Alfa Romeo Racing: Hungarian GP Friday Practice ‘The conditions out there weren’t easy’

Slippery practice in the Budapest rain

FIA Formula One Magyar Nagydíj 2020 – Practice – Friday
Weather: FP1: cloudy, drizzle in the final minutes, 17.9-19.1°C air, 24.7-26.1°C track; FP2: rainy, 16.2-16.2°C air, 20.4-19.8°C track

Three weekends of racing in a row, three weekends in which the rain – whether on Thursday, Friday or Saturday – reminded team’s that “hot and sunny” in summer is not a foregone conclusion. The rain threatened to fall during FP1, just appearing in the form of a drizzle with minutes to spare; but come FP2, the taps were well and truly open.

As always, it’s difficult to draw conclusions from a wet session. Temperatures drop, grip takes leave of absence and the drivers are forced to tip-toe around the soaked circuit, just trying to keep their car facing the right way. The conditions are difficult, and so is to glean any useful information from the data coming back from the track.

Just as these conditions can be difficult for the people in the cockpit and in the engineers’ office, however, they can be an opportunity. The history of F1 is littered with wet races that produced surprising results: that’s why on a weekend like this, when it is just Friday, everyone in the paddock has still a hopeful glint in the eye.

Bring on tomorrow, and qualifying – the only way to see which hopes will live into the evening, is to put them through the test of reality…

Kimi Räikkönen (car number 7):
Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN C39 (Chassis 02/Ferrari)
1st practice: did not participate / 2nd practice: 9th / 1:43.471 (16 laps)

“The conditions out there weren’t easy this afternoon, so it’s quite hard to get a good amount of information. We are obviously still a bit far off from where we’d like to be, which means we will need to work hard tonight, crunch all the data and hopefully come back with a better car for tomorrow. The weather could play a part in qualifying, but we won’t know it until we’re there, in the meantime we just have to figure out the best way forward with the setup.”

Antonio Giovinazzi (car number 99):
Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN C39 (Chassis 04/Ferrari)
1st practice: 17th / 1:18.425 (30 laps) / 2nd practice: 11th / 1:44.411 (9 laps)

“It hasn’t been the most straightforward Friday but there is still plenty of scope to improve. I did a fair bit of running in the wet, on top of the session in the dry in the morning: hopefully this means we have enough data for our engineers to work with to find the best balance for tomorrow. The rest of the weekend could still produce surprises when it comes to the weather, so we will need to take that into account when setting up the car for qualifying: we will also need to be ready for any opportunity, to seize the moment as you never know what can happen in a wet qualifying or race.”

Robert Kubica (car number 88):
Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN C39 (Chassis 02/Ferrari)
1st practice: 19th / 1.19.150 (26 laps) / 2nd practice: did not participate

“It’s been a busy Friday in the car for me as we followed our test programme, trying different things to tackle this kind of weather. I think we did some useful work and hopefully it will reflect in a step forward in performance for tomorrow and Sunday. We continue to work on understanding how our car works in different conditions: running in the wet and on a cold track means we need to adapt to the circumstances, with the engineers relying on our feedback to make their decisions.”

Robert’s guide to the Hungaroring

After the unprecedented spectacle of two consecutive races at the Red Bull Ring, Formula One travels across the border to the Hungaroring, a track used for the first time in 1986 and a regular on the calendar ever since.

The circuit in the outskirts of Budapest is a special place for Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN driver Robert Kubica, who made his F1 debut with the team in Hungary back in 2006.

That debut race produced a superb seventh in a dramatic rain-hit race, only for the result to be voided when the car was deemed to be marginally underweight, a discrepancy caused by the slight difference in weight between wet and slick tyres. Kubica made amends by finishing fifth in the same venue the following year.

Having enjoyed a run in this year’s Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN car in FP1 at the Styrian Grand Prix, Robert has another chance to log miles in the car this weekend. Here he gives us his guide to this weekend’s venue.

“The Hungaroring is one of the closest circuits to my heart, partly because I made my debut here in 2006, but also because there has been always massive support from Poland. It all contributes to make this a very special place for me.

“The track is one of the trickiest circuits on the calendar, with a lot of corner-into-corner sections. There is not really any time to breathe or to rest. The start/finish line is actually the only place where we go straight for a bit, otherwise there are always sections where you finish one corner and you have to think straight away about the next one. It’s a demanding track from a driving point of view but it’s also a big challenge mentally.

“From a car point of view, we have seen in the past that having a well-balanced car makes a massive difference here. If it’s warm, and it tends to be very hot here, then this difference is even bigger, because the tyres are suffering a lot more. They have a really hard time around this track.

“It’s a high downforce track, there aren’t really any fast sections and there are just two fast high-speed corners. Most of the corners are medium- to low-speed corners where you need a good balance and good general mechanical grip from the car. You need to focus more on extracting the maximum grip from your car, and not really about the top speed or efficiency.

“We were among the quickest cars on the straights in Austria, but I don’t think that will necessarily affect us negatively in Hungary. We have a package which can work well here, but a lot will depend on the conditions we find.

“Of course, this is not the track that rewards efficiency the most. If you have downforce, that’s obviously a positive, but being far from perfect in this aspect will not lose you a massive amount of time. The key is purely about the downforce and mechanical grip.”

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