Turn 5, Hungaroring
They’ve re-surfaced the Hungaroring and normally that would mean a reduction in grip. The smooth surface would ordinarily mean less for the rubber to grab hold of and the oily residue of the new bitumen would restrict the chemical bonding that’s another part of the grip mechanism. But into Turn Five, the long, oval-like corner that loops the cars around the circuit’s northern-most tip, they are visually faster than last year.
The Mercs in particular are carrying an entry speed unseen there since the tyre war days and then maintaining it, so what’s happening? The absence of bumps is allowing a much cleaner line through there than was possible before when a bump around a third of the way into the turn required a compromised line. Also, the flattening of the circuit everywhere is allowing the teams to run the cars with much lower ride heights, enhancing the underbody aerodynamic grip.
Standing on the exit of five, as the cars clamber over the kerb, drivers reluctant to surrender the momentum they’ve built through there, some look much easier to handle than others. Early in the session that kerb is still damp from overnight rain and Valtteri Bottas is the first through on slicks, throttle manipulating over there, snaky little wiggle from the Williams part-way through, then savage acceleration in the short burst to the chicane.
By comparison Fernando Alonso’s McLaren looks way more manageable and precise, allowing him to be ever more aggressive in his approach. This is a corner perfectly configured for Kimi Räikkönen’s flowing style and he keeps up smooth momentum all the way through, visually faster despite fewer inputs than Sebastian Vettel.
But all this comparison is rendered incidental when a Mercedes comes through, wailing at a completely different pitch. You don’t even need to look at it to know it’s quicker; you can hear it.