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26 Years of the Hungaroring

By Frazer McMenzie

Frazer McMenzieFrazer McMenzie

HungaroringHungaroringAfter watching the conclusion to the Hungaroring, Hungarian Grand Prix 2012 I thought back to the last time I attended the same Grand Prix event seven years ago.  I can also remember watching it back in the 1990’s on TV and thinking, I wonder how long has it been a host to Formula One?  After all, it is one of those venues that seems never to steal the headlines, but is a fantastic event, with a knowledgeable crowd. It may not have the history of Silverstone, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps or the romance and glamour of Circuit de Monaco, all of which have been used as Grand Prix venues since 1950.

On the 1st of October 1985 construction began on what is now the oldest purpose built Formula One track on the calendar. Its inclusion in the 1986 Formula One season was to become the first Formula One event held behind the Iron Curtain. Legend has it that Bernie Ecclestone was pushing for a race venue in the U.S.S.R.  But a Hungarian friend of Mr. Ecclestone had a suggestion, Budapest.

The original concept was to hold a street circuit event to emulate a Circuit de Monaco experience in the Népliget -the largest park area of the City. However the government chose to build a purpose built circuit just outside the city to the North East in Mogyoród. This decision may have been an inspired one. With the modern era of Formula One demanding the highest safety, the best accessibility along with the massive logistical demands of the sport, if Hungary did not have a purpose built Formula One track we could have lost a Hungarian Grand Prix many years ago.

HungaroringHungaroringThe Hungaroring itself is a test of driver and spectator endurance alike. It’s built into a very dry, hot valley, 16 turns over 4.3 kilometres, and a monster start/ finish straight with the added bonus of the 30 degree plus heat of July. The rural setting for the track creates an arid dust bowl due to its under use throughout the year with zero wind other than that of Formula one cars flying around the circuit when the F1 circus comes to town.

Nowadays in the politically charged world of Formula one the Circus visits more and more new locations all over the globe. The cynic will say there goes Mr Ecclestone chasing the money round the world, staying well clear of recession saddled Europe and the cynics may have a point. New tracks have popped up all over the world in many affluent or emerging countries. Malaysia, China, Singapore, Korea and India are all relatively new additions as Formula One heads east. My only concern is that because of the Formula one policy of chasing money around the globe, more traditional tracks in Europe have and will continue to be cut from the Formula One calendar.

We lost the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa for two years and nearly did not have a British Grand Prix at all recently. Circuit de Magny-Cours the French Grand prix went the way of the dinosaurs in 2008, there has not been an Austrian Grand Prix since 2003 or a Dutch Grand Prix since 1985. I hope that the Hungaroring will not suffer a similar fate as Formula One now looks to expand its reach into the U.S. further, similar to the strategy adopted in the east. It is understandable that Formula one is now a global sport with a huge T.V. audience but losing more European tracks the likes of the Hungaroring that is well attended and the historic birthplace of the sport would be a tragedy.

Previous Winners of the Hungarian Grand Prix

Date    Winner                                  Team

2012   Lewis Hamilton                   McLaren

2011   Jenson Button                   McLaren

2010   Mark Webber                    Red Bull-Renault

2009   Lewis Hamilton                   McLaren

2008   Heikki Kovalainen                McLaren

2007   Lewis Hamilton                 McLaren

2006   Jenson Button                   Honda

2005  Kimi Räikkönen                   McLaren

2004   Michael Schumacher           Ferrari

2003   Fernando Alonso                 Renault

2002   Rubens Barrichello              Ferrari

2001   Michael Schumacher           Ferrari

2000   Mika Hakkinen                    McLaren

1999   Mika Hakkinen                    McLaren

1998   Michael Schumacher            Ferrari

1997   Jacques Villeneuve             Williams

1996   Jacques Villeneuve             Williams

1995   Damon Hill                        Williams

1994   Michael Schumacher           Benetton

1993   Damon Hill                        Williams

1992   Ayrton Senna                              McLaren

1991   Ayrton Senna                              McLaren

1990   Thierry Boutsen                  Williams

1989   Nigel Mansell                     Ferrari

1988   Ayrton Senna                              McLaren

1987   Nelson Piquet                     Williams

1986   Nelson Piquet                     Williams

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