Changing tracks: Hungaroring

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This year sees the 25th F1 race at the Hungaroring.

When the track was first built it was derided for being slow, boring and lacking opportunities for overtaking.

But as track designs have become ever less varied, has the time come to re-appraise the popular view of the Hungaroring as one of the least exciting tracks on the calendar?

Hungaroring, Hungary – 1986

Hungaroring 1986-88

Length: 4.014km (2.494 miles)

In its original configuration the circuit was slightly shorter than it is today, and with even less room for overtaking.

The first change came in 1989 when the exit of turn three was straightened out. This had originally been a tight curve put in to avoid an underground stream.

It was a good thing the organisers managed to move it, or we might not have seen one of the most dramatic moments ever witnessed at the Hungaroring that year: Nigel Mansell’s three-abreast passing move on Ayrton Senna as the pair lapped Stefan Johansson.

Hungaroring, Hungary – 2010

Hungaroring, 2003-

Length: 4.831km (2.722 miles)

Two further changes were made to the track layout in time for the 2003 race. The start/finish straight was extended (though it remains one of the shortest on the calendar) and a new, tighter first corner built with the aim of increasing overtaking opportunities.

For the same reason the fast chicane at turn 12 was turned into a straight followed by a right-hander. The former change has had a greater effect on racing than the latter, but this is still a track with a reputation for being very hard to overtake on.

Nonetheless, after a succession of increasingly similar Hermann Tilke-designed new tracks have appeared on the calendar, perhaps it’s time we cut the Hungaroring a little slack.

As Fernando Alonso, who scored his first win here in 2003, points out, the twisty section at the back of the circuit is hard work for the drivers:

You need to drive a bit like a rally driving style all through the lap. There is no time to breathe, it’s corner after corner, it’s like a small go-kart circuit for Formula 1.
Fernando Alonso

It’s also a good venue for spectators. Set in a natural bowl, views across the circuit are good from several stands. It draws a substantial crowd from nearby countries which don’t have Grands Prix, such as Poles coming to see Robert Kubica.

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Video: How the Hungaroring has changed

After 25 years, is there now something to be said for the Hungaroring? Does it just seem better because of the quality of the new venues added to the F1 calendar in recent years? Or is it still the same unexciting, unloved venue it’s always been?

Have your say in the comments.

2010 Hungarian Grand Prix

Browse all 2010 Hungarian Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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95 comments on “Changing tracks: Hungaroring”

  1. Robert McKay
    28th July 2010, 22:20

    “After 25 years, is there now something to be said for the Hungaroring? Does it just seem better because of the quality of the new venues added to the F1 calendar in recent years? Or is it still the same unexciting, unloved venue it’s always been?”

    Yeah, there is something to be said for the Hungaroring. Ten years ago I would have said worst venue on the calendar – not now.

    Admittedly it’s mostly because the newer tracks have less character and are more identikit, even if you can pass at them. Valencia is dreadful, Abu Dhabi is dull, Bahrain is soulless, and Shanghai is just a big car park of vast emptiness (but at least it rains there a lot). Somehow the act of not being a Tilke track is instantly worth something to the Hungaroring. Shanghai excepted I probably put Hungary ahead of the others as “places I’m looking forward to on the F1 calendar”. I’d also rather watch Hungary than Barcelona, which has become extremely tedious too especially with the final corner neutered.

    But partly it’s because the tweaks in 2003 have actually made a bit of an improvement and allowed at least a smidge of overtaking. The last few races there have been reasonable. And I still have 2006 in my memory, which was a great race :-D

    Oh and it was actually always one of my favourite tracks to drive round in Geoff Crammond’s GP2/3/4!

    I don’t think it’s high praise to say I actually like Hungary, but it’s definitely not my least favourite venue on the calendar any more.

    1. Yeah it’s a good circuit for video games… in which case perhaps you could assume that it is also a good track to drive in reality?…

      1. It looks from a driver’s perspective as if it would be one of the funner circuits to drive, up there with Suzuka.

        1. Dooyeahtime.
          29th July 2010, 7:39

          In a video gamer’s perspective; i would have to agree with you strongly. turns 3,4,5 and 9 would have to be my favourites

          2006’s hungarian grand prix was a very exciting one to watch; although the rain had alot to do with the spectacle.

          Jenson Button’s charge from 14th on the grid to his first victory on my birthday was also a plus, although the race was aired here in Australia the date after because of the time difference. Jenson’s eye buldging through his helmet with his classic pointy finger victory pose came around midnight haha

          1. James Bolton
            29th July 2010, 10:55

            I also strongly agree that this is a great circuit for video games. It might be because of the constant radius corners and the ninety-degree corners.
            It’s presumably easier to create a virtual version of these than the flowing corners of Spa for example.

      2. I never liked this track much in games. Just as I don’t like driving around Monaco and Magny Cours either. Not suzuka either actually. Too tight and twisty for me I guess.

        I prefer Spa, Interlagos and Canada. Even Catalunya.

    2. When I read the headline i thought of only one thing, its a excellent track to time trial around in a Geoff Crammond Sim, Its a track that needs the concentration of Monaco with the rhythm of turns 3,4,5,6 an 7 Suzuka. To try an go fast there loses you time, its a track that requires a Zen like calmness, something Fernando surely lacks.

      1. Except Alonso’s won there already. And Suzuka, come to think of it.

        1. In fact it was the track where Alfonso scored his first win if memory serves me correctly, and became the (at the time) youngest ever GP winner.

          1. But were talking now, not then :-)

          2. If Fernando displays any of He`s humpeness on this circuit then He will surely travel backwards down the grid till He meets He`s tail gunner. And It`s a tail gunner thats not very happy to be their.

          3. My Grandad used to call him ‘Alfonso’, and we still do in our family! My daughter even built a racing driver teddy bear, complete with birth certificate with the name firmly emblazoned across it for posterity!

        2. GP2 time from memory,,,,01m 18.953s.

    3. yes i agree with you not the most sofisticated but classical which naturally lacks on all new gps

  2. I agree with you on this one, I think that the Hungaroring is one that should stay on the calendar for the most part for two reasons. Firstly, like you the article points out, it is a unique track that provides an extra challenge to the driver. Sure it might not lend itself for overtaking, but it can be done and is by no means an impossible task. Overtaking is a challenge, and should be kept that way.

    In addition, the cultural significance of the track is one that I think should be kept. This was one of the first major international sporting events to occur behind the Iron Curtain, and its addition to the calendar started the explosion in exposure that makes F1 what it is today. Sure it may not be the most exciting tracks to race on, but its place in the history of F1 cannot be overlooked.

    1. I thnk they shold straighten out turn six (where Massa had his accident) into more of a kink that can be taken at full speed. I think this would help over taking into the long right hander at turn 7.

      1. Yes and make turn 7 a Hockenheim-like hairpin.

  3. Nonetheless, after a succession of increasingly similar Hermann Tilke-designed new tracks have appeared on the calendar, perhaps it’s time we cut the Hungaroring a little slack.

    No, it isn’t. It started out as a nasty little track and remains as such. The fact that other nastier tracks have also found their way onto the calendar is in no way a commendation or excuse for the Hungaroring.
    When it first opened, it exhibited all the hallmarks of a hastily constructed communist-era bodge – the right left right kink behind the main straight was only included because they discovered a natural spring in the way of the intended track.
    And even when the organisers overcame that and extended the start/finish straight, the track was only elevated to a dusty, narrow, post-communist era excressance.
    No, it’s not time to “cut it a little slack”. It’s time to cut it out.
    Maybe you can tell I don’t like it, eh?

    1. And replace it with what? A mile-wide tilkedrome in Riyadh with 28 constant-radius corners and half a meter of elevation change?

      It might not be worthy, but God knows it’s worthier than anything that would come along to replace it.

      That said, I’m not sure I care – if the Mario Kart wing changes come into effect next year, I won’t be watching anyway.

      1. “And replace it with what? A mile-wide tilkedrome in Riyadh with 28 constant-radius corners and half a meter of elevation change?”
        No, never. And that’s the ptroblem. When Hungaroring was introduced, it was recognised as awful. Since then other tracks have been opened that are even more awful and Hungaroring looks less awful by comparson. But it’s still awful.

        1. But that’s my point – it deserves a place on the calendar if only for its preventing yet another desert monstrosity. I mean, seriously – I’m Jewish, and I’m starting to dislike the Arab bloc as much for hosting such terrible tracks as I am for their vowing to push Israel into the sea!

      2. There’s a reasonable patch of dirt in Texas I hear that might be a good alternative??

  4. I think that the Hungaroring’s biggest drawcard is that, while it may not produce the most exciting races, it has a habit of throwing out an unpredictable and unexpected result. After all, there were seven different winners in the seven years from 2001 to 2008. It was also the scene of Jenson Button’s and Heikki Kovalainen’s first wins.

    1. And Alonso’s as well

      1. And Damon Hill!

        1. Let’s not forget Damon’s near miss in 97…

          1. Yes. Never has an Arrows-Yamaha more deserved a win.

            I recall Hill saying that the secret to being fast at this track is having a car that works well at full-steering-lock (all the hairpins).

            I like that the track is different. I don’t care if occasionally we get a mickey mouse circuit with lots of hairpins, so long as we don’t have more than two of them. F1 is a championship, and championships need different types of circuits.

    2. Hear, hear! The Circuit de Catalunya, for one, has seen many more snorefests in the past decade, I reckon.

  5. So what’s the deal with the Hungaroring having been on the calendar for so long, and seemingly never under threat? I seem to remember something about Bernie having an involvement with it. Myth or fact? Fill me in!…

    1. It’s still the only race which is held “behind the iron curtain”…so its place is pretty safe.

    2. If Bernie being involved got you a Grand Prix, we’d have been racing at Paul Ricard for most of the last decade.

  6. I’ve never been a fan of the Hungaroring. It’s just a bit… boring. The track isnt very wide, which is it’s biggest problem. Opportunities are very limited in F1 races at the best of times on the widest of tracks, but here it is just so much lower. I would trade Imola for the Hungoraring quite gladly!

  7. “Is there now something to be said for the Hungaroring?”

    At least no overtaking opportunities means no “subtle” team orders.

  8. I think it is the only track in Eastern Europe, right? Depending on whether Turkey counts Asia or East Europe? Formula 1 must be present in all parts of the world. So, as long as the Russian GP isn’t finalised, keep the Hungaroring on the calendar.

    Wasn’t there some commotion over a Greece Grand Prix sometime?

    1. Bernie wanted a Bulgarian Grand Prix, but that went bust. Greece have also considered it in the past, but there’s no way it’ll happen in the current climate.

      1. I don’t think Bernie wanted it the way he wants a Russian Grand Prix. He was willing to support it, but Bulgaria wasn’t high on ihs list of places to go.

        1. I think there are more exciting alternatives to this dull karting track; even in Eastern Europe: how about Brno ? Or a street race somewhere: Warsaw, Krakow, Prague (instead of Rome) ?

          1. F1 at Brno would be awesome.. i’d defo want to see that ;)

          2. Hear hear for Brno…it’s a bit big for some of the other racing series that run on it, but its size seems just right for F1. Plenty of elevation change too! :D

    2. Yeah you’re right. Istanbul Park is just over the Bosphorous in Asia, although presumably it attracts a few fans from Eastern Europe.

  9. Robert McKay
    28th July 2010, 22:36

    What I’ll also add is that it’s one of the few places they’ve made minor changes that have actually improved the place in recent times. Most other places have made minor modifications and lost something.

    Barcelona – ruined the last sector with that chicane
    Monaco – have moved the barriers back in a few places (e.g. Ste Devote) and definitely lessened the challenge
    Spa – ruined the Bus Stop at least twice
    Nurburgring – the Tilke first sector doesn’t really do anything for me
    Hockenheim – ok we know why they did it and they new one isn’t bad but we’ve still lost something
    Bahrain – lengthened with extra sector this year and made even worse

    The only other track that might have a case for recent changes actually improving it might be Silverstone.

    1. Actually, while the tightening of Turn 1 was a good idea, I wish the organisers hadn’t straightened out that fast chicane towards the end of the lap. That was a decent corner.

      And, when Keith writes ‘The former change has had a greater effect on racing than the latter’, reading between the lines I think what he really wants to say was ‘the latter change has had no effect on racing whatsoever, and was a complete and utter waste of tarmac!’

      1. Yeah I do think that, actually. The change at the end of the lap was a total waste of time.

        1. They were probably attempting to create another overtaking spot, but it’s just not a long enough straight. I liked how in the Webber video he says “1 ideal spot for overtaking.” Usually Red Bull is overly optimistic in those videos and claims there are more overtaking opportunities than there are.

  10. I like the Hungaroring. If only it didn’t have that chicane in Sector 2 and there was just one final corner, not the right-hander and two hairpins bends.

    1. Oh, and let’s not forget it was the scene of the only genuine for-the-lead overtake from last year that wasn’t because of a Safety Car restart or the start itself.

    2. Yeah cutting out that loop to the hairpin at the end would improve the track no end… but IIRC there’s a hill in the way so that isn’t gonna happen unless they get tunneling!

  11. I agree with some here. It used to be a bad track with boring races. But the last years, they weren’t that bad!
    It’s also strange indeed it’s still here and was never seeminglty under threat.

    I do also like driving the track in F1 games.
    The fourth corner leading to the hairpin (or something like it) is a fun corner!

    Hamilton believes he can overtake here, hard but possible. Let’s hope we can get some good action again!

  12. This track with a wet race is simply outstanding.

    1. A wet race definitely makes this track way more exciting to watch. A Driver’s ability in the wet definitely is definitely tested.

      1. As opposed to a driver’s ability in the dry, when their skill isn’t tested?

        The only difference is grip level and predictability. If wet races had consistent grip, it’d be easier than dry racing, since car response is slowed.

        Handling a car with maddening amounts of grip, driven on the ragged edge, is insanely difficult. Wet driving requires better preparation, better understanding of changing track conditions, and a ton of luck – but not better car control, per se. It’s much easier to catch a car that slowly slides out from under you with 1g of cornering force than one that snaps away in 1/10th the time under 4gs.

        Driving an F1 car in the wet is similar to driving a GT car in the dry – and it’s a hell of a lot easier to drive a GT car than an F1 car.

    2. But then you could say that about all tracks…

      1. Yeah, I agree, any track can produce an entertaining race in the wet. Look at the races we’ve had at Shanghai over the last few years, the dry ones have been pretty dul and the wet ones have been some of the most exciting of the season.

  13. Never mindthe circuit, Hungary itself is a fairly obscure place to have hosted a GP for 25 years. I mean, it’s hardly awash with money, the Hungarian market isn’t a big one for sponsors and car manufacturers, there have been no decent local drivers (unless you count the legendary HWNSNBM!), and there is no major motor racing history in the country.

    1. Robert McKay
      28th July 2010, 22:53

      It’s kind of a good reason in itself to have a race there. I kind of hate nowadays that to have any race anywhere we have to ask “what’s the market like, and what do the manufacturers get out of it” first and foremost.

      It’s kind of a bit of a throwback, in a weird way. And I can get on board with that.

      1. Robert McKay
        28th July 2010, 22:54

        Ooh, too many “kind of” occurrences in that post :-/

    2. It passes the “does it draw a crowd?” test better than several other venues though.

      1. RedBullRacer
        29th July 2010, 3:47

        Having been to Hungaroring last year, I’d have to say that one of the best things about it is the crowd it draws. Not only is it a popular event but there are supporters from pretty much all over Europe, and the atmosphere among the fans is more fun than many other GPs I’ve been to.

      2. I think it was often awash with Finnish fans coming for Mika and Kimi, now or Heikki. The polish fans have come in for Kubica now and i expect quite a few Russians might attend as well.
        As Budapest is certainly worth a visit and not too expensive (and only a days drive away), it makes for a nice trip from central europe, including Germany.

        1. there were still loads of Mika fans there in 2006!

  14. One of the biggest problems with the Hungaroring is that it always just has the one racing line, and once you go off-line it’s very dusty, which means that overtaking or even following closely is difficult. However, it’s obviously a challenging track to drive because there are so few straights for the drivers to relax on, which probably makes it worth keeping even if the races aren’t always the best.

    In addition, Budapest is one of my favourite cities in the world. Great place.

    1. mine too… i love budapest, and go every year on my way back from Exit Festival in Serbia.

  15. It’s definitely not one of the worst, but not one of the best either. If they could create a couple more place that promoted overtaking it could be a great track.

  16. Honestly, it DID produce boring races and it STILL produces boring races. I say get rid of it.

  17. i think its a great circuit. looks really fun to drive (it is on rfactor!) and has a good crowd. i heard it’s hard on the tyres, so lets see how the supersofts work.

  18. As Monza is a hundred metre sprint, Hungary is a game of Chess.

    1. i wish! seems like all f1 chess pans out the same these days…

    2. dyslexicbunny
      29th July 2010, 16:56

      But chess has team orders! I sacrifice my pawn to take better pieces all the time. Who sacrifices a castle for a pawn?

  19. Compared to Barhain, Abu Dhabi, Valencia, China (if it doesn’t rain) and Barcelona, the Hungaroring is a fairly good track!

    Sad we don’t have the 1 lap qualifing format. Back then it was awesome to see all the drivers laps! One could clearly see the differences with the cars at the inside part of the track, and the different driving styles.

  20. 25 years??? Jeez, time flies!

    That said, Hungaroring is a fun yet challenging circuit to drive in rFactor. I guess the tight and twisty nature of the track makes it really difficult to overtake in modern F1 cars (It was designed to be a permanent Monte Carlo after all).

  21. I’ve always had a bit of a bizarre soft spot for Hungary. It’s narrow, twisty and uncompromising. Watching someone on a banzai qualifying lap, putting tyres on the grass and attacking the kerbs can be very exciting. Also great fun to drive on games as well – trying to take turn four flat, straightening up and braking for the hairpin in a short space of time is very satisfying to get right.

    There’s a good place for Hungary on the calendar – It’s pretty unique and it always draws a large, passionate crowd. Plus, it does tend to throw up some odd results…

  22. I like it. I’m playing it in rfactor right now and I think its a blast to drive on. Though perhaps not the best racing circuit.

  23. I’m with a lot of people that back in the 90’s I would have frowned at the Hungaroring but nowadays it deserves it place much more than the Tilkedromes.

    As Alonso says it’s the ‘go-kart’ track of the calendar. I think this is what the calendar should edge towards (or back to) having circuits represent different levels of challenge rather than all being held in flat swamplands near the airport. The next step would be to hold a race on the outer circuit of Bahrain to get back a Hockenheimish blast.

  24. Despite all the things Keith said about the track this track have produced some dramatic racing. Like 2006 when Button won his first GP, then in 2007 when Kimi set the fastest lap time on the last lap commenting that he became bored behind Hamilton & wanted to see what he is capable of. Then in 2008 when Massa’s engine blew just couple of laps from the finish handing the victory to Kovalainen,whose one & only race victory came on this track. & at last we say Hamilton to win the race last year with & a very difficult car.& Massa escaping a deadly accident to still race in F1.

    I think sometimes we need to have tracks where on Sunday we have some drama,may not be too much overtaking.

  25. I like the track, It’s in a good place, no tracks next door etc, It always draws a crowd, a good enthusiastic intelligent crowd I might add, and the races?

    Have they really been that boring?
    The place often produces surprises, I’ve always enjoyed the races, Maybe there isn’t so much overtaking, but the races actually look good, the track it challenging, and it’s a proper F1 track.

    It’s everything a Tilkedrome isn’t, and for that, I am happy.

  26. Boooring! (circuit, that is, as the post was nice)

  27. I seem to recall someone telling me the most beautiful girls in the world came from Hungary. Maybe that’s why the circuit is still on the calendar???!!

    1. you are 100% on that one… Serbia, Bosnia, Hungary, Bulgaria.. all have the most beautiful women ;)

  28. I’ve raced Hungaroring on many games and it’s extremely fun to drive on every one of them. I imagine setting a quali lap would quite fun here to the drivers.

    1. The race itself may be boring but the the qualifying is very fun, many drivers like this circuit over a single lap as they said it’s twisty & there isn’t much time spend on the straight.

  29. Jean Doublet
    29th July 2010, 7:27

    The track may be boring but not Tilke-boring. I remember some good races rewarding the underdogs. Button got its maiden win, Kovalainen its only win and Damon Hill was deprived of a magnificient victory driving for Arrow in 1997. I still remember my disappointment that day.

  30. Isn’t this the track that is so boring that in the last few years of ITV broadcasting F1 MArtin Brundle would take a holiday and James Allen would be joined by someone else?

    If my memory serves me correctly it was Anthony Davidson when Jenson won, and a very Boring Damon Hill the year later.

    1. Blundell commented the 2005 race

  31. Yes, the track is boring and was the first of the “no-overtakes” tracks in F1, but who can forget the battle between Senna and Piquet in 1986 or the terrific win of Nigel Mansell (the greatest, ever!) in 1989??? I think that the difference now is also the quality of cars and drivers…

  32. I think people’s opinions on if a track is good or not is partly to do with history and pary to do with how exciting the races are.

    One thing the new middle eastern tracks cannot have is history and character, which makes them seem bland, for example, Bahrain. After a decade or so of racing these tracks build up their own history, and some tracks change for the better. When Shanghai was laid it was perfectly level asphalt, now it has subsided, simIilarly with Sau Paulo. After This natural settling down period, these tracks produce beter racing and people like them more.

  33. “But as track designs have become ever less varied, has the time come to re-appraise the popular view of the Hungaroring as one of the worst tracks on the calendar?”

    No, its still crap.
    The only tracks that are worse in my opinion are Valencia and the long Bahrain layout.

  34. A bit like Valencia, great place to go and watch a GP but not a great tv track.

    But who knows this year with Asoandso doing his pantomine villan bit and plenty of super quick drivers even the infamous Hungarboring might be great! And thats quite enough bad puns!

  35. It seems everyone is saying this track is great on computer. Maybe that’s a reason to hold it there, so official F1 games get to keep including a track that is fun to drive on these systems.

  36. excellent point dyslexic, it uses that analogy to great effect. though there is a famous example of the queen being sacrificed in order to win. so Massa has a chance still maybe (?)

    Im a bit old school on this and im suprised so many disagree but since the sport went mainstream you get what id call the “Whitehouse effect” – this is where people who know nothing and care less stick their beaks in and demand change as it offends some vague principle.

  37. Two classic moments spring to mind instantly; 1997 with Hill’s Arrows dying after leading for so long and Villeneuve overtaking him on the grass, and Button’s first win from nowhere a few years back.

  38. Personally, i like the track, its like a purpose built version of Monaco with miles less glamour.

    The track is decent, there are opertunities that could be taken to lengthen it at Turn 5 if the land is there, make that into a tighter hairipn as well, not to mention make Turn 4 more open for overtaking to happen more. Id also make Turn 11 either more open or a bit tighter making overtaking into Turn 12.

    Personally, i like the track, its had lots of good moments, like Hill almost winning with an ailing Arrows-Yamaha in 1997 is one of my favrouite moments.

    Compaired to many new cuircits it actually has a personality, small and stunted with an attitude problem, but it also has an atmosphere due to it being one of the best attended races on the callander.

    For those 2 reasons im happy for it to remain, and cut it slack. Not to mention the reason that i think there should be more shorter and tighter tracks on the callender, Laguna Seca and A1 Ring would be ideal for such races.

  39. I actually like this track because the long radius and the medium speed corners do challenge the drivers. And I reckon they would be more overtaking if they removed that top chicane because onboard Barrichello chasing Nakajima, he was following really closely, but when they exited the chicane, the gap opened up.

    Remove that chicane and this track would actually be one of my favourites

  40. Correct me if im wrong. Is the last part of the circuit changed for this years race?? There appears to be a longer straight and a proper right hand corner before the hairpins instead of the faster chicane they used to run through? I dont recall this in last years race. Check out the 2010 aerial view.

  41. Just noticed that the lap record is 1.19.071 by Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) in 2004, but the drivers are already setting times in the 1.20.9s (FP1) – is there a chance of a new lap record?

    BTW – Does anybody know how many tracks have had new lap records since 2004?

  42. Always had the feeling that this track would be better if they ran anti-clockwise. Its better than all of the Tilkedromes anyway.

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