Rencken: Alonso safe in Hungary
THE CHASE IS ON: Ferrari's Fernando Alonso holds a comfortable points advantage over his rivals - even if he doesn't score any points in Hungary he will still lead the title chase.
Author: DIETER RENCKEN
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, having won the 2012 German Grand Prix with an audacious drive in reigning double champion Sebastian Vettel’s back yard, has a 34-point lead in the title hunt over Vettel's Red Bull team mate Mark Webber (120 points).
Thus, regardless of the outcome, after this weekend's Hungarian GP lonso will head into F1’s compulsory August break with the title lead – a crucial advantage given that all development work is banned for two weeks.
Teams may take their respective holidays at any point during that period. McLaren personnel will go on holiday at midnight after the race, while most others have delayed their breaks by a week. Teams must attest afterwards that no work took place in their factories for 14 consecutive days and are obliged to submit copies of letters to suppliers and contractors as proof that they shut down.
Alonso’s title lead is the equivalent to a win and third place so even the worst-case scenario, such as Webber winning and Alonso not scoring, has the Ferrari ace headed for the Belgian GP on September 2 with a nine-point lead over his Red Bull rival.
Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel is a further 10 points behind. It would have been two, but for that ill-judged off-track pass on McLaren’s Jenson Button on the penultimate lap in Germany.
Lotus' Kimi Räikkönen is in fourth with 98 points.
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton (92) is the higher-placed McLaren driver, and one wonders just why the team which dominated pre-season testing (and the first round in Melbourne) has fallen so far. Button, the 2011 Hungarian winner, is seventh behind Nico Rosberg (Mercedes, 78) with 72 points. This means both McLaren drivers are effectively out of the title hunt despite winning a race each in 2012.
The most prolific winner in Hungary is Michael Schumacher, who has four wins to his name, all earned before his 2010 come-back with Mercedes. Alonso’s victory in 2003 with Renault made him the youngest GP winner at the time.
HUNGARY CIRCUIT CHALLENGE
The tight and twisty 4.381km Hungaroring staged its first GP in 1986, when the host country was a satellite of the USSR, and has featured on the calendar ever since. Such has F1’s calendar mutated in the last quarter century, that, incredibly, just seven of 20 tracks in 2012 are older than Hungary’s primary circuit.
Despite being a permanent facility, the circuit situated in a natural amphitheatre 20km east of the capital Budapest and has the characteristics of a street circuit. The circuit has low average speed, very little grip and marked evolution as the weekend progresses and rubber is laid down. The challenge for engineers is similar to that faced by them in Monaco – to best combine high-downforce performance and mechanical grip.
However, unlike Monaco, the pace car seldom gets an airing in Hungary, with the silver Mercedes called to duty just twice in the past 10 years, although that statistical incidence does not, of course, preclude its deployment this weekend…
The weather is generally hot and humid in late July, with the upcoming race being no exception. Forecasts show 28-30C. Pirelli has specified its soft (yellow sidewalls) and medium (white) tyre compounds to cope with the expected conditions. The 2011 (mixed conditions) race was won with a three-stop strategy.
SPICING UP THE SHOW
However, just for good measure, thunderstorms are expected late on July 29 so the Italian company’s green/blue intermediate/wet rubber could well make a crucial difference in the closing stages of the 70-lap race.
The combination of low speeds, stop-start layout, one short straight, high g-forces and sweltering temperatures place tremendous strains on drivers and machinery, with cockpit temperatures often in excess of 50 degrees.
Of the circuit’s 14 corners (6//8R) five are hairpins, with three taken at less than 100\km/h. Unusually, no turns are taken at faster than 250km/h, delivering a race average of 185km/h in dry conditions. Brake wear is rated as "high", tyre energy as "low" and only 43% of each lap is spent at full throttle.
DRS may be used for 42% of each lap in qualifying.
The circuit had a reputation for delivering tedious processions until DRS and kers arrived to spice up the show. Since 2005 the winner has only once (2007, Hamilton) come from pole; in the five years to then the winner came from pole in 80% of races. The IAF had not announced the DRS zone when this story was transmitted but logic suggests that the detection point will be at the entrance to Turn 14, with the zone commencing immediately after the corner on the start/finish straight.
Saturday qualifying (July 28) and Sunday’s race (July 29) will each start at 2pm (SA local time).
Stay with Wheels24 for the 2012 Hungarian F1 weekend.