Hungarian Grand Prix

The Hungarian Grand Prix (Magyar Nagydíj) is a motor race held annually in Hungaroring race track, Mogyoród, Hungary. From 1986, the race has been included in the FIA Formula One World Championship calendar.

When was the first Hungarian Grand Prix?

The first Hungarian Grand Prix was staged on 21 June 1936 over a 5-kilometre (3.1-mile) race track located in Népliget, Budapest. The event was a success and it drew a very large crowd. It was participated by Mercedes-Benz, and the Alfa Romeo-Equipped Ferrari teams. Unfortunately, it has been halted for fifty years due to wars and political reasons.

The Hungarian Grand Prix has been using its sole race track since the beginning – the Hungaroring Race track.

Hungaroring: Then and Now

The Hungaroring race track owns the title of being the first venue for Formula One behind the former ‘Iron Curtain’, a non-physical boundary between soviet states and NATO, for continuously hosting the GP since 1986.

Motorsport has always been a part of tradition in Hungary with races being organized on a street circuit in the Népliget park in Budapest as far back as the 1930s. The Budapest Grand Prix was held at the circuit in 1936 which was won by Tazio Nuvolari in an Alfa Romeo.

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World War II was finished and racing was slowly resuming, but eventually engines roared up on the road once again, this time around an improvised track at Ferihegy Airport, Budapest. For three more years, Formula Junior continued at Ferihegy before racing switched back to Népliget until the 1970.

The authorities have used the motorsport industry as an instrument to promote tourism in the country during the 1980’s. The Népliget circuit was then proposed initially, with the idea having a Monaco-like street race. Unfortunately, the proposal has been rejected due to a reason of building modern facilities instead.

A location 11 miles north east of Budapest just near the town of Mogyoród was soon identified as offering a number of advantages; it was close to the capital, alongside a major motorway and set in a natural bowl, allowing spectators good views of most of the facility from any viewing point.

In October 1, 1985, the construction work started and was completed in just eight months; the time it took was considerably less than any other Formula One circuit had taken to construct. The original layout needed modification in the course of construction because of an underground spring that obliged the engineers to divert form the original course through series of slow S-bends therefore slowing the lap.

The first race in the circuit was held on March 24, 1986, in memory of the famous Hungarian four-time Motorcycle Grand Prix winner, János Drapál , who was fatally succumbed to an accident the year before in a race in Czechoslovakia. The first Formula one race came later that year and was won by Nelson Piquet in front of a crowd of almost 200,000 enthusiasts from across the Eastern Bloc countries, Germany and Austria.

The race was a ‘landslide’ of a success, even if the track was less enthusiastically received by the competing teams. The constricted and twisty nature of the course became more complexed because of a slippery track surface – a deficient general usage all throughout the year in addition to the bowl-like nature of the landscape evidently shows that dust was a constant issue. Some had a good time driving the course but others hated it so much; it was really undeniable, however, that overtaking was at a premium. Even so, Nigel Mansell notably proved it was possible in the right circumstances, taking an advantage from Ayrton Senna while lapping a back marker to sweep around the outside and drive on to victory in 1989.

In 1989, modifications were made to the circuit when the issues with the underground spring were finally resolved and the unfavorable S-bends behind the pits were bypassed. Then, for the 2003 season, more sensible changes were made when the final series of bends and the pit straight were altered, in order to provide a longer pit straight. A new, tighter, first corner does offer slightly more scope for overtaking and the racing has improved somewhat.

Today, the Hungaroring circuit also hosts events of the World Touring Car Championship and DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) touring car series, the GT Open series and the popular World Series by Renault races, as an addition to the Formula One race making it one of the busiest circuits in Eastern Europe.

What does the Hungaroring race track look like?

“A Bird’s eye view”

Lap length                                                     4.381km (2.722 miles)

Race laps                                                       70

Race distance                                               306.67km (190.556 miles)

Pole position                                                Left-hand side of the track

Lap record*                                                  1’19.071 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)

Fastest lap                                                    1’16.170 (Sebastian Vettel, 2018, practice three)

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Maximum speed                                         315kph (195.732 mph)

Distance from grid to turn one                 618m

Cars in this circuit, every race, runs in piles due to its narrow road and got worsen by being twisty and often dusty because of under-use. Overtaking is really a challenge for every driver. In 1990 GP, it was agonizing for the championship leader Ayrton Senna to overtake against slow moving Thierry Boutsen. Pit strategy is of an essence; in 1998, Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari team changed his strategy mid-race before Schumacher built up a winning margin after all the stops had been made. Overtaking is a rare occurrence here, although the 1989 race saw a mind-blowing maneuver from Nigel Mansell in the Ferrari, who started from 12th on the grid and passed car after car and eventually to take the lead when Ayrton Senna was obstructed by a slower driver.  In 2003, the circuit was slightly modified in an attempt to allow more passing.

What to prepare in going to Hungarian Grand Prix?

Preparation is always of an essence wherever you go, especially for a weekend Grand prix. Reading the information below will help you avoid hassles and problems on your way and during your stay.

Concerning your Visa

For your information, Hungary is a part of the Schengen area, comprised of 26 European countries with no internal border controls. People of the European Union, Australia, USA, Canada and other major Western countries can visit visa-free for up to 90 days. You are free to cross borders without having to show your passport within the Schengen area. Take note of the three months’ validity on your passport beyond your planned visit to the Grand Prix.

Safety concerns

In general, Budapest is a safe place to travel. But just like any tourist spots cities, you’ll need to be more alert as crime and scams do exist, particularly when a big event such as the Grand Prix is on. Pickpockets are present and operate on major locations such as public transport and around popular tourist attractions, so keep your belongings secure. It’s best to always book your taxi by phone and don’t hail on the street. Scammers sometimes target tourists, they know who the tourists are, particularly in the old town area, so be careful about making new friends, especially if you have been drinking. The well-known Budapest scam involves a pretty girl introducing herself on the street and wanting to take you to a bar. Don’t fall for this one! The bar will charge exorbitant rates for drinks and heavies will make sure your several-hundred Euro bill is settled. So men, be careful.

Ensuring your health

Always remember to sort out adequate travel insurance before you head to Hungary. As for the health services, it is widely present in Hungary, though still somewhat behind Western standards. The best doctors can be found in private clinics and hospitals, just in case you get sick, but it would be more expensive than at equivalent public facilities.

The Hungarian Currency

Forint (HUF) is Hungary’s currency and it remains pretty cheap when compared to most major currencies. ATMs are widely scattered throughout Budapest and credit cards are widely accepted in shops and restaurants. As much as possible, avoid local money changers because banks offer better rates. Don’t forget to give a tip, but only if you are happy with the service.

Hungarian language

The official language of Hungary is Hungarian (sometimes referred to as ‘Magyar’) and though it is known to be one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn, you need not to worry. A lot of Hungarians speak at least some English and German, particularly younger people and those in the services industry. A translator on your smartphone would always be handy and learning a little Hungarian would really be appreciated by the locals.

The weather in Hungary

August is a hot and dry month in Budapest. The temperature is expected to rise as high as around 30°C (86°F) or above and plenty of sun. Budapest gets as much summer sun as many resorts on the Mediterranean Sea, and raining during the race weekend has only been experienced a handful of times in over 30 years. You will need to bring light, comfortable clothing and don’t forget a hat and sunglasses.

Some info bits for you

  • Hungary uses European standard 2-pronged electricity sockets.
  • The time zone in Hungary is GMT +1 hour.
  • Hungary’s international dialing code is +36. The general Emergency number is 112.
  • Hungarians drive on the right just like any other European countries.
  • The tap water in Budapest is safe to drink.

How to go to Hungaroring?

Budapest is conveniently located in the middle of Central Europe. It’s not difficult to get to the Hungarian Grand Prix, weather you go by air or by land (train and roads). Budapest has a well-built public transport system with a very well-organized three-line Metro sustaining majority of the central city areas. Taxis are numerous in sight and new laws and ordinances have widely eliminated dishonest drivers. The Hungaroring circuit is just about 20km to the northwest of the center and can be reached fairly easily by train, bus or taxi. It is important to read below to weigh the gravity of convenience for your travel to the Grand Prix.

Taking an Airplane to Budapest

The Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD) is located just 16km South East of the city center and it offers a number of European and straight flights. Hungary’s Flag carrier airline, Malev, have unfortunately collapsed due to debts in 2012, that it made the airline to reduce some of the long-haul destinations catered from Budapest. A better option out there is the Wizz Air, which is located in Budapest and flies to a large number of European destinations and also further afield. Other more affordable flights to Budapest from numerous European destinations include EasyJet, Ryanair, German Wings and Jet2. Major European flag carriers also fly on a regular basis direct to Budapest including British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa, LOT, Turkish Airlines and Aeroflot. You could also try flying to Vienna or Bratislava if you want to see more of the region and potentially save a few Euros; both cities are not so far from Budapest.

Taking the Tracks to Budapest

If you have the luxury of time and want to get a glimpse of the countryside, taking the train to Budapest is a great option. The city is well connected to Europe’s extensive rail network and there are available trains round-a-clock.

Taking the buses to Budapest

If you are on a tight budget you can always opt to take the regular buses that connect Budapest with many Western, Central and Eastern Europe capitals, even as far as the UK. The main international bus station in Budapest (Népliget) is close to the city center and on the Metro.

Going to the Hungaroring

The time and the starting location will always be a factor in reaching the Hungaroring race track. Commonly, the travel from a point in Budapest will allow you to reach the race track in about 30 minutes to an hour and a half. Taking a chopper will get you there in a haste but you can always go there via taxis that takes 30 minutes. There are also other modes of transportation such as busses and cheaper trains.

What are the best Spots/Grandstands at the Hungaroring?

As always, planning where to be seated during the race is as important as planning where to stay during the whole race weekend. Below is the list of the best spots in Hungaroring to maximize your Hungarian Grand Prix experience. It will be always up to you if you want to watch the GP in style.

Main Straight: Gold 1&2 and Super Gold

The grids are set a little farther in Hungary so cars line up in front of Gold 1 and Gold 2 grandstands giving fans here the best view of the start of the race. The two grandstands share the view of the grid with roughly the first half of the pack in front of Gold 1 and Gold 2 enjoying views of the lower half. Super Gold Grandstand is found opposite of the team garages and enjoys the best views of the pit stops.

  • Gold 1 Grandstand

Gold 1 has a little advantage from its neighbor, Gold 2, by being opposite the top spots on the grid which is also the scene of the post qualifying interviews. Moreover, fans in these seats are opposite the podium, parc ferme and the top teams’ garages are visible just off to the left of the grandstand. You can see the straight that connects turns 11 and 12 – at a distance of course.

·       Gold 2 Grandstand

It’s also a fine option to be seated in this grandstand although it feels like a bit of a lesser edge between the best views of the grid and podium represented by Gold 1 and the better views of the last sector available in Silver 1, 2 and the Red Bull stand.

  • Super Gold Grandstand

It is common for side track race fans to endure the heat of the sun but Super Gold Grandstand is favored by many for the added comfort that this, the only Budapest grandstand with a roof, offers.

It might not be an impact for other brave souls but there are more in this grandstand. Tagged as the main grandstand, Super Gold likewise settle in a key location in the heart of the bottom straight.

Garages and pit stops are visible. It’s important to point out though that Super Gold does not overlook the grid or the podium – only fans in the right hand section of the stand enjoy a decent sight of these – take a look at Gold 1 and 2 if you desire to watch the teams’ preparation.

In case you’re wondering, the top four rows seats do give you a glimpse of some sections of the track behind the pit building, but it not much.

This Grandstand is just right next to the F1 fan zone and main food and beverage area. It means you won’t have to be gone from your seat for long to munch some food. 

Not all are perfect, some edges of the grandstand can still be hit by the sun’s rays so you should be prepared with your sunscreen lotion.

·       Turn 1: Gold 3 and 4

The people who tell memorable tales of the races in Hungaroring since 1986 might be seated here just in front of Turn 1 of the track.

We have read above that this circuit often disallows the drivers to overtake because of its narrow and twisty characteristics. However, turn 1 is a place in the circuit which allows the drivers to maneuver for them to overtake against other competitors.

The grandstands here are elevated just enough and will give you the advantage to see more cars approaching and exiting the turn. This should allow you to witness the changes in position.

This is the reason why this grandstand is so popular among the fans.

Turns 5 to 7: Bronze 1 and 2

These grandstand in the Bronze category are the most affordable grandstands at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Situated at the furthest point from the F1 Fan Zone, watchers here have nothing much to do but to watch the cars to just pass by their eyes.

There are food and drinks stalls somehow but there is more for you. On the upper hand, there are plenty of general admission areas nearby so you are ideally placed to explore the circuit’s many twists and turns when you feel like a change of scenery

Bronze 1 Grandstand

This grandstand overlooks the chicane of turns 6 and 7. Unfortunately in this place, it is near impossible that you’ll see overtakes. But, this is the best seat that Bronze category can offer you.

Bronze 2 Grandstand

Bronze 2 is at the exit of turn 5 and is no better a place to watch the race than many of the general admission areas nearby.

Just a little cost than a general admission ticket, for some it will be worth it to have a reserved seat, letting you come and go as you please and always have somewhere to return to when the sun rays is to much to bear for your skin.

Silver 5 Grandstand

This grandstand has a little to offer for a vantage point. Supporters are likely to oversee a short straight between turns 11 and 12 with a farther view of the succeeding order of corners.

Turn 14: Silver 3 and 6 Grandstands

Note that this is located at the last turn at Hungaroring. Witness the drivers doing their finest tricks and maneuvers to win and a preparation for once again making an overtake at turn 1.

Silver 3 and 6 Grandstands embrace the corner and are ideally placed to witness the action unfold. Even though these grandstands do not fully feature a broader and multiple angle view just like in the other grandstand, you are still in a good place.

Final Sector: Silver 1,2&4 and Red Bull Grandstands

The ‘Gold’ categories are surprisingly not the best viewing grandstands but rather situated close to the start-finish straight offered at a reasonable price.

These grandstands glance over the finishing zone of the lap; the short straight that links turn 11 and 12 and go before a twisty, manifold corner section of the track, leading to the main straight.

It’s a lucky shot to seeing even one overtake as you’re settled at a more distant view of the grid, pit stops and podium compared to Gold grandstands. But the moment you start watching as the set of F1 cars wind towards you and tussle for control around the final turn before thriving off to start another lap leaving you speechless, none of that will matter.

Silver 1, 2 and Red Bull Grandstands

A row of grandstands all bordering each other, winners cannot be clearly and easily identified here. As long as you’re there, all grandstands are good and the hype of all fans cheering out loud is more than enough to enjoy the race. But if you don’t like the sound of the elevated Silver 4 and want to be nearby to the track, then these are the best options.

If you wish to be nearest to the grid, pit and podium area, it’s best to opt for a seat in Silver 1. To capture great photos, choose to be near the corner of the Red Bull Grandstand.

Quench tip: You can refill your drinking bottles with a water faucet located just between the Red Bull stand and the Silver 4 stand.

Silver 4 Grandstand

This is the highest elevated terrain behind the Red Bull stand serving the most extensive and broadest view of the race field. Not only that, fans get to witness the remarkable manifold corner of the last segment and a glimpse of the parts of sector 2.

There are of course better seats if you want to stay near and witness the action. Some rows are still distant from the track and not everyone can really have a good view even with a giant screen. However, at this grandstand is still probably the best for an absolute coverage of the race.

General Admission at the Hungaroring

General admission is no doubt a privilege with a chance to go sight-seeing around the circuit. On race weekends, strolling around the track is worthwhile. It’s an opportunity to capture photos on the hill between turns 9 and 10 and enjoy the view of the vast field.

It’s always best to come early for the race and secure a good spot on the grandstand of your choice. Cars are on the grid, a good portion of the track covering a number of corners and a giant screen in sight.  Finishing the race, you’ll get to be part of the track invasion under the podium.