“The Hungaroring is one of my favourite circuits”
Luck was not on Nick’s side at his home race, but he believes that now would be the perfect time to perform well as the August break approaches.
How was your home race in Germany?
It wasn’t what I was aiming for, that’s for sure. Before the race I thought we could have scored good points. But, as early as the first lap, I had a coming together with Paul (Di Resta). I locked up the front wheels and couldn’t avoid hitting him. Then I was at the back of the field but I made up positions quickly. The pace in this phase was actually good, though it was clear that it would be a difficult race.
I was up to 16th and I knew the pace wasn’t bad; you never know what can happen during the race. Then I came up behind Sébastien (Buemi), who covered the left hand side on the way into the chicane, which was perfectly fine. I turned right to overtake him and after that he turned right as well, pushing me into the grass. Unfortunately I then took off and had a crash. Luckily I was not hurt, but it was a disappointing end to a race I would love to have done well at.
Nevertheless, have you seen signs of improvement on the car since Silverstone?
Yes, if you look at our result in Germany it was not great. However, if you observe the pace compared to Silverstone, where we qualified 14th and 16th, it is going in the right direction. At present, it just doesn’t feel good enough, but we are working relentlessly on it. What makes me optimistic is that lately we’ve seen significant progress in the wind tunnel. Now it’s just a question of getting parts onto the car quickly. I’m hopeful we can get a few additions onto the car this weekend, and I know that further afield, in Spa and Monza, we will have even greater upgrades.
Are you looking forward to Budapest?
Absolutely, it’s one of my favourite circuits. I enjoy driving there and seem to get on well each time I race there so I hope this weekend is no different. I’ve had two F1 podiums at the Hungaroring before, so I’ve got good memories from the place. Normally the conditions are pretty hot, but we’ve just had a quick look at the forecast and actually there is a chance of some rain! I also know that a lot of Polish fans usually attend this race, so it will be a little extra motivation for me driving what was originally Robert’s car.
The circuit has few overtaking chances so qualifying could play a pivotal role again…
It could, and I’m sure it will. That said, the DRS should help a bit. It’s a very twisty, tight circuit with tarmac that normally gives the cars high grip so it’s good fun to drive and I’m looking forward to it.
What kind of result at the Hungaroring would give you satisfaction heading into the August break?
What’s most important is that we see ourselves moving in the right direction. Hopefully we will have some new parts, which will help get our pace up. We want to have a good result, especially before the August break because it would do a lot for our morale to go into the second half of the season on a high. But, if for whatever reason it doesn’t work out and I still know that we’re moving forward and our pace is good, then it wouldn’t be the end of the world. But, no two ways about it, we’re aiming high – we have to, because this is what we’re here for.
“Car set-up is very important in Budapest”
With a sole point in Germany, the Russian is looking to battle with the big guys again in Budapest.
How was the German GP for you?
Well, I scored another point but we should be finishing much higher up the points. We’ve said that time and again, but we brought good developments to the car last weekend, perhaps lacked a bit of luck and didn’t capitalise on our opportunities. What’s noticeable is there are other teams beginning to compete seriously with us, such as Force India and Sauber, so we need to take the initiative and make a significant step forward to stay ahead of these guys. We should be fighting for fourth spot in the Constructors’ Championship, and for that to happen we need to improve on our result in Germany. If you look specifically at the race, I probably didn’t pit early enough in order to fight with the group in front, and that lost me a few places so it was always going to be hard to be higher up the points.
Has the team started moving in the right direction since Silverstone, though?
Yes, it was good that the exhaust situation that was causing a lot of discussion at Silverstone was resolved, but that alone is not enough to get us back where we should be. We need to be fighting with the teams in front because we are a top team. We brought some upgrades with us to Germany and there’s no doubt they helped, but we’re going to keep pushing forward to ensure we’re back where we should be.
Looking ahead to Hungary, where there are swathes of Russian fans, how do you like racing there?
It’s a great circuit and I’ve got good memories from my time there in GP2. I won my first race in Budapest, so it’s always great to come back. The atmosphere is great with a lot of fans watching so I’m always happy to go back. And yes, there are lots of Russians in Budapest too, so I will be doing everything I can to give my team and them a good result.
What are your thoughts on the Hungaroring circuit?
It’s quite technical and you need the right setup to be successful there. There are just two high speed corners but the rest is more technical. Car set-up is very important in Budapest.
How can you summarise the first half of the season?
Well, we all remember that it started well. Then we had a significant drop a few races into the season and consequently lost a lot of points. We’ve had some challenges with our aero packages so we will be analysing that in the August break among other things. I remain confident our season will take an upturn in the second half of the year, that’s what we’re all pushing for.
Eric Boullier interview – ‘A word with the boss’
Germany – not the result the team was hoping for?
No, it wasn’t the result we were looking for. We came to the Nürburgring with some developments to the car, which gave us higher hopes going into the weekend. Vitaly put in a determined drive, while lady luck did not favour Nick when we was working his way back up the field after falling back to 22nd position. It was another point gained for us, but really we were well below par, and it was not the weekend we expected it to be. It was not good enough, and at the Hungarian GP we will try and get back on track, although there will be no significant revisions to the car until after the summer break.
We now move to Hungary, a race that was introduced back in 1986 – how important is this fixture to the F1 calendar?
Yes, Hungary has been a big part of Formula One for 25 years now. It was a completely groundbreaking move to make it a race venue back in the mid-1980s, and I think the decision to do so has been vindicated. It put F1 on the map, and behind the Iron Curtain for the first time; it has helped raise its profile in a part of Europe where the sport had not travelled. We know that when we get to Hungary there will be fans everywhere; the Hungarian people love their motorsport and we’re really looking forward to getting our campaign back on-track in front of a motor racing-mad crowd. Make no mistake, we will try to give the LRGP fans in Budapest something to cheer about this weekend, even if the podium looks a bit far from us at the moment.
It’s the final Grand Prix before the summer break – what are your expectations?
I’ve expected improvement from our car for a number of races now, and we are making improvement, but we have got to get our heads down and make bigger strides. It’s a competitive field out there, with Force India and Sauber also competing in higher positions, so we’ve got to raise our game starting in Hungary.
We’re halfway through the season – what have you made of it, and what’s to come?
Well, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not satisfied with where we are, no one in the team is. We started the season well, but that feels like a while ago now and we have to face the facts, which are that we’ve been off the pace and we are trying hard to put that right. We brought some developments to the car in Germany, which didn’t produce nearly enough so we are now all eyes forward to Hungary to ensure we have the opportunity to head on our summer breaks on a high.
James Allison – Tech Talk
“Like Monaco, the Hungaroring is all about qualifying”
With few overtaking opportunities available at the Hungaroring, James explains how qualifying will play a key role in the outcome in Budapest. What are the challenges of the Hungaroring?
Like Monaco, the Hungaroring is all about qualifying. DRS will skew things a little, but it will remain very tough to overtake. Getting a good qualifying lap will involve having a car which has a good high downforce setup and is able to cope with some of the bumps around the track.
Should this be a circuit which suits the R31?
We were not too special at Monaco this year, another high downforce track, but I think we have resolved some of the issues that bedevilled us there and we are hopeful of a better outing in Hungary.
This is a track which traditionally sees a lot of surface evolution – how difficult is it working with a moving target?
It is tough for race engineers and drivers alike. Setup changes normally yield results which are of the order of 0.1sec/lap, but the track evolution can be over 1sec/lap. The challenge is the same for all teams however.
We’re now in the second half of the season – what’s the development plan and how much resource and attention is paid to the R32?
We have quite lot of improvements to deliver over the next five races. These developments are largely as a result of research work that is already complete, leaving us with the task of designing and manufacturing them for use in the races. By the time the summer break is complete, most of our factory research resource and around half of our manufacturing capacity will have transferred to next year’s car.
The August break is soon upon us – how frustrating is it locking up the factory and will you be musing concepts and solutions in the bath during the break?
The rules regarding not working during the FOTA shutdown are quite strict, but they have not closed off the bath musing loophole – two weeks of continuous bathing may be called for! The shutdown is a little frustrating in one sense, but it is a settled part of the sport now, and it allows the teams to take a well-earned break.
Drivers’ Guide to Budapest
Describe Budapest in three words?
Nick: Hot, technical, fun!
Vitaly: Culture, museums, bridges!
Favourite restaurants and bars?
Nick: I don’t know the name but they have some good sweet wine called “Tokaji”
Vitaly: It’s become a very international city, so there’s a great variety of places to eat.
What do you think of the track?
Nick: I like it a lot. It’s probably the slowest circuit, and the closest to Monaco without the walls, and I always enjoyed racing there in Formula 3000 and, of course, since then in Formula One.
Vitaly: A very technical track, an enjoyable track to drive but with a lot of slow corners so a strong set-up is always needed at the Hungoraring.
Best memory of Budapest?
Nick: Winning my Formula 3000 Championship
Vitaly: I have good memories from last year and when I raced in GP2 series too.
Did you know?
Vitaly Petrov finished in fifth place at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2010 – his best result of the season.
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