F1: Can Brawn and Button turn this season around?

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarThursday, July 23rd, 2009

 
 

Just how far can current drivers’ and constructors’ insurgent challengers Red Bull get this season by relying on cool weather to blunt the Brawn charge?

This weekend might provide some answers to just that question.

Even if there’s a sizzling outbreak of summer at the Hungaroring this weekend, that may not be enough to save Brawn from the challenge of the newly-dominant Red Bull.

But the parched temperatures forecast for Budapest could solve the problem of getting some heat into those pesky tyres.

And, if that happens, the Brawn GP car had better prove to be the match of its nearest rival, or the name inscribed on the trophy in November is likely to be either German or Australian.

Elsewhere on the grid all eyes will be on Jaime Alguersuari, set to take his sponsorship millions out for a run in the Toro Rosso car, and becoming the youngest man ever to start a F1 race in the process.

Remember that famous remark of his sort-of team-mate Mark Webber? The one about schoolboys and F1 cars? Let’s hope the prophetic element of it doesn’t come true.

(Although if Algersuari can emulate the success of Sebastian Vettel, the ‘schoolboy’ it was originally aimed at, he will have done very well indeed.)

The 2.75-mile Hungaroring, close to the country’s capital, has hosted the race since 1986 and has offered some stunning races in that time.

The low-speed and high-downforce circuit is described in the Brawn GP team preview as one of the most technically and physically demanding tracks on the calendar with a twisting layout of interlinked corners which really test drivers and cars.

Ross Brawn speaks of frustrating month

Button says is looking forward to returning to the track, the scene of his only pre-Brawn GP F1 win: “Hungary is always one of my favourite races and even more so this year as it should finally be a return to some real summer temperatures!

“The circuit holds some very special memories for me as the venue of my first Formula One win three years ago and it’s fantastic to be going back there with the chance to compete for the win again.

“The Hungaroring is quite a challenging circuit as it is so twisty and there’s no real respite round the lap but it is a lot of fun to drive.

“The lap has a good rhythm and mix of slow-speed and high-speed turns. The circuit generates an incredible amount of grip as the weekend gets underway which can provide a real challenge in finding the right set-up.

“I’ve been at home in Monaco for the past week concentrating on my training but I know that the guys at the factory and at Mercedes-Benz have been working really hard on our latest upgrade package and I just can’t wait to get back in the car.”

Team principal Ross Brawn added: “The last two races at Silverstone and the Nürburgring have been frustrating for the team as we have not been able to achieve the full potential of our car at the same time as our competitors have taken a good step forward.

“However we are confident that the inherent performance of the BGP 001 which was demonstrated during the first half of the season has not disappeared and the problems that we faced were unique to the circumstances of those races.”

He said the team’s focus now was to maximise the performance of the car while continuing to develop improvements to maintain its championship challenge.

“We have a significant aerodynamic upgrade for the race in Budapest which will bring performance gains in efficiency, downforce and aero balance but we face a fierce battle and we must continue to improve for the rest of the season.

“The team has faced many challenges to arrive where we are today and I am confident that we have the people and resources, plus two excellent drivers, to respond and fight to maintain our position of leading the constructors’ and drivers’ championships.”

That “two excellent drivers” comment is surely a signal aimed at Rubens Barrichello, who finished the previous race convinced that all the team could say to him was ‘blah blah blah’.

Can McLaren build on Nurburgring improvements?

Meanwhile, the challenge for McLaren will be to try to build on their obvious improvements at the German Grand Prix with no repeat of the first-lap contretemps between Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber that saw the former leave the track at the first corner and lose all hope for his race.

Hamilton said of the forthcoming race: “The Hungaroring is one of the most demanding circuits for drivers because you’re busy throughout the entire lap. It’s a bit like a kart circuit – there are lots of twists and turns and the only place to relax is along the start/finish straight, which is quite short.

“It’s also quite low-grip which makes overtaking particularly tricky. But I really enjoy the place – I won here in 2007 and was on pole last year.

“It’s a circuit that really rewards consistent, precise driving. Push too hard and you tend to lose rather than gain time. Given the potential we showed in Germany last weekend, I’m hopeful of getting a result that demonstrates the improvement we’ve made over the past few weeks.”

Team-mate Kovalainen, meanwhile, is returning to the circuit as last year’s victor and will be running McLaren’s upgrade package this weekend: “This race is likely to be won or lost in qualifying: you’ve got to be at the front and run an aggressive first stint if you are to succeed in the race.”

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh added: “While Lewis demonstrated during practice and qualifying at the Nurburgring that our upgrade package appears to provide us with a sizeable step forward in performance, it was frustrating that damage to the rear bodywork left us unable to fully ascertain that benefit in the race itself.

“For Budapest, both Lewis and Heikki will be equipped with the new package and we are hopeful that it will enable us to mount a more sustained attack towards the front of the field.

“The Hungaroring is a circuit where we as a team have enjoyed many successes in the past and we travel there this weekend hoping to provide concrete evidence that we’re decisively turning our fortunes around for the remainder of the season.”

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