It’s a busy week for F1, with a mad dash from Hockenheim to the Hungaroring, in many cases via a couple of days back at base. The mid-season break is very firmly on the horizon – but first there’s the small matter of a Hungarian Grand Prix to contest.
The Hungarian Grand Prix has been held at the Hungaroring, on the outskirts of Budapest, since 1986. It’s a bulwark of the current calendar with only Monaco and Monza enjoying a longer continuous streak at the moment. When the race first started it was a daring step behind the Iron Curtain for F1 but in the intervening 33 years the city has undergone great changes and has become one of F1’s top tourist destinations, encouraging crowds to spend all day at the track and then sample the nightlife on the banks of the Danube during the long summer evenings. However many years we race here, it’s impossible to not gawk at the gothic splendour on the way to and from the track.
The Hungaroring itself is sometimes described as ‘Monaco without the walls’. That’s not entirely helpful given that the walls are largely what gives Monaco its character. What’s left is a tight, sinuous track demanding high downforce and good traction, not offering much in the way of overtaking opportunities – and this indeed is mimicked at the Hungaroring. Drivers tend to very much enjoy the circuit when driving against the clock in qualifying, less so during the race, which can become a little processional. Think of it as a go-kart circuit scaled up to F1 size.
That said, Hungary is often a better race than the circuit suggests, and more so since Pirelli arrived with high-deg tyres to introduce an element of strategy into proceedings. We’ve had a great day either side of that divide, with brilliant wins for Mark Webber in 2010 and Daniel Ricciardo in 2014. Albeit very different wins.
Mark’s victory relied on him driving as fast as he could for as long as he could, pulling out a pit-gap over Fernando Alonso and retaining the lead after what was basically a 20+ lap qualifying stint before diving into the pits. In 2014, Daniel did pretty much the opposite. Nursing a set of soft tyres through a long, long middle stint, giving him a short blast at the end to carve his way through the field (because it is possible to overtake at the Hungaroring – you just need to stack the odds in your favour first). Other than these two, we’ve usually been in the running at the Hungaroring, with seven other podiums, pole position in 2010 and 2011, and fastest lap on six occasions.
F1 has spoilt us in the last month with three thrilling races in a row. Could we get another one in Hungary? You wouldn’t bet against it...