Tom Hitchings’ view of the Hungarian Grand Prix

From the stands

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Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, Hungaroring, 2011

Last year guest writer Tom Hitchings told us about his first experience of an F1 race outside of Britain at Suzuka.

This year he’s gone to a race closer to home – here’s his view of last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring.

Last weekend I spent an F1-fuelled few days at the Hungarian Grand Prix. It was the perfect end to a lovely holiday in Eastern Europe and, for once, I was pleased it rained!

This was my second overseas race after an incredible trip to Suzuka last year. I was lucky to see plenty of exciting racing thanks most of all to the varying and unpredictable weather.

The Hungaroring is an unusual track, not far from the centre of Budapest and yet completely isolated in a little valley. It’s a short and simple train ride from the city to the circuit (which anyone who has tried public transport to Silverstone will appreciate). The half-hour journey goes to two local stops by the circuit.

I chose to avoid the crowds and walk from the station at the far side of the track. The 2km walk is a strange introduction to the circuit, you pass through an endless corn field and it’s hard to separate the tractor motors from the sounds of the circuit. Eventually the path falls downhill and the track appears in front of you, in the bottom of a valley.

Exploring the Hungaroring

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Hungaroring, 2011

I explored the general admission areas for the Friday and Saturday practice sessions, trying my best to get some nice photos to take home. First I sat on a bank overlooking the starting grid, an excellent location for anyone thinking about watching the race without seating.

Here we could see the whole of the final sector and into the pit lane. It was a great vantage point from which to see the relative performances of the cars, as the Red Bulls would fly through the final three corners, deploying DRS at the start/finish straight as the slower cars were only just getting on the accelerator.

Next I moved into the Hungaroring’s middle sector, where it’s impossible to overtake but the best place to see F1 cars doing what they are made for: going fast around corners.

This was the closest I’ve seen spectators get to the track; and the grass banks that surround this part of the circuit are so long that everyone gets a clear view. And at such close distance I was able to get my best photos of the weekend.

On Saturday morning I cheated the system a little to get a spot in the grandstand right next to the chicane. Seeing Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher ride the kerbs and test the limits harder than anyone was brilliant.

I also returned here later for the GP2 races, both of which were brilliant strategic battles of tyre choices in varying conditions. Romain Grosjean’s speed was light years ahead of the competition and – as has been said before on F1 Fanatic – evidence that he clearly deserves another chance in F1.

Race day

Sergio Perez, Sauber, Hungaroring, 2011

The race could not have been more dramatic, particularly for me as a Hamilton supporter sat just by the chicane. I watched him dominate the first half, only to lose it all in the second.

In the damp conditions at the start, we watched as Lewis would exit the long turn five right hander and let the rear end slide wildly as he got on the power. No doubt this contributed to his ultimately flawed tyre strategy but in those early stages it was clearly the fastest way around the track. He built a commanding lead and looked set to dominate.

Unfortunately I also saw the race slip away from him; almost seeing it before it happened. The intensity of the rain increased dramatically in the middle of the race, but it was so sudden you sensed the teams and drivers hadn’t noticed yet. Sure enough the first few cars to pass through started sliding.

Then there was a long gap before Hamilton arrived. He didn’t have the chance to see how any other cars were reacting so I already feared the worst, knowing he would be caught out by the slippery track. I was relieved to see him get through turn five (where Kamui Kobayashi had almost lost control) but then he unsuspectingly put a wheel on the kerb coming out of the chicane and span right in front of us.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Hungaroring, 2011

As he hurriedly scrambled a doughnut we got swept up in tyre smoke, looking to see how close Button was to getting past. Jenson Button sped by and as Paul di Resta took avoiding action on the grass you knew a penalty was inevitable.

But most frustrating of all was seeing Hamilton pit for wet tyres just as the rain stopped and we all took our coats off. Victory was lost. He still got the crowd on their feet one last time with a nice move on Felipe Massa later, proving why he is so popular with British fans and feared by others.

Button was clearly the deserving winner. He was not the fastest driver (I’m afraid he never is). But over a race distance average speed matters more than top speed, and Button mastered that by looking after his tyres so well.

Unlike Hamilton, he never let the rear end slide as he applied the throttle and took the same line lap after lap. I think Fernando Alonso drove a nice race too and probably deserved to finish ahead of Vettel who was dealt an easy hand in the race thanks to his excellent pole position.

The Hungaroring was overall an excellent race track to travel to, especially since Budapest is such a vibrant city with so much to see and do. It’s not an epic circuit like Suzuka, Spa or Monza, but it’s easy to get to, fun to explore and a great excuse to see a lovely country and fantastic city.

Going to an F1 race this year? Find other F1 Fanatics who are here:

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Images © Thomas Hitchings

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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25 comments on “Tom Hitchings’ view of the Hungarian Grand Prix”

  1. Great article and photos!

    I would really like to go to the Hungaroring, as it looks like one of the few remaining ‘real’ race tracks in F1. No glitz and glamour, or billion-dollar facilities, just a pure and classic circuit.

    1. I would love to visit Budapest. Beautiful track, and a very nice city.

      Great article!

      1. Yes, I think the track is really quite underrated, although this has improved in recent years.

        In particular, I think Sector 2 is a fantastic sequence of corners. There’s a great mix of fast corners, a tricky chicane, quick changes of direction, as well as the blind apex of Turn 4.

        I’ve always enjoyed driving this track in video games!

        1. I always always go wide at Turn 4, it’s impossible!

        2. I’ve always enjoyed driving this track in video games!

          I don’t know why but I haven’t, along with Suzuka, although recently I like them a lot more.

          1. I enjoy both circuits in games (be it F1C, rFactor or F1 2010) because they really make me appreciate how hard it is to get the Hungaroring S2/the S’s just right, hitting the apexes at the correct speed. It can be frustrating though (turn 4 in Budapest and the exit of the S-complex in Suzuka).

      2. Me too, Tom (the article’s author), can you please share, if possible, something about costs?

        1. Approximate prices:

          Flights to Budapest with EasyJet – £80

          Hotel booked in advance – £50 per night for a double room

          Grandstand ticket – £130

          Travel to/from circuit – £3

          Nice dinner at nice restaurant – £15

    2. Much better than uber chic Abu Dhabi…

  2. If there is a race I really would like to go, it’s this one! The tickets are relatively cheap, I heard you can see a lot of the track from the grandstand, and Budapest is a city I would like to visit. And the fact that the city is not very far form where I live, I think I will get much from my money if I spend a F1 week-end there!

    (By comparison, some tracks are very expensive, you don’t see much of the track from where you are seated,and there are not much to see outside of the track).

  3. great article! such a fun little track!

  4. Well written, you’ve convinced me to go next year! I need an excuse to get myself to Budapest and what better excuse than the grand prix!

  5. Thanks Tom, very nice to hear about your experience at the Hungaroring!



      1. Just like all the other WDC? Especially the ones who can win in tricky conditions, oh and the ones who win the first 6 out of 7 races in a season.

        …Such a terrible driver.

        (That’s sarcasm by the way ;) )

  7. I’d also advise other Fanatics to visit the Hungagoring. I went last year, every grandstand has a sensational view, we sat on the last corner, but we could see the entire last sector and start straight, including the pits! And at a great value. That’s the great thing about it, its such good value for money and it’s so close to Budapest so you can get a cheap hotel and cheap transport to the circuit! We considered going back this year, too bad it clashed with other plans but we’ll likely be there next year. I’d of liked it to have been a bit cooler as it was this year, it was so hot last year!

  8. Wow.. this article has only one agenda..

    1. To tell yopu about his experience at the Hungaroring?

  9. Good photo’s, especially the one of Hamilton. I only hope I can take photos of that quality at Monza.

    I got the impression the Hungaroring was pretty accessible, glad to hear it.

    I can confirm that Silverstone is quite difficult to get to. 9 hours from West Yorkshire using public transport.

  10. Hi, i was at the race. my first and definitely not last. i was at the last corner and had a really good chance to hear off throttle sounds of F1. is that because of strange exhaust layouts, or only engine mapping, but i was surprised. rarely you can hear that on telly. renault was the weirdest, like it’s gonna break apart at every corner. (well, burning to a crisp isn’t much better)
    Me and large group of noisy swedish fans completely disagree with you on the best driver of the first GP2 race. Marcus Ericsson was dominating before ‘unsafe release’ penalty gave Grosjean victory. should have been well deserved 2nd place. GP2 races should have much better TV coverage. that’s great racing. but you should be lucky to even have a F1 on free to air.

    off topic… here in croatia private entrepreneur bought rights to air F1 races. and it’s distributed on network of local tv stations.

    Getting out of the track by car after the race is probably the only negative thing about the weekend. Police routed us all around from one exit to wait in line for cars from the other exit to pass :(

    1. Hi Miro,

      The strange sound you heard is off-throttle diffuser blowing. The Renault’s sound bad, don’t they?!

      Ericsson was holding a steady leave, but after he got his penalty Grosjean set several consecutive fastest laps. I think he was a lot faster but didn’t try to overtake because he didn’t want to risk his lead in the championship. He said this in the post-race interviews.

      Ericsson was unlucky tho!

      1. not taking anything from Grosjean… he is excellent. even not risking it. enough great battles through the field for entertainment purposes. just too bad Ericsson didn’t get that win.
        GP2 and Porsche Supercup engines are what i expected to hear from racing machines. loud and powerful… but F1 is something else :)

    2. The Hungaroring is also my one and only F1 circuit visited ever, but I have fond memories of that race. 2005 it was – the roar when Michael got pole!

      But I was planning to react on the noise: when we visited, there still was traction control and the sounds the cars made when exiting coners with the Traction Control was also very unexpected and loud.

  11. Thanks for this write-up, great to read of your live view of the weekend. The Hungaroring still sounds great – I should try to go there some time soonish!

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