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F1: The challenges of the Hungaroring Formula 1 circuit

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The twisty 4.381km Hungarian circuit is often compared to a kart track, with a succession of slow corners and short straightaways. This sinuous nature gives rise to an extremely low speed over a lap, just 182 km/h, making Hungary the slowest lap after Monaco.

Renault Sport F1 engineers divided the circuit into three important sections:

Turn 2
After exiting the tight Turn 1 in second gear, the drivers accelerate quickly up to 6th before braking downhill into Turn 2. It is very easy to break too late, locking a wheel and compromising the racing line at corner entry. Equally it is very tempting to get on the power too early, which will compromise the racing line through 3, this penalty being carried along the entirety of following straight. This sequence of corners rewards patience and precision. From an engine’s perspective, the aim is to produce the exact torque requested by the driver, this being just as important on overrun as on traction.

Turns 8 and 9

Although these are definitely two corners in their own right, they are inextricably linked. Exiting the chicane, the drivers accelerate from 2nd to 4th, brake and drop down to 3rd to negotiate turn 8. A quick spurt and momentarily back up to 4th before a quick touch of the brakes and back down to 3rd to tackle turn 9. Drivers have to be careful to not be too greedy through turn 8, as this will compromise their line through turn 9, this loss of speed being carried down to turn 11 as turn 10 is easily taken flat. The RS27 needs to be able to respond instantly to the driver’s rapidly changing demands throughout this section, such as 50ms downshifts followed by almost immediate power application.

Turn 14
Turn 14 is last corner of the circuit. Taken in 3rd gear at between 130-150kph, it is negotiated over a period of around two seconds from the point of turn-in. It is unusual in the sense that it is not a typical point-and-squirt corner, where the driver brakes, turns in and gets back on the power straight away. Instead the driver holds some pedal throughout the corner, potentially stabbing at it deliberately to overcome any understeer balance. Finally the driver arrives at the end of the corner, hopefully on the right line to get the best exit onto the start/finish straight. The engine will need to respond well to this relatively unusual set of circumstances, as any hesitation or drivability issue could upset the balance of the car mid-corner.

F1 Hungaroring
Photo: Renault Sport F1

“With just 55% of the lap taken at full throttle, the requirements for this permanent track are very similar to a street race,” said Remi Taffin, Renault Sport F1 head of track operations.

“Power sensitivity and outright engine power are therefore not a major concern, and the start-finish straight and the 790m straight between turns 3 and 4 are the only parts of the track where the engine is used at maximum revs,” he added.

“With so many stops and starts, the fuel consumption per kilometre is high and the starting fuel load will be correspondingly heavy. The high temperatures do put the cooling system under a lot of pressure, so heat dissipation is crucial, particularly when you consider that the engine has little time to breathe on the short bursts between corners. Unfortunately, the high downforce configuration required for this track do not afford us the luxury of additional air inlets to cool the engine,” said the French engineer.