Hungarian Grand Prix Preview – Team Lotus
Jarno Trulli – car #21, chassis T128-01: “I’m obviously pleased to be back in the car and looking forward to getting on track in Hungary. The Hungarian Grand Prix is held on one of the typical modern Formula 1 circuits – it’s pretty stop / start and has a lot of low speed corners with nothing really quick. It’s very bumpy and hilly, and it’s always very hot, so it’s a big challenge for the cars and the drivers but I do enjoy the race there as it pushes the drivers physically, and getting a good lap requires concentration and focus.
“This year it’s more difficult than any other season to predict how competitive we are going to be at any of the circuits we race at, mainly because there are so many new factors to take into account that comparisons with previous seasons are largely redundant. However, I think we can expect to be OK because we were competitive in Monaco, a circuit that’s pretty similar to Hungary – relatively low speed with a need for good traction to push out of the slower corners and not so much reliance on aero performance.
“After the Hungarian race I’ll go straight to my house in Miami and spend some time with my family out there. Whenever I’m in the US I make sure I get as much sunshine as possible and I like going out cycling whenever I can. There’s a few other drivers who are usually around when I’m there, like Bruno Junqueira who I met through cycling and Juan Pablo [Montoya]. He’s sometimes around to say hello to and while he’s not into cycling I’m sure I’ll see him once or twice. After that it’ll be back for the next race in Spa but before then August is the three week break for everyone in the team. They all deserve it because they’ve worked so hard all year and it’s a long season so I’m sure they’ll all make the most of the time off and come back ready for the last third of the year.”
Heikki Kovalainen – car #20, chassis T128-04: “After the cold weather in Germany it’s back to the heat and dust of Hungary, scene of my first victory in F1. This year I think the Hungarian race will be similar to most other places for us but as it’s less dependent on aero efficiency I think we are in with a shout of pushing the guys ahead a bit more than somewhere like Silverstone. We need to get the tyres working properly and if we’re clever with the strategy I think Saturday afternoon could be interesting – we’ll see. Whatever happens I get a great reception when I’m in Hungary – there’s always a lot of Finnish fans there and I’ve always left Hungary with good memories so I’m looking forward to getting back there again.
“Once the race is done I’ll head home and have a couple of weeks catching up with family and friends in Finland, and keeping up my fitness levels. It might be a holiday but I never stop training so I’ll do that without the distractions of any team or sponsor commitments and that’s as important for me as it is for anyone in the team, to recharge the batteries for the next phase of the season.”
Mike Gascoyne, Chief Technical Officer: “Hungary has always been one of the circuits where all the teams run maximum downforce. While it is obviously not a street circuit it requires a similar setup to Monaco and Singapore as the track’s characteristics do not place a large emphasis on aero efficiency, instead rewarding enhanced downforce throughout the restrictions of the tight and twisty track. In the past teams have tried very innovative additions to the cars in an attempt to generate as much downforce as possible, sacrificing aero performance in favour of points of downforce, but now the rules are so tight there is no room to add the odd bits and pieces that used to be seen sprouting from the cars in Hungary and Monaco.
“With that in mind we may see the differences between the front of the grid and the back decrease slightly, and that could play into our hands. We showed at Silverstone that we can put our cars into Q2 using the right strategy and that may be the same in Hungary. We are definitely influencing the plans of the teams ahead as they cannot risk being behind us in Q1 using only the prime tyres, so hopefully we can do that again in Hungary and keep fighting the midfield pack on Saturday, and pushing on in the race on Sunday when our race pace comes into its own.”
Tony Fernandes, Team Principal: “Hungary is the last race before the whole team has a well-earned rest. Obviously I know just how hard everyone in our little team works but having helped out with pack-up in Germany on Sunday evening I had another insight into not only how physically tough it is to take down our whole trackside operation in a few hours, but also how quickly and efficiently everyone works to get it done, in some pretty grim conditions. The factory staff have also been flat out all year and their combined efforts helped us in Germany to cure the reliability issues that came back to haunt us in Silverstone. For Hungary the key is to keep up that record and focus on covering as many kilometres as possible over the three days on track, minimise mistakes, and grab whatever opportunities that come our way.
“Jarno will be back for that race and it will be his first chance to try the new power steering system we have developed and tested over the last couple of months. We are not expecting miracles from that – it is obviously a small part but, for Jarno, pretty vital as the aim is to give him the feel he needs from the car to extract every ounce of performance he can. It will be good to see him back in the pack and I am sure he will be pushing harder than ever alongside Heikki on a track that rewards the best drivers out there.”
TRACK GUIDE: The Hungaroring has always been described as a track where overtaking is almost impossible. It is usually very dusty, especially when the wind picks up and even though the main straight was lengthened in 2003 that did not result in much more passing. However, it is possible this year will change that – DRS will obviously play its part and as Pirelli are bringing the Softs and the Super Softs tyre management will play a big role on a track with high evolution levels over the whole weekend. The section from T14 to T1 will now encourage overtaking – one slow turn leading to a straight that ends in another slow turn is theoretically the perfect layout for passing so there may be quite a bit of action at the end of the main straight – maybe the changes made in 2003 will finally pay dividends for the spectators….
For the drivers T1 is critical, but then T2, 3 and 4 are a bit stop start. From T4 – T11 it is important that the drivers make no mistakes as losing time there has a ripple effect on the whole lap – lose time there and it compromises the entire laptime. This puts the onus on the drivers and engineers to find a balance the driver is happy with through that section so they have the confidence to push and not lose time that cannot be made up later in the lap.
Balance is something the fans hear a lot about at every race, but what is a balanced car for one driver may not be balanced for another. Some drivers find their perfect balance in a car that has slight oversteer, others in a car that is totally neutral or one that pushes on in corners as understeer has been dialled in. The challenge for the engineers is to set up the cars for each driver to suit their own preferences, and that is the focus during the Friday practice sessions. In addition, Renault Sport F1 also work with the drivers to fine tune each of the engine maps that the drivers will have available to them during qualifying and the race, aiming to give the drivers a car from which they can extract maximum performance throughout the whole lap.
Assuming they have cleared T11 with no problems the next challenge is to get through the last few corners but the most important is achieving good traction out of T14 and onto the main straight. As this is likely to be the main overtaking opportunity of the whole lap this is also where time will be won and lost as the drivers cover moves being made on them from behind and position themselves as closely as possible to cars ahead to make their moves into T1.