Kimi Räikkönen: “I have finished second in Hungary too many times”
With four second-place finishes and one victory in Hungary, our Finn reckons he knows what’s needed for a strong weekend in Budapest
What makes a good weekend in Hungary?
I have finished second in Hungary too many times, so I know how important it is to lead the race after the first corner. DRS or not, it’s never easy to overtake at the Hungaroring. To get the weekend right, you have to have good sessions in FP1, FP2 and FP3, then a strong qualifying session and finally a perfect start to the race.
But your only win here came in 2005 starting from fourth on the grid?
I got a very good start to be second at the end of the first lap and everything went well from there.
What’s the atmosphere like?
It is always nice to go to Hungary. The circuit is not the most difficult of them all, but it is a really challenging venue as it’s usually very hot which makes it a demanding race. Of course, the heat has helped us with the car so far this year so that will make things better, but only if it’s a win will you not suffer from the heat.
What are the key elements to a fast car at the Hungaroring?
A fast car. It’s such a slow, twisty circuit, so two things are really important there; good turn-in and good traction. If you have those, you have a strong car for the race.
How do you ensure a good start?
Obviously you need to get to the front in the qualifying, but also avoid the dirty side of the track on the grid. When you look back through the races this season, it seems the dirty side of the track is a real disadvantage in the starts.
In some ways this is viewed as a ‘home’ Grand Prix for you?
Many times Hungary has been called as the Grand Prix of Finland. A lot of Finns go to this race every year and it is always nice to see the blue and white flags waving.
Any more thoughts after your second place in the German Grand Prix?
The points were good and we had a strong car. Again we saw that warmer temperatures suited us and we usually get hot weather in Budapest so that should be a good thing. Of course, you never know until you have driven the track in this year’s car. In Germany, my radio wasn’t working properly and I got stuck behind the Mercedes which didn’t help my race. The performance of the cars was pretty close and it’s easier to overtake at the Nürburgring than it is at the Hungaroring, so we will need to qualify well.
Was missing your final pit stop there an option?
My tyres felt pretty okay when we came to change them, but you cannot know how long they would have lasted or what would have happened in the race. It didn’t help that we had the radio problem as my engineers couldn’t hear me, although I could hear them asking me the questions. It’s easy to say ‘we should have done this’, but you never know for sure unless you try that strategy. We were right with Seb [Vettel] at the end of the race through coming in and putting on the soft tyres, but maybe if we had done things a bit differently we would have been slightly in front rather than slightly behind.
This was your best ever result in Germany; does it taste any better than the previous ones or is it only victory that makes the difference?
Obviously we are here to try and win races. We couldn’t in Germany because we were not fast enough, but for the team it was a good result after a couple of quite difficult races. We lost some more points to the lead as Seb won, but it’s still a long season and if we keep putting ourselves in a position to at least be fighting for first place then I think we can do it again.
Can you go one better in Budapest?
There’s no point speculating before you get there. Hopefully we get the result we are looking for. It would be nice to take the break after this race and recharge the batteries in the middle of the season with a good result on the board, but most importantly, it would be good to have the points.
Romain Grosjean: “We’re very keen to maintain the momentum”
After returning to the podium in Germany, Romain is keen to maintain momentum in Budapest and enter the summer break on a high
In Germany you were on the podium, in Budapest last year you were on the podium… do these two factors help heading to Hungary?
For sure, they don’t work against you and it’s always great to stand on the podium. I can remember feeling frustrated last year in Budapest as we did have a chance to be fighting for the win before we got held up by a driver who didn’t respect the blue flags, but that’s certainly a better frustration than missing out on the podium or even worse. Taking third in Germany was great so I certainly have a positive feeling heading to Hungary.
How good was it to be back on the podium in Germany?
Really good; it was a great result for the team and we had a very strong race. I was able to push really well in my first stint and thought I had a chance at one stage to challenge for the win, but the Safety Car meant I lost all the advantage I’d built up at that stage of the race. That then decided the strategy for us and ultimately we weren’t fast enough to challenge for the win at the end. There are a lot of positives to take from Germany so we’re very keen to maintain the momentum from that good result heading to Budapest.
Are you frustrated about not having driven at the Silverstone test?
As a driver, you always want to be in the car getting as much experience as possible; especially when there’s something new like different tyres. The tyres we used at the Nürburgring suited us pretty well, so let’s hope the latest version will also suit us at the Hungaroring.
What’s the key to a good result in Budapest?
It’s a tight and twisty track so you need a good qualifying result. We showed last year that being on the front row certainly helps and it would be fantastic to be back there again this year. We’ve also seen that high temperatures work well for us and it’s usually hot in Budapest, so we’ll be hoping for plenty of sun again.
What do you think of the circuit?
It’s a circuit that I quite like and one where I have had good experiences in the past. I scored my first GP2 Series pole position there in 2008, then finished first and third in 2011 which was a pretty good weekend. In 2012 I had my third podium finish of the year and qualified P2 on the grid which was a great way to end the first half of the season. In terms of driving, it’s not the most physically challenging layout in terms of high speed corners, but the heat you experience in the cockpit can be quite intense. It can also be a difficult circuit early in the weekend as the track is not used very much, meaning it’s quite slippery when you first go out.
Hungary will take the season over the half-way mark and into the summer break; how’s the mid-term report card looking?
There’s certainly good potential, but I think we’ll look at it a little more closely after Budapest before we head into the summer holidays.
Eric Boullier: “Another weekend like Germany please”
A double podium at the Nürburgring was exactly what the doctor ordered, with the same again in Budapest being most welcome reckons Team Principal Eric Boullier
We’re approaching the half-way mark of the season; what are your thoughts on the team’s performance so far?
It’s clear that we’ve had some good weekends and some weekends which have fallen short of expectations. Our last outing in Germany clearly falls into the former camp and that’s the sort of weekend we want to have in the coming races to get our championship fight back on track. If we can continue that push and refine the car we should be well placed for the second half of the season.
Why was the E21 so effective in Germany when it hasn’t gone as well in the previous few races?
I think the only place where the car hasn’t worked well is in Canada, which can be attributed to cooler temperatures and the energy that circuit puts through the tyres. Elsewhere, we’ve certainly had the potential for good results so there is no sense of panic. Germany showed what can happen when everything goes well and seeing both drivers on the podium – especially when both were fighting for the race win at different points of the race – was especially rewarding.
Talking of drivers, there’s a lot of discussion about the driver market at the moment…
It’s clear that Lotus F1 Team is a desirable place to be and we know there’s been a lot of talk about Kimi’s future. We all know that Kimi is an individual and he will make his decision in his own time. Naturally, we want him to continue in the sport and continue with Lotus F1 Team so we’re doing everything we can do to make that happen. Romain did a fantastic job in Germany which showed he is capable of mixing it with the very best in the sport.
What are your feelings looking back on the German GP?
It was a very good race from the team and one which validates all the hard work that has been going on back at Enstone. There’s been a lot of time and energy put into bringing upgrades to each race and getting the car back to the front after three difficult weekends, so it was very satisfying to see the result of all that hard work being rewarded.
How did you rate the team performance overall?
The E21 worked very well and both Kimi and Romain drove superbly. We had a good strategy from the pit wall, some fantastic pit stops, and were it not for losing some time behind both Mercedes with Kimi and then the safety car with Romain it’s possible that we could have won.
How much of a boost is a result like that for the team?
Being back on podium was exactly what we needed. We need to continue like this to make up for lost ground in both championships. It’s good to have this extra motivation for a strong race in Budapest before the summer break.
How much use was the Silverstone test?
It was good for us to get some mileage in lovely conditions at Silverstone. We were able to utilise Nico [Prost] and Davide [Valsecchi] to run the type of programme we haven’t been able to implement over the past few seasons where the Young Driver Test occurred at the end of the year. We did intend to run Kimi, but when the limitations on what race drivers could do in their testing for Pirelli became evident, it made more sense to be able to run a normal test programme with Nico.
What effect do you think the latest tyre specifications will have?
Budapest will be the real test, but we’re confident we have enough data to say that there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises. We performed well in Hungary last year and we’re eager to do the same again this season too.
Alan Permane: “Qualifying is crucial in Budapest”
After a strong race for the team in Germany, the question for many was ‘could we have won?’ Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane gives the team’s analysis of that race, and the potential for Budapest
Now we’ve been able to go through all the data and simulations, was a win possible at the Nürburgring?
Reflecting on that race and having run the possible scenarios through our strategy analysis software as per every weekend, we firmly believe that both Kimi and Romain would have had a far superior chance of catching and passing Sebastian [Vettel] were it not for the emergence of the Safety Car 36 laps from the end. We would have been much more comfortable with the idea of running Kimi on a two-stop strategy; sending him deeper into the race on his second stint rather than being forced into an early change by the Safety Car. There has been a lot of debate over whether we should have left Kimi out in his final stint, but it’s very clear from our simulations that – had his tyre degradation level continued at a steady rate – Seb would have quite easily been able to reel him in. While we are in no doubt about that, what is questionable is what would have happened if the degradation level had increased towards the end of the race. This was certainly the case for a number of other drivers who opted for that strategy, who we then saw being passed quite easily in the latter stages; something that would likely have happened to Kimi and subsequently dropped him back to fourth behind Fernando [Alonso] rather than a comfortable second with a fighting chance of victory. Taking all that into account, we’re very comfortable that the decision taken was the correct one.
We’ve seen a change in tyre allocation for the Hungaroring; what’s your view?
As I’ve said previously, we believe the original allocation of medium and hard compounds would have been a very conservative choice for Budapest. Of course, the situation is still somewhat different as – for the first time this season – we’ll see a combination of the 2013 compounds with 2012 construction used in a race scenario. This has brought something of an unknown into the equation with this year’s car, as the tyres are of a slightly different shape and will react differently to camber, toe in/out and so on. We’ve had the opportunity to get a better understanding of how they’ll behave at the Young Driver Test so there are no concerns on that front. On top of that, our knowledge of this construction from the 2012 season carries over quite well to this new configuration; giving us a good baseline in terms of such considerations as ride height, camber and toe sensitivity.
What’s in the upgrade box for Budapest?
We had a tightly packed schedule over the three day test at Silverstone, to the point where even with a few extra days and sets of tyres we would still have had more than enough development work to keep us occupied. This has given us plenty to think about heading to Hungary and indeed the second half of the season. Some of those developments will be carried across into this next race; wait and see when the cars roll out on Friday morning…
Track evolution has traditionally been a hot topic at the Hungaroring; how do you see it?
This circuit doesn’t get a great deal of use and it can get pretty dry and dusty out there, so it generally improves steadily throughout the weekend; not to Monaco levels, but notable enough to be worth factoring into our preparations for qualifying in particular. We saw Nico Rosberg getting caught out by an evolving track during qualifying at the Nürburgring – a circuit that is far more frequently used – so it’ll keep us on our toes on Saturday afternoon.
Speaking of qualifying; how important is a good grid slot in Budapest?
Qualifying is crucial. It’s a track where passing opportunities are few and far between, making overtaking very difficult even with a reasonable pace advantage, so we’ll be doing our utmost to qualify further up the field than we have been. Mercedes have proven themselves to be the class of the field in terms of single lap pace so it will be very difficult to qualify in front of them, but we’ll be looking to at least get very close to them on the grid to give our drivers the best chance possible of overhauling them in the race. We’ve seen in the past that they have struggled with tyre degradation on a Sunday which should work to our advantage – particularly in hot conditions as we often see in Hungary – with the medium / soft compound allocation also potentially giving us a broader scope in terms of strategies.
Brilliance in Budapest – An Engineer’s Guide to the Hungaroring Circuit
Approaching Turn 1: Heavy braking from almost 300km/h on the main straight to under 100km/h at the first turn creates the most likely overtaking opportunity on the circuit.
Turn 2: The track runs quite noticeably downhill into T2. With high potential for drivers to out-brake themselves here, they will need to keep their wits about them.
Turn 5: Moderate braking from around 240km/h to 150km/h at T5 follows the slight kink of T4; a tricky series of corners taken at medium / high speed.
Turns 4 – 11: T4 – T11 very much lead into each other so there’s little braking here and no room for error, as a small mistake at any stage can have a big effect on overall lap time. The drivers need a well-balanced car with good change of direction capabilities through this section.
Turn 13: The second slowest corner on the circuit, T13 is a tight left hander taken at around 100km/h before launching the car into the final turn.
Turn 14: A good exit from the third gear T14 is crucial, as it leads on to the circuits’ only straight and subsequently into T1; the best overtaking opportunity around the lap.
Rear Wing: Rear wing configuration will run to maximum downforce levels thanks to the relatively low speed nature of the circuit.
Front Wing: As with the rear, maximum downforce is required from the front wing in line with the circuit layout and also to help counter understeer. We will run a new specification of front wing to assist with this.
Suspension: The layout of the Hungaroring circuit promotes understeer, with a strong front end required to prevent this. The drivers will also ride the kerbs a lot at throughout the course of a lap, so a soft front end is useful in that respect.
Brakes: The lap begins with relatively heavy braking heading into T1, which comes at the end of a comparatively long straight. By contrast, demands on the brakes from T4 – T10 are very light. The drivers therefore need good confidence in their braking systems to be right on the mark when needed, as they are used heavily relatively seldom over the course of a lap.
Engine: We’re looking for non-peaky power delivery here to facilitate traction out of the low-speed corners and provide good all round driveability. The engine needs to be mapped in such a way as to deliver sharp bursts of power rather than sustained application of throttle. Ambient temperatures are particularly high in Budapest, so the engine must perform efficiently through the lower rev range while offering efficient cooling solutions.
Tyres: The medium and soft Pirelli P-Zeros are allocated. This will be the first race in which we’ll see a combination of 2013 compounds with 2012 construction. The circuit surface and layout is relatively kind to the tyres, however the high temperatures frequently experienced in Budapest can cause the rubber other issues such as blistering.