. Europe is having a heat wave and Hungary is already rated as one of the hottest circuits of the year. This exacerbates the tyre problems and tackles the teams and engine suppliers to cool the car to maintain reliability. Heat and a tight circuit also tires the drivers, who should have used the short break to work on fitness to keep up the concentration at this race. As the circuit is so demanding, the driver can make up a large amount of time, both in qualifying and the race, if he can keep fit and alert.

The Hungaroring circuit

A Lap of Hungaroring with Kimi Raikkonen

As you cross the start-finish line at the Hungaroring, you reach some 181mph/290km/h in seventh gear as you power along the extended approach to turn one. As the downhill right-hander, which has been reprofiled, swings you round 180-degrees, your speed drops to 75mph/120km/h, as you deal with understeer and a strange camber. On the power as you exit, you reach 140mph/225km/h in fourth gear along the short straight that leads to turn two, a long second gear left hander that is negotiated at 50mph/80km/h.

The sweeping right of turn three follows immediately, which sees your speed increase to some 140mph/225km/h and takes you onto the back straight. Powering up through the gears to some 178mph/285km/h in seventh, you dab the brakes as you enter the fast, left-hander of turn four. Changing down into fourth gear, it is taken at 125mph/200km/h. You then climb uphill, reaching some 135mph/217km/h, still in fourth, on the approach to turn five. This long, bumpy right hander is taken at 85mph/128km/h in third gear.

You push hard on the throttle along the short straight that leads to the right-left chicane of turns six and seven, which is negotiated at 56mph/90km/h in second. The chicane leads you to turn eight, a third gear left hander, taken at 80mph/128km/h, which itself is immediately followed by the right flick of turn nine. It is important to maintain your speed through the corner as you accelerate out through the slight left kink of turn ten, reaching 140mph/225km/h in fifth gear. Then softly on the brakes for turn eleven.

The track tightens as you drive through the right hander, which is taken at 112mph/180km/h. A short burst on the throttle takes you to the revised 90-degrees right of turn twelve. You brake from 147mph/235km/h to below 100mph/160km/h. On the approach to turn thirteen, you reach 135mph/217km/h in fourth before braking hard for the left-hander hairpin, which is taken at 50mph/80km/h in second. The final right-hander is negotiated at 84mph/136km/h in third gear and takes you back onto the start-finish straight.


Although leading the two Championships, Ferrari are not looking comfortable. They won at Silverstone but have failed to deliver at tracks that demand low speeds or where the weather is hot. This deficit is down to the car's characteristics and the Bridgestone tyres, but it would be fair to say tyre performance has prevented the team winning when their car was capable of it.

Rubens Barrichello had a strong race at Silverstone and drove well in German qualifying - his retirement at the start hid his possible pace, and so he will be looking for justice in Paris and good tyres in Hungary.

Michael Schumacher has been erring on the side of caution in qualifying; his poor grid placings are not totally down to lack of pace, but more a focus on race fuel and set up. Hungary will not allow him this luxury. Qualifying will mean everything when there's no overtaking in the race.

Reliability will be a strong card for the balance of the season, but avoiding needless race incidents and over worn tyres as in Germany will also need to be part of the strategy. This weekend may bring either a lowly finish in the points or a more competitive run - if the tyres are up to the job.


Clearly the team with the right tyre, and a chassis and engine package that works. Even reliability has been strong for Williams. Relating Hungary to the similar Monaco race will bring a smile to Juan Pablo Montoya's eye, as his win at the principality was unchallenged.

Meanwhile, Ralf Schumacher has been boosted by the Court of Appeal decision to remove the penalty that could have seen him losing ten grid positions in Hungary, something would have certainly made his life very difficult at a track where overtaking is virtually impossible.

Technically, the Williams package looks strong for Hungary. The shorter wheelbase FW25, with Michelin tyres and a well cooled BMW engine, should make it perfectly suited to the track. With the added gain of some mechanical and aerodynamic improvements for this race, a win at Budapest can only be lost for Williams.


Following on from announcement that the MP4/18 will, in all likelihood, not be raced in 2003, the MP4/17D will have yet more modifications for Hungary. Front brakes developed for the 18 were run in Germany and see McLaren the last team to adopt Ferrari's front brake duct setup, but the car does not run the 18's suspension as rumoured, as this is one of the weak points of the 18's design.

Kimi Raikkonen proved he can run the 17D as fast as any other car in qualifying, and strategic race drives bring the Finn the points to keep him in contention for the World Championship. It remains unclear whether Raikkonen's driving is bringing the lap times or the car is basically fast - David Coulthard's continued poor run, despite a better race in Germany, confound the issue.

This weekend McLaren can expect to be among the Williamses and Ferraris, but could perhaps pull off a win from a good weekend and race strategy.


Having picked up their competitiveness with the R23B, development continues for Hungary with new engine, new oil, new aero and new tyres chosen from Friday testing in Germany.

The team are pressing on to push Fernando Alonso ahead of Ralf Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello in the Championship stakes, as they are already provisionally fourth in the Constructors' Championship, unless BAR can bring in 52 points more than Renault from the last four races, which is almost impossible. There probably also remains a desire to be seen as one of the top four on pace, as Renault have pretty much been sandwiched between the leading teams and the midfield for most of the season.

Recent races have put Jarno Trulli level with Alonso on pace - the Italian not fading as much as his past reputation suggests. The car should suit the Hungarian track this weekend, so a podium may be less likely but points to boost their Drivers' Championships are very possible.


Fading now more than ever, Sauber's chassis and tyres are not able to keep ahead of the rest of the midfield. Not much is expected of the team on track, but they will no doubt be the centre of the media speculation with regards to their for drivers line-up in 2004.


Jordan are a team in crisis. More shuffling of the technical team - seeing Gary Anderson taking a step back at the factory - suggests the team are trying to pull in a result before the end of the year, at the detriment of plans for next year. Maybe this will be the long awaited race that sees a risky fuel strategy employed to get exposure in return for losing out in the later stages of the race?


Recent work focused on building reliability to materialise on the car's qualifying pace and competitive tyres.

Justin Wilson's hours in the car can still be counted on the fingers of one hand as result of no testing and early retirement in Germany. His Friday qualifying time raised some eye brows but pace later in the weekend was less forthcoming. Mark Webber remains central to the team but is still not getting the car up to the sharp end in the races.


Developments have seen the car improve but not to a great degree. By their admission, the car will not be suited to the low speeds in Budapest, but recent improved reliability could see the two fit drivers pull in a point or two at the race's end.


On paper this could be another hopeful weekend for the team, where the car is less of a factor, but the car is so far off the pace that the driver could not conceivably overcome the hurdle, even with near empty tanks in qualifying. Nicolas Kiesa's lack of time in the car and Jos Verstappen's less than spectacular performances for most of this year also contribute to little expectations.


Toyota are on the up - aero and chassis developments are coming on line and bringing tangible improvements. Budapest will be a clear indication of the team's improvements, as it is a slow circuit that demands more from the chassis - an area believed to remain weak for Toyota.

Some of the kerbs have been pulled from the track which will help Toyota, as will their Michelin tyres. Each Driver is asserting himself as a top driver in both qualifying and the race. This weekend could see Toyota keep up their run of points' finishes.

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Volume 9, Issue 34
August 20th 2003

Atlas F1 Special

Special Project: How to Save F3000
by David Cameron

Atlas F1 Exclusive

Giancarlo Fisichella: Through the Visor
by Giancarlo Fisichella


Remembered Down on the Farm
by Thomas O'Keefe

Season in the Sun
by David Cameron

2003 Hungarian GP Preview

2003 Hungarian GP Preview
by Craig Scarborough

Hungary Facts & Stats
by Marcel Schot


The Fuel Stop
by Reginald Kincaid

The F1 Trivia Quiz
by Marcel Borsboom

On the Road
by Garry Martin

Elsewhere in Racing
by David Wright & Mark Alan Jones

The Weekly Grapevine
by Tom Keeble

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