Lotus’ Romain Grosjean had a mare of a weekend in Germany and can’t get to Budapest soon enough to get his season back on track. Fortunately, the two rounds are back-to-back. Kimi Räikkönen , on the other hand, put in a solid drive from P10 to fourth across the line and ended up getting promoted to third when Sebastian Vettel was penalised. He’s now fourth in the drivers’ championship. Should Lotus’s elusive first win come in Hungary this weekend, it could put the cat among the pigeons.
The first F1 circuit to appear from the Eastern Bloc, the Hungaroring has been dubbed ‘Monaco without the buildings’ and as a result, races can be processional. However, it’s also true that since 1986 this circuit has hosted some truly remarkable outcomes and a few breathtaking moves too.
The drivers enjoy it too because it’s so involving. Each corner leads into the next, and there is very little chance to pause and catch one’s breath.
The constantly changing gradient makes the track interesting to race on, and precision is of key importance because the car is turning for a large part of the lap. It can be hard on tyres, and the cars require mechanical grip and a torquey engine. Most of all, the emphasis is on downforce and teams will run maximum wing.
The track runs along one side of a valley, drops down into the sweeping Turns 1 and 2, and then rises up again. It’s at this first corner that the only real chance of a passing move lies. The final section of spoon curves allows cars to bunch up tightly behind each other, all looking to catapult themselves past on the straight.
Local start time: 14h00
Number of laps: 70
Circuit length: 4.381km
Race distance: 306.630km
Lap record: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari, 2004), 1m19.071
Experience a lap of the Hungaroring circuit by watching this 3D computer generated video of the track.
Kimi Räikkönen: “If you had told me in January that we would be fourth halfway through the season, I think I would have been pretty pleased. It’s not a bad place to be, but I think we have a car good enough to have scored more points. I want to win and the whole team is pushing hard to make that happen, so let’s see what we can do in the second half of the season. I have won once in Hungary and finished second three times. It is a very hot and demanding race. There are two things which are really important for fast lap times: good turn in and good traction. If you have those, you’ll be competitive. This is one of those circuits where it’s very difficult to overtake, so you need to get to the front in qualifying and ideally avoid the dirty side of the grid.”
Romain Grosjean: “There are races where nothing goes right and Germany was one of those. Let’s hope the luck will turn around and everything will be much better in Budapest. I scored my first GP2 Series pole position there in 2008. Last year I won and finished third, so I’m heading to Hungary with a positive attitude.”
Regarded as one of the most attractive cities in Europe, and with renowned nightlife and great cuisine, Budapest often hosts some of Formula One’s biggest parties – thanks in no small part to the month-long gap before the next race, which means pretty much everyone is on holiday on Sunday night.
Most teams head to club Rio. Palm trees, dancing girls, and space for 6,000 revelers. The dance floor is open air, and the DJs among the best in Budapest. The winner of the Hungarian Grand Prix invariably ends up here.
Lonely Planet recently voted A38 as the best bar in the world. Cruise the waters of the Danube on this ship-cum-nightclub. It used to be a Ukrainian stone-carrier but now it’s a summer-club with live music and DJs. Don’t be afraid to rock the boat!
In 1934 Budapest was awarded the supreme title ‘Spa City’. It is unique in being the only large city to abound in fountains of healing water. The Gellert baths are perhaps the most impressive architectural example. Its effervescent pools can reach 38ºC. The indoor pool has wonderful classical styling and there’s an open air pool too, with a wave machine that dates back to the 1950s.
The place to head for souvenirs and foodstuffs is Nagy Vasarcsarnok. Translated as ‘Central Market Hall’ it’s housed in a splendid 19th century building with a colourful green and yellow tiled roof. Handmade embroidered table cloths are popular buys here, and there are lots of stalls selling salami, paprika goose liver and a fruit spirit called Palinka.
Statue Park is where communism in Hungary has gone to die, beyond the city boundaries. Thirty statues, many of which are on a huge scale, were taken from Budapest after its Soviet occupation and dumped in this park. Marx, Stalin, Lenin, all the usual suspects are here.
Look out from the plateau of the paddock and you’ll spot an intestinal mess of red, green and blue plastic flumes jutting out on the hillside. This is the Aquarena Water Park and GP2 drivers have been known to skive off briefings so they can race each other down the water slides. After a hot, sweaty day at the track it’s the perfect pitstop on the way back to Budapest.